November 28, 2021

My Only Child is Not Spoiled - Privileged Yes - But Not Spoiled

I have an only child.  A daughter if you've not read previous posts of mine.   I have friends and peers that have or planned to have only one child, so in my world it hasn't been that big of a deal to proclaim that decision to others.   And I've not received many comments related to having only one that I recall.  But it could be that I and we don't really care if someone disagrees with that decision, because it's really none of their business anyways.  However some that I know have heard many unsolicited comments about the decision to have one including their child is or will be:

  • Lonely
  • Selfish
  • Antisocial
  • Spoiled
  • Bossy
  • Dysfunctional
  • Won't know how to share
  • Won't work well with others
I only had one only-child stereo-type mentioned to me that pissed me off, however I bit my tongue.  It was a new colleague who came to talk business in my cube many years ago when my daughter was still young.  She saw the picture I had up of my family and asked if she was an only child to which I affirmed.  And she said 'oh she must be spoiled.'  I'm pretty sure I gave her a confused look as it seems a pretty bold conclusion to draw about a child you've never even met.  

As I've grown up and gotten further out from it, I honestly don't think she meant it with mal-intent or as a shot at our parenting as compared to hers or others with multiple kids.  She just didn't think that how she phrased it comes across as a negative shot at such a decision.  I think she probably meant it as we spend more time and money on her since we don't have other kids to spread it out on.  Which is true, but doesn't equate to raising a spoiled kid.  But she made a statement without knowing that we:
  • tell her no
  • considered that we would have to teach her to think about others
  • take the time to demonstrate thinking about others as a value worth putting time an effort into. 
  • consider a budget for Christmas and birthdays  
  • participate in efforts to be generous to those less fortunate so she understands that she is indeed privileged 
I myself came from an upbringing where I was the youngest of 2.  My husband is on the younger half, but in the middle of 7 kids.  So we were both very well aware of the nonsense and/or chaos that comes with growing up with one or more siblings.  When we decided to have only one, we didn't make that decision lightly or without research.  We actually realized that we'd have to make more effort than we might normally like to ensure she has social interaction outside of the normal school schedule and year.  Honestly this is probably a good thing for a couple that is 1. introverted and 2. extraverted but borderline introverted socially.  This means we end up hosting her friends at our house more than other parents host her.  But honestly we don't always know her friend's home situations and so we are more than happy to have them over for lunch and and afternoon of fun.  When I think back to the parents (particularly the moms) that hosted me during my turbulent high school and college years, I'm incredibly grateful for them allowing me to dominate time at their homes with my friends.  They taught me so much about who I want to be as a mom to my daughter's friends going through the same tough times I did as a kid. 

She is on the other hand incredibly privileged in the following ways:
  • She was born in a rich and free country relative to much of the world.
  • She has parents who love her dearly and don't want to screw her up.
  • She doesn't have to share a room.
  • She doesn't have a sibling to break her toys.
  • She doesn't have a sibling to fight about everything with including not crossing the center line in the car.
  • She was born to parents who can provide food, shelter, and private education for her.
  • She was born to parents willing to move her across the country to provide her opportunities within their value system that she didn't have just a few short years ago.
  • She was born to parents who can afford to make sure one of us is currently at home for her and can take her to various activities that she likes to participate in.  This wasn't always the case for her.
  • She was born to parents that believe vacations should include her and they don't mean only going to visit grandparents.
  • She was born to parents that can and do teach her the value of a dollar and how to manage money including expenses, charity to those you don't know, and generosity towards those you care about and love.
  • She was born to parents who know their limits.  Even when that means telling her No!
We have very much thought about the fact that when we are old and decrepit, that she won't have a sibling to share that stress with.  We both can currently talk to our siblings about the stresses that come with our parents aging or other frustrations that come with that.  However, we are doing our best to make sure that we are not a financial burden to her.  My own personal worry is that I will do or say something to screw up her desire to be part of our lives when she is an adult.  That concern is what reminds me to own up and apologize to her when I've been an unreasonable hardass.  Plus I have a wonderful husband that isn't afraid to call me out when I need it.  I also think of these times as opportunities to show her I'm not a perfect parent/adult and it's ok and important to own up to and learn from mistakes.   

We are trying to do our best just as reasonable parents who choose to have a heard of children generally try to do their best. She's privileged yes, but not spoiled.  My dog on the other hand, completely spoiled!

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