Research has been debunking these suspect theories since the 1970s, yet still the negative associations persistby Hephzibah Anderson / October 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
When my daughter was born, a writer friend sent her a copy of Kay Thompson’s 1955 classic, Eloise. It hasn’t taken long for her to grow into it. Not yet four, I’ll find her poring over its images with studious intensity. Its eponymous heroine is herself all of six years old. Thrillingly for readers of any age, she lives in Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. With her mother off swanning round the French Riviera and no mention of a father, she’s cared for by a British nanny. A manual for mischief-making, the book follows its wild-haired protagonist as she turns that stuffy grown-up oasis into an exotic playground for one.
She is, of course, an only child, the sophisticated antithesis of all those jolly brothers and sisters who conga through the stories of writers from Enid Blyton to Louisa May Alcott. In fact, precocious, solitary, spoiled—downright obnoxious some might say—Eloise has come to epitomise characteristics that predate the book and its author.
Like Eloise, my daughter is an only child. Every firstborn starts off this way but for those of us to whom children come late, the chance that they’ll remain so is high. In truth, I’d always hazily envisaged having “just” the one, but with motherhood came the desire for a whole tribe.
I tried, which as a single mother by choice (a curious term, that) meant a considerable amount of poking and prodding, and one especially farcical customs imbroglio (“What do you mean the cryotank can’t be released until tomorrow? I’m ovulating!”). Three fruitless attempts were enough, I decided, but even so, it took me a long time to throw away the box of unused fertility drugs that sat in the bottom of the fridge, keeping company with a dormant sourdough starter.
To the extent that she craves a sibling at all, my child wishes for a big sister, which is a whole other project for this dating-averse mum. Meanwhile, unique though she is in our family, she is one of a growing number out in the wider world.
Here in the UK we’ve been becoming a one-child nation for over a decade, making us leaders in what may become a trend across the secular world, powered by the indelible link between rising gender equality and…