March 12, 2013
Dear Sweet Pea,
In four months you will be five. Yet, it was only recently that I realized you were different from me. While I am a strong introvert, you are an extrovert. I confess, this took me slightly by surprise.
Some people consider introverted to mean shy, quiet, reserved, and extroverted to mean loud, outspoken, outgoing. But they are sorely mistaken. Introverts can be those things, but they could also be loud, outspoken and outgoing. Extroverts can be those things too, but they could very well also be quite shy, quiet and reserved. Introversion and Extroversion really have nothing to do with those traits, at all.
The main question is from where do you derive your energy? What is your source of energy? What fuels you? What drains you? Someone who is quiet can be an extrovert and still crave and need to be around others, to feel energized. Someone who is loud and outgoing in the presence of others can be an introvert and still have to pull back and be alone frequently in order to stay fueled.
As a strong introvert, myself, I require solitude on a very regular basis. It is through this time alone, to reflect and be, that I refuel myself and have what I need to be the momma you need. This is very challenging for mothers of young children. Merely finding space in a day for alone time is nigh on impossible!
Yet it was shortly after the holidays last year that I came to the revelation that you, my Sweet Pea, are an Extrovert. You derive your source of energy through interactions with others. Some would miss this about you, for you are not loud when around new others and are often quite shy, you are not outgoing, you are reserved and cautious (though you were not always so). They would call you introverted, but they would be wrong. You are an extrovert that is not so loud and in your face. You are a more reserved extrovert, but an Extrovert all the same, who receives your energy through interacting with others. And right now, your world of others.... is chiefly me. This is daunting, I admit, but I am so very thankful that I discovered this quote a couple months ago, as I was searching for ways to handle the Introvert/Extrovert Parent/Child dynamic.
"Again, one of the first things to understand about the extroverted child is that he needs and craves interaction as much as you need and crave solitude. Just as you need solitude to process and think and recharge—your extroverted child needs social interaction to do the very same. That is what his system requires to recharge his batteries and allow him to operate at optimum performance levels. However, to an introvert, the constant chatter as they interpret and process their experiences and thoughts and feelings can feel like an all out assault.
It is important to remember that they are not being overly demanding. At least not by their standards. They will feel drained and overwhelmed if they are kept from being able to socialize and share."
Source: Article "Tips For Introverted Parents Raising Extroverted Kids" By R. L. LaFevers on 04.21.11 http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2011/04/tips-for-introverted-parents-raising-extraverted-kids/
As I read those lines again today, months later, it seems obvious. But it wasn't obvious to me when I first read the article. Your core inner need to interact with others... with me.... was just as strong and just as driving and just as important as my very own core inner need to be alone, to reflect, to think, to write, and to not interact. The author couldn't have written these words in a better way for my soul to encounter. I needed to read/hear this, for you, and for my parenting of you for the rest of my life. It was so incredibly helpful for me to think on this with parallels. I cannot relate to your need to interact with others - but I CAN relate that your need TO is from the same place that my need NOT TO is. You weren't being demanding or needy. This seeming neediness from you wasn't a parenting failure on my part. You were being the extrovert that God created you to be!
Little Lady, I owe you an apology for not realizing this sooner in your life and for not meeting this need of yours adequately. Even though I'm aware of this now, and have a different perspective of your requests to be with me, I know I'm still not doing this perfectly. This is a tricky road to navigate in the land of parenting. I don't identify with your need, myself. So I cannot temper my responses with that. I have been trying so very hard to balance your extroverted needs and my job as your parent to train you to become an independent, self sufficient, not-self-centered young woman one day. I have failed in the past and I know I will fail again. I am your parent and it is my job to meet your needs as you grow. I want you to know that your daddy and I are trying so very hard to do this right. Many times the introvert inside of me is screaming, but I am able to take a step back and think through what you are asking or needing, through the lens of your extroverted needs. This knowledge has given us all more harmony lately.
Everything in your world right now is with. The idea of solitude, or participating in an activity alone, is absolutely ludicrous to you. You have melted our hearts so many times lately with your unfamiliar-to-us extroverted ways.
You don't ask if you can do crafts, do painting, do puzzles, do coloring, do playing outside, do cooking, do anything at all. You ask if I can craft with you, paint with you, do puzzles with you, color with you (and on the same coloring page, no doubt. Two side-by-side pages in a book is not acceptable. It must be the very same page), play outside with you, cook or bake with you, play board games with you.
Just today in the bathroom you asked me "Candjou stay in here with me while I wash my hands, so I can talk to you?"
Beginning as a baby, I implemented "room time", or "play by myself time" as we affectionately called it, with Little Buddy and it went so well. He learned to play independently and it gave me some much needed solitude in my day. So naturally, when you came along, I tried to do this with you. You balked. You balked every single time I tried it. And I'm stubborn. We went head to head on this. For months on end. It didn't matter whether it was in the pack-n-play in the playroom, or in your room, in your room with the door open or closed. You were NOT happy about "play by myself time" and you were gonna let the world know about it. I gave myself terrible mama-guilt for never successfully implementing this with you.
At the time I chalked this up to your incredibly strong willed personality. Now I realize it was your extrovert nature screaming against the confines of isolation. At one time I would have said all children should be required to have this daily alone time and learn to be by themselves. Again I am humbled with the error in my thinking. Of course you need to learn to be independent and entertain yourself. But locking you away from the source of your energy, as an avid extrovert, was not the right way. You were such a difficult child your first three years. It diminished in proportion to your ability to speak and communicate with us. I've always said that you just seemed to be so stinking MAD that you couldn't communicate back and forth with us. It seems so obvious now - your extrovert nature was mad as a hornet that you weren't able to share with us how you felt! What an amazing revelation to realize this now, and be able to adapt our parenting strategies with your extrovertedness in mind!
You utterly adore your brother. He is your world. You cannot wait to share things with him, whether it be information, a toy, a treat, or an experience. You really don't care to do anything, if he cannot be with you. Any time we want to treat you to something special, you want to share it with Little Buddy. Any reward, any trip, any experience. You always, always, always ask "Can Little Buddy come, too? Can Little Buddy have one, too?"
You have started to share your food. It is really not socially acceptable for you to break off pieces of your food and place them on the plate of everyone in attendance at a meal... but we are too enamored with the sweet place of your heart that your sharing is coming from, that we haven't the heart to ask you to stop. If you taste something that you enjoy, you simply must share it with those around you. It is adorable. Your enjoyment of that food is tied to our enjoyment of it, also.
Your daddy took Little Buddy hiking all day long last Sunday. They were gone from 1145am to 800pm. We spent the morning at church, where Little Buddy is in a different class than you. You spent this entire day isolated from your brother. You told me numerous times throughout the day that you missed him. That you couldn't wait for them to be home. After they came home and you all changed into pajamas, you went to the playroom for your "last show". You came back into the kitchen in tears. I asked what was wrong and you said "I asked 'Little Buddy' to snuggle with me on the couch and he said no." Little Buddy had spent the entire day in the presence of others, interacting, and was maxed out on the interaction. But I explained to him that you had spent the day alone, missing him terribly, and asked him to please sit next to you on the couch. He did, and you were so happy.
A lot of times when Little Buddy gets in the van after school, you say to him, "I missed you while you were at school today." My heart melts and oozes all over the floor of the van. Little Buddy has never really seemed to experience missing someone. That is not to say he doesn't love, but that aching longing of missing someone hasn't hit him yet. But you, dear Sweet Pea, actively miss, actively long, acutely feel the absence of those who are important to you. You will tell me frequently that you missed me while you were at preschool, or while I was out on an errands. I know your little soul means that.
Your nana has been trying to convince you to come spend a weekend with her, just you. You look at her as if she just sprouted antennae and started speaking Martian. You have no idea why you'd want to go and not have your brother come, too. This is the difference between an introvert and an extrovert. I loved getting to spend a weekend alone with my grandparents when I was growing up. But to an extrovert, this isolation would be crippling! I only just connected this to your extrovert nature. Before I would have encouraged/forced you to spend that weekend at Nana's. But now, I know that it isn't your clinginess that causes your hesitation, but your extrovertedness. That's a whole different ballgame. So when you are ready, you can. But I won't make you.
Every day we are inching closer to your beginning kindergarten. In so many ways, I just don't feel ready. I'm not ready to send you off there, all day, every day. You seem so much younger than Little Buddy was when he began. In fact, you are! You will be 8 months younger than he was when he started. Eight months is a long time! I know what is expected of them these days in kindergarten and it seems to be so stringent, for a five year old. I've appeased my heart with the knowledge that Little Buddy was basically six when he began, and had a whole extra year of time before this. But you won't have that, Little Lady. And I worry if sending you this year is the right thing to do, for your long term success. Yet, the thing that calms my heart is knowing that you are, indeed, an extrovert. You thrive in environments with others. You are a smart little cookie. I know you'll learn what there is to learn just fine. But I am excited for you to start kindergarten with the knowledge that it is going to soothe that little extrovert soul of yours in ways that I simply cannot, by myself. All of that interaction and social time with twenty other little five year olds is going to be awesome for you. And when you get into the van at 3:10pm, totally unlike your big brother, you will want to tell me every single thing that happened to you that day!
I love you, Sweet Pea, my Little Lady. And I love the fun that you bring to our family, as our resident Extrovert.