Cillian was a very happy and engaging baby, loved attention from everyone and was born with that ability to attract people to him. Cillian also had a lot of changes in his short life – well relative to the first world Western society he is being raised in. He currently is living in his fourth home in two years, moved across the country, made friends and left, stayed home with me, went to daycare, got a sister and is now back home with me, and the one constant has been us – his parents, his pack. Cillian is also the genetic make-up of two introverted individuals who both were shy kids, so the fact that he is also shy and hesitant when new people burst into his bubble is not surprising.
It first became apparent when he started daycare, he made friends, he loved his teachers who treated him with the individual needs he has (we were very blessed with the placement we found), yet he was always hesitant every morning at drop off to run into the group activities, preferring to hang back and do his own thing. The little girls in the group tried to get him involved but my rebel had his own agenda. When we are out and people – strangers, insist on being in his space because he is adorable (which I need to remind myself when the dinner time shenanigans are in full swing) or now because he has a little sister, he completely draws into himself, and when we are at the park and children run up to him and are in his face he will turn away at first and indicate to me that he wants them out of his space. There are of course exceptions to his rules, the golden people that somehow completely click with him and he is open to their interactions, but whatever magic they have is not shared amongst the masses. Of course if it’s Halloween and he knows that ringing a doorbell will get him a treat then all bets are off – my kid is a regular wink and the gun guy.
I have had people of course tell me how I should raise my son so that he grows out of this “stage”, or enforce their presence into his space because kids should learn to not be shy, to be confident and exuberant. You are a stranger, in his bubble, you are intruding on his comfort, does stranger danger not ring a bell to anyone? I don’t want you in my parameter touching me, why would my two year old. Also, why is it ok to touch a strangers child even in a caring matter, you don’t go up to an adult you don’t know and stroke their arm, back or face… and if you do then there are serious consequences. I don’t agree with this old school line of thinking that all children need to be an extrovert, that they can’t be shy or introverted and still articulate and confident adults. We understand and teach him that other children will be in his space, that’s life especially on a playground or in the library and still gently show him how he can share the space while keeping a comfortable bubble of distance if he chooses. We also respect his decision if it gets too much and he wants to remove himself from the environment. He is very confident – a bit too much for my heart, he has no hesitation throwing himself into any situation he just doesn’t necessarily find the need to interact with other humans to do it.
I still find it uncomfortable meeting new people, to be in a social setting when I don’t know someone closely, when I am at grocery store line-up and someone insists on standing on-top of me to make the line move quicker (note to those people, I am a solid object – it doesn’t work that way). However, in my career life I am in project management and business development, I do presentation in front of crowds, I have business meetings, I am at conferences and I manage people. I am on, and I am outgoing, talkative, can network as much as the next person, and lets me real who actually “likes” networking. I am confident in my abilities like all other people from the imposter generation and yet when I take off my work persona, I crawl into my happy shell with my humans and it is a real stretch for me to go to that library class with other moms and dads and make small talk. You can be both.
I have learned to bite my tongue on the fact that you are obnoxious and respect that you have a need to intrude where you are not welcome thanks to my respect on societal norms, however, my child is off limits. Of course like most parents, I feel the need to apologize from time to time because of his unique interactions with life, but why? He is happy being who he is, and I am happy he is happy, yet we still have these moments where if something doesn’t fit into other peoples perception of the normal we need to make an excuse.
At some point I am sure he will be a teenager who will want nothing to do with his awesome parents, we will be replaced by new pack of friends and while we will have to be supportive of him growing up, until then I will appreciate that he still thinks we are the best people around… well his dad, I usually end up at the bottom of the pecking order.
All this to say that shyness shouldn’t be something that needs to be broken, maybe we can appreciate it for it’s gentler temperament or air of mystery.