What’s wrong with solitary?

There was something sad about the solitary swan I saw on the field the other day. Knowing that they usually mate for life I was feeling for it. Had it lost it’s mate? Or had it not started courting yet – it looked to be a young one?

From the BBC Earth website - click on the pic

From the BBC Earth website – click on the pic

Whichever, it was as heart wrenching as seeing a solitary child standing in the playground. The one that no one’s playing with.

We have a kind of cultural feeling of wrongness surrounding the idea of solitary. Forgetting that some solitude in a child’s day is as important as social. But we rarely remember that, making assumptions that it’s lonely to be solitary and often forcing associations onto kids they just don’t want, instead of respecting their need for space.

I suppose the important point about solitude is whether it’s chosen or not. And whether that’s a positive choice.

We are all very different. We all have very different needs in that department. Some people need more personal space than others. Some like to be surrounded by crowds and people all the time. But some prefer less and there is nothing sad about making the choice to be solitary at times and we should respect that.

Obviously no one likes to think of their child as being unpopular. But choosing to schedule some time away from others in their manic day is as important as choosing some time for yourself away from the demands of others or always having to be on show.

I know adults who have such hang-ups, and fear sometimes, about being solitary for a while they go to strange lengths to avoid it. their biggest concern being what others might think of them; that if they’re spending time on their own others might think they’re sad or unpopular.

I spend huge amounts of time on my own. And I did as a child. I’m neither sad or unpopular. It’s just I’ve recognised it as an important part of my mental well being, to help me be the person I need to be, and to slough off the crash of mainstream life.

With constant connectivity, even our solitary spaces are invaded now, and our image is so public. But let’s avoid this becoming so invasive that we buy into this negative attitude to solitude and never give ourselves, or our children, time and space for individual reflection, in which to be imaginative, inventive, creative, and who we need to be. And avoid perpetuating the myth that being on our own is somehow wrong. It’s not. It’s healthy.

And perhaps I need to stop anthropomorphising and doing exactly that about the swan!


14 thoughts on “What’s wrong with solitary?

  1. Some valuable points from John on Facebook: That long post that I just lost was about the solitude that Ben needed when he was home educated, certainly for the first three years and I said that I was not going to mention, in relation to home ed, the word socialisation – oh no I have done, woe is me for I have sinned! – but he needed that time to be on his own and sort out for himself the mess he was in and I was there to help and guide him as much as possible but def not to push him into being with friends. We met some people at the beginning but he did not pursue. For me home ed is being able to choose the level of company that the child wants and not have it imposed on you in the school environment. He is now at 6th form college and made a good set of friends (so I understand, ie he has been to six parties since he started there is September last year!). For me I need to cut all ties when i go out. I have a mobile phone but it is a basic PAYG and just use it for emergencies – the last thing I want when I am out on a walk is to be interrupted, or even just going to town. I cannot understand this need to be connected or available wherever you go. Mind you with the swan it is different. he/she wants a mate – do you have her phone number?

  2. Ross, your wonderful post brings to mind being in a classroom as a supply teacher, during break time on a cold blustery day with a sensitive, introverted boy who would much rather read a book but was tut-tutted outside by colleagues who thought he needed to learn to socialise in the playground.

  3. One definition of an introvert is someone who finds other people draining and who’s battery is charged by being solitary. Apparently, this group is 25% of the population.
    The other 75%, the extroverts, find being solitary draining and recharge their battery by being around other people.
    I have noticed there is a spectrum here. I light up when I am with people but only for a certain length of time. I am a confident outgoing introvert who’s solitary time is made whole with the elementals in nature; either in front of a roaring fire or surrounded by growing greenery by a stream, lake or seashore, preferably in sunshine, with a gentle breeze.

  4. Thought provoking post with some great points. I think we can be in a room full of people and be lonely. Just as we can be on our own but feel utterly at peace and at one with everything. It’s all in our mindset. Great post.

  5. Thanks again Ross for this lovely reminder. As a parent of an only child who is home educated, this “solitary” issue/concern has raised its head recently for us. We are moving house away from one rural location (within walking distance to playmates) to another nearby rural location (within driving distance to playmates) and fear has raised its head as it does! Our son loves being around people but struggles with large groups and I love my solitude so keeping the balance can be a challenge. Your article has really helped me put things in perspective this morning!

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