I’m watching pink ponies, blue ponies, and purple ponies, and I simply do not comprehend this program. My 5-year-old daughter is engrossed, not answering when I call her name numerous times. This is only one television show that she enjoys—there are so many: “Strawberry Shortcake;” “Dora and Friends;” “Sofia the First,” etc. While I do not mind “Doc McStuffins” as I think it teaches some valuable lessons, these other girl-oriented shows are new territory for me.
I grew up in a home where the color TV was dominated by my older brothers—particularly the oldest, Jeff. Instead of “Strawberry Shortcake” or “Jem,” I watched “Gomer Pyle,” “The Three Stooges,” “MASH,” and “Sanford and Son.” It was painful at times, although I did eventually grow to love “MASH.” But those “girlie” shows I longed to watch were some sort of enigma to me. My friends would tell me all about them, but I never truly understood.
I felt I was missing out, but what was I to do? Jeff is four and a half years older than me and I was at his mercy when it came to the TV. While my other brother, Rob, would watch “Wonder Woman” with me, he, too, appeared to be at Jeff’s mercy. As I grew older, I had to watch “Dynasty” each week in the kitchen on the 13-inch black and white TV while my brother watched whatever he wanted downstairs on the larger color TV.
Because my daughter is an only child, there are no domination or control issues in terms of TV watching. If she wants to watch a show, and we are allowing her some TV time, she is able to pick and choose. If she had a sibling, I am sure this experience would be dramatically different. Does it matter that she basically always gets what she wants, in terms of TV? And what about everything else?
My goal has always been not to spoil her, but I am finding it difficult. As the only child, the focus truly is entirely on her. Sometimes I worry if she is given too much stuff. Certainly I cannot always stop my parents and mother-in-law from buying her clothes, books, and toys, but because of the grandparents, I try to limit what I buy for her, in terms of extras.
In terms of love and affection, she is the sole winner of frequent hugs, kisses, and declarations of, “I love you.” I don’t think that is spoiling her, only helping to solidify and maintain her ability to feel cared for and to care for others. If she had a sibling, I honestly do not know what that would look like. I don’t believe a mother’s love can be limited, but I wonder how I would have handled all of that love with a second child.
There was a period of time when my husband and I were going through fertility treatments, trying for a sibling for our daughter. I never questioned whether we could handle another child or if it would negatively impact our daughter. My belief was that she would flourish with a sibling. She’d have someone to share stories with and a partner-in-crime when going against Mom and Dad.
What we have now, though, is a strong team of three, and that was meant to be. There are still times when she does not get her way, and her tantrums are just like those of her friends with siblings. Her appreciation when opening another package from her Auntie Jennie is genuine, despite getting these kinds of gifts often. She is a normal 5-year-old who sometimes gets what she wants and sometimes does not. Sibling or no sibling, that would not change.
There will always be pros and cons to being an only child, or the oldest, middle, or youngest child. There is no single perfect developmental paradigm to follow, and I now believe this is another worry I can toss away. Spoiled or not, at least my daughter will never be cast away to the black-and-white TV.