We have all heard that “kids say the darnedest things,” and often they do, sometimes to embarrassing ends but mostly to the amusement of surrounding adults.
That is certainly the case with my toddler, or I should say, that is the case with my toddler within the confines of our home and with the very small number of people she sees regularly. Outside our home or with those she sees only sporadically – whether they are close friends and family or near-strangers – she clams up and gives a mean side-eye.
To my great frustration as her protective mother, those who don’t know her well seem to expect entertainment from her and convey disappointment that she isn’t delighting them with toddler-isms. There are even those with the audacity to claim they don’t believe that she actually speaks, when the reality is that she simply isn’t interested in speaking to them. Just like I don’t expect my daughter to hug someone she doesn’t want to hug, I also don’t expect her to shoot the breeze with someone if she doesn’t feel comfortable.
At some point in time, if you have a tendency towards shyness, you receive sufficient signals from the outside world to understand that shyness is a problem to be fixed. You should come out of your shell and ultimately you should respond to the attention of others in a way that pleases them.
As a person who leans towards shyness with a daughter now experiencing either a shy phase or who is shy herself (only time will tell), I have finally learned that shyness is really just a personality trait. It is neutral, neither “good” nor “bad,” and like any personality trait, should be valued in those we love.
I hope to always encourage my daughter to be the best version of herself, but never to ask her to be anything other than herself and who she is meant to be. I hope, also, that it is not too late to encourage myself to be the best version of myself, and never ask myself to be anything other than me and who I am meant to be.
If your child, or a child you love, is shy, celebrate that! So many wonderful qualities accompany a quiet demeanor. They may be very observant, thoughtful, and prudent. They will balance other friends with louder personalities.
One of the greatest gifts we can give children is to embrace them exactly as they are and encourage them to cultivate their natural abilities as they grow. Celebrate the shy children and exuberant children, opinionated children and amiable children, goofy children and precocious children, sensitive children and calm children. They will all grow into adults with a wonderfully diverse range of personalities and talents.
And please, don’t ask my daughter to talk to you. She isn’t interested.