Childrearing

My Outgoing Child Makes Me Stand Out When All I Want To Do Is Blend In

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kids on bench

I am not what one would call a shy person. I like to talk to people, I make friends easily and I spent years performing in musicals and singing on stage. I enjoy being in those kinds of situations but I do want it to be on my own terms. When I am out and about running errands or chilling out on my front porch, I am usually content to keep to myself and would rather not take center stage. For the last few years, I have not been given a choice in the matter as my son is a very outgoing child and engages people everywhere we go, whether I like it or not.

My son is an absolute riot. He has a great sense of humor. He is smart and sensitive. His personality is very complex for a 5-year old and I try my hardest not to quash any of the unique traits that make him who he is. He is such a great kid. That said, he likes to make us very visible in public and sometimes, I am in no mood.

It is not at all unusual for my son to strike up conversations with complete strangers at the grocery store. We call him The Mayor because he is always trying to win friends and influence people. He will comment on what’s in their cart, tell them about his favorite cereal or start yapping about the birthday party he’s going to next week. Most people are very receptive- he is tiny for his age and has the funniest little munchkin voice. Stopping to chat with him is probably an entertaining diversion in their day but for me, it’s another time where I am just trying to get through a boring errand and I have to stop so my son can engage yet another stranger. He also waves at cars driving by when we play in the front yard, breaks out dancing in public if he hears music he likes or will randomly burst into song knowing people will stop and listen to him. It’s funny most of the time but often, I just want to disappear knowing everyone is looking at us.

I am glad he’s confident. I am glad he thinks what he has to say matters enough to tell anyone passing by. But at the same time, I often go out in my yoga pants with a messy bun in my hair and I am not always in the mood to be noticed and spoken to. It is also mildly embarrassing when I can sense that his chosen target is not in the mood to stop and listen to him. We have had conversations over the last few years that go something like “Buddy, sometimes people don’t have time to stop and chat”. He doesn’t seem to mind if they ignore him so I guess that’s a good thing. As much as it tends to annoy me, I would never want his feelings hurt.

As parents, we have to make adjustments. Our kids are not born with personalities exactly like our own and we need to allow them to be themselves, even if it doesn’t jive with our own comfort level. I just sometimes wish that my son being himself did not include making me share the spotlight with him. For my part, maybe I should start dressing to impress when I go out to buy milk so I don’t feel quite so much like I want to disappear into a puff of smoke. If it makes him happy to be the way he is, I don’t want to be the one who stops him because of my own insecurities.

(Image: karelnoppe/Shutterstock)

23 Comments

  1. monamiemarie

    November 8, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Ah, I have one of these too! She’s three and says any and every thought she has aloud.

  2. Alanna Jorgensen

    November 8, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    THANK YOU! I have this exact same issue. I also make friends easily when in a social situation, but I have a lot of introverted tendencies and I HATE small talk. Usually when I am out by myself my bitchy resting face is on display so people leave me alone. The park especially. She always goes and makes friends with the kid with the hoverparent or the little kid who still needs help, so then I feel obligated to head over there and act like I want to be at the park too.

    • ethelyn092

      November 9, 2014 at 1:13 am

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    • Ursi

      November 9, 2014 at 1:13 am

      Small talk is the worst. Asking each other a bunch of questions that we don’t actually care about the answers to so we can all pretend we’re having meaningful interaction. UGHHHHH

  3. Marie

    November 8, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I can totally relate! I’m not super social but my daughter is best friends with everyone she meets. I’m torn between being proud of her for being so confident and struggling to keep up with her since it’s so outside my own comfort zone. I wonder if extroverts with shy kids have similar issues.

  4. mamaduck_75

    November 8, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    I have the same problem. I was so painfully shy as a child and young adult, and still have to force myself to socialize. My daughter, thankfully, is like my husband…talks to any and everyone, makes friends in a second, wants to do every birthday party and get together she’s invited to. I do it, because I don’t want her to inherit my complex, but it’s hard. I’m open online, with family, and with friends I’m close to, but I’m so awkward around folks I don’t know in person. I so want to be that mom who joins PTO, volunteers for everything, and as a result her outgoing child has multiple experiences with others…and I try, but it’s so, so hard.

    • falcongirl

      November 8, 2014 at 9:31 pm

      I am so afraid of this. If I go to the mall and see someone I went to high school with, my first impulse is to duck into the nearest store until they go by so I don’t have to talk to them. My husband will cross four aisles in the grocery store to say high to someone he thinks might have been in the same sixth grade math class. Our daughter is shaping up to be just like him. She’s super friendly, hates to be alone, can’t wait to talk any- and everyone’s ear off. I have a feeling elementary school is going to be socially difficult… for me. At least she has my husband to understand her. And our son, though he’s only two months old, is showing a lot of signs of being much more like me–doesn’t need to be constantly engaged, happy to see people but then wants to be left alone on his mat to smile at the lights on his mobile, really only gets excited about seeing me, his sister, and his dad. I love all three of them but I have a feeling I’m only going to understand him.

  5. Assasymphony

    November 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    I’m an introvert and used to also be veeeery shy. I’m less shy now, but still a bit. I usually prefer to be in my thoughts, and I’m not a big fan of kids, but I still reply to them if they chat to me. If your son started speaking to me, I’d be more worried about having YOU there! 😉 So it can go both ways. :p

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      November 8, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      My strategy for everybody I don’t know, no matter what age, is 1) don’t make eye contact, and 2) pretend I didn’t hear them if they try to engage me in conversation. I’m sure I’ve been unintentionally featured on STFU, Parents as a crusher of children’s spirits, even though there’s no age discrimination to my anti-social tendencies!

  6. Bender

    November 8, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    I’m with all of you on this. I’m not shy, but I definitely like to choose my social interactions. But my daughter, who is only 5 months old, is already the life of the party everywhere we go. I took her to a parenting group at the doctor’s office last week – our first time there – and she immediately rolled into the center of the circle and stayed there the whole time, basking in the attention. All the other babies just looked on from the sidelines!

    Could all of you tell from an early age that your child would be extroverted?

    • Jayamama

      November 8, 2014 at 6:33 pm

      I think it comes and goes in waves, depending on development. My older daughter has always been outgoing, greeting and smiling at people she sees when we’re out. But recently, since she hit two and a half or so, she’s started to be shy in crowds and whenever people single her out to hold or talk to her.
      She likes to interact with people, but it has to be on her terms now. But my mom says that I always hid behind her at this age, so she’s still more outgoing than I was. And keep in mind that there are shy extroverts and outgoing introverts, so how friendly she is may not indicate whether she is intro- or extroverted.

  7. Jayamama

    November 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    God, yes. For once, I want to go into the grocery store, get what I need, and get out without talking to any person besides my daughter. (Self-checkouts are awesome.) But she has to say hi to everyone we meet, which most people take as an invitation to talk to me, and I’m too nice to just smile and keep walking.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      November 8, 2014 at 9:54 pm

      I will prioritize stores that have self-checkouts over ones that don’t just so I can avoid the absolutely horrifying conversation that is, “Hey, how are you today?” with a cashier. Autism fucking sucks sometimes.

  8. bookworm81

    November 8, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    My daughter is the same way. She just turned three but she’s hyper verbal and will engage anyone in conversation given a chance. Our joke is that she’s either going to grow up to be president or a cult leader.

    • Valerie

      November 9, 2014 at 7:16 am

      A cult leader?! Hahahaha. That’s very funny.

  9. Kitsune

    November 8, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    I already have this issue and I only think it will get worse. I’m not shy but I’m picky about my interactions and personal space and usually use my BRF to keep people at a distance. However my husband knows and talks to everyone and my son is now going in the same way. It’s both really annoying and endearing.

  10. jendra_berri

    November 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    I get you. My son is such a people person, and very silly. When I take him out, he wants to interact with everyone. At brunch, he giggles and points and winks at other diners. He got one lady to tell him a story once. He got another group of men to give him high fives. This stuff happens all the time and he’s 19 months. This is just who he is.

    And I am what you might call a more private person. I don’t do the stranger chit chat. Well, I do now. I’m also a homebody, but now I must go out all the time because my son needs to socialize like he needs to eat.

    I have nothing to do with this facet of his personality. I’m incredibly proud of him, as I was an awkward kid. I’m gratified he won’t have that problem. But dang if sometimes under that pride there’s that wish he wouldn’t engage the entire restaurant because I don’t know what to say to all these people.

  11. Nica

    November 8, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    Yep, same for my five year old. My husband and I are both VERY introverted – we joke it’s a miracle we ever even spoke to each other initially! My older son was also called “The Mayor” at daycare. He’s never encountered a stranger, friends he hasn’t met yet. I’m doing my best not to quash it because I don’t want to him to have the same struggles I had growing up. It’s been five years and we’re still trying to figure it all out, but he’s a kid who’s just happy to be alive and I hope that never leaves him. It’s a gift. I do have a younger son, but he’s as much of a misanthrope as my husband and I! So, it’ll probably be a bit easier going with him — maybe. The problems might just be different ones!!!

  12. NotTakenNotAvailable

    November 8, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    The thought of prolonged or excessive social interactions fills me with so much dread that I have actually wished for the flu, a broken ankle, or several sliced open layers of skin in order to avoid large gatherings I couldn’t otherwise back out of, like weddings. Being almost literally attached to someone who did want to start a conversation with everyone in sight would be the tenth circle of hell for me.

  13. Ana

    November 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    I hear you. My daughter (almost 2 & 1/2) we call our “ray of sunshine”, because she is a blonde, bubbly, little-friend magnet. I try to keep my head down because I am a shy person, but she is a magnet for everyone who likes little kids. I am trying to embrace it and make more parent friends, but it’s challenge.

  14. Georgia

    November 9, 2014 at 3:39 am

    There’s a word for that – precociousness (mini puke).

  15. AE Vorro

    November 9, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Great piece! I love this kind of “inside look” into the smaller, more specialized part of parenting and the dynamics that happen beneath the surface. Your son sounds like an amazing riot!

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