PARENTS

It's Not Only Children I Find Difficult - It's Their Parents

27/12/2011 11:06 | Updated 22 May 2015
It's not only children I find difficult - it's their parentsPA

It's long been a topic for debate: are only children spoilt and unable to share, or independent and confident? I've met both kinds and actually it's never the children who bother me, it's their parents.

I've got nothing against them as individuals, it's just that parents of only children seem to obsess over every sniff, every bump, and every move their progeny makes. It drives me nuts.

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I just wish they'd chill out a bit and realise that not everything revolves round their child.

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With three kids born within 15 months and a husband who works shifts I regularly fly solo with my tribe and manage perfectly well in restaurants, on buses and in shops. Yet I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a baby apparently require two parents to tend to its every whim.

Friends of mine with one child will turn down invitations because 'my husband's away and I can't manage the baby on my own'. Oh for heaven's sake... One child is easy. I know – I've been there. Even with only one parent at home you've still got man-to-man marking – the kid won't get anything past you.

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Try taking three pre-schoolers to the park and have them all run in opposite directions - one towards the road, one towards the duck pond and one towards the big-kid-slide. I can assure you, that's hard work. So why do parents of only children make such a meal of things?

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When the latest cold/sick bug/headlice outbreak works its way around town to reach our house I barely break a sweat. With three kids in the house it's rare to go a week without someone being under the weather, so frankly it's not worth making a song and dance over it.

But the parent of an only child virtually dons a nurse's outfit and devotes the next 24 hours to mopping the patient's fevered brow.

My friend Nancy admits to being a tad indulgent when her five-year-old daughter is ill. "Because I only have Rosie to focus on I tend to go a bit over the top," she says. "I'll almost always take her to the doctors if she's unwell, even though I know it's rarely anything more than a cold."

Nancy agrees that if she had other children to consider, she might relax a little. "It's easy to pour all your attentions onto one child," she says, "where else would they go?"

It's not that I have anything against only children, I really don't. I'm also hugely understanding of those who desperately want more children and are unable to have them. If I'm honest, I'm also rather envious of the one-to-one time I've never really had with any of mine – that's something I have to work hard to achieve nowadays.

My frustrations are solely in relation to those parents of only children who are so obsessed with their progeny that they can't see beyond them. Mothers of multiple kids are used to multi-tasking; their children are used to sharing mum's attention. So although conversation might still be peppered with child-related fire-fighting, you'll still find you merit a little of her focus when you pop round for coffee.

Have the same conversation with the mother of an only-child, and you may as well give up – as soon as little Johnny comes into the room all attention will be focused on him and his runny nose/finger painting/pointless question.

My best friend Kate thinks I'm being unfair (and she's usually right). She says it's those parents with lots of kids who are a nightmare to socialise with. "You can't get a word in edgeways with all their kids needing snacks, wanting the loo, or starting fights with each other," she says. "Give me a nice relaxed lunch with another only-child mum any day. And as for obsessing about our children – why shouldn't we? My world revolves around my daughter and I see nothing wrong in showing her that."

Of course a mother's world revolves around her children, it would be wrong if it didn't. I guess the biggest difference is that a mum of two (or three, or more) has more to negotiate than her friends with only one child, so inevitably each plate we juggle will get a fraction less attention than hers.

We just have to remember not to drop any of them.

What do you think? Do you find parents of single children a bit much or were we all like that?

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