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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.

Apple picking at the farmSometimes, 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.)

COMMENTS
  • Myra

    REPLY

    Very astute post

    October 27, 2021
  • Lizz

    REPLY

    This has always been on the top of my should I have kids list. However, seeing you excel and reading your stories of how you go about parenting has put me at ease. If Amber can do it, so can I. Thanks, for sharing your perspective from an introvert to another, I truly appreciate you.

    October 27, 2021
  • Gai

    REPLY

    Loved this. I have no kids, and used to be an extrovert, but after an extreme illness my inner introvert has taken precedence. What you described at gatherings (with people I like!) is exactly how I feel–chanting in my head “Let’s go already, let’s go already…”
    Good luck to you. You can look forward to Max getting old enough to be out and about without his Mum. You can stay in your lovely home with tea and silence!!

    October 27, 2021
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    Welcome to my mum’s world! She married an extrovert and then gave birth to one. 😂

    Max sounds like such a lovely little boy! So friendly and chatty. I hope he makes lots of friends and there is always the good old imaginary friend.

    One of mine was called Toad and he was… a toad! He went everywhere with us and was once responsible for breaking a pan in a bathroom suite shop in North Berwick. Imagine how embarrassing it was for my introverted mother when I loudly announced that it wasn’t me who’d done the damage, but Toad. And the further embarrassment that came when her own mother (my granny) disagreed and said that he’d been “a good boy.”

    October 27, 2021
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    Both my husband and myself are fairly introverted, but I can relate to a lot of these situations, as I grew up with an extroverted mother and sister. I was always the ‘quiet one’ who got hauled over into conversations – ‘Come and say hello to Mrs so-and-so from down the street!’ And I would stand there awkwardly not having the slightest idea what to say to Mrs so-and-so. I do wonder what any kids we have would be like – if they end up extroverts, they are going to be very bored around their parents! 😂 We like nothing better than staying in and watching a movie, rather than going out to party.

    October 28, 2021
  • Elena

    REPLY

    I’m glad you wrote this… being an extrovert, especially in a closed off Northern country can be intensely heartbreaking. The rejection is real and constant, peppered with currently trendy slogans like “extroverts seek in others what they can’t fix in themselves” and “you just can’t bear to be alone with your thoughts”. As if it’s impossible to understand that some of us just LIKE PEOPLE. I spend more than enough time alone. Maybe the situation is very different in the Anglosphere where I notice small talk seems to be mandatory. Nevertheless, I hope you can accept and understand Max’s need for connection. This post kind of broke my heart.

    October 28, 2021
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