Thursday, August 30, 2012

Awkward: Being an Only Child

I've always kinda struggled with being a bit socially awkward.  I'm not one to approach new people and I don't make friends easily.  Part of it is that I don't know what to say to people and another part is insecurity.

I mean what if they don't like me?  It's like that nagging voice in your head that says, "Well if they wanted to talk to you, they would have by now."

Damn that little voice.

But in all my bucket list creating, live evaluating, I came to a startling realization.

It's because I'm an only child.

I'm serious, I was never one of those spoiled rotten, got the world handed to them, bratty only children.

Not only am I an only child, but I didn't grow up around any cousins.  On my mom's side of the family, I have one male cousin and he's 10 years younger than I am so we didn't grow up together.  On my dad's side, there is a few cousins but I never saw them when I was growing up.  So not only did I not have any siblings, but I didn't have any family members that were my age.  So Christmas and Thanksgiving, it was always me and a bunch of adults.

Even when it came to my parents friends.  A few of them had kids, but mostly they were older than I was.  I was always a quiet kid and a little shy, so I could easily entertain myself with a book to read or something to draw or even a movie to watch.  Adults could basically tuck me in a corner and I would amuse myself.  

Growing up, I never really had a problem with it, because honestly I didn't know anything else.  But as I've gotten older, I've realized that my lack of interaction with other kids has impacted my ability to interact with people in general.

I grew up in the early 80s.  This was before daycare and pre-school was common and my mom stayed home with me till I started kindergarten.  We didn't have play dates and I don't think I actually played with multiple children till I started school.  As mentioned, my parents had friends with kids but they were either only children like me, or were much older.  So although I didn't realize it at the time, kindergarten was the first time I really had to make friends.

Even once I started school, I was always the shy quiet kid.  Although I had friends, I was never Ms. Popular and once summer break started, I was back to the world of hanging out with adults.

Things got a little worse by the time I was 10 or 11 because there was a girl at school that didn't necessarily pick on me but was harsh and teased me constantly for a few years.  All that did was make me go into lock down.  I avoided large groups because I was afraid that people didn't like me and were only "being nice". Even now, I tend to spend time with my friends one on one, rather than in big groups except for birthdays and big events.  Even now I don't know how to act around new people so I either shut down and appear shy or unfriendly, or over compensate and try to joke.  I'm an introvert by nature but in a group, I force myself to be an extrovert and it's painful and awkward at times.

All of this prompted me to look into the issue.  Apparently it's pretty common for only children to have behavioral quirks.  I read THIS ARTICLE and had a holy shit kinda moment.  This is totally why I am the way I am.  No joke. 

To top it all off, the idea of aging as an only child has also been on my brain recently.  Think about it.  Once my parents and aunts and uncles pass away, I will have no family!!  I mean it's pretty common nowadays for people to be only children.  What if an only child marries an only child??  Their children will never have aunts and uncles, let alone cousins.  Makes me want to marry into a huge crazy Italian family.  Hmmm maybe not but you get what I'm trying to say.  I now have a fear of dying alone.  All this being single and a hermit, compounded with being an only child has resulted in a portion of my brain convincing itself that I am going to die alone with my cat.  And who's going to feed my cat when I'm dead?

What my brain has come up with in the past few weeks is astounding.

But moral of the story, if you have only one child, make sure they interact with other kids on a regular basis from an early age.  Don't drag them along to parties and events with only adults and let them occupy themselves.  Although it didn't make me unhappy as a child, growing up this way has contributed to the person I am today, idiosyncrasies and all.



p.s.  I know I'm not going to die alone, my brain is just in overdrive about the future right now and when that happens, my imagination goes wild.  WILD I tell you!!


  1. Ugh! I hate the whole "If they wanted to talk to me they already would have" thought. I get that ALL the time. In order to try to combat it, I try to remember (hard as it may be...) that they're probably sitting there thinking the same thing about me. So I try to pretend everyone is already my best friend and is extremely interested in anything I have to say...

    Not that it always works, but it helps out at least like 15% of the time, so at least I'm talking to like 15% more people ;-)

    1. I try to think that if I never talk to new people, I'll never make new friends. And if I talk to someone new and they don't like me, I haven't really lost anything, I'm just in the same position as before.

  2. I used to think EVERYONE hated me as a child thru teenage years and it was because my sister severely picked on me, so there are pros and cons to both for sure. I sometimes feel like I'm awkward when I first meet other females and that's mostly because I also use humor to compensate and most of the time, they don't get my humor and think (or at least I THINK they think) I'm weird. I've also said at times that I don't want to marry someone who is an only child because I can't stand my sister and I would hate the thought of my kids having no cousins or aunts and uncles (if we chose to not interact as adults). I'm sure there are some people who go the other way, too, who think they'd rather marry an only child if they're family is huge and all in their business.

    I'm way more introverted than I used to be. I really only like one-on-ones or just going home and spending time alone (not good to do a lot of). I like my peace and quiet.

    1. and I just committed a serious crime: "THEIR" not "they're." Sorry. Couldn't help myself!

    2. Being picked on as a kid can totally screw you up. At least for me it was a girl at school and I could avoid her as much as possible. When it's a sibling it's a totally different type of hell.

      I'm becoming more and more introverted as I get older. I'm totally content staying home with a book, a pot of tea and my kitten.

    3. Yep, me too! Kindered spirits!

  3. You sound just like my husband! lol! He is an introvert and an only child. He spent his childhood mostly in the company of other adults. I'm an introvert too, and we don't plan on having kids. We don't worry much about it. You have some amazing strengths if you think about it. Introverts are excellent listeners. And the only child is often known for being a great leader. I don't know if you have or want to develop these qualities. Just always be confident in who YOU are, because you have a lot of value to add to a relationship. INTROVERT POWER!