I’ve always wanted kids and lots of them. I love the chaos and the unpredictability and the large noisy dinners. Okay sometimes I’m not truly loving it and lots of times I’m forgetting about one child’s needs while I’m focusing on another, but I wouldn’t have it otherwise. So it was with a bit of caution that I opened up Lauren Sandler’s latest book, One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child, and the Joy of Being One.
Full Disclosure: I know Lauren and read it with the curiosity that one reads a friend’s book but I wasn’t planning on really loving it. And I certainly wasn’t planning on “getting it.”
But I couldn’t put it down. The book—despite what the cover says—isn’t really about only children. This is what it is: It’s about relationships with our kids, our spouse, our parents, and most importantly with ourselves. It’s also about how scientific studies are often publicized to suit our own notions of right and wrong. Or ignored, if they don’t match our morals.
For example: In 1907, the popular psychologist Stanley Hall gave a lecture and said this: “Being an only child is a disease in itself.” He said they are doomed to become selfish narcissists. Not to mention his notions meshed perfectly with widespread anxieties about profligate immigrants and their large families destroying American culture. Big families among the white upper classes were not only a good thing for the country, it was the scientifically sound way to raise healthy children. His words of wisdom—based on nothing much really—became the basis of parenting books pushing newlyweds to go forth and multiply. Twenty years later, another psychologist actually did a study that debunked the only-child myths. But, as Lauren writes, no one listened.