When you have a shy kid and an out-going kid, it can make play dates tricky. Of course, my firstborn is shy. She always has been and gets it from her father. So, she’s the one who clings to me the entire time and doesn’t usually come out of her shell until about 20 mins before we are going to leave. She feels everything and knowing this, I do my best to prep her for things.
I usually tell her where we are going, what kids will be there, especially if she knows them. I introduce her and explain that she can play fun new games. Sometimes this ends in tears, or her standing off to the side with her arms crossed because she doesn’t want to do something – it doesn’t help that she’s a perfectionist and wants to do everything perfectly the first time around. Sometimes it ends with my having to pull her off the playground because she had so much fun. But there’s never a time when I know for sure if she will have fun or if something will set her off. I try not to hover or enable her standing on the sidelines. All I want is for her to let loose and have fun while she’s a kid.
Activities are also hard, as this is where being a perfectionist can be frustrating. She doesn’t trust herself, no matter how loud we cheer her on. I’ve learned she likes it more when I don’t make a big deal out of it. She knows I’m watching, but she prefers to do it and then come over and tell me about the experience. I am a big believer in kids picking activities they want to do and following their passion. I loved riding a bike as a kid; my daughter, not so much. So, I encourage her to try new things and to test them out and see what she likes.
When she started gymnastics, it took her about a month to feel comfortable without me standing in the door, and she finally let herself go and embrace it. We had a few instances where she didn’t want to participate at all, but I didn’t tell her I was frustrated, I just let her work it out.
It’s a hard balance and one I feel like I’m always being judged– am I too hard on her? Am I not being strict enough? Am I going to cause her to have a complex? Ultimately, she knows I’m her biggest supporter and the one who is always in her corner. I will always be cheering her on. It’s a delicate balance, and I think we are finally making headway because I dropped her off at dance camp (she asked to go) and she was ecstatic! She waved goodbye, and there were no tears. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for, a little independence and trust in herself.