RE: [CNN] Benefits and drawbacks to raising an only child.

Dusseault ("Lisa)
Mon, 10 Aug 1998 15:50:08 -0700

This is something I've thought a lot about as well.

To add to the issues already skirted, how about overprotective parents?
It's not just parents of one child who are overprotective, but also parents
who don't have enough other stuff to do who smother children, such as (but
not limited to) over-capable stay-at-home moms. I've seen this happen with
only children, but also with slightly larger families. The kid becomes tied
to the mother's apron strings, scared, less independent, less outgoing, more
"fragile" emotionally. Alternatively, with every whim granted and the child
catered to by the overprotecting parent, I've seen only children become
out-going but selfish, demanding. And it must be so hard for the only-child
to leave their parent's home when they go to university or to work (not only
because the child depends on the parents, but because the child realizes the
parents depend on the child). It must limit choices -- I know somebody
extremely intelligent who went to a university in her home town, who got a
job in her home-town, who still lives at home two years after graduation.
This person could have gotten into just about any university, gotten jobs in
many different places.

It must be frustrating for even the parent with self-control to let their
kids grow up without over-protective smothering.
- It's difficult to watch your small kid playing near a slightly dangerous
area, such as a 3-foot high drop onto pavement or hard earth, and not run up
and immediately "rescue" them before they fall over it. But kids learn from
- It's hard not to cuddle and kiss and soothe a kid who gets a mild injury,
even though this behaviour doesn't help the kid gain independence. I've
seen toddlers get cues from their parents -- if the parent gives a sharp
intake of breath and furrows their brow upon seeing Junior scrape his/her
knee, then Junior will start crying. If the parent happens not to see,
Junior may just continue playing.
- As Junior grows up, parent may try to remain on a cuddle-kiss basis.
Typically boys reject this eventually. Without any younger kids to cuddle,
and without having already been through the have-a-kid-grow-up process, this
must be a difficult phase for the loving parent.
- It's hard to resist societal pressure to think "I should be doing more
with my kids". Experts recommend "quality time", which I gather is time in
which the parents are not only near the children but also actively involved
with the children. Parents get the impression that if they could only spend
every waking hour as quality time with their children, the children would
grow up perfect. But how does a kid ever learn to amuse themselves? (TV of
course makes this worse!)

All of these things are hard to do whether the parent has one kid or more --
it's just that with >1 kid, the parent can't soothe/chase/protect both at
once. That way, each kids gets their knocks.

One solution is to have enough kids that parents can achieve a balance
between enough care and too much care, while still satisfying those
"parenting" urges. One may be enough.
Another solution is simply to have a life, to continue or resume hobbies,
social activities, work or volunteering.

Of course there are extremes in both directions, and its important to spend
time with kids.

Of course, I don't really know anything about the parent's side of this
because I don't have kids. I'm just trying to plan carefully for when I do
have kids. Anybody with kids & experience want to speak to these ideas?

I grew eldest in a family of four, and loved this. Sometimes I felt
smothered, sometimes I needed more attention -- but there was a balance
between the two. I also had the advantage of learning how to care for my
younger siblings, to be responsible. Logistically, my mom couldn't just let
us do whatever we wanted every day -- we had to learn to negotiate, to come
to consensus (would we go to the park or the swimming pool?), to argue. We
had to learn to do chores, especially cleaning up after ourselves, because
cleaning up after all the mess of four kids is an insane task. I became
independent and left home at age 18, knowing my mom still had plenty on her
hands with the younger siblings. Now they've left too, following my
example, and my parents are free to move across country this fall.