Friday, February 27, 2009

The Only Child Syndrome?

What's up party people?! I'm on like no sleep. I think I might actually be undead today. If not for reals then I could probably win an Oscar for looking the part or at least a Golden Globe. When my kids are in their twenties and all cozy in their beds I swear I'm going to start calling them between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m. and just chat away on the phone with them for a minimum of thirty minutes at a time. I'll do it at least four times a week. What? Don't tell me you haven't vowed the same thing after being woken up for the eleventy-ith time in one night.

I'm hearing a weird scritch-scritching noise in my house presently and I just realized it is TD rubbing two graham crackers together. Maybe she is trying to make a s'more. Ba dum dum!

I wrote this post earlier this week about needing time away from the house. My four walls being a bit too much for me and such. Then a commenter mentioned that as an only child she felt she needed more time to herself than most. I too am an only child and I wonder if this is true. Do we only children crave alone time more than most? Is it the other way around and only children feel the need to be around people more and alone less?

Even before I had children I felt the need to be alone. I would want my spouse out of the house and I had no problem making the most of the nights he was away for work. While I didn't love long military deployments, I did enjoy the random field nights where I could watch what I wanted without a snarky comment from the peanut gallery. I could spend an entire evening watching old movies and eating not a trace bit of meat or what my husband calls a 'real meal'.

Before we were married I had a Friday night ritual of renting old black and white movies, enjoying a bottle of wine and eating some sort of vegetarian take out or french food. No meat, no men, no one. Just me. I felt so full from interaction at work all week and packed my Saturdays with so much socializing that by Sunday night I would hop on my bed, watch Sex and the City alone with some sort of chocolatey goodness and a clove cigarette or four. I know tsk tsk on me for smoking in bed. Granted, I never actually crawled under the covers or anything but still. Not smart.

I digress though and found that when I got married I needed to set boundaries, as did my spouse who also craves his alone time, in order to get the time alone I needed. It wasn't just the simple fact that without this restorative time I felt suffocated it was also the fact that I would actually begin to feel physically jittery and overstimulated. If I spent too much time at a party I would come home literally shaking and need to lay down in a darkened room decompressing. Call me a freak, but it is true.

Now that I have two kids I will admit to becoming more accustomed to not having so much freedom to be alone but the craving, the need is still there. The need to hear just my breathing, listen only to my thoughts as I watch an hour slip by while reading a book without interruption or eat a meal in silence is something that has never fully gone away. While I love and cherish my family and all my time with them, my love for my moments of solitude and ability to get lost in a crowd are an essential part of what makes up who I am. I am happy to be an only child and have this ability to love and appreciate time with just myself. I know that not everyone can feel that comfortable.

Today is the last day to enter and win a Kernel Season's Popcorn prize pack! It's popcorn and seasonsings and popcorn. (Sorry McDonald's, I couldn't resist.)


  1. I think it has to do with how we (only children) were raised. I was raised my a single mom, who wasn't very social herself. So I grew up with quiet and lots of alone time. We lived in very rural areas too, so no playdates or having friends over very often. Then I was a single woman on my own for years. So the ability to enjoy my own company is deeply ingrained in me. I still sometimes ask my husband to just take the toddler out and go somewhere...give me some alone time. I get that jittery feeling you mentioned, and sometimes I just need to decompress ALONE. And I don't think anyone who grew up surrounded by siblings and friends would really understand that.

  2. Ian is an only child and is the same way. The man needs his alone time!

  3. I have to agree with you Tiffany. I grew up going to a private school where we didn't live near our friends. Playdates were few and I had elderly neighbors. Or not a lot of them. My parents are both quiet and so our house was as some people have said, "sterile and museum-like."

    I kind of dig that quality now.

  4. I love my alone time, and I'm an oldest child. It's almost annoying that we had to move to Africa for Mike to get a normal 9-to-5 job. I liked my days at a time alone! He's out tonight and after over two weeks of vacation together, I'm relishing my night on my own.

  5. I'm an only child, and I have a strong need for alone time, too. My parents were divorced, so it was just my mom and me.

    I spent many, many nights by myself as a kid and teen because my mom often had to work evenings. I'd heat up some dinner and read or watch TV by myself all evening. It was very peaceful.

    Maybe I wouldn't be so tense if I had more alone time?

  6. Bravo! Though I am one of three (and a twin) and I need the alone time, too. I think it has a lot to do with all that we share with our spouses---decision-making being key, here. Last night, I wanted to make a healthy stir-fry and my husband pitched a fit. He usually cooks meals and I actually think it had more to do with him giving up his routine (and alone time in the kitchen) than anything else. I huffed and puffed for an hour and, in the end, made the announcement that I was going to the grocery store to get stuff to make myself a veggie stir-fry. It isn't something I would normally do---we always eat together. But I found I couldn't stomach the frustration that I felt. As if I had to ask him if it was OK if I made something I really wanted for dinner. GULP. I'm still me, fergodsakes!

  7. I'm with you on the alone thing. When my spouse leaves for weeks on end, I loathe it but I also cherish it. We have a running joke that if he weren't around I would truly become a hermit. I pick and choose my social engagements carefully and after I get home, I need at least a week of quietness and not social obligations in order to recover.

    That being said, I have 5 siblings and I'm right in the middle of that age-wise. I went to public school and I swear our house was something akin to Grand Central Station. People did that thing where they wouldn't bother even knocking, they'd just walk in the door, grab something from the refrigerator, sit on the couch and see what was on TV. I'm not kidding at all.

    Maybe it's all the result of all that over-social-stimulation that brought out the hermit in me.


Thanks for commenting! It's always good to hear from a reader and not say, a robot.