Thoughts of an only child

But you will be freer to fail, as your errors will be outshadowed by [your sister’s] and vice versa. And thus you will free yourselves of the unfair burden to avoid death at all costs. By having you, unnamed male child, I have chosen to give you both less so that at the end, as point by point, the shape of our family disappears, you will not have lost everything.
From John Hodgman’s Apologia to My Second Child: A father reflects on being an only child—and what his two kids stand to gain from sibling rivalry.


Posted on May 10, 2011, in Quotes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. One of the reasons I wanted to have a second child was so that my daughter would have family no matter what happened to me or her dad, and someone who would know them — inside and out — throughout their lives.

    They bicker and tease one another and get jealous, but they are also the best of friends. I do wish I had more of me to spread between the two of them, but at the same time, I’m also so glad that they will gladly leave me to play with one another at the drop of a hat.

    • I can’t imagine a life other than as an only child and I think I’ve rather enjoyed it, but reading these words tweaked something that I don’t really have words for yet. I’ve tried to condense some of it into this little reply box but it’s not working out – maybe it’ll be a future post instead.

  2. We are strongly considering having just one child and I have been taking an informal survey of people who grew up as an only child. I would love to hear your perspective.

    • I loved it. For many years it was just me and my mom and it felt like a very special club. Still is. I’ve heard people say that having more than one kid keeps them occupied with each other but I was never bored – I had a really active imagination and kept busy playing and making up stories. Apparently I even let my mom sleep in on the weekends! And I made lots of close friends, some of whom felt like sisters, while still keeping my mom and my own space to myself. All in all, it suited me perfectly.

      As my family has changed and moved, I do get pangs of isolation sometimes. But my situation is a bit unique in that I have not a single blood relative on this continent. That’s what spurred my emotional reaction I think.

      More and more, I’m seriously thinking I would only want to have one child too, but John had two siblings so can’t really imagine it. We’ll see. But I really think a lot of the things said about only children are exaggerations. I swear I do share!

      I’m going to try and write more about this some time….

  3. This was fascinating. I read it when you posted about it on Twitter but didn’t get a chance to comment until now. While I loved how it was written, it did tug on my heartstrings a little. The corners of a triangle thing — where the shape just collapses upon itself? That admittedly made me feel a little bad. Like what, my family wasn’t stable enough? Which is not quite what he meant, but still.

    I wonder about this a lot. I think I want to try for two if we have kids. Not because I’m afraid of one having to being raised as an only, but I’m mainly afraid of that one losing out on the experience of having a big extended family, like I did. Not that one sibling will ever be able to stand in for that experience…

    • Yeah my nuclear family was just me and my mom, and it sure felt like a family. I think the reality is that the shape of your family just doesn’t have that much to do with how stable or happy you are. On paper my family right now looks downright strange – half the time I’m not sure how to talk about it let alone wrap my head around it – but I feel like it’s stable and always there to support me so it doesn’t really matter.

  4. I love this. It makes me laugh some and think lots.

    Carson is an only child, I have six sibs. There are strengths to both.

    • My mom came from a family of 12 siblings and of the ones who had kids, almost all of them had only one child, at most two. Not sure what that says… haha.

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