Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Some Thoughts Engendered By Reading...

My book club has just finished reading Gone Girl, the mystery novel by Gillian Flynn. We met last night to talk about the book. Everyone brings a dish to share and we outdid ourselves this time! I took shrimp salad, served in a leaf of endive, which is also good on crackers.   With  full stomachs, we began the discussion. 

I had found a passage in this book which spoke directly to me  (or so it felt):

" There is an unfair responsibility that comes with being an only child - you grow up knowing you aren't allowed to disappoint, you're not even allowed to die. There isn't a replacement toddling around; you're it. It makes you desperate to be flawless, and it also makes you drunk with power. In such ways are despots made."

I don't know if I could be called a despot, but I know that mr. kenju  (and my children) would say I can be. But I grew up knowing that if I did something wrong, it would displease my mother greatly (and out of all proportion.) I was not ever allowed the luxury of being wrong because it reflected badly on her. She was very concerned about what other people thought, and always wanted to be "well thought of".  The fact that I could be less than perfect was not to be known by the outside world  (or even most of her family, God forbid.) 

I've wondered if that was solely because I was her only child - or if it could also have something to do with the fact that I was adopted. I asked the members of the book club how many of them were only children. There was one other woman who was an only child, plus a woman who grew up as the only girl in a family of boys, and both felt they were treated just as the character in Flynn's book and I were. 

So what is your experience? Are you an only child? Were you treated in this fashion? How do you think it has affected your adult life, and has it made any difference in how you raised your children?  

Please answer in the comments....or if you write a blog post about it.....please send the link to me.


tiff said...

I am an only girl, but don't think I wasn't allowed to fail, I just pretty much didn't. That was my younger brother's job.

However, I will say that my folks sat me down after my freshman year in college and told me they were thinking of not sending me back because they didn't care for 'the person I was becoming.' So, maybe there's some truth to that 'perfect kid' thing. I always HAD been up to that point, and when I showed I wasn't they got very concerned.

kenju said...

Oh, boy. Maybe you should read Gone Girl. It is a really good mystery, with twists and turns you would never expect.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I am not an only child--I am the last of four---'the baby'...And in lots of ways, I was allowed to fail and not be punished or made to feel I was horrible for failing. On the other hand, there were always expectations and I could feel their disappointment if I didn't live up to those expectations. I think being an only child has it's disadvantages because Sooo much emphasis is on you being the one who will or won't fulfill their dreams and/or expectations. So much pressure! I don't think I would have done very well under those circumstances, at all!!!

Gilly said...

When you said all that about what you did "reflecting on your mother" you could have been talking about me! yet I have one, younger, sister, and am not adopted. All my life what I did "reflected on my parents, specifically my father"

I don't think it has anything to do with being an only child, or being adopted, I think its just the character of our parents.

And of course, they were very much of a different generation, and their position in society and life generally was terribly important. I imagine this applied whichever side of the Atlantic you lived!

I did a degree in Social Science, but had several different "careers" and to her dying day my mother said "You never used your degree, did you?"

Lynn said...

I am the middle child. I always felt a little ignored after my younger sister came into the picture. And I've been given feedback that I have low self esteem. I guess I project that sometimes, but if I do, it definitely stems from that. I overheard my parents telling my younger sister's in-laws once how special she was to them because she was their "baby" and they looked stricken when they realized I had heard. It wasn't anything I didn't know already. My father sort of overcompensated for that remark after that by constantly asking me if knew how special I was? I did (do) know, but learned it in therapy. :) And oddly enough - I am the only one who excelled in college and in business. Love those girls though - the oldest has always sort of been a bit distant from the family - we see her at Thanksgiving usually. The youngest is always trying to take care of me - very cute. :)

I'm reading Gone Girl right now. My book club rejected it, but I am enjoying it very much and wish I had more time to read it. I hadn't really thought of a birth order or only child syndrome discussion to come out of that. I can't wait until Saturday, when I can read more.

Granny Annie said...

I was the youngest of three but have few, if any, complaints of my childhood. Yes I was spoiled rotten. I can remember getting in trouble occasionally and my parent looking at me shaking their heads saying "Where did we fail" which I would assume made me a failure though that was what they were trying to avoid saying. They were taking the blame for my mess up.

How did everyone like the book by the way? I enjoyed it very much but would have written a different ending:)

Peruby said...

I am raising an only child and I am reading and listening to what all of you have to say.

I never thought of it this way.

Arkansas Patti said...

I love that quote and it aptly explains a dear friend who was an only child. I think she did feel the pressure.
Due to a blended family, I have been at times growing up, the baby, the middle and finally the oldest. Sometimes I really envied the only child. Maybe now, not so much. Thanks.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm glad you are feeling better!

No I'm not an only child I have an older brother. But I can relate to the quote too because I'm adopted.

Murr Brewster said...

I was the baby, by a long shot, and had the distinct advantage of having shown up after all my parents' best expectations had been worn down to a nubbin. I remember being in my twenties when we all got together and my parents reacted to something I said with their equivalent of "whatever," and my older sibs whispered: "you've done WONDERS with mom and dad."

Ginnie said...

My situation couldn't be more different from yours, Judy. I was the youngest of 5 girls (born in an 8 yr. span) and my older sisters say I was spoiled rotten !

Florence said...

I was an only child and DH and I had one child. We seem to have turned out rather well. And I suppose everyone needs parents to have someone to blame! LOL!!

Pat said...

I was the middle one and although I felt loved always felt different.
My elder sister knew EVERYTHING and was better than me at almost everything.
My little brother almost died with pneumonia so he was Mum's favourite I felt.
Poor me! I think this is probably quite a common feeling:)