Introvert parenting introvert

I know talking about introverts and extroverts became really popular after Susan Cain gave her TedTalk and published her book Quiet. I have seen her TedTalk, read the article she wrote in The New York Times (I think?) that sparked the idea for the book, but I have not read her book. The thing is I’ve known long before she became popular that I was an introvert. I’ve also known that introversion-extroversion is a sliding scale. My husband is a lot more outgoing than I am, but he certainly has some introverted qualities and I am far less introverted than some of my friends. 

When Quiet came out it inspired a bevy of articles about introverts parenting extroverts and vice versa. I think they offer a lot of food for thought and good advice. I read a couple of them when Cam was little and I began to wonder where she would fall on the spectrum of introversion-extroversion. Now that she’s a bit older (almost 5!!) I’m starting to discover the answer to that. Turns out she’s a lot like her father. She is outgoing, but still needs that alone time to recharge her batteries. 

This past weekend was an excellent example of how that works in our family. Thursday we went to the zoo for dinner with two families. Friday night we drove several towns over to have dinner with another friend’s family. Saturday we were out and about running errands and then went swimming at Grandpa Tom’s house, then dinner at another friend’s house. Sunday we went to a birthday party in Napa. I knew in planning this that I would be fried by the end of the weekend and I suspected Cam would be too.

Friday night ended in tears as we left our friend’s house. Cam didn’t want to leave because she was having fun. While she loves to play, she’s usually pretty willing to leave when it’s time. She has never been the kid you have to pry away from something kicking and screaming. The tears were the first sign. Saturday night dissolved in lots of tears and opposition. Sunday was a lot of the same. By Sunday there was a lot of asking if we were “there yet”, another behavior we rarely see, and yet more tears and clinginess. 

I knew when I planned the weekend it was going to be too much and I was right. I usually limit us to one “event” per weekend or every few days. I don’t think we had much choice this weekend though (many of these dates were the only ones that worked). I do think I could have been better about making sure we had breaks between activities and got to bed earlier. My husband was frustrated with Cam and I was too, but we also knew her brain was just overwhelmed and wasn’t getting what it needed to recharge. This meant lots of hugs and cuddles even though we weren’t really feeling cuddly. Thankfully, because I was just as spent I knew exactly how Cam felt. 

I guess my point in writing this is a reminder to parents to consider how your child needs structure and downtime. We all need to be sure they got enough sleep, ate recently, and aren’t getting overstimulated. But don’t forget the power of their personality in the equation when you start seeing difficult behavior. 

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