The introvert and the only child
When we talk to other parents, the question of how many kids we have almost always comes up. When I am seen in public with my daughter, I am often asked “how many other children do you have?” “Just the one,” I answer. This response is usually met with looks of pity toward my daughter for not having any built-in playmates or “knowing” looks at me, assuming there must be a reason why we couldn’t have more children.
Here’s the truth: Our daughter is our miracle baby. We waited a long time for her to arrive and my pregnancy, for many reasons I won’t get into here, was very challenging. When she finally arrived safely, we were overjoyed.
Our family felt complete.
True, it isn’t safe for me to have more children, but even if it were, I wouldn’t want any others. We are a perfect threesome as we are.
Now, raising an only child definitely has its challenges, most of which stem from the fact that I, too, am an only child. Let me explain.
I did not mind growing up as an only child and if you ask my daughter (now 8) if she would rather have siblings, she gives an enthusiastic “No.” She loves having us all to herself, and we have a very strong bond. (Note to parents of more than one child: I am not saying you are not just as close with your children. I can only speak from my own experience).
One of the biggest challenges of being an only child with an only child is that I am, without exception, an introvert. I grew up getting really good at making my own fun, whether it was reading a book, drawing, or spending time outdoors looking for critters and simply exploring. As an adult, I am happiest when I am curled up with a cup of coffee and a good book. I like being by myself or in small groups, and I crave downtime. That brings up parenting challenges when I am called to be “on” with my daughter. I don’t enjoy make believe, and I like games and activities with a beginning and an end. Open-ended play is not my thing. When I am engaged in an activity on my own, I find it very difficult to switch gears and include myself in her world. I do it, of course, because I want her to know that I am interested in what she has to say and what she is interested in, but I freely admit that sometimes it is a challenge.
Another challenge for me is the fact that my daughter is a talker. She is always bursting full of stories to tell, jokes, and “guess what!??” moments. I want to hear every word that she says, but sometimes the words come at such a pace that I just can’t listen all at once. I struggle to actively listen and be engaged as often as I know I should be (or want to be). Virtually daily, I work on my active listening skills. It definitely does not come naturally to me.
So, I confess: Being an introverted only child raising a full-of-life, enthusiastic only child has its challenges. Do you experience this, too? What are your challenges? How do you deal wit them?