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.