Thursday, January 29, 2009

Only the lonely?

After being asked repeatedly when she was going to give her daughter a sibling, Nataly Kogan wrote an essay that has now been picked up by Lisa Belkin's Motherlode blog in The New York Times.

I've often heard people say you're depriving your child by not giving him or her a sibling. As an only child myself, I could interpret such a comment as an subtle indictment of my parents, but I don't. That's because almost every person I've heard lamenting the fate of only children grew up with one or more siblings they don't despise. They think about a world in which those siblings don't exist and it feels empty.

Fortunately for me, I've never felt "alone" or otherwise deprived by not having a sibling. I enjoyed the time I had to play by myself as a child. In our efforts to be "good citizens," I think we tend to overrate the benefits of companionship while understating those of solitude. Whether I had one child or six, I wouldn't want to raise kids that weren't okay with their own company.

Some people say only children tend to be selfish and antisocial. I would agree that only children may need extra adjustment time when they start interacting with other kids, but there's something to be said for the extra interaction only children get with adults. Parents who are keyed into this are likely to take steps to mitigate such challenges. To the extent that I can be a raving arsehole, I doubt the presence of a sibling would've done much to change that.

Which isn't to say I didn't sometimes wish for a guardian angel-type sibling to help me navigate the waters of adolescence. If I could've ordered up a sister willing to set me up with her hot friends, I would've, but who's to say fate would've acted in my favor? I could've just as easily wound up with a bullying older brother who beat the shit out of me for sport.

Either way, I don't feel deprived by what I don't long for.

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