“The War on Only Children”

Mary Elizabeth Williams published a thought provoking piece last week on Salon.com entitled “The War on Only Children.”  Her title overstates the point of the piece–it’s not genuinely about aggression toward only children.  It’s about people making assumptions about other people and saying obnoxious things to them…which could also be called “the entire internet.”

Williams laments how only she is frequently confronted by well-intentioned but ignorant people who make exaggerated assumptions about her personality because she is an only child.  People are quick to assume she’s self-centered, ill socialized, and doesn’t work well with others.  She goes on to explain that she, like most other only children, is–gasp—normal.

Not being an only child, I was never confronted by this particular stripe of assumptions.  I’m the only girl and the oldest of 4, and have had people assume that I am over-achieving, bossy, and self-centered…which I am. So no surprise there.  This could explain why I’ve never been much bothered by people making assumptions about my personality based on my birth order.

Mr. Beez is an only child.  He’s not extremely outgoing, but that’s likely more attributable to him being a computer geek than to not having siblings.  He’s certainly patient and good at sharing.  Every time the poor guy gets himself a soda, I steal it from him, and he never complains.  He’s much better at sharing than I am, and I’m the one with all the brothers.

Mr. Beez and I are somewhat vocal about our intention for Baby Beez to remain an only child.  I acknowledge that the entire universe doesn’t care about the size of our family, but I’ve noticed that as soon as you have one kid, everyone keeps asking you when you’re having the next.  They get pretty confused when you say “we aren’t.”

I’ve heard so much about how only children are maladjusted, or how they’re not well socialized.  It’s reassuring to hear someone like Williams speak out and say “Um, No. We’re fine.”  And Baby Beez for sure is well socialized and adaptable.  Kids are people, not puppies.  You don’t have to have a bunch of them so they can “keep each other company.”  Baby Beez is, and will be, continue to be surrounded with love and friends, and she’ll be a-ok.

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