Szyperski: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix itWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I think I’m making a big mistake. I’m probably making several big mistakes, actually. I’m trying to do my best and I’m trying to do what’s right, but I have this sinking feeling that I’m just plain wrong this time.
I have a shy kid. A private kid. A kid who doesn’t necessarily enjoy being around a whole bunch of people all at once. A kid who doesn’t want to be on stage. A kid who doesn’t want to be the center of attention. A kid who likes being home. A kid who is happy and content to just be alone sometimes.
I’m not supposed to have a kid like this. According to common thinking, no one is. We should all have outgoing, warm, happy, smiling, well-balanced kids who aren’t awkward or moody or afraid. If we happen to have a kid who doesn’t fit this description most of the time, they must be broken. They must need to be fixed.
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to fix my “broken” kid lately. Yet, the more I try to fix her, the more broken she seems to become. In fact, the attempts at fixing her seem to be doing more harm than good, not only to her but to everyone around her. Trying to turn her into someone she’s not is making us all utterly miserable.
I’ve realized that the qualities we try to break in children are often the same qualities we hand out awards for in the adult population. My daughter is determined, strong-willed, focused and thinks outside of the box. She works well independently and doesn’t stop thinking at the predesignated, leave-your-imagination-here cutoff points. She doesn’t deafly believe everything she hears, which, though surprising and sometimes annoying to her parents at 7 years old, will serve her well in a world where it’s harder and harder to trust your own eyes and ears, much less someone else’s.
I think I’m finally starting to understand my shy/introverted/reserved/homebody kid. Instead of continuing to figure out a way to make her less so, I decided to start investigating how she can be successful while still being herself. I discovered a whole community of individuals, famous and not, who take on the world less obviously than the rest. The general consensus within the community seems to be that it’s OK to be that way. It’s the way they are and most of them are fine with and empowered by it.
Although I assume there is such a thing as painfully shy, such a description doesn’t fit my kid. She’s happily introverted and, when she gets comfortable enough, she’s happily social within a small group of individuals she trusts. She loves to explore and learn and absorb the big wide wonderful world in her own subtle, understated way.
I sometimes forget how to appreciate my daughter’s idiosyncrasies. I sometimes forget to just facilitate who she is, and I instead start listening to a world that says she’s supposed to be something else. We live in a culture that tells us to never give up, just be yourself, think before you speak and think outside of the box, but I don’t think we really mean it. We make life too hard for the kids who honestly-to-goodness embody such philosophical points.
Yes, such children are difficult. Yes, they push your buttons and keep you on your toes and challenge you to no end. No end.
It’s utterly exhausting. At times you aren’t sure how you’re ever going to keep up. You aren’t sure what the next step should be. You aren’t sure how you can keep taking all of the little moments of perceived defeat.
One of the biggest challenges with challenging kids is recognizing their successes. It is with any kid, actually. All kids have challenges of some sort and it’s our job as parents to identify and acknowledge their personal triumphs, big and small. In truth, challenge usually lies not in a child’s temperament but in our misguided approaches to nurturing it.
We need to tune into what success means to our children, not into what society thinks it should mean to them. In learning to accept that my daughter is, indeed, the person she’s been claiming to be all along, I am able to more fully appreciate her and realize that she already possesses many of the things I so desperately hoped for her down the road.
My child is able to see the world in a unique and interesting way. What more could I want from her? What more could I want for her?
Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. Email her at email@example.com.