Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introvert Mom, Extrovert Kiddo

A while back, I organized a Kids' Fun Run at a local park; we had 13 participants, many of whom the kiddo knows. Of course, she loved meeting the new kids, too. After the run, she got to play with all of them on the play ground for a while, then we headed to her swimming lesson. After that, I let the kiddo play in the pool with the other kids from her lesson. And after that, I put her in the child care at the gym because 2 of her friends were there. Although I had already run, I walked around the track so that she could have (even more) friend time. Then, when we got home, she asked
"Mama, who can I play with?"
The strange pounding sound you heard that day was me banging my head against the wall. 

You see, the kiddo is an extrovert. She thrives on and draws energy from interacting with other people.

On the other hand, I am an introvert. I thrive on and draw energy from solitude. Too much sensory stimulation overloads my brain and depletes my energy.

Let me make this clear: I love my friends and I really do enjoy social interaction. It just wears me out, and I need quiet time to recover, or I get grumpy. The kiddo gets grumpy when she does not get enough social interaction. 

So, on that day, after talking to the mommies, daddies and caretakers who brought their kids out for the Fun Run, talking to people at the pool and at the gym, I wanted needed to reboot. The kiddo, though, was like a junkie coming off a fix, desperately looking for a way to keep the high going. 

OK, maybe that's not fair. The kiddo is who she is, and I love her and would never try to change her. Comparing her to a crack head isn't right...except, any bit of interaction seems to make her crave even more. Maybe putting her in with her buddies at the gym was overkill and I should have known better, but I really thought she would be worn out when we got home and ready for some down time. I mean, she had already run, swam, and played hard. She was one bike ride away from a kiddo triathlon, for crying out loud!

I mentally ran down a list of potential play mates. 13 were kids we had just seen. It would have been awkward if I called up one of those kid's moms to see if they could play, after having just seen them. Hmmm...a handful of the kiddo's friends were on vacation. Their parents weren't going to head back here, no matter how desperately I begged. Then there were the ones in daycare because of their parents' work schedules. I didn't want to risk arrest for trying to wrangle someone else's kid out of day care.

So, I suggested to the kiddo that she read a book. When I was a child, I couldn't wait to escape to a quiet corner and lose myself in a good book. The kiddo loves books, she is a good reader, and gosh, didn't she need to rest? No, she did not. She wailed that she wanted to play with one of her friends.

No, worries. The kiddo has tons of awesome toys. Nope. Nothing was capturing her attention. I tried talking up some of her toys, like Legos. That sparked some interest. Then came the kicker: "Only if you play with them with me, Mama". At that point, I was acting like a junkie desperate for a fix: a moment of silence when the only voice in my head was my own. 

If you are an introvert, you get it. If you are an extrovert, you might not be able to grasp the almost physical need for personal space and quiet. I suppose it would be the same effect if an extrovert were deprived of any kind of social interaction for a while. So, I decided the best approach would be to find a compromise--one that didn't involve letting the kiddo watch T.V. while I chilled. I played with her for a bit, but let her direct the play. As I hoped would happen, she got very involved in what she was doing and ignored me after a while. Then, she switched activities and continued playing on her own! She barely acknowledged me as I crept out and found a book. Of course, that didn't last forever, and she needed her next round of interaction, but by then I was refreshed and ready to go.