I've been thinking a lot about the only child syndrome (or the 'lonely' child syndrome, depending on my mood) lately. In a classic case of always wanting what you can't have, my childhood was spent pining for a sibling to grow up with, gawking enviously at my friends who would share rooms, clothes, secrets, practically everything, with each other. I imagined every night to be a slumber party for them, every meal to be a riotous affair. I really, desperately, wanted a brother or sister to be my closest confidante, but eventually, I found my siblings in my friends and I realised that while blood maybe thicker than water, it doesn't always make for a stronger bond.
Today, I read about countless siblings, once attached at the hips, lashing out at each other in shameful displays of legal know how, humiliating not only themselves, but also the parents who raised them. Property disputes, corporate battles and petty familial politics adorn the front pages of newspapers and the corridors of courtrooms are littered with siblings slinging accusations and threats at each other, fighting tooth and nail for territory, possession and ultimately, to establish who's the boss. Gone are the days where clawing for the last triangle of Toblerone or fighting for who would sit in the front seat of the car were the big issues to contend with. It seems with time, siblings, especially brothers (sisters, according to me, would never turn on each other), find that healthy competition gets replaced with a heady cocktail of ownership, envy and a false sense of pride.
It's always sad to see siblings battling it out in court over property and financial matters. Invariably, whether you're an outsider looking in or a member of the feuding family, the most common explanation for their actions narrows down to one cold, hard consensus; unsuccessful parenting, because children are reflections of their parents and their upbringing is directly proportionate to their actions as adults. Is this a fair accusation? I really don't know, but at the end of the day, after much psychoanalysis, you have to blame someone.
If you're going to take on the responsibility of parenting, you've pretty much signed on to assume responsibility and accountability for most of your children's deeds, good or bad, but how can you ever anticipate, or prepare yourself for a chilling reality; what if your children grow up to despise each other? Picnics and holidays may make for photographs worth framing, but it appears that memories fade fast when it comes to assets and acquisitons.
Our cultural DNA spotlights our beliefs in large families and multiple siblings, but peer closer into the lives of modern couples and you'll see that the model has changed. Maybe, we aren't as extreme as China, with their rigid one child policy, but it seems "Hum do, hamaare do" has managed to create quite an impression on our future fornicators who strive for a more balanced family structure. Maybe they've learnt from their lessons in the past, or maybe, couples today are more selfish, more set on remaining autonomous, and realise that the more children they have, the less time they'll have for themselves. Whatever it is, it's helping in population control and I think we can all agree it's about time we practiced some restraint.
There was a time when a family of three appeared incomplete, and more often than not, that was the case. Women were only as proud as the children they raised, and so they had them in abundance to prove their maternal prowess. The families that weren't as lucky, had to make to do, and it seems now that they were the ones to get it right. Smaller, simpler and significantly stronger, the childhood of an only child may not mirror the Brady Bunch, but it has its merits. Despite being raised in a family of three, I value my family ties and traditions more than most people I know. I cherish the bond I share with my cousins and know that my parents would go to battle for me. I don't know whether if I would've turned out differently if I was raised in a house full of kids, but I know first hand the joys of choosing your people in the world and I wouldn't like to have it any other way.