Raising an introvert when you're anything but
A colleague recommended that I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, after telling her that I was having a tough time understanding whether my 16-year-old son has "issues" socializing because of his hear impairment or because of his introverted personality. Unlike my daughter, my son would rather stay home on the weekends playing video games, reading a book, watching a movie or just hanging with my husband and me rather than being out with friends. When my daughter was his age, I hardly saw her!
My son is most similar to my husband who is an introvert. My daughter and I are definitely extroverts.
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Cain defines introverts as people who tend to be quiet, sensitive and reserved. Introverts, they say, get their energy from their inner world. Both my son and husband like spending time on their own or with our immediate family rather than being out interacting with lots of people. As you can imagine, this personality type can be tough to understand and can be easily interpreted as an "issue" by a loud, highly-social and extroverted Latina like me.
What I love about the book so far (I'm only on Chapter 1) is that the Cain focuses on the advantages of being an introvert. She tells parents to "treasure the qualities" of an introvert and "encourage their passions." She also talks about the importance of not calling them "shy," to stop bugging them about going out or "coming out of their shell". Because these types of messages imply that being an introvert is negative. It's difficult to do this when you live in a society that places so much value and promotes extroversion.
She encourages parents to give their introverted kids the space they need and letting them "master new skills" like working or socializing in group settings "at their own pace." Her book is full of examples of famous people who are quiet yet full of fortitude, great inventors, figures who have led social change and leaders of amazing companies. People who are perfectly well adjusted, successful and not recluses at all!
My husband embodies so many of the qualities Cain uses to describe introverts "unassuming, contemplative, calm, shy and serious." He hates the limelight. And I have to remind myself that this is why I married him. I can't imagine being married to someone with my personality!
So why am I worried about my son? Why am I trying to change him? My son is smart, modest (although he is gorgeous), sensitive and funny. He'll be just fine and probably very successful. I guess he'll have to marry an extroverted Latina like me to take him out (just a little) of his comfort zone.
Image via Lucía Ballas-Traynor
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What traits define you?