I’m an accountant. My husband is a pastor. We would both classify ourselves as “high functioning introverts”. Our collective feelings on group events can be summed up in this t-shirt.
And we want to go home.
Truth, my friends. So much truth.
I grew up in the Baptist church that I still attend to this day. Do you know what Baptists are famous for? Potlucks. No Dancing. And Greeting Time (which I like to refer to as my own personal purgatory). Every Sunday for my entire life I have cringed as our pastor says “Ok, y’all. You go on and stand and greet others around you.” Cue awkward standing, spinning and nodding on my part. Sometimes I dig through my purse to avoid eye contact. I always curse the chosen song used during greeting time and wonder why they always have to pick one that takes forever to finish.
If I had a mantra to describe my life, it would be something along the lines of: Good with numbers, bad with people.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
One thing I never really considered when we decided to start a family was the fact that our kids may be very different from myself or my husband when it comes to their unique personalities. I am introverted, detail oriented, organized, controlling and a people pleaser. (I sound lovely, don’t I?) He is introverted, patient, kind, gentle, and servant hearted. (I married up. Way up.) I assumed our children would have a varying range of personalities with one overarching theme: they would be introverted. Even though my husband and I are very different, that is one of our main similarities, so I assumed it would carry down to our kiddos.
Then we met our oldest, B.
B was five when she came to live with us, and she is a precious, kind little girl who is a phenomenal big sister. She is beautiful. She is unbelievable bossy. She is considerate of others’ feelings. She is a control freak. She is overly emotional. She is eager to please. And, much to my surprise, she is an extrovert.
Not long after she came to live with us I realized that if I never again heard the question, “So, where are we going today?” it would be too soon. It did not matter where we had already been, how many activities we had already done, how many friends we had already seen, the question continued. Over and over and over. “So, where are we going today?”
If I’m being honest, it drove me absolutely crazy. I took it as a personal offense. Every time I heard the innocent question my mind said “You are not good enough for her. She isn’t happy here. She will never be happy here. No matter how much you give her it will never be enough.”
It wasn’t until I was eating lunch with B at school one day that I experienced a fundamental shift in my thinking. As we walked back down the hall together to get something from her classroom, we passed other kids, some in older grades, and every one of them seemed to know who B was.
“Hi B!” “Hey B, is that your mom?” “B! Hey! See you on the playground!”
Who were all of these children who knew my daughter? She had only lived in this town for a short amount of time and had only been going to this school for a month or two. When I mentioned to her teacher later how friendly the other kids seemed she laughed at me.
“It’s not them, it’s B. Everyone knows her. She goes out of her way to be friends with everyone. I swear if we had Homecoming Queen in kindergarten she would win in a land slide.”
That’s when I realized. My daughter is good with people. Even more importantly, that’s when I realized that B needs this interaction with others just as I need my alone time to be refreshed.
This realization changed my perspective on her constant inquiries about activities. I started to realize that part of motherhood would be catering to the personality types of my children that I may know nothing about. Even if I wanted to change her into an introvert I couldn’t and it’s exciting to me to see my sweet girl excelling at something that I myself have always struggled through.
So, how does an introvert raise an extrovert? Like most aspects of parenting, there’s a lot of compromise. It means play dates and activities and social interaction for her, with the understanding that sometimes, when we get home, Mama will need to sit and read her book undisturbed for a little bit to recharge. It means I eat lunch at her school and meet all of her little friends, that I embrace her pride in introducing them to me and praise her for being so kind to so many people. It means her constant desire for “somewhere to go” doesn’t have to be taken as an offense, and I can use it as an opportunity to make sure she knows how much I love her and how important meeting her needs is to me.
My sweet B has lived a life that has taught her the hard way that people cannot be trusted. What is so beautiful to me is that this has not diminished her love for others. She is outgoing when meeting new people. She goes out of her way to include other kids in her play. She willingly gives her heart to people who show her kindness. It would be completely understandable if she was unable to form healthy relationships given the nature of her past, but she doesn’t let her beginning cripple her present.
Each Sunday I watch B during greeting time, as she takes off down the aisles, waves to people she recognizes, hugs close friends and introduces herself with a smile and a handshake to those with unfamiliar faces. As I see people charmed by her personality and kindness, my little extrovert inspires her introverted mama. I am so proud that she is mine and I am hers.
Emily is an accountant married to a pastor and lives in Central Texas. She is an instant mom to 3 beautiful foster children who will become a permanent part of her family through adoption in the fall of 2015. Emily can often be found in her local library, nose in a novel, while her children play. She loves numbers, motherhood, boy bands and discounted holiday candy. Find her on instagram @emfaith