My daughter recently turned four and as she pouted and wrapped her hands into my shirt, her legs going limp as everyone sang “Happy Birthday,” I suddenly realized I am raising a little introvert. I had a glimpse last year when Elsa and Anna came down our stairs and exclaimed it was “Olivia’s Coronation Day!” The moment twenty or so heads turned, searching for Liv, I was overcome with a wave of emotion emanating from her tiny body. Her bottom lip quivered, her eyes shot downward and it she could have crawled into herself she would have done it right then, You can keep your tiara, lady!
I look back over the last four years of birthday pictures and find that in every photo that she is posed or the center of attention she looks as if she wants to join a nunnery. I have struggled with what I thought were tantrums while apologizing all over myself, She must be tired. She’s just funny around new people, and wondered why she chose social moments to let me know she wasn’t going to like someone if I wanted her to like them.
Her father looked at me after she and I blew out her candles together, pout pout, “Why is she like this?”
Once she had cake in belly and was running around like a banshee with her friends, no eyes on her, I answered him, “We’re two extroverts raising an introvert,” I waved my hands around motioning to the house full of people, “We’re going to have to rethink this…”
The very next day I took her to a luncheon to benefit The Animal Foundation, thinking she’d love to see the puppies. When we were asked for a photo, she squeezed my hand tight and hid her head in my leg, “No pictures!”
My girl loves to go directly home when I pick her up from school, “I need to relax on the couch.” After she’s rested for a few minutes she’ll paint the most beautiful picture, tongue swirling around her mouth in deep thought. We read, make up our own stories, garden, cook, go over rhyming words and she sweetly completes her chores to announce, “Mom, being at home is so much fun!”
I feel a smile spread because I see how happy she is through and through. No stress, no tears, just settled in our little shiny bubble of solitude.
A friend recently suggested I watch Susan Cain’s TED talk, “The Power of Introverts.” She began by talking about the suitcase of books she lugged to summer camp and I wondered what was wrong with books at camp, could I be an introvert too? I distinctly remember days lost in my imagination, books littering the floor of my room. I once wrote that as a child I never wanted to draw attention to myself and sort of stepped outside of my shell once I grew boobs. I guess books don’t really draw the boys to the yard, but drop the k and add a B (cup)….
This line of thought had me running to Psychology Today to take their Extroversion Introversion test. I wasn’t surprised to find that I’m what they refer to as a Chameleon. I have a toe in each, although I scored a 98 in my need for Personal Space, back up, y’all. I am guessing that something about my upbringing or career may have forced me from Introvert, but this exercise also helped me remember how incredibly overwhelmed I was in certain situations. My mother could be heard apologizing for me again and again in social settings, “Jeanette is sensitive,” when overcome by the tears I didn’t understand. The photo above is from a wedding in which I was supposed to be the flower girl. When I saw the long aisle filled with eyeballs I high tailed it to the Ladies and could not be convinced to step, together, step, together, y’all are nuts.
I feel as though I am being reintroduced to my daughter four years after I brought her home. I’m seeing this person who has always been, but through a new set of eyes. I will be more conscientious about who she is and my goodness she’s so beautiful when she’s deep in thought and not riddled with my expectations. It’s like a light has been switched on from within as she laughs, creates and practices words that make her giggle as she sounds them out.
Shine little girl, shine.
You never needed the spotlight anyway.