As I type this, my adorable, amazing, spectacular 4-year-old is adjacent to me.
Notice I did not say “next to me”; I said, “adjacent” — in mathematical terms, “having a common vertex and a common side.”
In mommy terms: touching me. So. Very. Much. Touching.
My child is always touching me.
I love this tiny human with every fiber of my being, and yet, I have come to learn that I am wired in a way that is the antithesis of “constant touching.”
I’m an introvert. I feel like even that term needs some explanation, because socially, introversion has routinely been undervalued and almost seen as something to overcome. In my personal experience, the connotation has definitely been negative, as most of my peers have seemed to equate “introversion” with being shy, a wall flower, socially maladjusted, no fun, or a total stick in the mud.
But introversion is a mostly genetic personality trait that has nothing to do with shyness. These are two different constructs. What it does pertain to is how you derive your energy: You are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits. Many introverts can socialize easily, they just often choose not to — or they need time to re-charge after social experiences.
So I spent the majority of my life pretending to be the opposite of what I was wired to be. While studying for my master’s degree, I taught journalism and speech classes at UNR, and it was at this point that I first became aware of who I was deep down. Because teaching EXHAUSTED me. I think I was pretty good at it, and I loved doing it; but I always came home after classes and just wanted to curl up in the fetal position with the lights out and sleep for like an eternity.
I honestly thought there was something wrong with me.
But there was nothing wrong with me. I’m just an introvert. And it has taken me the better part of a lifetime to figure that out and fully embrace it.
Embracing my introversion as a parent has been a bit more difficult. Because these tiny bundles of endless talk and touching and togetherness don’t understand that a person could possibly need quiet and calm and space and NOT TOUCHING. I’ve managed to thrive professionally by knowing I need seclusion to do my best thinking, but when you’re the parent of a baby or toddler, seclusion is as elusive as a meltdown-free day.
(And PS, need help identifying if you’re an introverted parent? Consider this question: Do you love your child just a teensy-weensy bit more when they’re asleep or reading quietly by themselves? Then you’re probably an introvert. And I’m only semi-joking here. Totally joking. Really not that much joking.)
Anyhow, society tends to reward people who are extroverts in most aspects of our lives. Extroverts tend to be the vocal contributors in team meetings at work — and thus tend to earn more respect and rewards. In terms of parenting, extroverts will likely step up to the plate to be the team coach for baseball, just as they will be the parent who throws the best themed parties for birthdays.
But let’s take a few minutes to flip the script on parenting as an introvert. Because many of the things that make us who we are deep down are the very things that will also have long-term benefits for our children — whether they are introverted or extroverted.
We may not be the queen of playdates, but…
If you’re an introvert, the idea of a “playdate” may cause instant flop sweat. And that’s totally normal. You’ll likely overcome it enough to put up with a few for your tiny bundle of constant touching, but trust me when I say: He or she won’t become the next Unabomber because you did not host copious playdates. Instead, think of the upside: What you lack in desire to be part of the playdate posse, you’ll likely more than make up for in appreciation for the quiet aspects of life. They’ll need picnics, and hikes, and just finding vantage points to watch the clouds, too. In fact, teaching them some of the value in the quiet — in this crazy, bustling world — is probably an oft-overlooked aspect of parenting.
We may get annoyed with the constant touching, but…
Your child does need to understand concepts of personal space, so every once in a while alerting them to their adjacentness is not entirely bad. Try designating favorite “alone” spaces in your house, and when necessary, go to your respective corners. I’ve never met a child who didn’t like a tent, a canopy or a fort, so make a game out of it. And while you’re at it, build a tent or fort for yourself — literally or figuratively.
We may become overwhelmed by the constant noise, but…
Many introverts are also something called a “highly sensitive personality.” If you hate the sound of people chewing, avoid horror movies and/or can hear earthquakes before they happen (seriously — I’m an HSP, and “calling” an earthquake before it happens has become something of a game in my family), then you might consider researching this a little more here and taking the quiz to find out if you are one here.
It’s totally ok to embrace quiet as a parent. In fact, again in this highly digital age, having a 30-minute reading wind-down when EVERYONE in the family is expected to read quietly will actually put your kids at an advantage in life. They’ll develop a love of reading, and they’ll likely appreciate the idea of relaxation techniques like reading or quiet time as they age.
We may not be the life of every social interaction, but…
You can always adopt an extrovert! Many introverts find that their closest friends are fundamentally different in terms of personalities, which is a wonderful thing if he or she can serve as your parenting wingman. Going to the school carnival, for example? Your happy extrovert will happily accompany you — and even do the cake walk on your behalf.
We may not get a ton of alone time, but…
There’s always bedtime! And hey, science suggests that introverts are far better at being sleep-deprived, so there’s that, too.
So after all of this, I’d love to hear your thoughts on parenting as an introvert. Tell me the good and the bad by leaving a comment below or on the Facebook thread.
And by the way, are you interested in learning more about how introverts and extroverts can thrive? I’ll be giving a lunch-hour NCET Biz Bite presentation this Wednesday, April 25 at the Atlantis called “Introverts and extroverts unite! (Just sometimes separately and alone.)” Register here to join me and learn about how the two personality types can best operate — jointly and separately — in today’s workplaces.
And now I’m off to my parenting fort for 30 minutes of non-adjacentness. 😉