RG the “Innie”

June 29, 2008

Mommy, my daughter’s out of law partner and birth mother of Random Granddaughter, teaches at a private school for high IQ children. As the mommies became aware of problems at RG’s pre-school, they decided to switch RG into the pre-school at Mommy’s school.

RG was rejected by high IQ pre-school, a bit of a shock.  Unfortunately, I unintentionally created a misleading impression. The mommies were not trying to accelerate RG into a super-bright child on a fast track to Harvard. She is a bright child, and she gets lots of educational stimulation, but she also gets lots of opportunity to just be a little child and play and explore and learn at her own pace and in her own direction. They just wanted a decent pre-school, and a school where Mommy works seemed practical and convenient. (If RG later decides to go to Harvard, that’s fine, though we rather doubt that Harvard is good enough for her.)

In any case, when RG was rejected, the teachers who rejected her suggested that Mommy read a book called The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child by Marti Lani. When Mommy said to me that RG is an introverted child, I was astonished.  I have seen RG be very sociable, and in fact, be the “life of the party.”

But as Mommy explained to me and I had a chance to glance at the book, the diagnosis began to make sense. As both my wife and I are introverts, it’s another case of strange inheritance from non-genetically related parents.

This is based on a superficial understanding of the book on my part, so take what I say with a grain of salt. The basic thesis is that the brains of extroverts (about 3/4 of the population) and introverts (the other 1/4) are wired differently, and process information and experience differently. Introverts are not unsociable and are not unwilling to interact and relate to other people. However, they need time to deal with new objects and especially people in their environment. Don’t rush the introvert.

Even as a toddler, when RG encountered grandparents after not seeing us for a while, she would be very shy and reluctant to talk with us and interact with us. After a while, she would warm up and have lots of fun interacting with us. This is typical introvert behavior; we hate to be rushed into new situations, especially ones where we are not yet comfortable and feel as if we are unable to control the situation.

 In my work, I teach classes with small groups of people where I can control and set up the situation. My wife will happily spend hours by herself on our five acres of woods, gardening, weaving, “puttering” as she calls it. She now volunteers once a week at the organic farmers market where she knows many of the people and she is comfortable with the situation and environment.

When extroverts need to “unwind,” they like to be around other people. You’ll see them at the bar during “happy hour.” When introverts need to “unwind,” they will putter by themselves.

When I bring RG home from pre-school on days where I care for her, she will play with her toys by herself for a while; then she is ready to interact with me or others.

Once when Mrs. Random and I were taking care of her (and planning to take her to the playground), a cleaning woman whom she had never met before (as she had always been at school) came to the house.

Although the cleaning woman was perfectly friendly and pleasant, the sudden appearance of a stranger in her house caused RG to be stressed and agitated. “Hurry up,” my wife whispered to me. “Let’s take her to the playground. She is getting very upset.”

Sometimes when she wakes up from a nap, expecting Mommy to be there and finds a babysitter (such as Grandpa) she starts to scream for Mommy. Well, if you woke up from a nap or a night’s sleep and suddenly saw a stranger by your bed (forgetting that the stranger was a welcome guest you had been perfectly comfortable with before you fell asleep, in the daze of waking up, you would be a bit agitated as well, wouldn’t you?

So give your introverted child a break.



14 Responses to “RG the “Innie””

  1. Pauline Says:

    I found it a great relief, as an adult, to learn that being an introvert was OK, that I didn’t dislike people, I just was slow to get to know them and tired by too much time with them.

    I haven’t figured out my kids for sure. I think my older son is an extrovert, like my husband, but I don’t know about the younger one. The fact he has autism makes him more than usually uncomfortable in new situations. This past week at day camp we discovered just how much. At school, where things are pretty predictable, he was doing very well with little help from his aide. But at camp everything was new, and changed from one day to the next, and he needed an adult’s attention pretty much all the time to deal with his “meltdowns” and try to minimize their occurrence.

  2. pandemonic Says:

    Gosh, what a great idea! For introverts to putter around to unwind. I wonder what the experts would say about 2 a.m. raucous housecleaning when one demonic is rather upset. (Hint, it’s me.)

    Being an “introvert” has always been a stigma. “What, is she shy?” Why is shyness considered a defect and introversion a sin? Wouldn’t you like to know a person who is so thoughtful, they can think on their own without outside stimulus?

    My husband thought that my son being this way (noticeably at first when he was RG’s age) as being a deficit. I rather liked it. I’m thinking that’s why the kid is so good at piano.

  3. modestypress Says:

    Pauline and Demonic, when either of you want to spend a day caring for RG, let me know. You both sound right in her groove.

  4. Introversion is often misperceived as unsociability or shyness, when it’s neither. That really irritates me, as an introvert who bonds with strangers for a living.

    Elissa’s daughter Charlotte is, at least to my eye, obviously introverted, which may be why she gets along so well with me despite having seen me so seldom … I don’t force interaction on her, and when she visits my house, she is permitted to interact with her environment until she is comfortable, rather than having to even acknowledge my presence. I say hello to her, and then kind of ignore her (in a friendly way) until she’s ready to “see” me. As a result, she brings me her Play-Doh, and I get to roll it into little balls. This is a win-win.

  5. modestypress Says:

    Obviously, this post hit a chord for several people.

    There were several “aha!” moments for me in regard to this discussion.

    1) I was surprised by how much scientific and neurological work has been done on the subject of introversion and extroversion over the last few years.

    2) I think that introverted people have been stereotyped and treated as abnormal people who need to be “cured” or “improved” in a Procrustean fashion. It’s rather like how left-handed people were once forced to be right-handed, and homosexual people were forced to be heterosexual (still controversial).

    Each person commenting I suspect has suffered from this syndrome to some extent or other.

    3) Now that the mommies have identified that RG fits into this category, and the book cited has a lot of suggestions on how to raise an introverted child in a manner compatible with her nature that I think they will be evaluating and possibly trying to implement if they make sense and seem to work.

    It will be interesting to see how this latest edition of “mad scientist parenting” turns out as RG matures.

  6. truce Says:

    I worked as a nanny for many years, and have always found that I get along extremely well with children – and this is precisely why. I am an introvert who has learned to get along well with new people and new situations because of my work, but, like David, I don’t force children to interract with me, I tell them my name and smile, then I give them time to check me out and decide if I’m okay. I make myself available and wait til they’re ready to approach me.

    One of the things I love most about the girls with whom I went to school is that they all still characterise me as an introvert. They know the ‘real’ me, the one from before I started work.

    Most of my colleagues would probably describe me as an extrovert now, because my work role demands that I express an opinion in group situations and that I lead projects, although I am still happiest and most comfortable pottering by myself if given the choice.

    So, I’d say that this is a positive development for RG. She’s clearly in good company judging by the comments here 😉

  7. […] Omnivert? Is that even a word? Mr Random recently wrote an interesting post on Introversion here.  He often writes interesting posts, […]

  8. pandemonic Says:

    RN (and David), you are right about society trying to force extroversion on people, just like with the left-handed. Like Truce, people would probably say that I’m an extrovert now. I had to work at it though. I can remember taking customer service jobs in college and being petrified at having to deal with people I don’t know if it’s that I’ve grown out of it, or the fact that now you can’t shut me up, especially if I am excited or angry.

  9. I think that social/people skills can be learned by anyone … and frankly, extroversion is no guarantee of having people skills. Some of the most socially backward people I know are extroverts. I also think that introversion and shyness/people skills are related only insofar as introverted children tend to be severely criticized and forced to do things they don’t want to do, which makes them wary of people. Who wouldn’t become frightened of people, after enough of that?

    But the bottom line of introversion vs. extroversion is what recharges you. If you’re recharged by being alone, you’re an introvert. If you’re recharged by being with people, you’re an extrovert.

  10. Gotta learn how to close those html rags. Damn.

  11. Cameron Says:

    I never would have thought of myself as an introvert, but I do prefer to unwind by myself. I like meeting new people, but I prefer working by myself–groups take too long! 🙂

    You’ve given me something to ponder…

  12. pandemonic Says:

    I wish I knew those HTML tags. David taught me in another place, but I’ve totally forgotten the lingo.

  13. spectrum2 Says:

    I am certain my oldest is an introvert. He initiates contact with people. If they, especially strangers, initiate the contact, he shuts down. My mom always called me “backward.” I hated that word. “Quit being so backward,” she would say.”Speak up to these nice people.” Ugh. Now here I sit wanting my child to do the same thing. I can’t help it. I just hate the look that he gets from others when they say “hello” or “what’s your name?” and he goes into his bore a hole in the floor stare. Then they look at me. Isn’t it weird how much pressure we put on ourselves to fit into social norms. I won’t say “backward” though. I have lived and learned that life is hard enough without having someone on your side to help you through. P.S. the nap thing happens at our house too.

  14. Average Jane Says:

    Yes, it took me a long time to understand my introverted little child and give her that much needed break. Sometimes we both were so lost.

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