Tuesday, July 31, 2012

life with one child / social introvert and homebody extrovert

Before Sylvia left to spend a week with her grandparents, we got together with some local friends to finish the rest of our leftover dye.

 We did some actual tie-dyeing, but just drawing on the fabric with the dye bottles was even more fun.  I love how this om symbol looks like graffiti.

But now Camille has gone from my in-laws to my parents for a week, and Sylvia is with the other set of grandparents, and it's just Ayla at home with us.  It's awfully quiet, and Ayla seems to need a lot more mama attention without the activity of  the sisters to keep her occupied.  So, we're living life at the pace of a two-year-old.  I forgot how different that was.

We walked the half-mile up the road to visit some of our closest neighbors.  Yep, cows.
Ayla adores these cows and giddily proclaimed, "I like 'em!" before turning to the cows and saying, "Hi, honeys!"
 After the walk, we (my husband mostly) picked over a gallon of these cherry-sized plums from our trees.
 They are quite tart.

 Ayla and I washed them up, added in a few yellow cherries (bigger than the plums actually) and I am still in the process of turning them into an Asian-style plum sauce.
 Pitting and peeling them seemed ludicrous, so I cooked them down whole with a fair bit of water and strained the whole lot through a colander to separate the pulp/juice from the pits/peels.
 It worked pretty well and the hens loved the left over bits in the compost pile.
Last night there was a gorgeously dramatic lightening storm in the distance.  Ayla and I sat out and watched it while listening to owls calling back and forth.  It was a lovely end to the day.  I attempted a few camera shots, but mostly just sat back to oooh and aaah with Ayla.

 Other than that, there has been a lot of  "play with me, Mama" going on.  I'm not sure life with just a toddler is actually any easier than life with a 2, 5, and 9 year old, but it is definitely a different pace.  I even have a little free time while she naps.  I've been reading Raising you Spirited Child:  A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent,  Energetic.  I haven't read a parenting book in years, but this one has some good respectful-to-the-child ideas for working things out with sensitive, spirited children.  A lot of it doesn't pertain as much to home-schooled kids, but it's worth a read, and has prompted me to think a lot about introversion/extroversion and how to balance out the needs of the different personalities in our family.

My husband and I fall pretty squarely into the introvert category.  Which isn't to say that we are shy or unsocial, but that we recharge our energy by being alone, in nature, or just within our immediate family.  For years I thought that Camille was an extrovert.  She made new friends easily and seemed to enjoy social situations, BUT she would often crash if we were around people for too long, or if she didn't get a chance to be alone (without sisters) afterwards.  Somehow, it took me a long while to discover this pattern and I thought she was just being moody.  Sylvia generally prefers to stay home rather than go out if given a choice, but get her out of the house and she chats up anyone and everyone and seems to actually gain energy from these types of interactions.  At two years old, I 'm guessing Ayla tends toward introversion as well.  She seems to enjoy social activity best from the role of an observer.

I am not fond of (or particularly skilled at) social chatter or large group conversations.  Even if I'm meeting someone for the first time, I would much prefer to chat about personally relevant topics even if we have very differing points of view than talk about the weather or a television show or somesuch.  Which means that I can be kind of awkward with small talk.  Sometimes I'm a bit too quiet if I have nothing important to say, or a bit too revealing if I do.  I can handle being around a lot of people for a good reason (like the Kicakapoo Country Fair), but I need a chance to recuperate afterwards.

I think understanding ourselves and our children can help us set up situations to be successful for everyone.  Giving me and Camille time to recharge after social situations can really improve family dynamics, and helping Sylvia find a way to get out and be social even if it isn't her first inclination can help her get her cup filled.

I think most families probably have a combination of introverts and extroverts and while it can be more difficult to negotiate social situations, recognizing each persons temperament can go a long ways towards seeing what they need to feel balanced in their lives.  I think homeschoolers in particular are probably aware of this, as we spend a lot of time with our children.  For example, if an extremely introverted homeschooling mom (or dad) had a primarily extroverted child, it could feel exhausting to find ways to keep up with them socially.  Maybe bringing a book along to parkdays to retreat a bit from the chattering moms would help.  Or finding drop-off classes that the kids enjoyed rather than playdates or mom-and-me type classes if the children are young.  Or just recognizing the need to cocoon a bit after social situations would help the parent feel calm and balanced rather than stressed and overloaded.

Also, if the child were the introvert and the parents were extroverted, finding ways that the child could retreat from social situations if they got overwhelmed would be very important.  Or finding ways for the parents to socialize without the child, maybe taking turns with one parent going out and the other staying home, rather than forcing the child into a situation that would put her off-balance.

I'm always evaluating and re-evaluating what works in our family (and what doesn't).  Finding ways to bring in and maintain (or regain) an atmosphere of joy, learning, exploration, peace, and creativity in a family of 5 individuals does take some work.

This post is getting long.  I just wanted to share some of my thoughts here, and I guess all of that extra time to think with only one child around is making me extra wordy :)


  1. I find my middle girl (2 & 1/2) is incredibly needy whilst her big sister is away: she follows me from room to room, even holding onto my skirt, and panics if she thinks i'm going without her. I think she is naturally an extravert, but, because her sister is sooo painfully shy sometimes, she tends to follow her example. Perhaps when she's a little older she'll be more confident to be herself.

    It's really interesting seeing how their different personalities develop, and to consider this when they're in situations that both find difficult.

    I'm a weird mix of both: like you said, I'm happiest at home but I can be strangely sociable too so I'm either too little or too much in company! I guess we're all a bit of both depending on the situation!

    Hey: long post inspires long comments!! x

  2. My girl was always happy to occupy herself when she was little, unlike her very intense older brother. Yet now, she is the one (at 11 years old) who is more needy and wanting to do stuff with me all the time.

    I think that we are all introverts here - although you might never know I was if you saw me socially. But I need my hermit time to recharge the batteries!


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