I like to think I’m both an introvert and an extrovert. But when push comes to shove I’m way more extroverted. And while I cherish my alone time, the major moments in my life don’t feel real until I’ve shared them with my people.
So it’s not always easy, and certainly not intuitive, for me to raise a dyed-in-the-wool introvert. More than just introverted, Peanut is shy and she is sensitive. All three are different characteristics, surprisingly:
Introvert: a person who fills herself up by being alone
Shy: bashful or shrinks away from large social settings
Sensitive: Readily effected by external influences
I find myself censoring a lot of the things I could say to my sweet, sensitive girl. I get quickly frustrated with her reticence in social situations. My lack of awareness and parenting skills in this area could make it easy for me to just want her to be different. Or more specifically – want her to be more like me. I have to be really, really careful or else the words are on my lips before I can successfully choke them back:
“Why can’t you introduce yourself to the other kids on the playground if you want to play with them?”
“You have to stand up for yourself and tell people you want a turn. Don’t just wait there and hope it happens.”
“You don’t have to wait for someone to want to play with you. Just get out there and have fun!”
Gratefully, I haven’t said most of these things. Instead, I just sit on the sidelines and worry. Worry that she’s going to get walked on. Worry that she’s going to be lonely. Worry that she won’t be okay.
I believe that Peanut has social skills she needs to learn. I mean – duh – she’s five. And by the way? Even I have social skills that need some polishing (I know. I know. You’re shocked). Like me, Peanut will learn her lessons at her own pace. And she will become exactly who she is meant to be. That I believe.
I also believe that when we are blessed with loving, sensitive kids their feelings get hurt. The world can be a painful, scary place and just because my kid is seeing and feeling that doesn’t mean that there is something to be fixed. It means that she is experiencing her own reality. And as I back off and let that happen, I can also provide her a soft place to land.
While Peanut has lessons headed her way to assert herself (or not), I feel like I’ve got my own lessons to learn. Raising a kid who is your inverse can be an uncomfortable experience – uncomfortable in the sense that it challenges me to accept situations that I haven’t experienced often.
So how can I demonstrate to my cherished girl that I see her for who she is? What can I do to show her that I get it? That I celebrate her loving heart, her shy sensibility, her need to hide every once in a while?
The answer came to me shortly before my weekend home alone. I would build her a secret hideaway.
I started a “Peanut’s bedroom” board on Pinterest to gather ideas. I had little time and next to no budget, so I settled for a canopy over her bed (to hide in her room) and a hideaway reading nook in her closet.
Click on the picture to find the instructions I followed to I create a fabulous pillow mattress:
After hitting Bed Bath and Beyond for a twin duvet on super duper clearance, I spent my first solo night sewing up a storm.
A few hours later, I had my pillow mattress.
The best part? I sent a pic of it to my friend Jodi who totally thought I’d bought it at a store. Score.
I cleared out Peanut’s closet and installed a shower curtain and some icicle lights and Voila! Secret Hideaway Reeding Nook magic ensued…
And the full effect, with the canopy…
Peanut was pretty excited when she got home. She has spent several quality hours in her new hideaway since then. I’ll admit that her glee at my surprise was pretty rewarding.
While I’m glad that she is enjoying the reading nook (even though it’s been more of an iPad nook than anything else), what feels best to me is knowing that I’ve done something to embrace who she is today.
I’ve reminded myself again that I’ve got the kid I need. And I need to actively love and accept the kid I’ve got.
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