Freddy's blog: For the shy kids
The temptation to fix things is strong. Especially for a man, because it's well-known that our response to a problem, particularly one raised by a woman close to us, is to offer an immediate and absolute solution and move on. I'm not (or I think I'm not) some kind of mansplaining centrist dad, but I know I do it sometimes, when the woman in question just wants me to listen and sympathise.
When you're a parent, the temptation to fix things that might be a problem for your children because they are or once were a problem for you is very strong. It's why many of us try so hard not to be our parents either as people or as parents (the two not being exactly the same thing), to have a different outlook and to raise our children in the opposite way.
I'm shy. By that I mean I'm a total narcissist and I absolutely crave attention. Except I'm very uncomfortable being the centre of attention (unless I'm giving a speech and I know nobody can interrupt me or change the subject and there's no small talk). So it’s easy for me to disappear, tongue-tied, in a room. I'm radically oversimplifying it but that's the cycle sometimes.
Anyone interested the more complex version, especially sufferers, should read Shrinking Violets by Joe Moran, which will make you appreciate other people, and yourself, a little more. Before I read it I thought I had to fix myself, largely because that's what the world (and my parents) seemed to be telling me most of the time. Because the world is based on (over)sharing, dynamism, assertiveness, blunt means of being ‘inspirational’, etc etc. As Mr Moran argues briefly at one point, some people who exhibit these tendencies could do with becoming a little shyer.
So of course I wanted to fix my daughter too. At least if I saw any signs of shyness. Not that you can really tell with a two year old because pretty much all of them exhibit a shy smile and hide behind a parent's leg sometimes. And I don't do that now, so we're not talking about the same thing.
People often conflate shyness with confidence. You could put them on a Venn diagram but they're not the same thing. Some of the most forthcoming people I know have are lacking confidence in what's coming forth from themselves. In 360 feedback at work I've read that I'm can seem both lacking in confidence and simultaneously overconfident.
I do want my daughter to be confident, to believe in herself and her abilities. But I want her to do that whatever kind of person she is, and not spend any of the many years ahead of her feeling like she ought to be someone else in order to really be confident. Recently we took her to see what will hopefully be her first school and the headmistress later described her as ‘initially reticent’. It angered me, because I saw the clouds gathering as the world shaped itself to make that difficult for her. And then I wanted to fix the world.
I’ll be glad when she does start school and a new wave of practical and logistical parenting issues hopefully means I don’t have time to think (worry) about this stuff so much. I can fix a pick-up time (I hope), and I hope I can show her and teach her that she doesn’t need to be fixed, and we can’t fix the world.
Freddy works a nine-day fortnight as a kind of deluxe jack-of-all-trades for a trade association in the City. On his day off he and his bright, happy daughter read books about animals, play with animal stickers and go to look at animals!.
Category: A Cityfather's Diary