Go ahead and be quiet

My oldest daughter starts kindergarten next year, so last week I went to hear a few local educators discuss how to prepare your child, what to look for in a school, etc. All in all it was fairly helpful, but there were a few interesting things I took away from it.

First, parents of pre-K kids are some of the most neurotic people on earth. I include myself here. It’s so overwhelming to think about your little baby entering a public school where there are so many unknowns she will encounter – like FIFTH GRADERS. Holy shite. I could practically see the beads of sweat rolling down the brows in the room.

One of the parents in the crowd expressed concern that her daughter is shy, so kindergarten feels like she is “throwing her to the wolves.”

All of the teachers reassured her that her daughter will not be alone – that for every one shy (or active, or silly) kid, there will be at least four others like her, to whom she will relate. I found that comforting.

But one of the teachers suggested that the mother avoid calling her daughter “shy.” She noted that the word tends to have a negative connotation, and that society so often tends to celebrate only the kids who are more outgoing or extroverted as the ideal, which can be damaging and misguided.

She recommended a book titled, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and said it was required reading for some in her field. Have you heard of it?

I haven’t read the book yet but I already love that it exists. Despite being an outspoken goof at home, I was often considered shy in school. I definitely have the introvert gene. During my career it was sometimes a challenge to find what felt like a natural fit for my personality within a leadership position. Leaders are supposed to be loud. Or so it can seem.

But it also resonated with me as a parent of two daughters who already seem to have fairly different personalities. My youngest is only 10-months-old, but lately I swear everyone who knows them both has remarked how she seems to be so much quieter than her sister.

Granted, my oldest daughter can be a spitfire and at times anyone would pale in volume. But there is no denying that #2 appears to be a bit more subdued and mellow. I love the contrast and find myself enjoying their respective traits that much more because of it.

But if indeed my youngest turns out to be more quiet or introverted, I can imagine people will continue to make that observation and comparison often. Sometimes to her face.

Knowing that I never liked the “shy” label, I wouldn’t really want to put that on her. Nor would I want my oldest to be constantly told that she’s “the loud one.” I would instead prefer they be referred to as The First Sisters to Ever Jointly Hold the Office of President of the United States. Is that so hard?

I look forward to reading the book – as a parent, as someone who will likely return to the workforce someday, and as a means to justify my frequent desire to curl up in bed alone and tune out the rest of the world. Leave me alone! I’m introverting!

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5 thoughts on “Go ahead and be quiet

  1. Oh my word how kindergarten preparations terrified me. I researched districts, private school, public school…I toured more than a dozen. And we moved to change districts to give my intensely cautious, introverted, spirited son the best chance at success.

    The summer before we were all a wreck. I bought him every single kindergarten picture book to prepare him. (Countdown to Kindergarten was out favorite, but I will no joke, send you all of our books if you email me your address.)

    It was fine. I’ve taught him that being cautious is good. I’ve taught him that introverted means he needs to get solo time to recharge, and that it’s okay to ask to go to the bathroom when things feel like too much. I tried to get playdates with classmates before school started, which didn’t work.

    But the single best success strategy I found was going to the pre-kindergarten mixer/party/meet-and-greet. I found a mom I felt good about, and I talked with her the whole time. Our kids circled around, watching us interact. I made her kid laugh and feel silly, which warmed my son. First day he didn’t leave her side. Because he trusted her. Just typing that makes me cry.

    He’s fine. Kindergarten was fine. The teachers know what this is to kids, know all types of kids, and deal really well with all manners of challenges.

    The worst problems are kids who act out because their home environment is so strict that they expect to be yelled at or spanked by authorities. Since schools don’t do that, it’s an uphill battle to get them to chill and listen. So there will be disruptions. But talk to her about that, about playdates, about how to make choices that make her feel good.

    She’ll be fine. You’ll be fine. The abject terror won’t go away, but it’ll soften.

    Good luck!

    • Thank you! Super helpful. I will totally take you up on your list of books whenever you have time (not urgent) – bananawheelsamy @ gmail.com. We actually have Countdown to Kindergarten – that’s the only one. A neighbor gave it to us. Of course my reaction to the girl’s stress about not being able to tie her shoes was, “Oh crap – I haven’t taught my kid to tie her shoes yet! She doesn’t even own a pair of shoes with laces!” So there’s no doubt that I will be more worried than she will be. But I know it will all work out. I will feel loads better once I get through the school selection phase and know where she’s going.

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