Only Child looks at larger families

Some of Only Child's cousins

A recent story in Times Magazine by Lauren Sandler, “The Only Child: Debunking the Myths,” has raised the ire of some readers, some with large families. (See for one of these). Personally, I could never have raised a large number of children – I didn’t (and still don’t) have the stamina or the resources (support and finances). But… and here it comes… others can do it. I’m not saying everyone with many children makes a good parent – heck, some parents of only children aren’t good parents, either. And I  must admit, when I see an unruly bunch of siblings acting up and the mother and/or father seems to have no control, I wonder “what were they thinking?” However, I have seen a lone child acting up in a supermarket and mom or dad unable to control him or her. So, it is really a two-sided story.

What do you think?

Although I grew up an only child, I had cousins from large families and I sometimes found it disconcerting inter-acting with them. But I also had some good times with them. In my memoir-in-the works, I write about visiting my eight cousins on my godmother’s farm. Remember, I’m a city gal.

As the sun slides down in the evening, Jimmie and Karl decide to teach me how to chase the cows home. Jimmie stretches the barbed-wired fence wide so I can climb through without ripping my arms or shorts. I appreciate that because back home, while tearing after my friends, I tried vaulting a fence and the rump of my shorts stuck and ripped.

Once through the barbed wire, I stare at big beasts with mottled black and white skin and bodies remaining stationary, except at either end – the tails sliding back and forth keep me mesmerized. How can they chew the weeds and grass bits so matter-of-factly while their eyes seem to dig deep into my head? They must know how frightened I feel.

“They won’t hurt you,” Jimmie says. “Just don’t run at them and startle them. Come on.”

Jimmie strolls forward, as if he has no concerns and Karl follows. I guess I see the cows through their eyes or maybe I’m frightened they will find out that I’m a scaredy-cat. I follow, picking my way around the black deposits scattered throughout the pasture. The cows become benign pets that we must set on the right track. We chase the herd from one field to another. Karl opens the gate – and the cows come home, not quite roller-skating, but close to it, because they suddenly surge in the gateway, and settle down for the night in the pasture by the barn.

(Excerpted from You Can Go Home, Part 1, copyright 2010 Sharon Crawford)

We cousins didn’t always get along perfectly. Sometimes the numbers “won” over the only. There was the time a couple of the girl cousins and some cousins on their dad’s side of the family  (not blood-related to me) played a trick. They convinced me that one of these other cousins was a twin to an elderly lady in the household. And despite her looking decades older, I believed them. Of course, they had fun at my expense when they told me the truth. I felt humiliated, stupid and gullible.  As I think about it now, I believe part of my gullibility was due to being an only child with little experience in sibling to-ing and fro-ing. But I suppose things like this happen in most families with more than one child.

As for that Times story, check it out at (enter “The Only Child: Debunking the Myths” in the Search Box).



Only child writes


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Filed under Cousins, Family Size, Hereditary, Only child, Only child memoir, Parenting

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