I am an introvert. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’m shy or antisocial. It means, in the Myers-Briggs sense of things, I get my energy from internal sources. I need quiet time to calm down, reflect, and reenergize, and that I prefer being in small groups with people I know well. Big groups of people, lots of commotion, and people I’m not particularly comfortable with all exhaust me. Even just the thoughts of those things exhaust me!
Kids exhaust me. Even my own.
I am in no way an expert on this topic; however, just from being a parent and observing my own and other peoples’ kids, I’ve gathered that most children are extroverted. They love being in constant motion. They love meeting new people and instantly interacting with them. They love being loud. And they hate quiet downtime. So what does that mean for me, as an introverted parent?
It means I’m regularly overwhelmed. It means I need to know my limits and know how to steer my children to a quiet place when I’m nearing my breaking point, even if it’s met with their opposition. It means I have to let my kids down from time to time. I have to say “no, sweetie, we can’t go to every playdate.” I don’t want to disappoint my kids, but I get overwhelmed around other moms I don’t know well. It’s not that I don’t like those moms or their kids, it’s not even that I don’t want to get to know them, it’s simply that I don’t know what to say beyond the initial pleasantries. And that’s stressful for me.
Being an introvert is extremely tough when you have a very extroverted child. She always wants to be doing something. She always wants to be around somebody. And how do you explain to a child that you need to sit in a quiet place and be by yourself? That will always feel like rejection. As my extroverted daughter had gotten older, I have been able to explain it to her. Sort of. And I know someday she will understand. She won’t be scarred for life because mommy needed to read her book by herself on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
For now, though, I have to balance my need for introversion and my kids’ need for extroversion. I need to challenge myself to not be stressed out by people I don’t know, so that my kids can make new friends. I also need to teach my kids the importance of downtime and that not everyone wants to be loud and active all the time.
To the extroverted parents out there, I apologize for not coming to every party and playdate. Again, it’s not that I don’t like you. Give me time.