In a story in today's Washington Post, Marcia Katz writes about what it's like to be the parent of one child. There's a stigma against single children: In the 1930s, psychologist G. Stanley Hall called the only child "a disease in itself." You'll hear that only children are self-centered, lonely, maladjusted (or, argues Katz, are they just self-confident, independent, accomplished?) What really concerns Katz, however, is how people treat her as the mother of an only child. "The sociable woman at the checkout stares," she writes. "'So,' she finally asks, 'you only have the one child?'" Katz claims that people see her as "inadequate or selfish." And the backhanded compliments keep on coming: Katz' son's teacher swears he doesn't "act" like an only child. And her friends point out that her son is not selfish and spoiled. And as she makes every attempt to convince us that her son is "normal," Katz succeeds in proving that she is the one with serious neuroses.

I overreact to, well, everything. I have a direct line to the pediatrician, and he in turn has direct orders to his staff to field all my calls. He does not understand, either. Or perhaps he understands too well and simply cannot help or comfort me. Every cold my child catches is a potentially life-threatening situation. Every cut becomes blood poisoning; a stomachache, a burst appendix. My sample population of offspring is so small, my firsthand experience with childhood diseases so limited, it can be hard to know what is "normal."

Anyone else think if her kid's not neurotic now, he will be, very soon? Then again, who among us is without issues? Having a brother or sister doesn't grant one immunity to personality flaws. Still: Is there something "off" about being an only child? About having an only child? And if the kid comes out okay, is it because of — or in spite of his parents?

One Is Not A Negative Number [Washington Post]