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Raising an Introverted Child

standard October 8, 2012 4 responses

Until last year I always assumed that being introverted just boiled down to being shy, while being extraverted just meant being outgoing. 

On the surface it might seem like that, but really it’s so much more complex than that.

Extraverts get their energy from being around other people. We often speak before thinking, or at least while we’re thinking. We work best in teams. It has everything to do with how our brains function and nothing to do with shyness or outgoingness.

Other than keeping me from making offensive generalizations about people, learning about the ins and outs of being an extrovert also opened my eyes to how introverts operate.

Which is a good thing. Because I’m married to one and I parent another.

Unlike extroverts, introverts generally get their energy from being alone. They think before they speak, often only opening their mouths once their thoughts are fully formed and thought out.

If you’re aware of these differences, you’re golden. It means that after a party you won’t pepper your significant other with annoying “why are you so quiet? are you mad? did I do something? why are you mad at me?” questions that will elicit no response and eventually lead to a fight. It also means that you won’t rush in to answer questions for the “quieter” members of your team. You won’t assume that people are less smart because they take longer to answer a question. You will learn to breathe slowly as they work out their answers in their heads.

If you’re aware of these differences and you have introverted children you’re even farther ahead.

When C was a baby she always needed 30 minutes alone in her crib right after we got home from daycare. She’d lie in there, babbling at her mobile, happy as a clam all by herself. If I didn’t give her that alone time she was a wreck all evening.

I personally didn’t get it and it was hard for me to leave her be when I’d missed her so much all day, but forcing her to be with me, chattering at her, being all sorts of chipper and engaging always backfired. A mom has to do what a mom has to do to keep her baby happy.

As she’s grown her introverted tendencies have grown with her. She still needs her quiet time after school. Before parties she needs to be alone for a bit. And god forbid I should schedule more than one social event in a day!

I used to watch for signs that she was starting to become overwhelmed and over-tired so I could remind her to go be alone for a bit. Now she’s old enough to know when to take herself out of the action. It never fails to surprise her cousins when we’re visiting in Chicago and she just puts herself to bed in the middle of the day.

When I took her out of her tiny school (only 7 kids in her class last year and 60 kids in the whole school), I worried that she’d have trouble handling having 23 kids in her class, three classes in her grade, and three different grades on the playground all at the same time.  But it seems like she’s holding her own.

At times she hangs out in the library during lunch recess, and she’s learned to say when she needs time to think about something. And for those moments when she can’t either escape to the library or enjoy a quiet thought she’s found another way to protect her space and her energy.

To the outside world it looks like she’s just wearing a fun fashionable hat., but I know that she loves it because it’s her protective bubble. Behind that brim she feels safe and she can withdraw when she needs a break from the people around her.

She always emerges happy, smiling, and excited to jump back into the action.

I’ve worried that being an introvert would make her life harder. I think I was wrong to worry. She’s only 7 and it has already just made her more in tune with her body and brain’s needs.

Makes a mama proud.

Prolific Little Artists

standard October 18, 2010 Leave a response

My girls are prolific artists. If they could they’d spend all day every day with a crayon or marker in hand. Our house is filled with artwork of every type – collages, cutouts, hasty sketches, paintings, and everything in between.

We’re normal parents, so clearly we think they’re super talented. There’s no doubt they have a good eye and they notice the little details. C even has quite the imagination when it comes to creating artwork. They’re definitely artistic and we’re going to encourage it every way we can, but after seeing the paintings created by the young Autumn de Forest, we’re not deluding ourselves that we have prodigies on hand.

As I flipped through the slide show of this 8-year-old artistic prodigy, I was blown away by her sheer talent. Seriously, if I had enough money, I’d be lining up to purchase her paintings… sadly, I don’t have a spare $25000 for a painting or two.

Then I realized something that comes out clearly in her art. This child has been exposed to a lot of art in her short life. She gets her inspiration from masters, and from many of them. She also has access to amazing tools and supplies.

My mother-in-law is convinced that C could create masterpieces if we handed her serious paint and canvases. Allow me to be skeptical. That said, it definitely wouldn’t hurt her if we took her to art shows and museums a bit more often. And it might be nice to break out the paint a little more often than once every six months.

Most importantly though, I’m going to take away from this that children who are allowed to play with art materials can surprise their parents and everyone around. And that maybe artistic kids, but not prodigies is going to be just fine.

Though it would be nice to have someone in the garage creating paintings like these…

The wonderful terrible twos

standard October 6, 2009 2 responses

When C was Little L’s age, 2 1/4, I was in the hospital having Little L. What followed was a long blurry year (heck, a long blurry 18 months), where I didn’t sleep, worked full time, dealt with two kids with asthma, and barely made it through every day. It’s hardly surprising that I barely remember anything that went on during that time.

And really, it’s a shame, because not only did I miss my baby’s first year (Seriously, I see pictures of her and I wonder who the cute baby belongs to.), but I also missed C’s twos. Poof! No memories. One minute she’s a cute 2-year-old toddler with a lisp, next minute she’s an articulate three-year-old, telling the world that three-year-olds don’t wear diapers.

Now that Little L is entering this interesting age I’m all eyes and ears. I’m making up for lost time, taking it all in, trying to imagine C going through the same growth. Loving seeing Little L go through it. It’s a fascinating age.

She switches between being the most delightful, funny, little girl to the most unbelievably difficult, pig headed, little monster in split second increments. One second we want to smother her in kisses and the next we’re looking to sell her to passing gypsies.

Her vocabulary is exploding, as are her language skills. She asks for snacks with sweet, polite, complete sentences. She sits at the dining room table and asks us all how we are or how our day went. She “reads” books to herself and her dolls. And yet, she doesn’t quite understand wait time. So when she wants something, she repeats her request again and again without giving us time to react. By the third iteration (about 30 seconds after the first) she’s already escalated to wails. She’s also incapable of articulating why she’s upset in the evening as she cries in her crib. Oh, wait. She does articulate it. She says “I cwying.” Very, very helpful.

She’s super cuddly and sweet. She loves to give hugs. She loves to touch us, pet us, pat us, cuddle us, and just generally be with us at all times. And yet she loves to explore the world around her. Even if that means that she’s got to run down every aisle at Costco or Target, laughing hysterically as I try to catch her.

She has to do everything that C does – color, glue, help in the kitchen, sing, dance, run around the house at breakneck speeds pushing rattling doll strollers. It drives C nuts, but the instant Little L goes off to do her own thing, C follows her to see what she’s doing.

Even as I’m tearing out my hair and running after her I can’t stop marveling at the little person that she’s becoming. I’m grateful that I get to appreciate this wonderful and terrible age this time around. Even though I’m increasingly sad that I don’t remember C going through it.

From childhood labels to grown-up characteristics

standard May 27, 2009 4 responses

“That one, she’s easy, the little one is more challenging.”

How often have I heard myself say that as I watch my daughters play? No matter how many times I’ve actually said it, it’s one too many times. Of course Little L is more challenging, she’s younger. She doesn’t quite have the ability to reason that C has developed in the two plus years she has on her baby sister.

Then again, Little L did refuse to sleep for the first 18 months of her life, while her older sister slept through the night at 8 weeks. She throws more tantrums and is more demanding and more willful and independent than her sister ever was at her age.

C is cautious where Little L charges forward without a care for consequences. C assesses a situation, Little L acts first and thinks later, if ever. They’re different through and through, but to call one challenging seems a bit excessive, especially if I consider the fact that my hasty label might form her character forever.

I don’t want my words to be self fulfilling.

Think of the labels that were applied to you as a child, do they still ring true? Who would you have been if they had never been spoken in your presence? Little L might well be challenging, but I’d hate for her to keep being that way because she thinks I expect it of her.

“You be happy, I’ll be good.” The big sister says to her little sister in Kate Jacob’s lovely book Comfort Food. Their father has just died and they’re doing the best they can to help their mother cope. Twenty years later one sister can’t let herself get too deeply involved with the love of her life; if they broke up she’d have to be sad and the happy sister can’t ever be sad. The other sister can’t relax long enough to enjoy herself, she has be good, all the time, she’s the dependable one. The roles they assumed as children, based on the labels the mother dispensed, have stunted their growth all the way into adulthood and it takes a serious shake-up in all of their lives for them to realize what’s holding them back.

I know Comfort Food is fiction and it’s only tangentially about how labels can affect children, but as I relished the story about a “CookingChannel” celebrity the concept teased me. Next time if you ask me to talk about my children I’ll resist the urge to apply labels to them as I tell you about their latest antics.

This post was inspired by this month’s Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club. Click through to see other posts inspired by Kate Jacob’s Comfort Food.