Having a child that is a bit shy or backwards in public situations is rather common, yet I never imagined any of my children would be this way. On many recent occasions, Ingrid has proven me wrong. I believe she could win a trophy for her level of discomfort in public settings. This child has reached a new extreme of shyness.
Over the holiday weekend, our family took a road trip to see our extended family to celebrate my dad and brother’s retirements. My husband and I were looking forward to seeing many people that we haven’t seen in a long time. At the same time, we were preparing ourselves (and others) for the overwhelming feeling that Ingrid would experience. If you recall, we tried putting Ingrid in preschool a few months ago. After seeing how much anxiety this caused her, we decided to withdraw her from school and keep her at home with me, until a more appropriate time came along. Ever since, she has not been willing to be social with anyone, in any setting. She is withdrawn in large crowds. If there is loud noise, she is even more unhappy. As her mom, I feel terrible and torn. I feel terrible because I know she is incredibly unhappy and overwhelmed, yet I feel torn because I am so proud of her and want to show everyone how amazing she is. At the same time, I don’t want to make her experience worse for her.. I wish she could enjoy it. After noticing how miserable she was for several days while visiting family & friends, I felt it was time to get an outside perspective. I spoke to one of her therapists about the issue. As I’ve said before, we are surrounded by brilliant people. Her therapist had some wonderful ideas of how to help Ingrid adjust to ever-changing life situations. She brought to my attention things that I didn’t even consider as being a potential concern, such as body awareness and personal space. If I, or we, teach her about her own body, how it works, and her personal space, she may understand that the people around her are not a threat, just other people. Also, recognition. My husband and I have noticed a pattern of what really makes Ingrid shut down emotionally. New people are completely scary for her. I understand this is something that she will come across for the rest of her life, but her sheltered personality is not prepared for so much newness in such a short time. I need to be more accommodating to her sensitive nature and not push her into situations that are too frightening for her.
Being completely honest, this concerns me. What kind of life are we leading? My husband and I do not have the personalities to be reclusive. We are outgoing, outspoken, fun-loving people. Our other kids are the same way. Rachel has been an active part of competitive cheerleading for many years and Brixton is a social butterfly. Are we hindering Ingrid’s beautiful soul by pushing our own ways onto her? Are we enhancing her level of discomfort by placing her in situations that she is not mentally and emotionally prepared for? All of this has my mind reeling. The last thing I want for my kids is to feel that their wants, needs, and self-being is not being respected. Yet I want them to flourish in life, however they choose. I think it’s important for me to take a step back and put myself in her shoes, per say. How do I feel when being forced into a situation that I am not comfortable with? As an adult, we handle things differently and can rationalize why we feel a certain way. But for a toddler, her words are limited and her ability to comprehend the situation may be less. That being said, if she doesn’t have the opportunity to overcome her fears, how will she learn to handle the world? This is no longer about keeping her sheltered until she is ready. I need to help her branch out into her own comfort level in various settings.
I found myself making excuses for her when we were in large crowds. Everyone is so loving and caring and want to see her beautiful face that is buried into my neck as she hides her eyes. I would tell people that she is being shy or that the crowd is too big, but don’t worry.. it’s her, not you. That is in fact true, but assuming that I need to make an excuse is my fault. I realize now that even though adults love admiring our cute kids, we bombard them with hugs, stares, handshakes and more from people they do not know. They are not wanting the attention. They simply want to be kids.
On our way home from our family gathering, I began to think that Ingrid’s behavior could be more than I understand.. maybe it’s related to her having Down Syndrome. After speaking to her therapist, I now know that it isn’t likely, yet more her personality. She is the opposite of anyone else in our house. She content being in the shadows of her brother’s silly character. She allows me to make decisions for her. And she relies on her dad to protect her. We do these things without thought. We do them because we care. But by doing them, are we hindering her from blossoming into a confident person? Oh, the woes of parenting. I’m sure this is said for many topics in raising kids.. we do things with the intent to show them a better life, all while holding them back in hindsight. There is no easy way to overcome this. We can not just let our kids live in reckless abandon. There need to be lessons in life, rules, understanding. I guess it just comes down to doing the best job we can do as parents, with our kids best interest at heart.
Parenting is an ongoing lesson for me. I’ll never be the best, but I can be the best that I know how to be and learn daily to encourage my kids with love.