Bernice: I was very touched when I read this email as much of it resonates with my experience – The difficulties in concentrating when there are others around, or when the TV is on -a result of also growing up in a quiet household. The sense of exhaustion I often feel in groups or anywhere where I encounter a lot of people. Talking out loud to myself – I still do and my children make fun of me when they see my lips moving. I have modified this to silent chatter! Fears of ‘making a mistake’ or ‘getting into trouble’ are certainly things I remember vividly as a younger person. Have a read and see if you resonate wit any of this too!
Guest: I am an only child born in 1954. I vividly remember starting school at age 5. I can even remember the fabric on a classmate’s dress. I was fascinated, because I had never interacted with another child in my life.
I was born to parents who were nearly forty. I had no child relative or neighborhood child to play with whatsoever. Here are the family dynamics-Dad had married out of his religion and his family was prejudiced against my mom. I was her opportunity to vindicate herself-by being her perfect child. I was never allowed to be childish. I didn’t do Halloween. I didn’t use childish euphemisms like “pee”. Can you imagine a 6-year-old saying they needed to “have a bowel movement?” When we went to the swimming pool, I sat next to her and her friends and listened to them talk for hours instead of swimming like other kids. While other kids were enjoying winter break, my mother made me learn to type so I could tell the teacher when I went back. I was groomed to impress adults. Can you even imagine the bullying I endured? I was the kid with the dead bird down my back.
I ended up marrying a man (It will be 40 years next May) who is the oldest of three siblings. The marriage was rocky from the beginning, each blaming the other for misunderstandings that weren’t either of our faults. We have both suffered. We have four kids, three boys and a girl. The boys, whom I love with every fiber of my being, believe themselves to have been abused because of the way I treated them. They weren’t allowed to touch each other’s toys, (or each OTHER-because they weren’t allowed to fight). They did wrestle and play ball, etc. with my husband-which nearly drove me insane because of the noise, although I hid it. I never, ever got to be alone.
Having any background noise, like the TV, etc. is horribly distracting for me. I can’t tune it out like other people can. I grew up in a quiet house. I also need to talk out loud to myself to sort things out, etc. There was never anyone around growing up, and I always talked out loud to myself. I still can’t wait to get in the car alone so I can talk out loud. I wonder if this is the case with anyone else.
Anyway, this is such a very abbreviated account, that I don’t know if it will be helpful in any way. I’m 59 years old and just starting to understand things. Life has been ungodly hard. Not that it isn’t hard for everybody, like people whose parents were alcoholics, or were sexually abusive. But try telling someone you have suffered every day of your life because you were an only child!!! Nobody would believe how hard employment has been. I live in constant fear of “getting into trouble” by making a mistake. I have to hide wanting to burst into tears when I’m spoken to harshly. I can’t stand up for myself at all. If something wasn’t actually my fault, I can’t stand up and explain. I never, ever, feel like an adult. I’m actually very competent at my job and seem socially adept. But I’m on the outside looking in. They can’t tell I’m different, but I never forget it.
I can’t stand being in a group for very long. It’s exhausting. I need desperately to get away and process everything.
I have so many regrets. I tried so hard to be a good mom to my little boys. But I had never even seen a child raised. Now they hold it against me because I expected way too much out of them and wouldn’t let them be kids. My daughter, who’s 17 (yep, had her at 42!) and I are very close. She’s the first one I knew how to express affection to. I wish I could do my whole life over.
I don’t even remember how I found your website, and I’m not one to participate in forums, etc. But thank you so much for listening.