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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Letter To My Introvert From your Extrovert Mother

Son,
As we reach Spring Break I am baffled by how quickly your first year of school has gone by. It seems like yesterday I was crying when I dropped you off at Pre-school and now, we're approaching our last day of Kindergarten. I promise you, it will be here before you know it.

I am in awe of you as you come home with such an amazing vocabulary, a deep love of your "School Brother," and how you talk about how much you like all your classmates. I love how you refuse to do "Kiss-and-Go" and insist I walk you to the door, give you a hug, a kiss and give each other our little signal that says, "I love you". You walk into school so confidently, so proud, so excited for each day, even though you swear you want to stay home and spend the day with me (and by the way, I'm still flattered to hear that). When you go in that building, you are a different person than you are at home. You are confident, you are free from your brother, you are able to experiment with you you are and who you want to be. I've seen you in the class when I volunteer in your room. Your classmates love you, they all want to engage with you. But you shy away, you don't like being the center of attention. It's so odd to be because each one of your friends light up when they see you, which leads me to believe that you are kind and friendly to them. But you rarely say hello back. You always smile, but hardly show your excitement to see them, when I know you are.

Today we had your conference, your first Student Led Conference. This was torture for you. I had envisioned this one-on-one time with you as something for you to take pride in. But for you, it was a moment for you to be the center of attention. Walking into the classroom you looked six as you excitedly showed me different parts of your school, but as soon as we walked through the threshold to your class, you looked smaller. You were quieter. You were one of two students in the room and were supposed to show me all of the different themes you had learned in school thus far. Instead, you quietly flipped through the binder of your work. The work was impressive, incredible even. It showed me that you have such an amazing understanding of how the world works around you and your role in in it. My heart burst with pride for the work you were showing me, but you didn't want to talk about it. When we got to the science section, I couldn't believe how much pain you were in as I tried to drag the words out of you to find out about the units you've learned. You deferred to your teacher, and claimed you "didn't know" any of the subjects. She too, was surprised. She and I know that you are an incredible student with a brain that won't quit. Your love of language, logical explanations , and reason surprise most adults, and yet, you claimed to not remember what you were learning about in school the day before. We stopped asking. We let you play with the planets, make circuits and just be while I sat there astonished that you couldn't tel me about it in the classroom but could at the dinner table. Your teacher and I knew that you knew the material. We also know, you don't like showing off.

I'll never forget the day you got in trouble in pre-school. You always were the kind of student who did exactly as the teacher asked because you are a pleaser and you like rules, but this day, you called her "Mrs. Big Bottom," a HUGE shock to me because you would never call a name to anyone, but because the kids in your class acted out, you resorted to it as well. That night, when we talked about why you called her a name, you said, "It's because I don't want people to know I'm smart. I want to keep it a secret". I really didn't have an answer. I couldn't believe it. You know why the world turns, all the different dinosaurs and sea creatures and the periods they lived, and you understand some late elementary school ideas, and you'd happily rattle off facts and correct your grandparents on the material, but in school, you didn't want people to know the real you? For me this was troubling and my mind wondered to your future in high school in our current system where you'd fail to turn in "busy work" because it was a waste of of your time, and in turn, would be failing classes because you just weren't doing what as asked of you because you weren't being challenged. I realize that is a big jump, so instead, I said, "Can you be smart at school just like you are at home, and we can keep a different secret from your friends? Like maybe we won't tell them you're on a swim team or a hockey team." You thought about it for a while, and eventually agreed. You haven't gotten in trouble at school since. But your attitude hasn't changed. When I asked you on the way home if you ever raise your hand in class you said, no. When I asked you if you knew the answers to the questions your teacher was asking, you said yes. And when I asked why you didn't want to raise your hand, you just shrugged. It is baffling to me.

Seeing you as such a wallflower is why you and I butt heads. We have the same heart, we have the same care for those around us, and we're likeable because we put people first, but we're so different because you don't like to be around people like I do. You like to be around one good friend, or your family, but you even need a good hour away of alone time each day. I can completely respect that. But I don't understand the lack of pride feeling one gets when accomplishing something, or showing off things you are proud of. I was a State Champion in Public Speaking and Debate. I was a National Qualifier in Forensics in Debate and Forensics in college, I gave the speech at my High School graduation and I'd gladly go in front of a group any day. So having a child, that is so humble and quiet in their accomplishments, like your father, is something I'm going to have to get used to. I could spread the word about your dad's accomplishments and it was OK, but with you, I feel like it's not. You're not ready for that. You don't want to come close to any of those accolades. You're happy sitting in the back of the room answering every question on your test correctly while never letting on that you even knew the material.

Recently, your dad and I took a personality test and we took the test for you and your brother as well. You and I are very similar in the secondary color of the personality traits and that's why we bond over so many things, but you are the exact opposite of your brother, which causes a lot of trouble at home, and you are the exact opposite of me in the main color personality. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I'm going to have to learn how to parent a child who would rather play inside and create amazing Lego Robot creations instead of go to a party or go on a bike ride with friends. You're not that kind of social creature. And I'm OK with that, but I do want to ask you a favor.

Please, please don't let your reservations about people or experiences let you pass something by because it's different or just a little out of your comfort zone. You are so cautions, I worry you'll never want to be in a group of people at Lego Land. I worry that you'll be so comfortable in your own room that you'll stay there instead of enjoying that summer day where all the kids in the neighborhood are out playing games. Some risks are good. Some risks help us grow. And while I don't need you to show off at school, raise your hand, or even be a public speaker (though your fishing videos are just amazing), I do need you to challenge yourself each day to make yourself stronger, braver, and more comfortable in your own skin. Fear holds us back. And if you are truly an introvert, stay an introvert! But know that stretching the boundaries in some aspects is OK. And if you are holding back because of fear, know that we all face our fears daily, and sometimes,  we have to ignore the fear to enjoy life.

I love you son, and whatever you turn out to be, you'll always be my pride and joy. I love you for you and I love you for what you think you are. I know that there's more in that five year old version of you than you want to offer the world right now, and I'll just have to be OK with that. One day though, I know, you'll find out who you are and where you want to be in this world, and when you do, I'll be right by your side.

1 comment:

  1. When I was a little boy (I have a couple of decades on the writer) I naturally assumed I was a typical, "normal" child. At first, I attempted to fit in with the crowd at school - though I was frequently teased or picked on, for reasons unknown to me. My eyes were opened when I was in 2nd grade and my mother had a birthday party for me, inviting several children from my class to our home. It was on this day, as I showed my "friends" some of the things which I cherished or was most interested in (and endured their mocking reactions), that I discovered the truth; every single person on this planet is born a complete babbling idiot - and very little effort is required to maintain that status. Sad but true, most people prefer to stay ignorant all of their lives, caring little about anything beyond their own selfish ambitions and urges, regardless of whatever well-rehearsed, touchy-feely verbiage is being spewed by them. I have been a misfit all my life, and have never regretted that I am unable to blend in with the vast flock of sheep as they sit around blathering about politics or football or baseball. Sometimes (if not often) NOT fitting in with the the horde of lemmings (as it plunges off the cliff) can be a GOOD thing.

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