One's Not the Loneliest Number

Phew.  I just found out I don't have to worry that my son will turn out to be a loser.

That's what people have pretty much always said about kids who have no siblings.  For many reasons including age, financial considerations and a slight case of breast cancer when he was 3, Phillip has wound up with no brother or sister (I have one of each, neither of whom I speak to).

I remember a friend, when our boys were toddlers, worrying that her son would be damaged for life without a sibling (she and her husband planned to stop at one).  She even bought books about only children and the harm life held out for them.

Then she got pregnant again, and all her worries went away.  Except, now they were mine.

I've felt guilty for not being able to gift Phillip with siblings.  Growing up, yes, we fought in my house, but it was fun (most of the time) having a brother, and sometimes, even a sister (she was seven years younger so we didn't spend much time together).

Sadly now, we don't have anything to do with each other (a long story) but I occasionally look at Phillip, whose favorite person is, indeed, himself, and wonder if he would be happier (or mentally healthier) with a brother or sister.

But reading Lauren Sandler's piece in The New York Times Sunday Review, and all the misconceptions that float around them, I knew Phillip was not suffering from being an only.  Yes, we wanted more children but it just didn't work out that way.

Sandler writes that, far from being sad or unhappy, only children show great self-confidence and tend to be leaders.  And as for selfish, the other character trait ascribed to children with no siblings, "Endless research shows that only children are, in fact, no more self-involved than anyone else."

What about being the only child in a house, with no one else his age to play with? "In fact," Sandler reports, "Only children tend to have stronger primary relationships with themselves. And nothing provides better armor against loneliness."

Another finding Sandler came across:  "Only children had demonstrably higher intelligence and achievement; only children have also been found to have more self-esteem."

That's because, it's thought, parents have more time, money and resources to spend on one child, rather than dividing it among many.

My best friend growing up came from a family of seven and I envied all the hustle and activity in that house, compared to my quieter one of five.  I never thought much about having children, I just wanted a career, but in the back of my head, I do believe that number always beckoned to me.

But we got started too late, and Phillip was it.  Interestingly, Sandler notes that one in five families now has only one child.  And she also points out the one other thing that these families have that those with more children don't.  Freedom.

But it still bothers me a little that Phillip doesn't have any siblings.  So I've come up with a solution.  We're getting a dog.


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