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Mom sees own shyness in daughter

October 18, 2012|Amy Dulebohn

I used to think my daughter was nothing like me.

From the time she learned to walk, or maybe even before, she was fearless and outgoing. While I was proud of her, these characteristics are not without drawbacks. For one thing, highly introverted people such as myself can find more talkative people intimidating. But that's a minor issue compared to bigger concerns of safety surrounding a little girl who thinks nothing of striking up conversations with complete strangers.

But recently, all that has changed. At 2 1/2, she seems more introspective, timid and cautious.

I will never forget hiding my face as I clung tightly to my mother's shoulder some 30-odd years ago as visiting relatives from across the country gathered my family together for a photo, or the time my cousin, who was almost like another sibling, brought his "serious" girlfriend to our house to meet us.

That memory is particularly vivid as it seems as though my whole family was bustling with excitement to meet this girl. And at age 5, I was no exception. But something happened inside me as they came into the house. I was filled with fear and anxiety, and I hid my face and refused to look at my cousin or his soon-to-be fiancee.

Last weekend, my daughter and I were to meet my best friend, her boyfriend and her 18-month-old son at the National Apple Harvest Festival in Arendtsville, Pa. I talked to my daughter about this for weeks in advance. Because we hadn't seen them in more than a year, she has no memory of meeting this family before, but she loves seeing photos of them, and recognizes my friend's son by name.

My little girl chatted excitedly about seeing the family for days, and on the day of our outing, she picked out her beloved baby Elmo to take along for the little boy to carry with him throughout the day.

When we arrived at the festival, my friends were waiting for us at the gate, and I pointed them out to my daughter. We hurried over to them, but when we got about 15 feet away, my daughter stopped dead in her tracks. Not realizing what was happening, I encouraged her to continue over to them.

"Nooooo," she protested, dragging her feet and motioning for me to pick her up.

As I carried her over to my friends, her body became completely tense. From there, it was as though she channeled me that long-ago night in my family's living room, crying, clinging to me and refusing to look at anyone.

I don't know just why she reacted that way, and after all these years, I still can't pinpoint just what made me afraid to face my cousin's girlfriend.

I wouldn't wish my daughter to be plagued with shyness and anxiety like I have been most of my life, and really, I don't think she will be. Happy mediums are nice, and I hope she will master how to strike the right balance between being shy and being overly outgoing.

Within a few minutes on Sunday, my daughter warmed up to my friends enough to hand over her Elmo doll to her young cohort, who was happy to carry it with him in his stroller. Still she remained more quiet than usual that morning. She doesn't have to be just like me, but she doesn't have to be completely different, either.

In any case, as usual, I was proud of her.

First-time mother Amy Dulebohn is a page designer and feature writer at The Herald-Mail. Her email address is amyc@herald-mail.com.

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