Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When Your Kid is an Introvert (ish) - Guest Post by Emily Freeman

She sits across the table from me in a room filled with high school students. It’s dinnertime, and I take slow bites as I watch her. She takes none at all. She’s studying her surroundings.

The students closest to us laugh at a joke I don’t hear, their voices louder than the already active hum of noise in the room. The beach house is big enough to sleep forty, but my kids and I are staying across the street.

I’m not sure I can handle a week in a house with my three kids and forty of someone else’s.

For five years now, my husband has brought students to this beach during spring break, one of the many trips he takes as their pastor. This is the first year I’ve come with him, bringing our kids. As I watch my daughter’s face, I begin to wonder if it was wise to come at all.

She’s eight and the slightly more social of our twins. But before she interacts, she watches people with eyes like a hunter, searching for acceptable behavior. She loves making friends, but in crowded rooms of people twice her size, she gets nervous. Unsettled. Exhausted. I watch her watch them and in one swift move she’s no longer sitting across from me but leaning hard against me, whispering into my ear, Mommy, can we eat outside?

We talked to a counselor once who told us our children learn their coping skills from their parents. I’m still trying to work through what is unhealthy coping and what is God-made personality. Adam's excellent book Introverts in the Church is helping with that. Still, my mind immediately wanders to all of my own coping mechanisms. Surely now my children are destined to eat mint chocolate chip ice cream when they’re bored, watch mindless TV when they procrastinate, and cry when they’re embarrassed. I’ll pay their counseling bills, I vow to myself.

I only feel slightly better.

Because as I watch my girl become nervous in this crowd of loud people, I see myself. I’m the one who booked the house across the street so we didn’t have to stay in the noisy one. I’m the one who is watching her every move during dinner to be sure she’s okay. I’m the one who is emotionally allergic to small talk. So is she the one who gets energy from alone or have I taught her to be that way?

On the continuum of energy, my husband and I both fall slightly on the introverted side. We need the same kind of space and the same kind of community. In order not to project our own personalities and insecurities onto our kids, we’re learning to take notes on the things and situations that uniquely give them life.

Sometimes I trust them into God’s hands. Lots of times I don’t. I pray for wisdom and for the courage to let her write her own story. And that the Lord would give her a light hand when it comes to the mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Do you have experience in parenting kids who seem to be following in your personality footsteps? I figured Adam’s readers will be the smartest group to ask, and I could use all the help I can get.

About the author: Emily P. Freeman, author of Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful, is a writer, speaker, and listener. She is the creator of the blog, Chatting at the Sky, where she combines photos and story to create space for souls to breathe. Emily is deeply curious about the mystery of Christ, the gracefulness of the everyday, and the sacredness of our inner lives. She and her husband John have been married for ten years and live in North Carolina with their three children.