Recently I had coffee with a fellow blogger (and friend) Alison. She runs Life a Little Brighter, a great site to find easy, affordable recipes, DIY projects, crafts and other tips to make your home life more memorable.
We talked about my post Dialing my Extrovert Down for my daughter…understanding that just because she wasn’t crazy social like I was didn’t mean there was anything wrong with her. Interestingly enough, she has the exact opposite problem with her daughter, who needs to talk to everyone — and anyone — she encounters. She agreed to do a guest post for Playdates, and I hope you’ll stop by her Facebook page and give her a “like!”
“Who are your friends at school?” I ask.
“Everyone!” she responds.
The other night, my husband was out of town, and I decided to take the girls to pick up some Lou Malnati’s (the BEST Chicago deep dish) as a treat. Lou Malnati’s doesn’t deliver to our area, so I packed up my five year-old and three-month-old, and headed to the next town over.
The entire experience was a perfect representation of my oldest child’s personality.
Walking through the downtown area, she saw a group of pre-teen girls, “Hi friends!”, she shouts to them. This is nothing new. She does this when she sees any size group of kids, any age. I used to cringe when she did it…but now I just roll with it.
The girls giggle in response. “She’s adorable!” one of them shouts to me. “I like your raincoat!” said another. I smile… I guess that wasn’t so bad. Frankly, I’m impressed–when I was Alyssa’s age, it never would have occurred to me to talk to girls so much older than myself.
We head into the restaurant and go to the hostess station to pick up our pizza. The desk is pretty tall, and Alyssa can’t see over it. She jumps straight into the air a couple of times, “Help me, please!” she asks me.
“Alyssa, it’s just a desk. With like, a computer. There’s nothing to see,” I answer.
She jumps a couple more times with her hands above her head, “What’s going on over there? I can’t see.”
This is ridiculous, I think to myself. Nonetheless, I pick her up momentarily so she can wave hi to the ladies behind the desk, and confirm for herself that there is nothing interesting to see.
Next, she sees an older gentleman sitting in the waiting area and waves to him. “My name is Alyssa! And this is my baby sister, Brianna,” she says, pointing to my stroller. The man smiles at her and then me. I make a half-smile, kind of like saying; she’s something, isn’t she?
But what she isn’t… is me. She takes after my husband in personality, and during moments like this, it couldn’t be more obvious.
I was so quiet as child; timid, at times. I would take my time in a situation, observing my surroundings before I made any moves. As an adult, I’m more confident in general, but I’m still quieter than my five-year-old daughter. Which sounds kind of pathetic, but she really is out there, on display. And I worry that she won’t always be well-received.
When she speaks out, all sorts of negative thoughts pop into my head:
Why does she need to be so loud? She doesn’t even know those girls. What are the girls going to think about this little one shouting to them? What if they don’t answer? What if they laugh at her?
Can’t she just stay behind the desk and wait for a minute? Why is she so curious? What does she think is going on back there?
She shouldn’t be bothering that man. She’s never going to see him again, why introduce herself?
I know I sound like a curmudgeon, but I worry about people rejecting her, especially kids her age. That’s part of putting yourself out there; you never know what the response will be. Most kids aren’t as forward, especially when they first meet someone. I worry that they will think it’s strange that she’s so talkative and boisterous.
Here’s the thing. The more open you are with others, the more likely you are to be negatively judged. However, there are a lot of good outcomes that result from being more outgoing: making new friends, strengthening those connections, having your needs heard and met. So far, things have only been positive for my daughter. It has inspired me to put myself out there more, and stop worrying so much about how my daughter is perceived.
She knows how to sit still, work quietly, focus on a task, etc., when necessary. So why should I sweat it that she shouts hi to everyone she meets, or is the first one to volunteer…for anything? My quiet nature is how I was comfortable as a child. She needs to live her own childhood, and feel confident in her own skin. And whatever that involves, I need to get over it… and support her the whole way.