Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Only child"ren get a bad rap.

It started this past Sunday when my husband had to work and my two-year-old son, who normally goes home with him for a nap during 2nd service, had to endure two consecutive church services.  In the same classroom, with the same lesson he had just heard.

Not only that, but I always teach second service preschool, as to avoid being in the same class as my son.  Not that I'm avoiding my kid, but it's hard for a young toddler to understand that, while I'm his mommy, I also have to be everyone else's teacher.

To only compound the matter further, there is a little girl who is always in my class who, though I try not to play favorites, I do have a closer relationship with than I do the other kids.  (Regular attendee, friends with her mom, see her more often, etc.)  Since she's there every week, she's used to getting a little bit extra attention from me.

This has led to, on the rare occassions when my son is in my class, him and this little girl (who are normally the sweetest of friends) getting into tiffs over who gets to sit in my lap.  Doesn't seem like a big deal, but, again, we're dealing with sleepy toddlers here.

So, this repeated itself this past Sunday, with my son being a fussy grumpus with the other kids yet, magically, transforming into a sweet and helpful little child the second service ended and the others' parents picked them up.  Suddenly he was helping with clean-up, chatting up the other adult volunteers, etc.

One of the other teachers turned to me and asked, "So...he's an only child then?"


She said it without an ounce of snark, but it still smacked my sensitive ego like an accusation.  I responded, "Is it really that obvious?"

"Oh, no, it's just he's obviously a lot happier with adults than with other kids, and I just see that a lot with the only children I work with."

My brain started hissing little doubts at me, rattling off the horrible "only child" stereotypes.  I made a mental checklist:

Spoiled.  Well, yes, no doubt.  To a degree, our household revolves around my son, how he's feeling, what he wants to do, etc.  If we want to watch the news or play video games or whatever, it happens after he goes to bed, because we spend our time up to that point entertaining him.  We frequently plan activities based on what he would enjoy, and my husband and I have probably been on less than ten dates since he was born.  He has his pageants, and, sometimes, I just get off work early to take him out to the park, or for ice cream.  The extended family, particularly the grandparents, contribute to the spoiling, and he has a seemingly endless stream of new clothes and toys.  So, yes, definitely spoiled.

Selfish.  Not by a long shot.  Maybe it's the mitigating influence of preschool, close cousins, and a ton of church friends, but my son is actually more generous than most kids his age.  With the exception of his "babies" (the glow worm-esque seahorses he sleeps with) and his prized Gravedigger truck, he'll willingly share even of his toys, and even offer to share treats and goodies with others.  (No matter how gross that is, particularly when he's trying to share something like a lollipop.)  So, no, I don't really think this stereotype fits.

Bratty.  On occassion, sure, but no more frequently than any other two-year-old.  Next.

Jealous.  Okay, he does definitely fit this one, particularly over me.  If he thinks another kid is trying to steal my attention from him, he'll cling to my legs and declare, "My mommy!"  I address it as best as I can, but he does do it too frequently.  We'll work on it.

Domineering.  My son has high-energy, but he's also a go-with-the-flow type kid.  He'll let the other kids decide what to play, what to do.  When he tries to get bossy, it's more likely to be at home.  (He particularly enjoys ordering our pets around, which works about as well as you can imagine.)

Precocious.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it's true in his case, as well.  He is very independent, and often tries to act like a mini-adult.  But, in a way, it's cool have a toddler who can get his own snack, feed himself, and then clean it up afterward, all without being told.  And, as mentioned in the preceding story, he is very comfortable with adults, and likes being the center of attention.

So, no, I don't think there's anything wrong with my only child.  I would like to be able to give him a sibling, but only for his benefit, not because I believe it would correct some presumed fundamental flaw in his personality.  And, let's face it, whether you have one kid or twelve kids, someone is going to be convinced you have the wrong number, and that they have hit on the perfect formula.

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