Monday, October 22, 2012

Embracing Your Energy....And Parenting With Respect For It.

Okay, that was a long kind of weird title.

But this has been some thing on my heart for the past year or so. It has been a huge part of keeping my eyes on my own work. A key to my ultimate daily goal of being present.

Most of my life I thought that introverts were "shy" and "quiet" people and that extroverts were "friendly" "loud",  and "out going".. 

I thought I was an extrovert until about 5 years ago. I love people  I consider myself a fairly friendly person and I can be very outgoing in the right situations.

It wasn't until I read Raising Your Spirited Child by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka that I had the light bulb moment: I am an introvert!

In her book Kurcinka explains that introversion and extroversion have nothing to with shyness or friendliness.
They are about how you process life and what energizes or drains you. I feel energized by being alone. By quiet days home with my children, by time to think my own thoughts. I love playing with my children outside where this is lots of space, and no one pressing me for conversation. I do like to talk, but too much conversation and too many demands for my attention make me feel tired and overwhelmed. But I despise lots of noise, especially when I am in big groups. I do not enjoy a lot of small talk. I love deep meaningful conversations, they *do* energize me in a way- but they also mean I will need some time alone to process and recover from them. too much of any interaction and I find myself struggling with severe crankiness. I need time alone to be in my little world and recharge.

Some times I feel frustrated with my introversion. I wish people and time with them gave me more energy. I like people. I like my friends. I wish I had more to give to them. I feel frustrated by my need to some times be...down right, anti-social. Some days (when I am missing friends, but trying to give my best to my kids) I wish being with people made me feel peaceful and fulfilled like being alone does.

On the flip side there are the Extroverts. I don't claim to understand them. But I am married to one, and from my experience I know that Extroverts tend to feel fulfilled by lots of conversation (any kind), interaction, being out amongst the people- so to speak.

While I have been trying to be intentional about not letting my introversion define me, I have grown a lot in the past few years in realizing that my need to be alone is a genuine need. It is a huge part in my being a healthy parent and person. I have learned to honor and respect the fact that, while I am in a season of mothering babies and toddlers (ie, being sleep deprived at points which is very draining) I need to avoid things that drain me more than I might be able to recharge from it...Because let's face it, parenting small children means interaction, a lot of it! And if you recharge by being alone, you're not always guaranteed the down time you need.

Again, I can't really claim to understand this- but I would imagine, parenting as an extrovert might mean having friends over and around a lot when you are not-at your best (ie, sleep deprived)...Or going out and about a lot more so that you are able to give your kids your best.

It isn't all cut and dry. Introversion and Extroversion can play out in very different degrees, person to person. It can depend on the season of your life too! Back before I had kids, I used to love to go out with friends: I had quite an active social life and (while I did think I was an extrovert back in those days) I also had as much "time to myself" as I wanted- it was never a question, if I wanted to be alone I could do so whenever I wanted. And if I couldn't, I would become irrationally cranky and un-like myself and confused and bothered at my sudden and alarming personality change ( suddenly cut throat and b*tchy, much?)

Parent where you are...
It's important to know how to manage your energy levels... What makes you feel like the best parent to your kids?
I like to be outside alone. I like engaging my kids in activities that fill up their love tanks, with out leaving me (mentally) gasping for breath. I take my kids for walks where they are busy and happy to chatter with out more than a "WOW!!!" from me. I set them up with crafts that keep all of our hands busy and (if I am lucky) our mouths quiet. I set them free at the playground and stare at the clouds. I turn on the TV for the kids, put the baby down for a nap and hide for a bit. I still have my almost-5 year old taking "naps" so that I get at least 45 minutes daily that no one talks to me.

Since I got pregnant with my third-born (around when my second-born and my VERY extroverted daughter started talking) I have been making things that energize and motivate me a priority. I cannot parent well when I going to more than one or two social engagements a week. That's me...I am sure as my kids grow, and I am getting more sleep, and my children's attentions can be engaged elsewhere that limit will (need?) to grow...But for now, I am finding fulfillment how ever that looks where I am at that week.

Respecting Your Kids Energy...Balance??? Ha.
This is where I struggle a lot. My oldest is a friendly and precocious Introvert. She loves people- she says hello to every one, everywhere we go. She loves to tell them about her sisters and her life. The only way I can tell she is an introvert is that she desperately needs a slow unhurried pace to her life. She loves to be home curled up on the couch with her magnadoodle. Some of her favorite phrases are, "leave me alone!", "I don't want to go out!", "I love being home with you Mommy." And if we have had a too-busy few days her meltdown levels are unreal.

My middle child...Her first words most mornings are "When are we leaving?" she is generally dressed top to toe before I have even had a sip of coffee. She thrives on being outside, lots of big muscle play, tons and tons of snuggles and lots and lots of conversation. She just eats up time when you will listen to her tell you some thing, or hear her "read" a book out loud. She is calm and mellow when in a group of people. And crazy intense if she hasn't had enough interaction.

I am pretty sure my baby is an extrovert, because she rarely sleeps when people are around, But that's a whole different story.

It is good to know what your kids need, so you can meet them where they are at...And understand when certain "larger than life" moments are happening (okay, wild crazy tantrums) you can address the ultimate need: More down time? or More interaction?

Everybody is different.

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