I’m ashamed I have to white-knuckle it through summer. Summer is supposed to be carefree and super sunny smiley, right?
As I’ve mentioned before, socializing and stimulation are big energy expenders for introverts. We may love the company and excitement of a gathering or activity but afterward solitude will be sought in order to recharge. When we think about socializing we picture parties and pubs but social interactions are happening all the time — even in our homes, between family members.
Somewhere around the beginning of May, I get the tiniest twinge of tangled anxiety in the pit of my stomach and it grows steadily as the school calendar slips away. On the last day of school, when the school bus rounds the bend, windows down, children chanting, I take a deep internally nourishing breath and brace myself for three months of introvert self-denial.
Children Are Precious. Self-interest is Wrong. I Know, I Know.
Before someone gets child protection on the line, let me say I love my three children and work very hard to keep them from needing major therapy as adults. Their psychological well-being is forefront in my heart and mind, which is why their constant summer presence is particularly draining. I feel the need to be ON emotionally and physically for them at all times. I love their creative minds and developing spirits. I can’t stand letting them down.
For the record I ‘m not sure if any of my children are introverts. They all have some characteristics but at their ages (13, 11, 9) it’s cool and culturally expected to be extroverted, so they may try to compensate for any introspectiveness with ultra outgoing-ness. Come to think of it, it’s cool and culturally expected at my age to be outgoing too.
Whatever their personality type, when they are with me I am part of a group. Group interacting is stimulating and energy consuming for an introvert, even when that group is your family.
Why Did You Have Three Children if They Overwhelm You?
I’ve pondered this many times. Several reasons really:
1. My former husband and I always said we wanted three. It was our plan. He was one of three close brothers. Their team-like camaraderie was idyllic and appealing.
2. Our children were fairly easy and angelic as infants and toddlers. They took regular naps, laughed and cooed, followed the schedule we designed. I was lulled into thinking this parenting thing isn’t so tough. I loved being a baby mom, although I do remember
feeling scared and unsure of my ability to juggle things when I found out I was pregnant with our third. The solution: hire a college student to help (which was great but also meant more people around).
3. I had no idea what an introvert was and no clue I was one. I figured I’m a healthy, intelligent woman with a helpful husband. I did not know that crowds and stimulation were my kryptonite and even if I did I would have fought that knowledge because…
4. I wanted to demonstrate and believe I could handle three children. If I have the privilege of staying at home with the kids then I should be able to manage three of them, yes? I pushed myself because I wanted to be energetic, nurturing and organized like the other moms who seemed to get a high from camp scheduling, erratic carpooling and utter child devotion.
Entertaining is Draining
As a girl, I had six dolls that I played with for hours every day. I dressed them, fed them and brushed their hair. I never had to entertain them. They dutifully listened to my soft nurturing words. I got blissfully lost in their care and company. Just like when my children were babies. Of course, raising children bears little resemblance to that. There is an urgency I feel emanating from my kiddos. They desire entertainment and attention. I suck at entertaining people. My favorite and most comfortable form of entertainment is meaningful conversation. Kids don’t give a rat’s ass about meaningful conversation. They want water slides, jet skis, amusement parks, crowded-pool swimming and other large muscle group actions. I’m not sure if I can chalk this up to introversion, but I can take those activities in small doses only.
I like excitement but it must be balanced with downtime.
Sometimes I see the beauty of Mad Men days when kids were forced outside while the moms smoked and drank in the kitchen…(joking, but contemplated;)
Bickering is Bad
Teasing, taunting, joking, kidding, belittling and plain old fighting. It triggers deep-seated feelings in me. I spent many years duking it out with my sister for attention. It took away a sense of psychological safety in my childhood home. I couldn’t fully relax unless I was tucked away in my upstairs bedroom away from the competition and rivalry. I always swore my kids would never feel that, but here we are drowning in disses and one-upmanship. I have an instant desire to shore up the child being picked on or left out. Empathy overrides my logic and places me in the middle of things, playing referee. I know this is a futile place but I hate seeing anyone spiritually wounded. I feel called into action, and my energy reserves suffer.
Hell is other people. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
Somehow despite my uneasiness with crowds and commotion, our house has become the ‘fun house’ where kids like to congregate. We frequently have additional kids for lunch. Our yard, playroom and Xbox apparently sparkle more than others in the neighborhood. Part of me takes pride in this and understands how beneficial and self-esteem boosting the friendships are. I see their eyes glimmer as they concoct batches of invinci-bubbles in the driveway. I hear their enthusiasm and laughter as they play ‘don’t land in the lava’ in the basement. So I quietly repeat my mantra, Come from a place of abundance, as I flip and serve stacks of grilled cheese and dream of the day when I’ll say, The more the merrier!, and mean it.
Another part of me screams for space to complete just one thought. My introverted brain relishes daydreaming, idea generating and thoughtful life examination. Herds of children guarantee interruptions. Interruptions are especially irritating for introverts because we get so deeply entangled in our yarn of thoughts that it is effortful and time-consuming to get back into our thinking trance. It’s easier to just stay in surface thoughts like — the trash needs taking out, orthodontist appointment at 3, I’ll do laundry next. Easier but way less fulfilling and energy generating.
Surviving and Dealing with the Guilt
At this point, the cat is out of the bag with my children. They know I struggle with their summer presence. They see it in my hollow eyes and hear it in my agitated voice. I am ever so sorry they have this knowledge. I would give anything to be bubbly super mom with
craft ideas and a penchant for chaos. I would love to wear adoring eyes all the time (not solely after a session of solitude).
As mentioned in Introverts Explained: Why We Love You but Need to Get Away From You, introspectives can love someone to the nth degree but still require space to recharge. It is innate. Our brains turn to mush, our spirits languish and our energy flags if we are never allowed to renew in solitude. This truth is especially difficult to swallow if you’re the connection-needing child or the guilt-ridden but space-needing parent. The parent-child relationship trumps all, doesn’t it?
Salvation Amidst Bickering and Big Energy
So how do I make summer alright? I insert pockets of salvation.
I run by myself on the trails that surround my neighborhood.
I care for myself by getting up two hours earlier than the rest of the house. In those two hours of stillness I am made whole again. I write, read, exercise, connect with my inner world and renew.
We, as a family, take road trips to scratch our curiosity itch and infuse our days with wonder. We go for ice cream often. We go for walks in the woods. We visit an old-school lodge located on a peaceful lake that has a righteous rec-room complete with pinball, ping-pong and a jukebox. We experience alternating commotion and stillness at the zoo. These are the joyous summer settings I live for, where we connect. These are gems amidst bickering and big energy.
As introverts, how do you experience parenting? Do any of you recognize introversion in your own parents? If so, how did that affect you as a child?
If Confessions of an Introverted Parent hit home with you, check out these similar posts:
In Defense of Introverted Parents (space2live)
18 Things An Introverted Mom Wants Her Kids to Know (space2live)
When Parenting Overwhelms (space2live)
There’s Nothing Wrong with You. You’re an Introvert (space2live)