How many friends did you have as a kid? The answer depends on whether you were an extrovert or introvert. I was most definitely an introvert. At any point in my childhood I usually had one or two close friends and my friends and I were always suspicious of the other kids at school who moved in packs. We sneered at the jocks and cheerleaders and other generally extroverted types who went to parties and seemed far cooler than us. But I had no desire to be like those other kids. While this society looks down on introverts, I was happy to be somewhat of a loner and outsider.Now that I have my own kids I see it all differently. While my husband and I were both pretty introverted as kids we both have extroverted siblings which must be why my son is so extroverted. He was born with an intense need to be surrounded by other people. He had a hard time doing anything alone whether it was sleeping through the night or watching a tv show. We would walk down the street together when he was a toddler and he would tug at my hand if he spotted another kid across the street anxious to meet them. I’d have to hide my shyness and make an effort to be friendly. He’s changed a bit now that he’s older and he doesn’t go up to total strangers like he did as a little kid, but his essential core is the same and I love that he has a big group of friends he plays with every day.My daughter, on the other hand, is the complete opposite of my son and I worry about her more. There was a time when my kids were little and they spotted a stranger across the street. My 4 year old daughter looked at the stranger and said, “I’m afraid of that person” and my 6 year old son turned to her dumbfounded and said, “Why would you be afraid of another person?!” But the great thing about my daughter is that she loves to be alone which can be really handy for a parent who doesn’t want to spend every second of every day entertaining young children. Now as a 7 year old she’ll squirrel away in her room and I’ll often find her sitting on her bed reading a book. She’s been known to quietly get on youtube to try and learn Russian or find some spells to turn herself into a mermaid. At one point we had numerous little notebooks lying around the house filled with various mermaid spells she had copied off the internet.But while I know that my daughter is an introvert, I worry when she comes home from school and tells me that she sat by herself at lunch or that she can only think of two friends to invite to her birthday. One little girl she knows can be a bit of a bully to her and I think sometimes she endures the bullying because she is her only good friend.Knowing that this society values the qualities of the extrovert much more than those of the introvert I worry about my daughter making her way in the world. The good thing is that I think these personality traits are ultimately very malleable —- I don’t think of myself being as withdrawn as I was as a child. I want my daughter to grow and make more friends as much as I want my son to be able to sit in a quiet place and read a book by himself in his room alone.
This story has been contributed by one of our regular contributor’s to chatoveracuppa. She is a mother of two and lives in California.