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Little girl in ballerina dress

A Young Introvert Finds Her Way

Quiet Revolutionary Kim Crabbe’s Story

I brought my 4-year-old granddaughter, Cora, to a birthday party on Saturday while her mother was in school taking credits for her graduate degree in education administration. The party was at the dance studio where Cora takes classes, and the birthday girl was Madison, who is in Cora’s preschool class. We filled out Madison’s birthday card together: I wrote the words, and Cora signed her name and drew a picture of herself and Madison dancing. Cora, with her long, blond curls and bright, blue eyes, looked adorable in her tights and gold-studded tutu.

We got to the studio early, and Madison and one other girl was there. I hugged Cora goodbye and watched her walk into the studio through the big glass window. Cora looked uncomfortable. She and Madison exchanged glances, then Madison and the other girl twirled around the studio. Cora stood there watching.

I left the studio to get some coffee in the shop down the street. When I came back ten minutes before the end of the party, the waiting room was filled with moms talking to one another. I walked to the window and watched as 14 girls and one boy were huddled in the corner watching Madison open her gifts. Cora was right there watching too.

I couldn’t hear what was happening, but I saw the dance teacher motion the children to form a circle in the center of the room. All the children fanned out and held hands. Two girls found themselves outside the circle. One was Cora. I watched as the other girl tapped on the arms of two girls in front of her, then tapped a little harder till they released their hands and let her in the circle. Cora walked up to the locked hands in front of her and tried to get in, but they did not let go. The teacher saw this and said something to the girls. Cora tried again, but they still did not let go. The teacher said it again, louder this time. But still the circle was closed. Cora stepped away and just smiled politely and shrugged, as in “it’s okay, I don’t mind.” But the teacher let go of the hands she was holding, then physically broke apart the hands of the girls in front of Cora, and beckoned Cora to come into the circle. Then, they all just danced.

This might have taken only 75 seconds, but in those 75 seconds my heart broke. My heart broke for the hurt my little, sensitive, and kind granddaughter had felt. My heart broke with the understanding that this, the life of an introvert, was only the beginning of moments spent standing outside the circle.

Like her mother and grandmother, Cora is an introvert. She is thoughtful, creative, smart, mature, sensitive, and quiet. She loves books and words and loves to watch movies. Cora is a great friend to Roslyn, who moved away in September but still sends cards and pictures. She is delightful and engaging and loves to spend time with her family. Cora is our girl, and we love her dearly.

I didn’t say anything to Cora about what I saw. She was quiet in the car but perked up when I told her we were going to the library. She picked out six chapter books, one book on tape, and one movie. We stopped at the frozen yogurt shop and had a sundae. We went back to the house and watched the movie. We had a great afternoon.

One day, I will share with Cora what I know: that sometimes it is hard to fit in, that we don’t always think or act the way others do, but we are talented, deeply committed people who are vital beings in a world that needs kindness, creative thought, quiet reflection, caring, and listening. But most importantly, I’ll tell Cora that being her whole amazing self is much better, much more fulfilling, than fitting into the circle. I will tell her that she will form a different circle, holding the hands of those who get it, those who dance with confidence to the music made by their own glorious sounds.

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