Raising an Introverted Child {in an Extroverted World}

Last summer, my sister-in-law graduated high school, and family and friends came from near and far to congratulate and celebrate with her. As the party’s festivities unfurled, my then 10-month-old, became more and more distraught. I spent the majority of the weekend playing one-on-one in a separate room with him. We visited with the masses, but he would only allow me to hold him, and he didn’t enjoy the setting for very long before getting hysterical. I kept apologizing, explaining that he’s usually a very happy baby, and that it’s unlike him to get so upset. Everyone smiled understandingly, but I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to share this sweet little boy with all the family and friends who hadn’t met him or spent much time with him.

As we were driving home from our weekend, it dawned on me that I too don’t particularly enjoy big social gatherings. I get easily overwhelmed and spend the bulk of my time staying close to someone I’m comfortable with so that I can avoid the dreaded small talk. For the first time in my life, I wondered if I were an introvert.IMG_7111

Fast forward to February, and I started reading the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Not only did the book connect so many dots about who I am as a person, but it also put words to who my son is. Even though he’s only 19 months old, he is very clearly an introvert.

If a group of kids are in line, he hangs back, never pushing, never trying to be the center of attention. He waits patiently and then will be the last to do whatever everyone else was waiting to do, such as putting away a toy or getting a stamp.

When we go to new places, he spends the first 50% of the time we’re there hanging out on the outskirts and observing what everyone else is doing, and he spends the second half of his time trying to figure out how things work. For example, we went to a splash pad recently. I had always imagined having a kid who ran through the water screaming like a wild child, but he carefully watched the other kids. Then he found a little toy, sat on a bench, and played pretend by himself for the rest of the time we were there.

He doesn’t like using things the traditional way. If you hand him a drum, he doesn’t just beat on it to make music, he tries to take it apart and figure out how it works. If you give him a noise maker, he wants to understand what about it is making noise.

He can play pretend by himself for long stretches of time. While he is a toddler and his attention span is not fully developed, he can spend 45 minutes pretending to cook or making up new ways to design train cities.

He feels things very strongly. He recently had a temper tantrum, and as I wrapped him up in my arms to calm him down, he accidentally hit me in the face. It didn’t hurt, but it brought tears to my eyes. Seeing me get upset made him absolutely beside himself, and it took 10 minutes of me reassuring him that Mommy was OK for him to calm down.

He has his own language. He very rarely talks in public, but when he talks at home {which is all the time}, he speaks in his own language, and usually to himself.

He’s a rule follower. If we give him guidelines to follow, he avidly works to do what we ask. Following the rules is so important to him that he always puts his cup down on a coaster, and he takes his shoes off and puts the keys away when we get home. He does not like to disappoint others, and goes to great lengths to make sure he doesn’t.

He sleeps a lot. He is pretty open to having adventures as long as Mommy or Daddy are around, but he needs a lot of down time to recover. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is essential for his wellbeing, as he typically sleeps 14-15 hours at night and naps for 2-4 hours during the day.

IMG_7171He’s a kind, loving, and observant child who enjoys trying to figure out how the world works. There are times that it hurts my Mama heart to see him hanging back or not asserting himself, but I remind myself that this is who he is, and it’s my job to encourage him to continue developing into his own person, and not the person I project on him or thought he would be. I know that in the coming years it will be important that I encourage him to grow and develop, but I also know I want to respect his personhood and communicate how proud I am of who he is.

I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the Quiet Revolution resources and advocating for him as he goes to school and makes his own way in the world. As parents, I think the most important thing we can do is love our children and encourage them to be the best versions of themselves, whatever that looks like.

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