Friday, July 21, 2006

The view from here: ramblings of an "only child"

Before I say anything I'd like to say that I am the only offspring of my parents and everything I say here is my personal opinion and may not agree with a lot of people.

So, why is it important to have more than one child? For one it makes the child a little less selfish. Now before any one of you fly off the handle protesting what a selfless "only child" you were, or start nodding your head in absolute agreement remembering the disgustingly selfish "only child" you knew in school, I'd like to say that I'm talking about something that is relative. I mean everyone is selfish to a slight extent. We do think about ourselves a lot and what we like and don't like. So everyone's entitled to be a little selfish. We owe it to ourselves. But what I'm talking about here is the way the "only child" views things.

Unlike what most people think an "only child" does not think that the sun, the moon and the stars revolve around him/ her and do not always demand for the very best. That I think is a personal trait and I know many kids who have siblings but are known to be more demanding than others. But when you have one child the kid grows up being a little bit more possessive about his/ her things than the other kids around. I'll tell you a little incident about myself and how I learnt to recognize the possessive streak in me. This was the time when I was getting out of school and starting to go to college. My Dad told me about this young girl who had completed her Medical degree and had started working with him to train to be a gynecologist. Both my parents were in praises about how nice this girl was and how she wanted to be friends with me. Now all my life I have had my parents all to myself and for the strangest reasons took an instant dislike to this intruder whom I had never seen nor met, but who seemed to be taking away a part of my parent's affection that was rightfully mine. Her name was US. For the next couple of months all I heard was US did this and US did that and how well she was doing and how great she was. And I hated her more everyday and did my best not to meet her by staying out late if I knew she would coming over. And then oneday we did meet. She had come over to show my Dad some lab reports. And she stopped by my room to talk to me. And we talked. For hours. It was like I met a long-lost friend. The sister I never had. I absolutely loved her. She was bright, she was pretty and she had the most endearing nature. I knew instantly why my parents were so enchanted by her. Over the next few months US and I became really good friends. She would come over every afternoon to chat with me. And we'd talk about life, studies, boys. She knew every little thing that was happening in my life and I knew everything that had ever happened to her. I was so ashamed of myself for having shut her out of my life for all that time while she was trying her hardest to be friends. She saw me through all my frustrations, my truimphs and failures, my difficult college days, my turbulent love-life. And I watched her fall in love and get married. Then she moved overseas. And looking back I remember US with the fondest of memories and strongest of affection. She is the closest thing I ever had to having an older sister. And I don't mind sharing my parents, my things, my life with her. But I had to cross that boundary, that hurdle to get to this point. And I have always blamed my inability to share my parents easily on being an "only child".

I think being an "only child" gives you the impression that certain things belong to you. It makes one a little bit more possessive about things, about people, than anyone else. I try my hardest to be a little less possessive about the people I love. But it is a habit that is difficult to unlearn. I still get mad when people borrow books, CDs, DVDs and then just "forget" to return them. I don't mind lending them as long as people give it back to me and I can put things where they belong. B thinks I'm too possessive about everything (which includes him) and is always teasing me about being a "spoilt child". Well may be that is true. Just a little bit. But don't ever tell him that I said that.

The other thing that bothers me about people having single childs these days is that it takes away some beautiful relations that we were fortunate to have in our lives. I grew up basking in the affection of my kaka, pishi, mashi, mama.....I had one of each. My parents had multiple kakas, pishis, mashis and mamas. Unfortunately my child will not have any mashi, kaka or mama. And may be my grandchild will not even know what it is like to even have these wonderful people in your life to shower love, affection and blessings. And that will be so unfortunate. Because some of my fondest memories are with these people and knowing that I can always turn to them for anything.

And even though I had the most wonderful childhood I always wanted a sibling, like my other friends. Someone I could share my life with. For the longest time I had a strange notion that my parents had another child, a son who was older than me, and whom they used to hide in a secret passage that existed within the walls of our house. I believed in this fantasy for ever so long. I would go tapping on the walls all day just to open up the passage and reveal their secret. I would lie awake at night hoping to catch them bringing him out of the secret passage. But I always fell asleep before they did. And till date have not met my "brother".

Yeah I know I'm a little crazy. But whattodo. I blame it on being an "only child".



Blogger Kausum said...

You just wrote, what I had started writing about a single child. However, I was writing from a kid who has siblings and his interactions with single child.

But, bullseye to all observations.

11:00 AM  
Blogger Prerona said...

strange that i was thinking of sometghing related a little while back ... that being someone's elder sister or younger brother or whatever ... changes you ... i was wondering if there is a pattern of some sort between the few friends i have who are only kids or younger kids (most of my friends 'just happen to be' elder siblings) and the rest of us.

it came to me this morning. i was driving and abt to take a mildly risky turn. i knew i cud handle it. then i saw a driver with a L plate - a young-ish kid and i stopped - it all happened in a fraction of a second - the thought being: Bad Example hobe.

so these things that are drilled into u do mould who u r somewhat ... and make so much of a diff to who u r & the kind of life u live ...

thats what i was thinking :)

11:17 AM  
Blogger Dadoji said...

Our 2005 consisted of discussions around these topics. I knew we did the right thing when this happened.

11:30 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ kausum *lol* similar frequencies I guess :) But still post your thoughts. I'd like to read about what other people feel.
@ prerona I guess you are right. Being an older sibling gives you a sense of responsibility on a subconscious level. I see B who is 5 years younger then his sister and the way he perceives the world. And I think part of it comes from having had his way for being younger. You're right, it changes the way you are.
@ dadoji oh absolutely. And I'm glad. And you can be sure LD and LM will grow up thanking you. BTW you have beautiful kids. Really.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

I grew up with two younger brothers and a whole lotta cousins. I am from a joint family, so I never got around to calling my cousins, well cousins. They were my brothers and sisters.There was always the issue of pssesiveness coming about though. Ofcourse it was called marking your territory rather than being selfish. My brother had his collection of cars and games, I had my books and all the books in the house which included some very old RD magazines and one sister her dolls. I was also very possesive about my father. I was the only person who had esclusive access to the seat next to hima nd to sitting on his lap. There is perhaps a little bit of selfishness in all of us. The circumstances it manifests under is perhaps the only difference.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Cacophoenix said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Jinguchakka said...

You are fully right. More the children under a roof, the better they are!

4:08 PM  
Blogger jhantu said...

well i am a single child as well and to be frank i never really missed growing up without a brother/sister, probably bcos there were far too many kids in our neighborhood and i had an absi blast with them..

as far as being spoilt and possessive is concerned i think that has little to do with being a single child

7:09 PM  
Blogger hutumthumo said...

aapni ki myth-busting ta profession korte cholechhen? ek bachha dhop, tar aage biye equals bachha, tar-o aage chamra-r rong.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Venustus_ignis_4 said...

wowzers... totally true my friend. Only child here and I completely agree

12:51 AM  
Blogger Joyful Heart! said...

Nice post M, I enjoyed this! Can't imagine what life would be without all those cousins and aunts and uncles all over the place. They make your holidays what they are! You are so correct in that the future generations might miss out on just that - wholesome family funtimes!

1:22 AM  
Blogger Priya said...

Weird, how my parents brough tme up to be this ultimate selfless single child;) I live and die for others! But off late, I'm learning to be a littl eselfish, because that's how the world is, I realise. Well, better late than never. So now I don't want to share my family, friends, food, time or thoughts. Can't say how G will turn out, yet.

1:36 AM  
Blogger That Girl said...

im an only child too.

i vowed when i was 10 years old that i would NEVER stop at having just one child.

loneliness followed me each time my family had to move houses and i had to say goodbye to my made me a little dead inside...

also....for me... being an only child..made me want to impress my parents when i was younger...because i would see them praise other kids..and compare me with them when i wasnt behaving well etc etc...and i would often hate other kids for it.

i just dont want to have one child and have her/him go through the same thing.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Bidi-K said...

hmmm, i am an only child too. while doing my masters i had 3 extremely good friends each so different from each other that there can be no generalisations about only children, except that we all subconciously seemed to desire more than one kid of our own.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Sue said...

I don't believe this! I have an elder brother but several 'only child' cousins, and even tho' Dada and I fought all through our childhood I always knew I'd never stop at one child.

I've said that even while grumbling at this one pregnancy... I wish I could show your blog to a lot of ppl, including my mum. She's convinced this experience has put me off further grandchildren (hers, of course!)

5:23 AM  
Blogger Anand said...

I agree with your post 100%%!!
I had an elder bro and well having a sibling does teach u how to be less selfish...coz u dont have a choice but to share everything..and that helps u open up a lot to other people as well!

1:20 AM  
Blogger Ekta said...

I have an elder bro too and I know that I wld have definately missed all the fighting if I didnt have him to fight with!!..:-)

2:25 AM  
Blogger Sudarshan. A. G. said...

U knw wht's worse? being the youngest one... in both sides of the family.... Boy... there's some serious pampering and selfishness levels are at an all time high... Thank goodness for my non-chalance to things!

A very adorable and truthful post... Pass my regards to your elder bro... :)

7:01 AM  
Blogger karmic said...

Nice post. The number of siblings may also be dictated by economics no? I was not very close to my sis and we are the only 2 kids int he family. We were not close to relatives either so rather diferent than most desi experiences.

8:01 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ cacophoenix yeah I grew up in a joint family too and had lots of cousins to share with. Everything. Except my parents. And when I realized how possessive I was about them, I understood why there was athing called an only child phenomenon!
@ jinguchakka more the merrier?
@ jhantu well may be the selfishness has a lot to do with the type of person one is. But as an only child i grew up playing fantasy games where i'd pretend to have imaginary friends. And I grew up being introvert, shy and totally not at ease in a large circle.
@ hutumthumo myth busting korar shadhyo ki aamar achhe? Just random observations :))
@ venustus_ignis_4 thanks for visiting my blog and the comment!
@ pearl me too. That is what I miss about being so far away from home. The fun when the entire clan got together!
@ priya "I live and die for others" sure you do :))) Aren't we all?
@ grafxgurl yeah me too. I always said I would have an entire troop. But realistically I don't see that happening :)
@ bidisha well may be it is the subconscious desire in us all. I just had so much more fun when I was with my cousins than when I would be playing on my own with my imaginary friends.
@ sue well placenta previa once doesn't mean you get it everytime. Next time might be very different. Good to see you up and running again though!
@ anand it wasn't so much the sharing of material things as the people around me. I grew up in a joint family and had cousins to share with. But when it came to my parents I always drew the line. I hated it if they would praise someone else. I wanted to be the best and come first in their lives. And that was so selfish of me.
@ ekta I still miss having an elder brother. Years of fantasising leaves a mark on your psyche!
@ a.g.s I will :)) Thanks!
@ karmic_jay well these days yes the number of children is driven by economics. But atleast one generation back it wasn't really a factor. I don't know the age difference between you and your sister. But sometimes that plays a role in why siblings are not that close. I would have loved to have a older brother or sister. I would make up random games to play with myself all day. I'd have imaginary friends. I grew up being a totally screwed up insecured child. I mean at this point in my life I can look objectively and say my thumb sucking, nail biting, bedwetting, sleep walking were all psychological effects from various insecurities that I had in my childhood. And I truly believe I would have been a little less weird, a little more mature and self confident if I had a sibling to share my insecurities with.

8:49 AM  
Blogger karmic said...

We are only a year apart, and although I do have memories of playing with her as a kid. We just seemed to be different from a long time back, nnot just something that happened later.

8:06 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

I guess people are born different. Some people get along better with their siblings than others. But generally the differences show up once they grow up rather than at an early age. Most of my friends and cousins who had siblings had a wonderful time growing up together. But then....each to his own.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

when my sis was born and brought to my house i thought she would be leaving after a while - its only after three months that my parents broke the news to me that she is planning to sta yon - i remember being very disappointed :(( you have just given me an idea for a new post - yippeee!!

11:24 AM  
Blogger RajpaL said...

Well..I am a single child as well! All these mannerisms & behaviour fall under what is medically known as 'Single Child Syndrome'.

When I was growing up in Calcutta, I had cousins and distant cousins to grown up with so it was sorta ok but now as I am older, I do wish that I had my own brothers/sisters.

Well written tho!

4:06 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ sagnik *lol* I can imagine the disappointment you felt once you figured :))
@ rajpal thanks!

9:35 AM  
Blogger GhostOfTomJoad said...

I guess you've got the only-child perspective right but, you know, this is one of those classic "grass is greener..." issues. I'm one of three and have mutiple aunts and uncles and cousins but, honestly, I keep wondering what the big deal about all this is.

Funny how kids develop various notions. If you thought you had a brother, for a long time I thought my parents saw me in a shop window and brought me home :-)

1:41 PM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ ghostoftomjoad *lol* did they get a good deal?

3:59 PM  
Blogger Rohini said...

Ever since I decided that I wanted to become a parent, I have been pretty sure that I will have two kids. The most compelling reason for me is that when we die, the kids should atleast have one other person who they share a common history with and who they can call 'family' left with them.

1:11 PM  

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