Monday, April 8, 2013

The One and Done Club

My friend recently started a blog,; a rumination about having one child. Many of her thoughts are also my thoughts and since we decided ("at this time") to also only have one, I've been thinking incessantly about this change of mind and what it will mean for our family. And when friends ask "why" I find myself scrambling to somehow justify this "lesser" family style. Why is it something that needs to be justified? What makes it less noble, somehow, than having multiple? The less-than-understanding nods of "oh yeah..." when I try to explain it to a stranger, and the, "you'll see," sighs from moms of multiples... So this weekend after reading some very compelling articles, one interesting fact is dominating my obsession with understanding this in context of what seems to me to be a cultural no-no (despite the rise of single child families). Lauren Sandler writes in the Times:

"The image of the lonely only — or at least the legitimizing of that idea — was the work of one man, Granville Stanley Hall. About 120 years ago, Hall established one of the first American psychology-research labs and was a leader of the child-study movement. A national network of study groups called Hall Clubs existed to spread his teachings. But what he is most known for today is supervising the 1896 study "Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children," which described a series of only-child oddballs as permanent misfits. Hall — and every other fledgling psychologist — knew close to nothing about credible research practices. Yet for decades, academics and advice columnists alike disseminated his conclusion that an only child could not be expected to go through life with the same capacity for adjustment that children with siblings possessed. "Being an only child is a disease in itself," he claimed." Via
Holy shit! What?! All this futile explanation and my own questioning that it's the right choice for our family and all because of one man who claimed that being an only child is a disease in itself!? A little more reading and I find that not only did he believe in separating boys and girls for learning (i.e. training for motherhood and household leaders), but "h[]e predicted that the American emphasis on individual human right and dignity would lead to a fall that he analogized to the sinking of Atlantis" and that:
Hall argued that child development recapitulates his highly racialized conception of the history of human evolutionary development. He characterized pre-adolescent children as savages and therefore rationalized that reasoning was a waste of time with children. He believed that children must simply be led to fear God, love country and develop a strong body. As the child burns out the vestiges of evil in his nature, he needs a good dose of authoritarian discipline, including corporal punishment.[3] He believed that adolescents were characterized by more altruistic natures and that high schools should indoctrinate students into selfless ideals of service, patriotism, body culture, military discipline, love of authority, awe of nature and devotion to the state and well being of others.[7] Hall consistently argued against intellectual attainment at all levels of public education. Open discussion and critical opinions were not to be tolerated. Students needed indoctrination to save them from the individualism that was so damaging to the progress of American culture.
Via I'm shocked and amazed by this and need to spend some time processing that his ideas about single-child families have maintained their grip to our collective thought and captured the pure imagination of us all. Because these ideas about only-children are truly that. Imagination from Bad Science.