Whenever I pick up Isabel from school, I always do the same thing before she can see me: I stand inside and peer through the window, watching her as she plays outside. I look not to make sure she’s okay (because I know that if she wasn’t, they would have called me earlier); rather, I look to see if she’s alone.
I look to see if she is playing at the kitchen by herself or with a friend. I look to see if she is in the reading center alone or with others. And I look to see if she’s marching around with her classmates and teacher or if she’s toddling around aimlessly.
I’m looking to see if she’s introverted like me.
Granted, at 2 years old doing anything alone or with other kids is pretty irrelevant, but I still wonder. In social situations, I am more reserved. In crowded rooms, I keep to myself or stick close to those I am comfortable with. In meetings, I am often the one scribbling in the margins of my notepad, listening.
I am an only child, so I imagine that I might have had to entertain myself more than kids with siblings had to. But I don’t remember being lonely. I went to friends’ houses, participated on tons of sports teams, and was very active in high school. My parents certainly aren’t introverts. In fact, I would argue they are the opposite, so it’s not like I lived in a silent home where nobody interacted with each other. Nonetheless, I’ve grown into someone who is more cautious than risky, cerebral than emotional, and quiet than outspoken. And I wonder if these are traits Isabel has somehow “inherited” from me.
I stare through the window to see if somehow her personality is already being shaped by mine. I wonder if her shyness at school or if her being comfortable playing alone is a sign. I start wondering if there is something I could have—should have—done during her two short years that might have changed this or if it’s just a phase that she will outgrow and will blossom into a social butterfly like her mama.
During our short ride to school each day, I try to talk to Isabel. I try to engage her. The chances she responds are always 50/50 as toddlers tend to answer only when they want, but I want to believe that something as simple as my conscious attempts at daily short in-transit conversations will help counteract any introvert tendencies I may or may not have slipped into her genes. I imagine my worrying isn’t abnormal for any parent, especially a first-timer. We naturally want the best for our kids. We want them to have friends, to play nice with others, and to succeed socially.
Putting my first-time-parent worrying aside, I remember what’s important. The fact that I look through the window one day and see her marching around the playground with her friends, laughing and screaming, while the next day she might be alone in the fake kitchen, feeding imaginary soup to her fake baby, isn’t nearly as important as me knowing that she is learning to be happy with or without others. After all, she’s a finicky toddler still figuring out her place in this great big world.
Ultimately, my parental (and personal) insecurities are trumped by her growing imagination and flourishing personality. I have no doubt that whatever degree of “introvertness” she may inherit from me will be balanced by the “extrovertness” of her mama and that either way, she will turn out just fine and happy.
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