Josie Wilson of Ashland was 42 when her first and only child, Paulina, was born, a perfect gift to Josie and her husband, Michael Belsky. "We were older, we had established careers," recalls Josie. "We were clear that we wanted to have a child; it was a very thoughtful decision on our part." By the time Josie might have been ready to have another child, she'd gone into early menopause.
Josie, a psychologist, knew that they'd have to teach Paulina some of the life skills that might be learned more naturally in a larger family. "I think when you have more than one child, that a child by their environment is forced to learn how to adapt and compromise and not always be the center of attention, because other kids make that happen," explains Josie. "That doesn't happen as easily for a singleton, and parents have to go out of their way to create social interactions like that."
There are lots of other families out there just like yours and resources to help guide you. An unusual resource is a social bookmarking site hosted on Squidoo called www.squidoo.com/only_children/. Called "an intriguing, and brilliantly constructed lens that dares to ask some very profound questions and assert some compelling answers," Squidoo editors awarded the site the "Lens of the Day" award on July 26, 2007.
On the Only Children site, writer Christene talks freely about her choice to have one child, has a list of famous onlies and tags resources throughout the Web. You'll find recommended books, songs and poems, posts by other singletons, and answers to some of those rude questions that parents of singletons inevitably get.
A history and math teacher at South Medford High School, Steve Jensen says that he can identify those in his class who are most likely a single child. "A little quieter, sometimes [with] parents who are a little more protective," he says. "I also find these kids to be a little kinder, a little nicer — maybe a little more vulnerable and I think it's because they haven't gone through the school of 'hard knocks' at home." He means the bickering, attention-getting and jostling for position that happens in a larger family. "They haven't had a chance to practice those skills," Jensen says.
Jane Whaley of Medford is also the parent of a single child, Sean now 14. Being the youngest of six girls, Jane thought she'd have a large family, too, but health considerations changed her mind. Memories of her large, sprawling family has helped her parent a singleton: "I loved the camaraderie, all there to help each other, lots of sisters to look to do things and learn from," Jane remembers. "I've told him stories of my childhood, the things I learned from my sisters — what worked and didn't work."
The extra time and attention parents of singletons give their child may pay off in the long run, says University of Texas at Austin psychologist, Dr. Toni Falbo.
"These children tend to score slightly higher in verbal ability, go farther in school and have a little bit higher self-esteem, and a lot of this just has to do with more parent involvement and uninterrupted time with adults."
Josie knows that the added attention can be both good and bad. "It's hard because you... have all your eggs in one basket and its easy to be an intrusive parent with one child, just because you have more time and more interest. You don't get a chance to sit back and modulate your expectations for one child."
What do the onlies say? The reviews are mixed.
Jane Whaley reports that the first time Sean went on an overnight, he came back exhausted by the chaos of a two-sibling family, describing the fighting, tension and conflict. He's changed his mind about having siblings several times since then.
There's no question in Paulina's mind, though. "I definitely wish I had a brother and sister. If you have a sibling, then you always have somebody to play with, interact with," she says.
However, Josie sees the advantages. "You have more energy, time to focus, time to be a wise parent and learn and grow as your child is growing," she says. You have more money, more time."
In some families, one child completes the circle just fine.