When An Introvert Parents An Extrovert
The older Max gets, the more apparent it becomes to me that, not only did I marry an extrovert, I’ve also somehow managed to give birth to one.
Which is a little bit awkward for me, really.
Being the only introvert in a house full of extroverts (Well, OK, two extroverts, although I’m petty sure Max’s imaginary friend, Shoeshubb, could be described that way too…), means never really getting to be alone in your own head.
It means constant chatter, and – when one of the extroverts in question is a toddler – endless demands for interaction.
It means learning how to hold two conversations simultaneously (Often while thinking about something unrelated to either of them), because – MUMMY! – while one person is – MUMMY! – talking, the other one – MUMMY! – is going to be constantly interrupting and – MUMMY! – trying to take over.
It means having to make smalltalk with everyone from supermarket cashiers, to the people you pass on the street, because one extrovert just walked up to them and introduced himself (Normally with the line, “Hi, I’m Max and I’ve got lots of jewels in my house!” Don’t ask…), then the other one grabbed the opportunity to continue the conversation, because why not?
It means not being able to enter or leave your street without having to stop and talk to every visible neighbour on the way. My husband actually pulls over and winds the car window down to chat to neighbours he sees as we’re driving. It sometimes takes us twenty minutes just to travel a few metres. WHY?
It means spending a lot of your time impatiently waiting around for a conversation to end, because you want to get on with whatever it is you were planning to do, but the extroverts just want to tell this random person they bumped into their entire life story first.
It means dreading trips to the playground, because you know your child will latch onto another family, and, hey, here comes an hour of smalltalk, when all you wanted to do was drink your takeaway coffee on a bench and get to be alone with your thoughts for a while and watch them play.
It means regularly having a sore face from all of the fake smiling you find yourself doing, in a bid to look like you’re totally into this completely meaningless conversation everyone is having, and which never seems to end.
It means that leaving a social gathering can take twice as long as the gathering itself, because just when you think you’re going to get to go home, one of the extroverts remembers one more thing they want to tell everyone, then one more thing, and, before you know it, you’ve been standing shivering on the doorstep for the best part of an hour, saying , “Well, guess we better get going, then!” every time there’s a gap in the conversation.
And, finally, in my case, it means never really feeling like you can totally relax in your own home, because you just never know when a random stranger is going to be ushered in on a house tour, do you? No. You do not.
Sometimes, though, it also means having your heart broken every time you watch your extrovert toddler go barreling up to another child at the park and try to befriend them, only for them to look at him like he has three heads, and then silently walk away. It means desperately wanting to be able to somehow step in to spare him the disappointment, and the rejection, but knowing that you can’t – and that there’ll probably be more of it to come.
Because, the fact is, the extroverts don’t exactly have it easy either, do they? I’ve always felt like the world was built for them, with everything geared towards social interaction, and those of us who need our own space being viewed as outliers – or problems that need to be “fixed”.
But, this weekend, I watched Max attempt to talk to maybe half a dozen other children in the park, before finally finding the one who was willing to play with him (“Mummy, I’ve made this one my friend!” he shouted in delight), and I realised extroverts probably deal with that kind of disappointment more than I know – and that I never want to be the person who makes his little face fall when I tell him I don’t want to play.
He might not always be an extrovert – I mean, I’m pretty sure my parents would’ve described me as one, too, when I was his age, and we all know how THAT turned out, right? But, whatever kind of personality he ends up having, I hope he grows up knowing that none of us need to be “fixed”: and that I will always be there to play with him, even when no one else is interested.
(Or, you know, his dad will.)