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.