Monday, March 1, 2010

shrinking violets

All my life I've been shy. I was painfully shy as a child and teen. I used to retreat to my books and spend hours just reading away. As I got older I realized I had to come out of myself more and throughout college and my young adult years I became more self confident and out going. I'm still not the life of the party but I'm nothing like I was as a youngster. Now that I'm practically a senior citizen, I look back and think about the people I was too shy to say hello to and the opportunities I let pass by, just because I was afraid to put myself out there. How stupid and self limiting. That I let being shy stop me from doing things is probably my big life regret. Don't get me wrong. I still have had some amazing life experiences. I decided against going to the college my sister was at even though that would have made things easier for me and went to a big school where I didn't know a soul. I traveled by myself to Ireland for my student teaching without having a place to live. I traveled to Germany and England alone and backpacked my way around those countries taking buses and planes and trains and making friends along the way. I made friends at bus stops and found roommates by posting signs on telephone poles. At the same time, there are experiences I did not have and people I wish I were friendlier too but I just didn't...couldn't. I wish being shy wasn't my defining personality trait for so long. Why this long lament about one of my shortcomings?

Lately I've been realizing that my kids have inherited this trait. Do you think it's a trait they can inherit or do you think they're picking up on my being shy and in the way that kids do, making my behaviour, their behaviour. I don't know the answer to this myself. I do know though that I see shyness in varying degrees in all three of my kids. They won't attempt something they think they can't do. They get embarrassed so easily. They hold themselves back.

Sam has social difficulties anyways so you add in a little shyness and he's in for a pretty tough time of it. If it's not him not understanding that he can approach a group of kids playing and ask to play too, it's his worry that he's not good at a game that holds him back. And in big groups Sam tends to feel safer if he retreats to something familiar and comforting, like a book. Teresa is a beautiful girl who loves to sing, dance and home. She is loud and bossy and knows her home. I've learned from her teachers that outside of our home she is not like this at all. She is quiet and reluctant to speak in front of the group. She does her own thing rather than join in a game that's already started even if she really wants to play. She backs down rather than stand her ground. Katie has always been a Mumma's girl. She never wanted to be far from my side. Separating from me has never been easy. What I never imagined was that it would take an entire year before she felt comfortable enough with her dance teachers to TALK to them. When I signed her up for her second year of dance she ran into one of her teachers and after hellos Kate began telling her teacher all about her birthday party. The teacher looked at me wide eyed and said "I've never heard her talk before." She won't approach children at playgrounds and shys away from them if they approach her. All three kids have no problems showing their true colors with family or friends we know very well but in situations where there is any bit of discomfort my kids retreat.

I cannot tell you how much this bothers me. I don't want them to look back and think "I wish I had..." I want them to experience as much of this wonderful world through people, travel and opportunities. I want other people to see and know how amazing and funny and talented they are. But here's the thing. There's really not much I can do about it. I talk to all three about being friendly. I encourage them to try new things. I sign them up for various activities to broaden their social horizons and experience a variety of activities...sports, clubs, enrichment programs. I can only do so much and's up to them. I hope they aren't shy because they feel bad about themselves. I hope it's not that they doubt their talents and self worth. I don't think it is, because what I see and hear from them at home tells me they love who they are. It's just that they're not sure how the rest of the world feels about them and that matters to them. I don't want my kids to get hurt and I know putting yourself out there means they will, it happens to everyone, but I hate that something as stupid as being shy is already placing limits around them. And there's not a whole lot I can do about it. How incredibly frustrating. I hope they all eventually grow out of it. It really would be a shame both for them and the world if being shy kept them back.


Dori said...

You are not alone. I was painfully shy and extremely quiet as a child and I've passed this on to my children as well.
M. is probably the most outgoing of the three, but always needs time to warm-up to new situations. O is just like T. she's funny, loud, home, but extremely reserved at school and in group situations. E is my cling-on as well. Don't know if it's a last child thing, but his mantras are "help me mama" and "but I need you".
Teaching aerobics classes helped me somewhat. I have no problems getting up in front of large crowds, but it's developing those close 1 on 1 relationships I have trouble with. I have lots of "friends", but my really close friends can be counted on one hand.

Ellemes said...

I think I was very much like your children growing up, and still am to a degree. I would be myself at home and with close friends, but any new situations and I'd close up.

Since college was new I barely spoke. I had a few close friends, but was very shy.

Now as I grow older I realize I should take a chance, but I never think, "I wish..." I'm happy with how I was. I am a great listen, partly b/c I didn't talk much and still listen more. People appreciate that. I have learned that if you ask people about themselves, they love to talk and all I have to do is listen.

I say all this b/c I hope you won't worry too much about your kids. They may be happy being them and not sharing all of themselves with everybody...if that makes sense.

Hugs to you as you worry, but I hope you won't worry too much :)

Marie said...

I found teaching helped me too. And for me it's the same thing, the close one on one relationships are the toughest for me to form.

You brought up a really good point. I am looking at my kids through the lens of my experience and it could be they are fine with how they approach the world and maybe I should not worry so much about it. I can't say I won't but I really appreciate your perspective. Thanks :)