My daughter Rose is shy. More precisely, she’s “Slow to Warm Up.” She has trouble approaching other children and groups intimidate her. She plays with a few kids all the time, but it took a long time for her to get comfortable with them. She has a couple of friends that she sees once a month or so and each time we visit she sits on my lap for half an hour before she’ll even acknowledge them. At preschool and elsewhere, she bawls every time another kid approaches her.
She’s the one who cries, but the shyness is harder on me. She deals with it and it’s just the way she is. I’m her mommy and I want to fix it. The last time we were at preschool, she cried about 10 times – when kids tried to enter the playhouse where she hid; when they took her toys; when they got too close. It was a total sobfest and I left convinced that something must be done. My daughter would not suffer social isolation for the rest of her life. I had just read that personality is determined by the time we’re three, and she’s almost two, so time is running out.
I wanted to enroll her in a daily preschool immediately to force her into a social “sink or swim” situation. As soon as we got home from class, I fired up the computer to research preschools. As I surfed, I realized that preschool was just the beginning. She’s not good at making friends so the friends she would be forced to make according to plan had to accompany her to kindergarten. That meant I needed a preschool near her intended elementary school. So I looked up elementary schools. The way it works in our district is that, based upon our address, we have a choice of four or five elementary schools. Of course I wanted her to go to the best school our tax dollars could buy, so I checked out all the reviews, test scores and rankings for every school on the list. And then I found the gifted program which moves her to a new school in the third grade. I expect her to be in the gifted program because it’s in her genes and after all, she’s a pretty smart kid already. (Of course I think she’s gifted. I’m her mom.)
So by the time I was done with my “preschool” research I had her starting school next September (they really don’t take 2-year-olds — especially if they’re still in diapers); going to the application-only Meadowdale Elementary; and transferring to the gifted school in third grade. So much for keeping the same friends, plus by putting her in the gifted program I’d given the other kids a reason to torment her. And the whole reason for preschool – to boost her social skills – was completely forgotten.
I never expected to be THAT parent – the one who has to get her kid into the right school, from preschool through prep, but there I was. I really do want her to keep the same friends, but in my zealousness over her education I lost sight of that. Once I came up for air, though, I remembered that shyness was the “problem” at hand.
But why is curing her shyness such a big deal to me? Why did I obsess so much I forgot my purpose? Why? Because Rose gets the shyness from me. Her father consistently amazes me with his social prowess, but I can’t start a conversation with anyone. Sure, I can chat about coupons on line at the supermarket for 30 seconds, but I really can’t work a room.
People who know me would never think I’m shy. And just like Rose, I’m more “slow to warm up” than shy. I have a lot of friends and I am very chatty once I get to know people, but I’m bad at meeting people and I take a long time to trust them. I’ve met a lot of people with my third drink in hand, but I need that social lubricant to be the outgoing, life of the party gal I want to be. I hate the shyness in myself. It’s painful and I don’t want it for Rose. When I was a little girl, the other kids picked on me and I just retreated, then withdrew. Then they bullied me because I was an easy mark. To top it off, I wasn’t the same size as the other kids so they called me fat. I didn’t really learn any social survival skills until high school. And even that was a disaster at the end.
I love my daughter and I want her to have the best life possible. But I have to separate her life experience from my own. She is not me. She will have her own life and I can’t control every little thing that happens to her. Maybe she’ll be a very happy introvert who wins the Nobel Prize. Maybe she’ll be isolated and unhappy and have to overcome the shyness herself. But it’s her life, and even though she’s only two, I can’t change who she is, no matter how much I hate the qualities I’ve passed on to her.
I’m not going to stop facilitating her social life, because she needs one regardless of her disposition, but I am going to keep the focus where it belongs. If I don’t like being shy, I must overcome it myself. And the next time I feel the need to quash part of Rose’s personality, I have to ask myself, is it her or is it me? If it actually is her I have to accept that she is who she is and just love her for everything she is and everything she’s not.