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Parenting an Extrovert When You’re an Introvert

Written by Tonilyn Hornung

I’d make a good monk. Husband, child, and girl parts aside, I’d look great sporting one of those long brown bathrobes. Making me even more fabulous at my new calling, would be the whole not talking thing. As an introvert, I can pull this off effortlessly. Before I had a child, I could easily go for 24 hours without speaking. Now, with my three-year-old in the house I can’t go for 24 seconds. By the end of the day my brain hurts and my tongue needs a massage. As an inherently quiet human being I’m finding it a challenge to parent my tiny little extrovert. How will I survive?

“Mom, that little girl doesn’t want to talk. Is she shy?” my son asks. 

“It seems like she is, and that’s okay. Some people are shy. Are you shy?”

“Nope!”

He couldn’t be more correct. My little guy has definitely inherited his father’s outgoing nature, and coupled with his three-year-old nature, he is a non-stop talker. Whether I’m fielding a barrage of questions ranging from the traditional, “Why is the sky blue,” to the non-traditional, “Do trees have eyelashes,” I am constantly talking. I’ve spoken more to my kid in the last three years than I’ve spoken to everyone else in the last thirty.

I want to encourage my son’s outgoing nature and support his natural willingness to talk. I love that he is so chatty about…well…everything. As an introvert, I’ve always found it a challenge to speak freely in the moment, so I don’t want to stifle his outgoing nature by pulling him into my own shy world. I am always there to listen, but he also needs me to engage in conversation. I’ve tried nodding or giving him simple one word responses and those don’t seem to go over all that well. Really though, I’m happy to talk to my kid, but it exhausts me to my core.

Trying to explain “quiet time” to him is like trying to unlearn the lyrics to Frozen’s “Let it Go”. Impossible. And using the old “It’s me. Not you,” rationale didn’t even work on my most stable of ex-boyfriends, so I’m doubting this tactic would do anything, but spur on more conversation with him. So, I’ve been taking extra long trips to the bathroom to get some quality time with myself. I’m sure my kid and husband wonder why I don’t just stop drinking all that milk and eating all the cheese, but a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do. The bathroom is a sacred place (most days), and I like cheese.

Since my little guy has learned how to use his words (and I mean all of his words), this whole parenting thing has moved me further and further away from my comfort zone. I love it when we quietly color together or when he has decided to remove all the dirty clothes from the basket—in silence. I can feel my insides settle down into a comfortable place, and I feel more like myself. The problem truly arises when I find myself losing patience with all the talking. Logically, I know my son is exploring his world, and talking is his way of doing this. Emotionally, I can’t handle the constant chatter. As a stay-at-home mom, I feel fed up by lunch and wonder how I will survive until the evening.

It’s about lunch time, that I feel like a terrible parent. My needs are at odds with what my son needs and as the day plods on my insides feel like they’re ready to pop. I know that at some point I will want to throw the Play-Dough at the carpet (I would never get that out of the shag), tell him to shut it for five minutes, and walk out the room.

That tiny daydream makes my eyes well up and my heart hurt. My son’s bright eyes watch me for approval, while he continues yammering about Minnie Mouse’s eyelashes, and the guilt I feel for even thinking such a thing shuts that thought down immediately. My heart hurts again for a different reason. Do I have to become an extrovert to raise an extrovert?

Like my kid’s Play-Dough, I find my insides getting squished and morphed into shapes I never knew existed. I knew being a mom would re-shape me, and I was ready for that. I welcomed it. I bought new larger sized outfits and yoga pants for it. I didn’t know that being a mom might ask me to shift my entire core, though, and that’s what I struggle with. I’ve tried to be more of an extrovert—but that’s simply not who I am.

I love my son. I want him to be happy and shine as the person he is. I would support him until the world ends and then I would build a whole new world and support him on that one all over again; but I need to find more places to support me, or we will have a shag carpet full of Play-Dough.

I am different from the extroverts in the house. I need quiet time. Hopefully, even at three he can begin to learn empathy by seeing that mom is different—mom is quiet. Seeing other perspectives can teach him to accept all the differences in people. So, I’ll say things like, “I need some quiet time. I’m going to color this whole page quietly, and when I’m done I will talk some more, but you can keep talking. I love to hear you talk!” Will it always work? Probably not, but I will keep on searching for ways to support us both so we will be alright—and no one needs to hear that more than me.

The little guy can talk all he wants, because that’s him, and I can take quiet breaks while we are together, because that’s me—and together we will find our way because that’s us.

And it’s better than building on a private bathroom.

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november, 2020

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