The introvert parent

I am a textbook introvert. My ten year old daughter is not.

At first glance, it might seem like it would be easier to raise an extrovert – less stress, easier to make friends, more activities – but the opposite has been true for me. Her extrovert ways seem so foreign to me sometimes and I struggle not to project my insecurities onto her. When she switched schools, she proudly walked right in without me and headed to her classroom. She only knew one person in the entire building. She was a little nervous, but dealt with it and moved on. I, on the other hand, spent the day worrying for her at work.

The lead-up to this event was even worse. I tried to walk the thin line of talking with her and helping her deal with any of her worries, while not asking her if she was nervous so many times that I terrified her. That situation can be really difficult for an introvert parent. Kids aren’t always immediately open about their feelings and sometimes you need to encourage them to share. I have to be careful to understand when my daughter isn’t sharing with me and when I’m just totally blinded by my feelings – “What do you mean you aren’t nervous?! I’d have to take a xanax to do that!”

I have a secret extrovert personality – a cover, I guess. I use it for public speaking, business events, etc. – but it tires me out. Sometimes I tap into this fake personality to try and understand my daughter better, but I don’t want to be that person at home. It is useful, but isn’t me.

Recently, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (well, I listened to it. A classic introvert – I’m happy in an office where it is perfectly acceptable to pop in your headphones and be quiet). At first glance, it sounded a little too self-helpy for me, but I’m really glad I gave it a chance. Every chapter of this book explained my motives, environmental choices, and personality quirks. I can understand the struggles I had as a child in school and how that influenced my current choices. Introverts may struggle as children and teens, but we usually find our place as adults where we can better choose our environment.

I hope that by better understanding myself, I can better understand my daughter. I foresee a future where we can share the strengths of our personalities. There may be rainbows and unicorns too.

Author

6 comments

  1. That’s a really cool way of looking at the dynamic of you and your daughter’s differing personalities. I’m much of an introvert myself and often worry about how that will affect my relationship with my (future) children; not to mention how it has already affected my relationships (or lack thereof) with the current members of my family. It really is a world of extroverts out there and what you’ve written here really helps add a different perspective for this introvert.

  2. My extrovert daughter is 4. So glad to hear you have made it to 10. I have many of the same issues and thoughts you mention. So glad to read your article.

  3. My extroverted son is 7 and I am finding it so difficult. In the book “Quiet”, there is a whole chapter on raising your introverted child. I need the reverse! Advice on raising a confident extrovert when I am a shy introvert! I worry that he feels I ignore him as he talks my ear off to reconnect/reenergize and I can’t take it.

  4. My extrovert son is 27 now (my introvert son is 30) and the only thing that saved me was recognizing and accepting that he wasn’t like me (or his older brother) and that was “ok”. He played 17 different sports before he found one he loved — longboarding — and then, because confidence is his middle name, he became a professional longboarder for a couple of years before he went back to college for a degree in architecture. He is now kicking butt at a big, downtown firm, has a wonderful wife, and has thanked me time and again for the balance I showed him in how to live. Despite my being terrified by some of his choices when he was young, I always knew he’d land on his feet and I had to learn to trust that he’d be fine. He’s not like me, but he learned to be a little more introspective and “quiet” by having me as his mom. Hang in there, young moms!

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