Look, I’m not the type of person who believes an apology should be given to me in the case that someone says something that offends me. I understand that a difference of opinion is not a personal attack. I don’t believe in silencing opposition as an effective, or healthy solution to disagreements. I do, however, think it’s very important as a parent for me to point out discriminative issues when it comes to what my daughter will value about herself.
As important as is it to instill a disregard for beauty standards as a unit of measuring her worth, I also find it important that she can be confident about whichever social personality type she is blessed with.
This issue is not something that I ever thought about until recently. You see, this subject creeped into my mind in the form of unwanted parenting advice from someone who isn’t a parent themself. While I believe that alone doesn’t disqualify a person from having valid, and healthy parenting ideals, I do also understand that unless you are a parent, you have no idea how much more piercing any advice is once you become a parent.
You see, when you’re a first time Mom, or a parent at all, the only thing on your mind 95% of the time is your child’s wellbeing. You think about how much you are unintentionally screwing them up with good intentions, and hoping you can prepare them for every. single. thing. that this world is going to throw at them, on top of hoping that you’ve taught them to healthily cope with your abundant pitfalls as a parent. Some days you feel accomplished and empowered, and some days, the most harmless well meaning person can shatter your accomplished world with a single statement.
You see, I’m an introvert, as is my husband. He’s a bit better off than I am, because I also have untreated social anxiety. Now imagine feeling like your stomach is turning, heart racing, your jaw clenched so tight you have pain for days, and sweat like you wouldn’t believe. That was my experience running to the grocery store before I had a kid. Now add a baby in the mix, and people who, God love them, just want to talk to her and to you about her. I can’t explain just how much more challenging these trips are. I don’t take them alone anymore, my husband accompanies me so that he can do the talking. We do this every week.
Now, imagine you’re dealing with this at a social event where you’re required to have a lengthy conversations with multiple people within a short time frame. By the time I am ready and leaving my house to go be part of this, I have already spent all of my social energy trying not to feel sick to my stomach, trying to remember to smile genuinely through my jaw clenched like a vice , and reminding myself to listen to the conversation instead of just nodding as I try to get through the night without panicking.
You see, I worked so hard to feel like a normal person. I don’t want my daughter to end up like me as it is. This battle is exhausting. It’s not one I would ever choose for her. I felt this way before that statement was spoken. But then there it was. My ears ringing as I nod my head along with the words I am trying to hear, my jaw clenched smile, my panic of being a failure as a Mother. The words hit me like a ball to a bat.
“You need to make sure your daughter is frequently socially active, so that she doesn’t end up being introverted.”
Wow. You know I hadn’t thought about if she would become an introvert. Introversion is hard. Introversion isn’t likeable. It’s me. I have to make sure she’s an extrovert. Her life will be easier as an extrovert. I will do whatever I need to do socially to bless her with the gift of extroversion.
This replayed in my mind for weeks. But then it occurred to me. That is not how it works.
My husband was very socially active as a kid and he is introverted. I was very socially active as a kid. Introversion is not some sort of parental failure. It’s not a disease to be cured. It’s not changeable. It’s as permanent as the color of my skin. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. No, in fact, the issue is how extroverts view introversion.
There is rarely pressure put on an extrovert to stop socializing so much, and if you are pressured to do that, you aren’t in a healthy relationship. So why is there this constant pressure to fix introverts into becoming extroverts? Why is it rude of an introvert to not call every day or week to talk to an extrovert who wants to talk, but refuses to call the introvert themself? Why does needing isolation to recharge bother extroverts so much?
If my daughter is an introvert, I hope she knows it’s okay to be one. I hope she doesn’t feel ashamed that she needs alone time. I hope she knows she is not any less valuable than the extroverts that she knows. I hope she sees the hypocrisy. I hope she holds her head high no matter what personality type she has.
So please, if you want to help me, don’t give me advice, but rather, uplift my child in exactly who she is. Don’t condemn her for something neither of us can control. Love her just how she is. Acceptance is best gift you could give us, and it would fill me with so much gratitude for you.