I’m an introvert.
Not in a fake, “I like to spend time alone now and then” way. In a genuine, “social situations scare the crap out of me, and I generally prefer to be alone” way.
It shouldn’t have surprised me to see Miss O having some of those same traits, but it did. It surprised me when she clung to me in social situations and buried her face in my shoulder when a stranger so much as looked at her.
On the other hand, once allowed to get comfortable, she’s a very social child. She can talk up a storm and fits right in with Mr O’s more boisterous family. She loves to spend time with people (she trusts) and is constantly wanting to invite people over.
She’s not an introvert. She’s sensitive.
There’s some overlap between the 2 “conditions” (for lack of a better word). We both have a hard time adjusting to new people, and an even harder time truly trusting someone. We both need breaks from big social events like parties. We both find crowds overwhelming and think home is just about the best place on earth.
But sensitive children have other areas of difficulty, too. They have a hard time expressing feelings and do not handle being corrected well. Because they internalize everything, saying sorry can be a struggle.
When raising a sensitive child it can be tough to know when to stand firm and when to give her a little wiggle room. You don’t want to raise a kid who can’t deal with the real world, but you want to be supportive and help her, not shut her down.
There are some things we’ve decided are musts, and we will push back on.
Saying hello and goodbye to friends and family members she knows. This is a common courtesy and we just expect at this point (age 4). With strangers we’re more flexible, but being tired, grumpy, etc. are not reasons to be rude.
Walking on her own to places she knows. When Miss O starts to feel a little ooky about a situation she immediately asks to be carried. Again, in unfamiliar places that’s fine. But when we’re going to school or someone’s home she’s been to many times, she walks in. I’ll hold her hand, but she’s expected to carry herself.
Saying sorry. Sometimes this is no big deal, sometimes it’s an hour-long ordeal that involves tears, tantrums, pouting, and multiple talks. However, saying sorry is important to not only the person on the other end, but the person saying sorry.
Most of the time, however, we don’t deal in absolutes. Every situation has to be evaluated on its own.
Miss O had talked for months about taking dance lessons. She even told people all about her dance teacher before we even signed her up.
So I finally bit the bullet and signed her up for Pre-Dance, where they teach a little bit of tap, ballet and jazz. I got her the leotard and the shoes and the tights… we were all set. I picked her up and she was soooooo excited.
And then we got to the dance studio.
We were running a little late because Google maps had an old address and took us there. Late is not good for a sensitive child. They don’t like to be rushed, they like to feel things out and ease into them.
She walked into class and found 12 unfamiliar kid faces staring at her, and 2 unfamiliar teacher faces. Again. Not good.
Parents aren’t allowed to watch classes (I have plenty of ideas why, but I won’t go there), so I walked her in, sat her down and left. Bad.
Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.
An hour later little girls in pastel came pouring out of the room. No Miss O. I went in to get her and found she’d sat herself on the bench and watched the whole class with her, “I’m not really here” face on. She hadn’t danced a step and burst into tears when she saw me.
The studio owner was fantastic. She talked to Miss O, got her smiling, and introduced her to another little girl in her class so she’d know someone next time.
The next week we got there early so she could meet the other girls… but the same thing happened. And it happened again the next week.
I was just about to give up when I decided to ask one question; Would you like to go to a dance class with one of your friends? You see, another mom at her school told me that her daughter also took Pre-Dance at the same school, just on a different night. Her face lit up. The tears that were rolling down her cheeks cleared up and she started chattering away about how much fun she was going to have with her friend.
The next week, on our new night, we arrived early and found her friend in the lobby having a snack. You may have heard her scream of delight from wherever you were because it was earth shattering. She and her friend had a picnic on the floor and as each child arrived my daughter, the one who hadn’t said a single thing to anyone inside this building in 3 weeks, introduced herself to everyone, including the parents.
It was a thing of beauty.
It took a lot of patience and trial and error, and some very kind understanding people to get my sensitive child to where she needed to be. But now she loves dance class and can’t wait to go. The studio owner didn’t recognize her in this new class because she had literally flipped a light on inside.
If you’re raising a sensitive child, it can be trying. It can be disappointing. It can be frustrating. But it’s truly magical when you find something or someone that makes them shine.