(I Love) My Introverted Kid


This fall while at a larger group event for adults and children, my six-year-old was hanging onto my arm. The other kids, whom she all knew, were running and laughing together and having fun with their friends.

I tried to shake my daughter off of me so I could talk to some other moms, but she refused to leave my side. Tears started. So I let her hold my hand and instead of extracting myself from her, I gave up talking to any of the other moms and focused on what she had to say.

Behind me, I heard a parent pointedly say to another mom “I’m so glad I have an extroverted child.”

I didn’t even bother to turn around.

(I think we can all agree a parent should never talk about another’s child while within earshot of both.)

I didn’t bother turning around because the thing is, it doesn’t bother me that my daughter is an introvert. (Just like it doesn’t upset me my son is an extrovert.) I don’t see her lack of desire to run and play with a pack of kids as a fault she has, or a reflection on me. I don’t see her desire to have a conversation with me, her mother, the one who knows her best in the world, as a negative, even when she chooses it over the opportunity to play with other children. And I absolutely do not see her introversion as a character flaw.

Yes, there are times when I wished she’d unglue herself from my side, especially when we are places where I am good friends with many of the other moms. (Sometimes moms need to talk to other moms! Isn’t that what “playgroup” is for?!)

Yes, there are times when I know she loves the kids we are with and we don’t see them often and she still won’t leave me, and that’s frustrating because I know she’s missing out.

Yes, there are times when at a fall carnival, large birthday party, children’s festival, playground, or holiday event I wish she would enjoy the special, once-a-year-type activities going on all around her.

But I don’t see her decision not to join in as a bad thing. In fact, what I do see in my introverted child most other parents won’t ever see.

They won’t see the rich inner world she has. They won’t hear about her three imaginary friends (Layla, DeeCee, Crystal) her six imaginary children (yes, I am already a grandma), her three imaginary pets (gator, macaw, and turtle). They won’t hear about her travels to China, Russia, France or India. They can’t see the tiny worlds she creates with her dolls, Legos and princess castle, or that she’ll play by herself for an hour, lost in the story she’s created. They can’t know that even though she’s not necessarily talking, she’s absorbing everything going on around her. And that the friends she feels she can trust enough to open up with she loves fiercely and really, really cares about. And always will.

Parents who don’t know her well probably just see a shy, quiet, maybe even dull, little girl who prefers to hang onto her mama.

And they might see me the same way – I am someone who has time and time again tested on the extreme end of “I” for introvert on personality tests. But, I know who I am and how to manage now in the world. My daughter does not, yet.

One day she will. And until then I will love holding her hand, listening to her creative stories, and hearing her about adventures in foreign countries with her imaginary friends while all of the other kids run or play around us.

Some tricks I’ve learned to make things easier for my daughter:

  • I read “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. This book helps explain how introverts “work.” There is also a chapter on introverted children and how to relate to them. If you don’t want to read the whole book, just read the chapter about children.
  • Check out this cartoon from the Huffington Post, it shows in a funny way how introverts “work.”
  • Prep and more prep: Before a busy event, new camp, party or outing I share with my daughter everything I know. Whether it’s her schedule for the day, what kinds of activities are available, what she’ll be able to do, who will be there, or even what snack will be, knowing what she can expect ahead of time helps her manage her feelings.
  • I let her know who is going to be at whatever thing we are going to, especially if there will be at least one person she knows already, so she feels more comfortable walking into a new situation.
  • I make sure to give her “down time.” Introverts get their energy from being alone or with a few close friends. I make sure she has time to recharge her batteries after school, have an hour or two on the couch with TV or a movie on the weekend, and when she’s reading or playing alone in her room I never, ever interrupt her.

How do you help your child manage social situations?

 

Meg is a working mom of four and an avid community volunteer. She has worked in corporate communications and media relations for more than 18 years, for a Fortune 500 company as well as a non-profit. She took some time off to enjoy life as a stay at home mom after the birth of her first child in 2008. Her sweet, introverted daughter, was excited to welcome her baby brother in 2013, and then boy/girl twins joined the family in 2016. Meg finds being an “office mama” a constant balancing act and never-ending challenge but enjoys the opportunities it offers her for personal growth. A Virginia girl at heart, she loves Florida’s warm weather, the great quality of life Jacksonville offers her family.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I love this! My son spends a lot of time observing everything going on around him. He isn’t suffering, he enjoys watching and figuring everything out. When he’s ready to go play he will and if he needs a break he steps back. There is nothing wrong with that!

  2. I love your post. Introverts are awesome. Aaaand … so are extroverts. Totally, bummed about the potentially snarky comment you overheard. As parents it’s so important that we embrace the simple truth that we are all unique; every parent, every child. No one is less than because we are different. Differences make us stronger.

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