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Readers weigh in on pros and cons of being an only child

Published: Thursday, April 3, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST

Dear Abby: "Maybe Only One in Georgia" (Jan. 7), who asked whether she should have a second child, needs to understand there are no guarantees. Her 5-year-old could end up hating her younger sibling, or adoring her. Parents create a child because they want to share their union with a new life. Each child is unique and represents a life commitment, not just 18 years of hard work.

I am the youngest of four, the "surprise" baby boy when my parents were in their 40s. I loved them and they never made me feel unwanted. I adore my older sister. We were always close despite the eight-year age difference. My two brothers are very different than I am, and we don't have much to do with one another.

"Maybe" should not produce another child to be a playmate to the one they have. It should be done only if they're financially, emotionally and spiritually willing and capable of rearing another person. If not, they should enjoy the extra time, money and energy they'll have, and perhaps give a needy dog or cat a home. – Youngest Child in Savannah

Dear Youngest Child: I told "Maybe" I couldn't decide this for her, but would open up the question to my readers. And they sure had some comments!

Here are a few:

Dear Abb: My advice is DON'T! I have two sons, 27 and 31. They hardly know each other and have no interest in what the other is doing. It breaks my heart, as they are the only close blood relatives they have.

I didn't have the younger one so the older would have company. I wanted another baby. I was 29, but wouldn't consider it at "Maybe's" age (38). How long does she think she can run that fast? – Mitzi in Dayton

Dear Abby: Most only children I know are spoiled and used to getting their own way, largely because they haven't had to share. My husband is from a large family and they are all close, even with a 20-year age span.

We recently dealt with issues related to elderly parents, and trust me, I was so thankful to have the help of my siblings. I feel it is unfair to raise a child alone if you're able to add to the family unit. – Grateful Mom

Dear Abby: I am a happy only child. I was raised by kind people. I have a positive self-image, was a self-reliant kid and am a confident, productive adult.

As a parent, I had a lot to learn. My husband, one of four siblings, reassured me that the quarreling and jealousy among our three was normal. They learned to fight and stick up for themselves – something I had to master later.

As a child, I wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister, but my imaginary friends were good company. When my aging parents were ailing, it might have been nice to have a sibling to share that with, but my husband was ample support.

"Onlies" can be very peaceful people. Most of us prefer to cooperate rather than compete. As kids, we're the center of the universe and responsible for everything. That sense of responsibility carries over into adulthood. – Anne in Illinois

Dear Abby: Have that second child if fate wills it. Your life will be richer for it. Your daughter will appreciate having a sibling, and you will wonder how you ever imagined life without him/her.

I was 6 when my sister was born. Yes, we went to different schools and had different friends. But we shared a bedroom as we matured and had many memorable times we still talk about today. There is no age barrier as time passes, and really, that gap closes earlier than you would think. – Big Sis in Florida

Dear Abby: Many kids, such as a classmate of your child, need a second temporary home – if only for a play date away from their own house. Open your home to these opportunities. Expose your child to those less fortunate than she. On travels, visit a school (or community), so she can see how it differs from her own circumstances. Create independence in her, but also teach her the INTERDEPENDENCE she'll need for a balanced life. – Wyoming Teacher

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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