photo © 2010 Tanya Little | more info (via: Wylio)My friend Adam McHugh is the author of a great book called Introverts in the Church, about how the contemporary Christianity has become geared toward extroversion — and how this characteristic tends to exclude introverts (a category into which I’ve always fit) from the life of the Church.
On his blog last week, Adam brought in several guests for an excellent series about introverted parenting. Parenting as an introvert (or bringing up kids who are introverts) isn’t something I’d ever really read or thought about before, but it’s pretty eye-opening. Adam recaps the week here, but I thought I’d take it a little further with some clips from each post. All of these are worth reading.
When my son was born almost thirteen years ago, I had no idea how to be a dad, but I had no problem being an introvert, being into my own things. It stings me to this day that I was not the one to teach him how to ride a bike–my father-in-law did. If reflectiveness is a strength of introversion, then the innate ability to disengage can be an introvert’s kryptonite….Now certainly my introversion doesn’t shoulder all of the blame, but it played right into the hands of my selfishness. Thus my son was shortchanged, and I am so sorry.
If given the chance, I would be a hermit. But we all need other people, to be in community and to take our place within the Body. For me, that is often a lot of work. Being the parent of a preschooler presents additional opportunities and challenges. By nature of her age and development, the need for additional interaction, playtime with friends, and learning about life beyond our home, getting out of the house is often a discipline for me. And in it all, I am learning my own limits, having more conversation with God, and being stretched in new ways.
And another reason I need to make sure that I don’t give my kids every ounce of myself is because when I do so, I become a much worse mother (not to mention wife, writer, friend, neighbor, church lay leader, and other roles in which God has plans for me). Practically speaking, this means that I need to build in time by myself to recharge. Even if it’s just a half an hour here and there, those short breaks truly help keep me sane.
Not only are we blessed with the physical talents over which others (*cough*extroverts!) must writhe in envy, we can use those special abilities to be attuned with our children in powerful and unique ways. We can listen – really listen – to our children. As chaos begins to circle, we can be a voice of calm and reason. Through our empathic observations of our children, their peers, and their friends’ families, we will be called upon to minister and bless. We can demonstrate by example the Biblical concepts of rest, quiet, and solitude.
2. Introverted kids usually have the capacity to develop great passions. Cultivate these enthusiasms. Intense engagement in an activity is a proven route to happiness and well-being, and a well-developed talent is a great source of confidence. Traditional childhood activities like soccer and piano may work well for some kids, but don’t forget to look off the beaten path.
I know many introverted Christians can identify with a longing for a monastic style of Christian living. Granted, children don’t spit up in accordance with Matins, nor do they poop in concert with Vespers. However, the daily tasks of parenting provide a rhythm where folding laundry can accompany a prayer, and diaper changing can accompany biblical reflection. Manual labor matters in the Christian life. A type of parenting that accords with monastic rhythms is not rigid or static but can be freeing and transformative for parents, and even freeing and transformative for their children.
As a grown-up introverted kid myself and the parent of one now, I can’t speak highly enough of this series. Go read it, and thank Adam for providing a powerful amplifier to these introverted moms and dads.
Question for you: Are you an extrovert or an introvert? How does this aspect of your personality impact your parenting?