Yesterday – July 31, 2012 – was a historical day in our family.
It was the day that our super-shy daughter participated in her first external class ever.
Let me tell you the story.
Why don’t you take her to a psychologist?
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this line in different variations. Ever since she was born, she has been a very hesitant and introverted child whenever she was around people who she was not familiar with. At home, not only was she extroverted, she was – and still is – the leader of the boys, leading games, group dynamics, full of humor and very warm. But, outside – it is very hard to even get her to look at you. No chance she will talk to a stranger or even someone who she hasn’t met consistently for many times. That’s just how she is.
“What’s wrong with her?” – people ask. Worried family and friends offer their thoughts about how to solve this “problem”. I mean, how could she be almost 6 years old and still so shy???
So, me and Academy Dad sat and talked through the years. There is pressure from all directions claiming that something is wrong with our child. Obviously, they can’t all be wrong, right? We look at each other and decide: they are wrong. She is completely normal. Just very shy. Let’s give her time. She will open up and let us know when she is ready to connect to people outside of the family.
One summer day
One day it just happened. Lilac’s brothers have been signed up for summer classes and she has been watching from the sidelines. No pressure was put on her to join. No guilting. She would sit and do water painting or just watch while they are in classes.
Lilac: I think I want to try a swim class.
Me: (in shock) Okay.
Row your boat
Lilac’s swim class began yesterday. It is important for me to document as soon as possible how I felt because otherwise I will forget these once in a lifetime moments. Until the last-minute, I didn’t know if she would go through with it. I mean, for six years she has adamantly refused to join any activity that is outside the family.
We walked over to the pool and got in the water. I thought to myself: Okay, she will get in the water but I don’t think she will play the London Bridge game or the Hokey Pokey dance in the water.
She did it all. All of it! I let her lead the way and she was so ripe for this transition that it felt like the universe has brought her to the exact place she needs to be at the right time. She needed to do a class where Mom can participate with her. That is what she needs right now.
1. Shy children are not sick children. Not mentally. Not physically. Not emotionally. They are just shy. It takes them time to warm up and their pace must be respected.
2. Never ever make a shy child feel guilty about being slow to warm up. Do not pressure them to join activities. Don’t force them to participate in a class just because you paid money for it. Talk to the teacher in advance and give them a heads up (privately!) that this is a shy child and that you are just trying out with no commitment to go on. Make sure they have a flexible money back policy. I have seen moms yell at children, pressure them, guilt them (“I paid so much money for this class – now go play!!”). It breaks my heart.
3. I believe that if a shy child is given lots of support, love and respect – his time to open up his wings and fly will come. And – most amazingly – he will let the parent know when the time is right!
4. Me and Academy Dad do our best at parenting but – like everyone -we make many mistakes. Our approach with our shy child is one choice I will forever be proud of. We believe in our children’s ability to guide us in the right direction. They determine the pace of their progress – not us. I thank my lucky stars that we didn’t go to any psychologist or expert to help a situation which didn’t need any help.
Like mother Like daughter
Confession: Academy Mom was a very shy child. I used to hide behind doors whenever guests would come to our house and not come out the entire visit. My mom tells me that when she took me out for walks in the stroller, I would bury myself inside the stroller and not look up when my mom met aquaintances on the street. Not a smile nor a glance. Nada.
Today, I don’t have a shy bone in my body. How did I lose my shyness? I started writing in first grade. I wrote my first essays and received enthusiastic feedback from classmates and teachers. I wrote some more. Second grade, third grade, fourth grade. My confidence built more and more. In parallel, my Dad brainwashed me with the sentence: No one is better than you. NO ONE. Don’t let anyone make you feel small because you are not. Over time, I realized I am indeed a person of value and left the shyness behind.
Thank you, Universe, for giving me and Academy Dad the intuition to follow our hearts and believe in our child.
Sometimes – just sometimes – we just get it right.
And that feels oh so good.