Dialing my Extrovert Down....For my Daughter
I am the quintessential extrovert. I thrive off the energy of other people and will talk to anyone who makes eye contact. Just ask the 15-year-old who bags my groceries. Or the lady on the elliptical next to me at the gym. Or my new BFF at the dry cleaners who shares a similar love of v-neck dresses. And you probably don’t want to sit next to me on a plane.
In order for me to process information I need to talk it out, usually at length (or ad nauseam if you asked my husband.) I don’t enjoy being left alone to my own thoughts (unless I’m writing, which is really just like talking to myself), and would rather be socializing than most anything else in the world.
So, imagine what it must be like for my daughter, an introvert.
And it’s not enough that she has Hyper-Mom as a parent. She is also blessed with Chatty Cathy and Talkative Tammy as sisters.
The kid doesn’t have a chance to get a word in even if she wanted to.
But sometimes when I get her alone –usually on the way to pick up her sisters from a team practice — she decides to throw me a bone and share a little bit. I listen intently to her stories about Minecraft or Bad Kitty or some show she just watched. And then because I recognize she opened the door, I change the subject and ask about something I am interested in, like did she have fun at camp or why she didn’t want to stay outside with the other kids, and just like that, I’ve lost her. She’s done talking.
It’s been pretty frustrating, and it’s hard not to take it personally. I used to think she was being crotchety and rude when she asked me to turn the music up when I picked her up from school and peppered her with questions about her day. I used to get hurt when she would turn and walk out of the room immediately after answering a question. I used to be devastated when we would have a group of girls over to play and she would be off, by herself, pretending with her horses or reading a book.
What was wrong with this child? Did I not raise her right? Would she become one of those sad, isolated girls that would end up as the crazy cat lady?
I tried to encourage her to make more friends….at school, at the pool, at camp. And she would, although she didn’t seem to be obsessed with having them over all the time like my other two. Her friends were more for “in the moment” and if there was no one suitable to play with, she was more than happy to find something to do by herself or with her sisters.
And then one day as I complained to my husband — another introvert — about how worried I was because my daughter had come inside when all the neighborhood kids were still playing outside, he said this: “I get it. When I come home from work — after talking to people all day long — I need a break. It doesn’t mean that I don’t love you, but I have hit my capacity for conversation. I just want to decompress before I go back at it again.”
Um, what the what what? It is an effort for my husband to hold a conversation with me? I am like talking to a ray of sunshine, so why was the ten minute car ride home not enough to let the air out of his head?
Was my husband right? Could it be that what my daughter was doing was actually okay? Did she know what was right for her, even before I did?
So, I started googling and Amazon-ing books and of course talking to some other people and realized my daughter was perfectly fine.
It was me that had the problem. It was me who thought if you weren’t talking you weren’t okay. It was me who thought my daughter needed more friends, more communication, more……of me.
In today’s day and age we put so much pressure on socialization. We start playgroups at birth, have them participate in team sports at age three and expect our kids to have a best friend before they enter kindergarten. And when they don’t want to participate as we think they should, we — meaning me — think something is wrong.