The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fazed by a phase

I started an entry about half an hour ago about my current worries about Julia, about my fears that she's got a deep-seated unhappiness that will always be at her core and my panic that she'll never truly be happy in life. I started to write about how she's always the odd man out, how she literally walks away the second there is any conflict around her, how her preschool teacher says that it sometimes seems like Julia's watching a television show rather than really getting engaged with the class. I planned to talk about how she's funny and vivacious and downright bossy at home but so painfully shy in public that she can hardly smile at another person, about how I'm afraid that the world will never see her as she is when she's relaxed and happy, about how I fear that she'll never really be relaxed and happy. I was going to obsess in a major way.

Then I got interrupted by a phone call from a friend whose daughter is less than a week older than Julia. While we were talking, she lamented about how her daughter freaks out in unfamiliar places and how birthday parties and playdates at other people's houses are torture these days. And I started thinking about the friend we had a playdate with this morning, who got put in timeout 4 or 5 times in the less than 2 hours we were there, refused to share a single thing with anyone else and spent a good portion of the playdate stark naked. And I was casually skimming the web while I spoke to this friend and saw a post on a discussion board for parents of kids Julia's age from a woman who was complaining about how in the past week, her daughter had destroyed the hallway carpeting with red marker, the dining room chairs with purple crayon and her bedroom carpeting with lotion. And I hung up the phone and deleted my entire entry.

It's possible that Julia *will* be unhappy all of her life, that her behavior now *is* indicative of social and emotional issue she'll grapple with her whole life. I'll no doubt continue to worry that this is the case until I'm proven wrong. But it's also possible that she's just 3. And 3, my friends, is a very hard age. 3 is not a good age for facing the world, and though I don't know any other children who are dealing with things quite the way Julia is, I don't know a single 3 year old who's got it all together, either. Odds are pretty good that Yael will get more comfortable at people's houses and Jessica won't go to kindergarten naked and Alex will eventually learn to use paper rather than walls to express her artistic side. So it would be myopically obsessive of me not to presume that Julia will outgrow this phase as well.

Bottom line, yeah, Julia's in a painfully shy phase right now, but I'm in a painfully obsessive phase at the same time and the combination sucks. All I can do is hope that we both outgrow them soon.


At 11:15 AM, Anonymous Joy said...

Hi Rebecca – I’ve read your posts about Julia being shy and I had to respond. I found them interesting because I can relate to being the parent and seeing shyness in your child AND being the shy individual.

I was extremely shy as a child. I have to say that while it is by no means "fun" to be so shy, it is not all gloom and doom either. If there was something I really wanted, I was able to go for it despite the shyness. Sure I was nervous about it, but not to the point of inaction. I made friends, I joined clubs, I went to college 300 miles from home where I did not know a single person, I was able to hold conversations with just about anyone, I dated and married.

It has become easier to participate more as I've grown older, but at times, I can still be quite shy. I much prefer to sit back and watch and I am still enjoying whatever I'm doing even if I'm not right-in-there participating. You know, being shy can actually come in handy at times. We shy ones become excellent listeners and we always think before we speak so we almost never put our feet in our mouths :-)

I guess what I’m trying to say is, while I know you are worried, try not to worry quite so much. As long as Julia is “normal” at home and with people she knows and feels comfortable with, it will be fine. I’ve noticed there are a lot of three year olds that hang back and take the cautious route. My own daughter is that way. At the playground, other kids will go up to her and ask if she wants to play and she almost always says no. Yet at dance class when the class is over and the teacher plays the Barney song and all the little girls give each other a hug, Lauren does it too. And when she goes to a friend’s house, she might take a little while to warm up, but then she will play with the other child. A daycare/preschool has a lot of people and a lot of activity which can bring out the shyness and/or make it more noticeable, so it could be the time and place. It has only been the last three or four months (she turned 3 in August) that Lauren has been a bit less shy. Julia may surprise you yet.

I know it’s hard to see your child as shy. It’s hard to see them that way when you can understand what it’s like, so I’m sure it’s that much more difficult when you can’t. I just wanted to try to let you know that it doesn’t mean she will lead a life of being walked all over or not getting the things that she wants.



At 2:07 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Wow. Joy has said all the good stuff.

So, I'll just say this: So, you think being naked for three-quarters of a play-date is something to worry about?! I find it rather charming ;-) It's when I glance up in a public children's museum and find my daughter stripped to her underwear that I really begin to wonder...

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Joy, thank you so much for your thoughtful and insightful comments (I'd reply to you directly if I could figure out how, but despite Kristy's best efforts to teach me, I remain Blogger-challenged, so I hope you find this message here).

I know objectively that shyness is not in and of itself a bad thing (and I gotta say, I really envy the foot-not-in-mouth factor, since I always seem to be gagging on mine). Intellectually, I understand that while I draw my strength from people, Julia draws hers from solitude and I think that's OK and actually kind of neat. But it remains hard for me to see my daughter in situations that I know would make *me* unhappy and to acknowledge that she might actually be perfectly content. Thanks for the reminder -- I'm grateful. And thanks for letting me know how it really felt -- something I'm afraid I'll never really understand for myself. I hope Julia can grow up to be as comfortable in her own skin as you are.

And Kristy, speaking of being comfortable in your own skin, I love the image of Zoe galavanting around a museum in her panties. There was a little boy at Tot Shabbat last weekend who apparently felt a similar need to be free and removed his pants altogether. There he was, streaking through the synagouge with all that God gave him flapping in the breeze. Like you, I found it charming. His mother, less so. :)



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