Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Shy boy, my boy

What do you do to try and motivate him? Graham’s babysitter asked me a few weeks back.

“The children were outside playing all afternoon and he just stood on the sidelines for two hours watching them.”

“Graham was too afraid to join in. He’s so shy.”

I am not afraid and I am not shy.

But for perhaps the first time, the image of my Graham, stuck on the sidelines as a result of insecurity and fear rendered me both speechless and scared.

Graham is not shy at home. Graham is a pistol at home. Our house is filled with his happy chatter, his shrieking laughter, his boundless energy.

But outside the confines of our home Graham is different. He clings to me. He buries his face in my leg when people first speak to him. He watches others intently, but seems disconcerted by groups of children that are large or loud or rowdy. He warms up to people slowly and on an individual level.

This is strange for me, being as I am, a bit of a loudmouth. As a child, shockingly enough, I had a tendency to be just a teensy bit bossy. As an adult, I am a big believer in the “fake it ‘til you make it” school of thought.

Not sure you can pull off that bikini? Stand up straight, suck in your stomach and act like you were made to wear it. Worried that everyone at the party is way cooler than you? Crack lots of one-liners and if anyone rolls their eyes, tell yourself it’s because they’re jealous of your quick wit.

It’s called confidence and long before Graham was born I figured out it is probably the single most important attribute a person can possess.

If you have confidence, the world is your oyster. If you believe that you can do something, you can. If you believe you have something to offer people, they will believe that too.

"Graham was too afraid to join in."

Rob was a shy child – painfully so apparently. He vividly remembers being petrified to speak in the presence of his parents’ friends.

But Rob is not a shy adult. He’s never been the guy at the bar cracking wise and leading sing-a-longs, but he has strong opinions and he’s not afraid to speak his mind. He used to say to me “I don’t know how you ended up with me – girls like you usually get scooped up by the loud, flashy guys.”

I know what he means. It was several years before I looked past the loud, flashy guys and recognized the charms of the quieter, more thoughtful ones.

And I’m so glad that I did.

But I’m still scared.

I’m scared that the flashy guys, the loud guys will scoop away important prospects from my shy, precious boy.

I’m scared that wonderful women, potential lifelong friends and valuable business opportunities will pass him by because a lot of people these days don’t take the time to slow down and appreciate the strength and charm of a quieter, more introspective soul.

I can’t help but be scared that Graham may not fully experience all the awesome opportunities life has to offer because he may be too shy to seize them for himself

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61 comments:

BlondeMomBlog (Jamie) said...

My oldest girl has shy tendencies, but is not painfully shy. My youngest was actually introducing herself to strangers on Halloween night (at age 2 1/2).

I'd love to know what brought Rob out of his shell. Maybe the two of you can work together to help Graham break out of his.

I love that photo of him!

Lori said...

he may surprise you yet. As a kindergarten teacher I had a knack of getting kids out of their shell. One thing that often helps is finding them a close friend or group of friends who will engage Graham in their activities. Give him time, and if he remains as a quiet/shy guy just know that you fell in love with a man with the same qualities and how loving and caring these people can be

Kbreints said...

My Henry is one to stand and over see what is going on before jumping in. I actually think that he is not afraid-- but more shy. He will grow out of it and so will yours.

Once Henry is aware of his suroundings he is fine and jumps in to play. The first commenter was right-- once henry found a best bud at school he came right out of his shell...

April said...

But the people who are worth knowing will take the time to get to know him, even if he remains someone that keeps it all close to the vest.
Obviously, he has a mother & father who are encouraging him to be a kind and loving person. That's WAY better than raising a loud, flashy guy who doesn't really care about people!

Becky said...

He'll find his own way, and maybe he'll grow out of it.

He's gorgeous, dude. Seriously adorable. I want to reach through the computer and squeeze his cheeks.

skiplovey said...

I wouldn't worry too much about it quite yet. He very well could change.

I was very shy as a kid, it wasn't until high school that I figured out how to be more outgoing. If you met me now you'd never know that I'd been a shy kid.

LoriD said...

You could easily be describing my oldest girl, who is now 7. Except, I don't think she's lacking in confidence. She's definitely quiet (barely speaks above a whisper at school) and most certainly tentative in a new situation, but she cheerfully joins teams, accepts playdates, recently performed in her school's opera and generally enjoys life.

Quiet is GOOD! He'll probably do well in school because he's a good listener. He'll fall into a good group of friends who are less reckless and more thoughtful. You know your boy. If you think he's feeling anxiety at the babysitter's, that's something you should check out. If you think he was just enjoying watching the other kids, there's nothing wrong with that. Maybe tomorrow he'll feel better about joining in because of all the observations he made today.

Girl said...

That's my Phatboy. And I like it thank you. He's not lacking confidence or anything else, that's just how he is and what makes him well him.

Personally sounds like her issue, not his. I don't mean that as cold as it reads though... you know that kiddo better then anyone.

Are You Serious! said...

♥ I think that's every mothers fear weather it's their child being too shy or way too outgoing that they frighten you by how easily they talk to strangers! It's such a fine line!

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

Nothing you can do about it, just love him lots and don't push him too much. Follow your husband's judgment on how much to push him when he is older. My 2 oldest boys were painfully shy, to the point of embarrassing me. The oldest is now working at the job he went out and got for himself, and I can see him turning into a quiet, capable, sure-of-himself man. The next one is just starting to come out of his shell and look around him, and it's a wonderful thing to see.

The girls who would look past your son are not worthy of him. He'll get the one who deserves him.

Stomper Girl said...

Apparently shyness is genetic - but I was painfully shy genetically and now I'm a confident adult, so you can grow out of it. I'm sure with a confident, articulate mother like yourself your little shy boy will be fine; we mothers have great influence!

Someone Being Me said...

I was an extremely shy child and I still fight it to this day. It has been a constant struggle. I already see it in Bear too.

Mandy said...

My oldest son Nate is just as you describe Graham. To a 'T'. And my husband said he was just like that as a kid too. You'd never know it now, as my hubby is the loud, joke cracking, life of the party guy. He said he learned at 10, through observation, that loud people get rewarded positively. So he made a conscious effort to change.

I feel your pain, because my heart aches for my shy child. But I have to believe that he will grow and evolve (perhaps to be the life of the party, perhaps not) and be comfortable in his own skin.

Yvette said...

Never being a shy one, myself, I'm not sure I have anything to offer you here...

Seems like he's like his daddy - meaning he will grow out of it.

In the meantime, maybe Rob can offer some advice??

Take Care.
Yvette

Heather said...

I was, and still am, quiet. I wasn't quiet until my family moved to the midwest and the kids made fun of my NY accent, but that tendency to not talk has stuck with me. Although it depends on the situation.

Anyway, my son was cautious up until he turned 3. Now I'd call him exhuberant. It may just be Graham's age.

But if it isn't, don't you worry about him losing out on prospects...especially not women. I'm willing to bet that the ones who take the time to see him for who he is will be the best ones. Besides, I think a strong, silent man is quite intriguing to many women.

Karen MEG said...

Graham is still young and may always be on the quiet side ... but may not. He'll come into his own, once he gains confidence in his surroundings, makes more friends. He's a cutie, girls will notice, don't you worry, and not of course, just for his looks.

He's got his parents to guide him and his personality will continue to develop. But it's natural to worry.

I was painfully shy as a kid ... so much so I wouldn't even respond when attendance was called. I still consider myself quiet, introspective and reserved, but most people I meet nowadays don't see that at all. Go figure!

jakelliesmom said...

My boy is similar to yours, not quite the same but similar. We do a lot to encourage his participation while not dismissing his careful observation of the world. His approach to the world is much more cautious than a lot of kids, but it is also one of his strengths.

I could go on for days and days. It gets easier. We keep trying. He is still himself and I will never cease to worry.

tricki_nicki said...

I have two words for you: Bill Gates. He's not loud and flashy or extroverted. But he's the richest man on the planet and has an AMAZING wife.

The guys who run Google went to Montessori school together and seem very quiet and introspective.

My hubs is quiet too, and while I'm loud and flashy, I love everything about him. Even if he's not loud and flashy, your boy is definitely cute he'll do great in that department! (I'm loud, flashy AND shallow!)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

You have to find that balance between encouraging and pushing.

I firmly believe that you can't change someone's basic personality traits, but parenting can effect the degree to which a certain behavior manifests itself.

shay said...

He is so heart wrenchingly cute!

My boys both needed lots of time to "warm up" and both preferred to watch as toddlers unless they were in our own home with their friends (and with me). Now at 13 and 10 they are not afraid of much. Let him go at his own pace and he'll be just fine:)

Family Adventure said...

He is young still, it is too early to tell whether he'll be shy or not. Also, don't forget that at home he is the centre of attention, he's not used to have to 'join' in. That takes practice. I bet you a lot will change between now and a year from now, and once he starts kindergarten, he may be the life of the party.

But even if he isn't - look at Rob! He succeeded despite being shy, and there is no reason why Graham wouldn't also be able to.

Heidi

Trudie said...

Love him lots, don't push him too much - let him develop at his own speed. When he's good and ready he'll join in the games and everything else. Lori, the kindergarten teacher who wrote, has the right approach - one good friend or a small group might do the trick, However, I wouldn't view this as a major failure on your part or on Grahams for that matter!
Sometimes I wish daycare personnel wouldn't be in such a hurry to point out every little discrepancy in the developmental curves of their charges.
Just to mention two examples:
A slightly older child who reverses a letter in his own name is called dyslectic by a well-meaning but ill-informed preschool teacher.
OR - my favorite:
A little boy wrote 'oooM' to illustrate how a cow sounds. Several preschool teachers developed worry lines over this one - until they realised that he only wrote this when the cow was facing to the right... Because with a child's perfect logic he wrote the letters in Mooo in the order they'd come from the mouth of the cow.

Thursday said...

The loud, flashy guys clearly didn't scoop away important opportunities from Rob - I doubt they will from Graham either. I was the tall, loud, blonde when I was younger, my best friend was small and painfully shy. She's gone on to achieve far, far more than I have. Worry not.

Reluctant Housewife said...

I was shy as a kid too... I turned out okay (at least I think so). He'll figure it out, I'm sure.

OHmommy said...

You guys are awesome people.... he will figure it out. I found that my son was shy for some time until his language completely developed. I bought RAISING CONFIDENT SONS and took a lot out of that book.

OHmommy said...

You guys are awesome people.... he will figure it out. I found that my son was shy for some time until his language completely developed. I bought RAISING CONFIDENT SONS and took a lot out of that book.

oda41143 Missy said...

my alexus was an extremely shy little girl, school brought her out of it. you have to leat him deal with this in his own way. pressuring him to not be shy will only make things worse. my opinion, of course.

Kimmylyn said...

I could have written this post. I too have a shy son outside the home, but inside the home he is animated and full of life.

What really gets me is when outsiders will say "oh, he is such a shy boy" or even relatives will say "why is he so shy". I don't want him to associated with the term. I want him to find the beat of his own path.. and I am sure in time that will come..

As I am sure it will with Graham... but it does not stop me from worrying like you.

mamatulip said...

Oh, this post is so fraught with emotion, Kelly. It makes me want to wrap my arms around you. And Graham.

Oh, and what the heck. Rob too. :)

Honestly - I do think that for a lot of kids, shyness is a phase they go through. I know there are kids who are painfully shy, and that lasts a while, but while I would never classify either of my kids as shy, there are certain situations where they completely clam up. I think, like others have said, that Graham will find his path and go to town on it.

Jenifer said...

He is really so young and maybe this is something he will grow out of as he becomes bigger he will become more confident.

There are so many bloggers I read with shy kids and everyone has a different strategy for how to help their kids. I think it will be finding the best way to coax him out a bit without overwhelming him.

You and your hubby are living proof that it only takes one person to slow down for something wonderful to develop. Graham will find his path and no doubt will find many wonderful people to accompany him along the way.

It is natural to worry and project that forward, but really he seems like quite a well adjusted and happy kid and doing just fine.

Heather said...

Both my sons tend to be stand off to the side, observers. But I don't want to label them as shy, because once they join in they are the life of the party. Jack isn't shy, but he heard people saying he was and then labeled himself that for weeks, taking himself out of situations because he was convinced he was too shy to join in. They just like to observe, get to know the situation, and make themselves comfortable before they join in.

InTheFastLane said...

We have a mix of shy and outgoing personalities in our family. I often forget how shy our oldest is, but she does just fine. Graham is at a hard age too, were there is a big difference between those that need to wait and those that are willing to jump right in. Keep encouraging, but let him find his way.

Mental P Mama said...

Don't be scared. Both of my children were cautious babies and pre-schoolers. They still prefer to study a situation a bit before joining in. They are almost 17, and this trait has served them well these last few years...

Mamafabulosity said...

I'm sure with your example to follow he will break out of his shyness. However, if he doesn't it'll be okay. He seems like such a smart boy and he will figure out how to get what he wants despite his shyness. Besides what girl could pass up such a cute face!

Lulu said...

He'll be fine - he'll be sweet as pie as an adult man, and will have to shake the women off with a stick.

Blessings From Above said...

Great post!

I wouldn't worry to much (easier said then done). Graham is young and his personality is still developing. In kindergarten my daughter was so shy she was given a poor grade in music, because she was to shy to even partipate during class. Now she is in second grade, and she recently received a leadership award at school.

Mary said...

Great post! I totally agree that confidence is one of the most important attributes to have. Some times it just takes a little longer for some to find theirs.
He'll find it.......he will :)

Indy said...

Great post. My son is shy too. I always worry about him. As I finished your blog, your last paragraph touched me. If he is shy he may experience life in a different way. He may miss out on some things but he might find gratification in areas some of us outgoing people miss.

David said...

The truly wonderful women, like yourself, will discover your young man one day. The bravado and macho loud behavior lasts less than 15 minutes in life before the glow of wit and wisdom, and quiet introspective thoughts shine through the load Frat boy's and their yelping.
Nothing will pass him by with two wonderful parents like he has.

Kellan said...

You write the best posts, Kelly!! REally! I have 4 kids that are ALL extroverts an I am amazed. I was a shy child and adult - until I had kids. They brought out the other side of me that was hidden away for so many years. I was, however, always - confident! Always! All of my kids are confident. I am amazed by how similar all my kids are and how they are a bit of me and bit of my husband. It's interesting to see how they are going to make their way in the world - who they are going to be. I think your sweet boy will see the confidence in his mother and father and he will be THAT. You just wait and see.

Have a good evening - nice to see you today. Kellan

Tracey said...

First, hugs, hon. I had a boy that was shy. He would sit on the edge of the playgroup, watching. Just watching until the very end, and then finally start to play as it was time to go... broke my heart. But he just took longer to warm up. And honestly? Now, at 9? He is super social and friendly.

Sometimes the shy ones surprise you. Sometimes taking your time and thinking before you act is the better choice. Graham WILL fully experience life, but it will be HIS life... his choices may be different than yours, but you will teach him to follow his heart, and he will blossom!! Just wait and see...

Cheri said...

The girls will be going crazy for him, you know how they love quiet and thoughtful men. He's a keeper just as he is.

E said...

He's not ready to be in the world is all. Some kids transition womb to world more slowly. They need to expand their boundaries from womb to mommy's bed, to house, to yard and eventually they can add park and school. I have raised every kind and some of them need us more.
I too am raising my husband. My husband is hilarious and brilliant and beautiful...and he has a bit of a negative view. We used to say our youngest son was an existentialist and would probably be reading Camus in the first grade. So we made a bright side chart and talked about looking at the bright side. When he chose the bright side, or even noticed that there was a choice, he got a sticker and ten sunny stickers got a reach into the prize bag. At 12 he is much more positive than his dad and defaults to yes way more than no. Maybe a brave chart could help graham get in the habit of taking those hard steps....
No matter what he is well loved and will find his way with you guys at his side...

Anne said...

I was a very shy little girl. I would not join in with groups and often ended up at the sidelines by default. It effected me socially, but not to the point where I wouldn't join activities (like Girl Scouts, baseball and peewee cheerleading), but I was shy while I was there. I guess I did miss an opportunity or two due to lack of social confidence, but here I am married to a lovely man (who's an extrovert), I have a good job/career and life-long friends. I've noticed that all my good friends (and now my husband) are mostly extroverts. We balance each other out, and in their company I've always been more at ease in social situations.

Momma Mary said...

Thank you for the nice comment! It made my day!

Little Monster isn't shy all of the time, but when he is it astounds me. Even if yours stays shy though, that's who the good girls find eventually! I married a shy guy. :) Because we wise up and grow up faster than the shallow girls! ;-)

katie said...

My 7 year old was like that EXACTLY... he hit 1st grade, and now he gets notes sent home about talking too much. He literally changed overnight.

weird.

Elaine said...

I am not sure if you intended it, but my impression is that you view "shyness" or introversion as something almost pathological - and extroversion (confused as "confidence") as "normal". I see this view expressed a lot, and as an introvert, quite frankly, it bothers me. There are many confident introverts - people who simply don't want to live their lives out there in the chaos and mayhem. When called upon, I can "join in" with the best of them - but it feels like I am a performing monkey, and it is exhausting. It was a skill that I learned as I matured, and I'm sure many other posters who talk about "growing out of shyness" can relate.

Continue to love your son for who he is, not who you want him to be, and help him appreciate his many great qualities. Accept that his personality is different, but not abnormal. Don't pressure him to be social - let him develop it at his own pace.

I am left asking, why is extreme extroversion appreciated and encouraged in our culture, and not viewed as abnormal, unlike extreme introversion?

OHmommy said...

Kelly. Nice quotes on globeandmail. It was a great article.

kittenpie said...

Oh, I don't know. I've never been impressed by the loud and flashy guys - I prefer a solid guy who you can be friends with as well as lovers, and I'm not alone among my friends. I would think it just means that he finds someone who gets him, not someone who is just drawn by surface attraction. And isn't that a great thing in the long run?

womaninawindow said...

NO WAY! Nothing a little brain washing won't take care of. I tell my very shy boy very matter of factly, "The shy ones always miss out on the good stuff!" I pretend I'm not looking at him, thinking hard about this. I was shy. I tell him what I missed out on. I pretend that shy is only a state of mind, not a personality type. It seems to be working. It motivates when I know he'd rather curl up with me and I with him.

La La said...

He's such a cutie pie!

Cecily R said...

I have felt those same fears at different times with my kids. They seem to go in phases.

My husband was painfully shy. In some situations he still is. I don't think he missed out. He just had to find people that understood him and that he felt comfortable enough to be himself around.

Your son is ADORABLE.

Karen said...

You know, it doesn't surprise me that your husband was shy. For some reason I just knew that from the pictures I've seen. And I think Graham is a lot like his daddy. He'll find his own way.

ConverseMomma said...

You could totally be describing my son. He is super shy outside, but a wild man at home. I worry about the same things you do. But, know in my heart he will find his own way.

ConverseMomma said...

You could totally be describing my son. He is super shy outside, but a wild man at home. I worry about the same things you do. But, know in my heart he will find his own way.

Veronica Mitchell said...

My father was quiet and shy when he was young. After college he became a pastor, and one of the things he had difficulty doing at first was initiate conversations with people. Now he is the most garrulous grandfatherly type you could ever meet. Talks to EVERYONE.

My point being that we learn skills gradually over the course of our lives, sometimes not till adulthood, but we always have the opportunity to learn. And the learning is easier when we have families who love us and support our endeavors, so I think your boy will do just fine.

Anna said...

That face is priceless.

wheelsonthebus said...

Oh, girl. I know what you mean. I just put up a two-part post on a very similar experience this week.

Kami said...

Kelly, I was shy, my boys were shy... guess what? We all grew out of it. Graham will to and you know why? Because he has the love and security of his parents telling him every day that is someone special.

:-)

Jen said...

My son was always the kid that hung back, that would just walk away if someone grabbed his toy, etc. My DH is a psychologist and I have a psychology background too. We were so worried about ego strength back then...now we can't get him to stop talking. He approaches strange adults to ask them questions. He leads all the play at recess in Kindergarten. Kids cry if they aren't put on his team in dodge ball. My friend's son wouldn't walk onto the basketball court in little league 3 months ago without her holding his hand, then suddenly 2 weeks ago, his Kindergarten teacher is calling her into the office to discuss his "disruptive behavior" (talking to the girl next to him) during class.

This too shall pass, and you will miss your shy, clingy little boy who liked nothing better than sitting on Mama's lap whiling away the afternoon.

Blessings,

Jen

Damselfly said...

But maybe he will have other opportunities because he is shy. And maybe the women who appreciate shy guys will notice him. ;)