So as it has become apparent as Cole gets older that he has inherited my shyness, I had to do some real soul-searching as to how to handle it. Should I try to force or train him out of it? What strategies can I use to help him cope with everyday things that might be hard for him? Where is the balance between encouraging him to use good manners and respecting his natural tendencies?
What really brought this to my attention was a conversation with an acquaintance. While chatting about our children, she mentioned something about Cole's lack of social skills and how he should attend preschool sooner rather than later to improve his social ability. Now, her child is outgoing and gregarious, rarely feeling shy - he doesn't have much in common with my sensitive, introverted and shy child. But I instantly felt my inner mama dragon rear up; how dare she suggest my boy is lacking in social skills? Yes, he takes a while to warm up to people, even people he knows well. Yes, he often doesn't speak around people. Yes, he will spend more time observing a situation than participating in a situation.
But that absolutely does not mean that he is in any way lacking.
How dare someone insinuate that because my child is shy (read: different) that there is something wrong with him, something that needs to be fixed.
As a parent of a shy child, I had to let go of some things. I knew some of the experiences I had envisioned for him in his childhood likely were not going to happen: sitting on Santa's lap, easily playing with strange children at the playground, participating in extra-curricular activities, speaking clearly and maturely to strange adults, making new friends easily. It's a little sad to me to realize that even some of our closest friends might never see Cole as we see him - funny, energetic, quick to laugh and be joyful. Cole is cautious in the best of situations - in strange and new situations, he needs to observe and practice before participating. At birthday parties and other gatherings, he is often quite content to sit on the sidelines, watching rather than participating. Even though I know he'd have a wonderful time if he'd just go out and participate, I will never force him to. I trust that he knows exactly what he needs to do to have a good time, and if that means sitting and watching the whole time, I am 100% ok with that. I have faith that my son knows how to have a good time without me forcing him to do anything he's not comfortable with.
And as I let go of some of my expectations, I gained a new appreciation for my son and how amazing he is. How God created him just as he is for a reason - who am I to try to change his personality or force him to be someone he's not?
I love and cherish my son for exactly who he is; I am sensitive to his specific needs and personality. I love that he is unique. I value his quietness, his empathy toward others, his questioning mind, his incredible attention span, his willingness to follow directions. He gives hugs and kisses to comfort; he is loving and tender, a little motherly toward others; he is a follower during playtime, not a leader. I view his shyness - indeed, his personality as a whole - as a good quality, as long as it doesn't rule his life. But it absolutely breaks my heart to think that there are people out there - people who might even call us friends - who don't appreciate and value my son for exactly who he is. I love and value my friends' children who are outgoing, talkative, everything my son isn't - why do I not feel as though my son's uniqueness isn't valued in their eyes?
Fortunately, Cole is not aware that some people might view his personality as lacking - and it is my goal that he will have the self-confidence to see that he is not the problem in this situation. That while he cannot control other's actions toward him, he can control his reactions. And that there are plenty of people who love him exactly as he is, without any changes to his personality.
An amazing friend of mine - whose beautiful child is the polar opposite in personality of mine - once said to me how much she admired Cole's sensitive, shy, and caring personality. "Yes," I said to her, "but you know that even though your daughter is strong-willed, she'll never be led astray from her beliefs. She'll be a strong and wonderful leader."
The world needs all kinds of people. My son is maybe a little different, but he's perfect just the way he is.