Yvette Garside wanted to take her children for a swim. But pool attendants in Bolton insisted that Ryan and Jordanna, aged five and two respectively, each had to be accompanied by an adult.
If only Ms Garside, a lone-parent, had brought along an only-child. The nanny-state has rehabilitated single mothers, like her, and is now bent on engineering the same outcome for single children.
It will amount to a remarkable turnaround. In 1896 Stanley Hall, founder of the American Journal of Psychology, concluded that “being an only child is a disease in itself”.
Since then scores of academic studies have reinforced the cruel stereotype of singletons as spoiled misfits, deprived of siblings and the soft-skills which – often abrasively – they impart; empathy, conflict-resolution, and gratification deferment, to name but three.
But demography means that such evidence has been trumped by expedience. On current trends one-child families will be Britain’s dominant family unit by 2020. And the relative abundance of only-children has created a demand for reassurance from their parents. Apologists have been quick to respond.
In a book on families a former Women’s Editor at The Guardian writes that “there is nothing to suggest that only-children are much different from other children brought up with few siblings”.
A parenting manual entitled Baby-proofing Your Marriage offers advice on growing families, hedged with a reminder that “it is not our intention to suggest anywhere in this chapter that a family with one child is not a complete one”.