Is shyness inherited? Is introversion? Or is it a learned behaviour?
We were at the playground the other day. I have no idea how to deal with other people’s children – how to talk to them or interact in any basic way. This was one of the main reasons that put me off having my own children – I was worried if I’d be able to communicate or spend all my days being flummoxed by basic details. Luckily I’ve found E easy to talk to and deal with but I still can’t apply that behaviour to other children.
E loves the playground if we’re there alone or if there are only a couple of other children, but that day we were suddenly swamped. She was clambering up the steps to the mini slide when another child climbed up the other side and went down the slide. She started to look upset and reached for me. I immediately recognised the retreating into herself to find what she was comfortable with as something that I do when faced with bolshy strangers. I’ve always wanted to be the person who comes back with a witty put down but in reality I won’t have thought of it till about three days later.
Our other problem came just after this. I’d left her scooter to one side as I helped her up the steps and an older boy came up and started to ride it. In principle I don’t mind – we weren’t using it at the time, I’d like to look like a sharer and to show E how to share her toys but he didn’t even ask and I was rather cross. His parents were the other side of the playground and not paying attention and I thought it looked rather churlish to make him come off it when E would rather play on the slide but still. In the end, he didn’t do any harm and gave it back when I asked for it as we left but I still felt hopeless. E was pretty unhappy with the others there so we went to another area where she could practise her balancing on wooden planks instead.
E mixes with other children of all ages at nursery. As I left her there the other day, she was being given a fire engine to play with by one of the slightly bigger boys and she seemed happy enough. Like her introverted mother, she’s happy with the people she knows. And she is happier in general talking to strange adults – waving to people in coffee shops or in shops, for example, though sometimes she goes all shy. But it’s mainly other children she’s wary of and I find it rather interesting to observe without being able to offer much help.
As a child it was my sister who was able to meet people and make friends more easily than me, so I may send her to Auntie C’s for a while to pick up tips. Or I may just celebrate that she seems to be an introvert and she has a valid place in the world, just a quieter one.