When I was talking to my mom on the phone the other day, I brought up the fact that when I was a child, my teachers often assessed me as lacking social skills and being emotionally immature. I asked her what behaviors, exactly, led to these assessments. I mean, I had to live under the weight of those labels. I deserved further information.
She answered that there were two main problems. The first one was that when other children were playing, I just stood on the sidelines and didn’t join in. I did nothing but quietly observe.
Okay, that makes sense. I remember not knowing how to play with other kids and not understanding — or even being interested in participating in — their games. (Maybe my tendency to stay on the sidelines is why many people I went to school with don’t remember me now.) But I also did have friends, some of whom I am still friends with to this day. I may not have played games or climbed the monkey bars with them, but we would sit together and have great conversations.
The second problem was that I often expressed the wish to not be at school and sometimes cried because I wanted to go home.
Both of these things were attributed to me being an only child, and my parents were told I would grow out of them as I continued to go to school and be exposed to more people and more activities.
But the funny thing is, as an adult, I still would rather observe than join in. And I still prefer being at home when I can get away with it. When I have one of my sensory meltdowns, I suppose I’m basically crying because I want to go home, or at least somewhere more calm and peaceful, which I’m sure is what I was feeling when I cried to go home as a child.
So I didn’t grow out of it after all. This is just who I am. I can accept that, but I can’t accept the labels that were used to describe these traits, or the negative connotations that went along with them. I hope these days the education system is kinder to children who are different than it was to me.