The British are a polite people.
The kind that, when the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come a-calling, will form a nice orderly queue for their dose of pestilence and slaughter.
Several will bring a flask of tea and some sandwiches.
But tell them that you’re only planning on having the one child and all cordiality is flung out of the window.
“Cruelty!” They cry. “Wicked!” They chorus. “Barbarism!” they explete, consulting a thesaurus whilst pointing pitchforks at the womb you’ve put up for early retirement.
But it’s true. Our son is to be an only child.
Most people prefer to presume some underlying medical reason for this decision.
Eggs so far past their sell-by date, the Lion mark has spent its ninth life?
I’m no spring chicken, but nowadays it ain’t ovum until the menopausal lady sings.
First pregnancy so fraught with difficulties, you’d be endangering the pair of you if you went again?
Sorry, nope. The biggest complication I had with number one was a stubborn number two that literally blocked the boy’s entrance to the world.
Relationship on the verge of collapse due to the unrelenting demands of a child?
Nah. We’re having a vomit-inducingly good time of being parents.
No. For us it’s pure selfishness.
We want to avoid going deeper into debt by needing a bigger house or car.*
[*You just have to trust me on this – we would need them.]
We want to avoid working in high-earning jobs we don’t love to pay off said debt.
We want to avoid being unhappy.
And we believe the latter is a far, far greater gift for our son than any sibling would prove to be.
Oh, and it’s nice to once again have a pelvic floor rather than a wet patch on the floor.
Now I can guess at a few of the counter arguments some of you may be formulating as you read this, pitchforks in hand. I’ve been through them myself.
Some people are concerned that our son will become ‘spoiled’ if all the attention is on him.
I personally believe it’s impossible to spoil a child with attention. But it is infinitely possible to spoil them with material things, bad parenting and a shitty upbringing.
But just in case, we have this week invested £0.99p (plus postage) on a second-hand Tamagotchi off eBay. What with the feeding, discipline and cleaning up its pixellated poos, our son barely gets a look in.
Some say he’ll be lonely growing up.
Now this may come as a surprise, but it IS possible to socialise a child without having to actually gestate a mate for them.
Besides, how many of us grew up with siblings we couldn’t stand the sight of?
I have still not forgiven my sister for throwing Katrina Christabella (my beloved Cabbage Patch Kid) down the stairs, or for being able to tan well.
And in turn she has been unable to forgive me for trying to kill her that ONE time.
Some have noted that when we are gone, the boy will have no-one else with whom to talk about ‘mom and dad’.
But this is (hopefully) many years off in the future.
By then he’ll have our re-animated heads in jars on the hover-mantelpiece from where we can dispense sage advice like ‘any chance you can think-turn the fire down, we’re boiling.’
Even given existing technology, no-one needs siblings to be able to recall treasured family memories. It’s all there, minute by minute, across every social media platform conceivable.
Like that time he wore a hat. Or when we ate that sandwich. Or when his dad liked a photo of someone with a cat beard.
Perhaps the most common generalisation is that only children grow up to be maladjusted weirdos, incapable of forming meaningful relationships or feeling empathy.
You know, like Jesus.
Because God only had the one didn’t he? And he’s all-knowing and that.
It’s probably just as well Jesus was an only child. That’s a tough act to follow in sibling terms….
Mary: “So Jesus, what did you do today?”
Jesus: “Oh, you know, cured the sick, healed the lame, the usual.”
Mary: “And you little Jimmy?”
Jimmy: “I wished I’d never been born.”
By contrast, some of the most evil people in history have been one of several offspring. Like Hitler. Ted Bundy. And Simon Cowell.
And yes, I realise it’s not scientific, but one sweeping generalisation deserves another, right?
The fact is, for every bossy, selfish, needy only child, there’s a bossy, selfish, needy one with siblings who presumably should know better.
And as almost half of families in the UK choose to have just one kid, research studies have demonstrated that only children are no different really.
As always, there are two sides to every argument.
Unless you’re an only child, that is.
The great thing about imaginary siblings is they don’t answer back.