Unexpectedly Introverted Living in an Extrovert World

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So here was my year at a glance: had a baby, co-planned and co-hosted two baby showers, stood up in a wedding three weeks after I had Gracie, hosted two birthday parties for my boys and one giant birthday celebration for my very sweet Grammie Ellie, hosted a celebration for Gracie’s baptism, and now I am gearing up to host Christmas for Scott’s mom’s side of the family next month. I am not listing any of this as a way to toot my own horn or even to complain, but rather to explain how in spite of all of these “extra-circulars,” I am a pure introvert.
It may or may not come as a surprise to you to know that I am an introvert. I discovered this only within the last year or so. I always thought an introvert was someone who was very shy (and I am not shy). Here is the actual meaning of the word “introvert”: the state of or tendency toward being wholly or predominantly concerned with and interested in one’s own mental life. In other words, “introspective” or “self-analytical.” And that is who I am, as you can probably see. It also has been said that introverts re-charge their batteries by being alone and being in group settings tends to drain them. This is true for me.
I actually love opening up to people one-on-one and listening to people, getting to know them better. I love finding out what makes people tick and finding that hey, maybe I’m not such a weirdo after all! I like cooking very much (it is usually an “alone” activity for me) so entertaining isn’t really the issue for me either. Believe it or not, public speaking doesn’t even bother me too much because it allows me a chance to write something down before-hand and is a chance for me to be alone with my thoughts.
That is pretty much where the contradictions end, however. I do not like crowds. I get very anxious whenever I host a get-together or am invited to one. Even play-dates stress me out. I do not like having one-on-one attention with another individual compromised by noise of other people, music, screaming kids, even our pool is a problem for me because my eyes are darting around making sure that no one is drowning. I like giving people my undivided attention and I also like to be alone in my head. My day literally plays out like a narrative or a movie script in my head. I need time to reflect, to sort out my thoughts. Unfortunately it comes at a price.

Glennon from Momastery blogged yesterday (http://momastery.com/blog/2013/11/26/somebody-help-figure-good-friend-others/) about her struggle with introversion and I thought, “My God, I could have written this.” Her thoughts mirrored so many of my own.
I do feel like a crappy person to many people in my life. I know for a fact there are people who have contacted me wondering, “Did I do something wrong? Are you upset with me?”

The simple answer is the old, “It’s not you, it’s me,” line. And it really is me. It was me trying desperately to fight my introversion and to make you think I am this really energetic, go-with-the-flow kind of person. And I do this because on more than one occasion in my life, people have told me that when they first met me they thought I was going to be a giant b**** before they got to know me. I am always eager to prove people wrong. My introversion probably could come across as “snooty” but it’s really not my intention. I really do want to spend an afternoon getting to know people, chatting or catching up, but I know it will involve my kids running under foot, my attention being pulled away from what I feel like I should be doing, and inevitably a half hearted conversation on my part. But more importantly, constantly socializing drains me and takes away from who I truly am.

My kids also suffer from my introversion. I am very short with them most days. I wouldn’t say I’m mean, just business-like. I am not the “fun” mom who I always envisioned being before I was a mom. I find I am asking them to help pick up their toys constantly or snapping at them to stop jumping on the couch. And I never thought I would feel this way, but sometimes I find it grating to hear their little voices saying, “Mom, watch this!” or “Mom, look at me!” or “Mom, can you get me (fill in the blank)?” I hit a point around 6:00 p.m. most days when I want to run screaming from the house, tired of being pulled in too many directions, none of which are the direction I would choose to be going if I were alone.

And poor Scott gets whatever is leftover at the end of a day like that. Generally he’s okay with the arrangement. He is also extremely introverted and respects my need for temporary solitude. I usually just hand him the baby and tell him I am going to take a shower or I need to go to the grocery store alone. I know it sounds awful, but I need that chance to regroup. As soon as I get back from the store, I instantly love the sound of their little voices yelping, “Mom, you’re home!” from the other room. It’s just I need that time alone every day.

I have a handful of friends who understand me and I am thankful for their friendship. A three-month lapse in communication doesn’t seem to phase them and we can pick up right where we left off. I suspect that they are introverts as well. My extrovert friends are less accommodating to my preference for solitude so I don’t have many. There are only a handful of people I can talk to every day without feeling that sense of intrusion. It’s nothing personal to anyone. It’s just how I am wired. Ask any introvert and I can almost guarantee that they will agree.

Glennon had me thinking about it all at length after I read her blog post yesterday (a fellow introvert friend tipped me off to read it). But I feel like we are a misunderstood breed of people. We have many gifts to share. It seems like a selfish way to be, but I imagine we were made this way for some greater purpose. I need to learn to embrace it. I wonder if anyone out there has any advice to give on this. Because right now, I feel guilty about being this way. It goes against the grain in almost every aspect of who I am “supposed” to be; part of a large and rowdy family and an active, involved mother of three crazy kids. I welcome any input or insight anyone can share! Introverts Unite! (Quietly, Anonymously, and Separately)!

They Can Be the Change

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So many times, I sit watching the news and think, “What kind of a world am I raising my children in?” and I feel afraid. Genuinely afraid. Sometimes I even think, “Should I have even brought more children into this screwed up world?” And I wring my hands trying to devise plans for how I can lock them up until they are thirty-five.

Evil is often glorified. Everywhere you look you can see immoral behavior being praised as “the norm” or “the cool thing to do.” And naively I tell myself, “My kids will be smart enough to see through that,” or a delusional notion of the control freak in me, “I won’t let them go down that path!” But let’s be honest. They are human and are going to be exposed to all sorts of temptation including things that didn’t even exist when I was younger. They will be tempted and will have their own vices and follies to trip over while trying to achieve happiness. And I won’t be able to be there for every instance making sure that they do the right thing.

So I am back to feeling fear. I am fearful of the things I can’t control. I would like to be able to lead them by the hand to what I think would be the path toward self-actualization. But there is the problem. That would be on my terms and SELF-actualization can only be reached by one’s self and at the risk of sounding “too-religious,” through one’s faith.

The other day, I was verging a panic attack over it all. And I went to my go-to mantra which I have been chanting when I get like this: “Let Go.” I let my head go quiet and then I heard that voice speaking to me. “They can be the change.” It brought a calm over me.

We actually live in a very exciting time to be raising children. With more opportunities to lose their way than ever before, our kids can become stronger than we were. It can be our children’s generation who redefine norms and bring morality and peace back to the world. They can use all of this mind-blowing technology and accessible education combined with real, honest and good intentions to create a super army of do-gooders. Sure, there will always be evil and temptation; the light can’t exist without the dark. But maybe it will be attractive to do the right thing for once.

But we have to be that voice that they hear when they are confronted with temptation. We have to model our lives to be something that our children respect and aspire to. We have to chose our words with love so we can establish trust with them. Now a lot of times, we think that all of this means we have to be our kid’s friend to gain their respect and acceptance. But it couldn’t be further from the truth. We still have to set boundaries. It’s such a fine line to be loved and respected. They almost can’t exist together for a little while. Sometimes it means being resented for not allowing them to go to that co-ed sleepover. Or forcing them to be the only one who can’t have a cell phone in their third-grade class.

But we need to show our children that sometimes, a little bit of deprivation or “DELAYED” gratification isn’t a bad thing. This world we live in is in the shape it is because people need everything to happen NOW! NOW! NOW!

I have just started these conversations with my five-year-old. Recently we had some friends over for dinner. I fed Noah and Luke their dinner before everyone arrived and Noah wanted to have a treat afterward. I told him if he had to have a treat now, he could choose a piece of candy from his Halloween stash. But if he could wait until everyone else finished dinner, he could have a brownie and ice cream sundae with the rest of us later on. He chose the Halloween candy. And of course when all of the adults sat down to eat their sundaes, he asked for one. I told him he had already made his choice earlier to have his candy and that was it. No more sweets.

He said, “I wish I didn’t have my Smarties, Mom.” And though it broke my heart a little to tell him no, I stuck to my guns. Maybe next time he will be able to wait instead of needing that instant gratification. It’s a small lesson in finding true happiness by waiting. It’s not a game or a way for me to make my kid feel excluded. He got what he thought he wanted but later realized something better was to be had by waiting. That’s real life! We can have the fun now if we want, but sometimes by buckling down and working hard we can find our joy- our purpose– later.

I know I am going to give in to those sweet little faces at times, but I pray it won’t be at the expense of preventing them from finding their true character. I want to be a part of guiding them to become who they are meant to be for the improvement of this world. And I see so many parents who are trying to do the same thing with their little ones. It gives me hope. “They can be the change.”

Baby Girl Clothing Intervention

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My name is Christine. And I have an addiction to buying baby girl’s clothing.

I think God knew what he was doing when he gave us our daughter last. I don’t think there would have been room in our house for the clothes that I have already accumulated for her. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t dress my boys in rags or anything. But just being honest, boy’s clothes are definitely less exciting than little girl’s clothes. I do remember even uttering the words, “Oh, I really don’t think I will get so into the girly clothes fashion craze that so many moms do.” Those were my famous last words. I should have known better.

I come from a long line of “fashion-appreciators.” My dad’s mom was an amazing seamstress in her younger years. She designed elegant evening gowns for women and dainty dresses for little girls. My mom’s mom worked in retail when she was younger. She worked at a wedding boutique displaying elaborately beaded wedding dresses then at children’s clothing boutiques where the most adorable threads were easily accessible. My mom always had my sister and I dressed very fashionably. We were blessed in that regard. I don’t ever remember a time when we were wanting for clothes or shoes.

Within the past five months, I too have gone through a transformation in my way of thinking about clothes for my daughter. In fact, she dresses better than I do. I have bought much of her wardrobe second-hand or been given a few things from my very generous cousin’s daughter. So Mini Boden, Matilda Jane, Baby Gap are labels that are on many of her tiny outfits. And I do buy pieces that will mix and match well (like her adorable mint green tights that look just as cute under her jean skirt as they do with her red and gray stripped Mini Boden dress with applique birds on it…swoon). And I would be lying if I said I don’t spend considerable chunks of time scouring the internet for deals on unique fashion finds priced on sale or clearance.  And I subscribe to different websites that inform me of upcoming sales. My heart kind of skips a beat when I see a notification in my inbox for them. Yeah… It’s actually becoming a problem. Because even though I am finding some obscenely good finds, it all adds up. And I sort of flinch when I have to tell Scott how much I spent on clothes after a good sale.

I keep justifying my purchases saying that they will make great hand-me-downs for my cousins or sister who are now having babies. Two of my cousins just had daughters. And my sister doesn’t know what she’s having yet. So if she has a daughter, she will be sitting pretty! Literally. Plus, for some of those Matilda Jane items, I know I can sell them at a resale shop and make back a nice lump of cash if they’re still in good condition. And most of them are still in great shape! I mean, she’s in these clothes for all of a few hours of her life. They out-grow everything so quickly.

And there is the sad truth exposed. My husband is fast to catch me in this pretzel-logic all the time. These little babies wear this stuff for five minutes of their lives. Does it really matter where it’s from? Carter’s brand is sold at a chain grocery store right near our house. And sure, it’s cute. And warm. And often on clearance. Sigh. But it’s just not Persnickety Boutique, is it?

I know this is probably a horrible analogy, but it’s kind of like cocaine. Once you get a total stranger approaching you at the apple orchard and telling you how precious your daughter’s corduroy bloomies are, your boy’s stained-up, second-hand gerber onsies just won’t seem good enough anymore.

I have become that mom. The one I said I wouldn’t become. I do shop on Etsy for custom made t-shirts. I do have a headband to match nearly every outfit of her wardrobe (although I have made most of them!). I do agonize over her outfits just as much as mine before a social function. Hmm… those shoes don’t quite go with that dress. I think I need them in gold AND silver…

How do I stop the madness?! She is my living baby doll. I am just so in love with her  chubby cheeks and big smile. I want to dress her in a way that I feel is fitting for how special she is to me. And since she’s a girl, society makes it so easy to go crazy over it. But I know I need to take it down a notch. Admission is the first step to recovery, right?

Embracing the Chaos

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My sister and her husband are expecting their first child in early January. I am beyond thrilled about my sister becoming a mother. She will join the world of motherhood and see firsthand all of the happiness that it brings. I have been on this side of the fence for five years now. I wouldn’t feel complete without the challenges, lessons and love I am privileged to experience every day.

Life has been a blur for the past few weeks preparing for my sister’s baby shower. My house has fallen apart. I don’t know why there is a train in the heat register, but there is. I have no idea why I put the kids Halloween candy on top of the entertainment stand in the family room, but I did. I have stacks of laundry piled in baskets leading to the staircase, but not actually upstairs where it needs to be. I could go on, but I’d be writing all night and I need to sleep at some point.

Anyway, today I decided to try to make a dent. I began by cleaning bathrooms. I was really motivated. I thought, “I can get this done, no problem, while Noah is at school!” But Grace and Luke had other plans. Grace decided that she didn’t want to be put down. Luke had not one or two, but three poop attacks and was “starving” every five minutes. The good news was that I got two of my bathrooms cleaned during the two and a half hour stretch I had before picking up Noah. Gracie was beside herself for the fifteen minutes it took me to clean each one and Luke had to “starve” during that time as well, but I did it. There was no time, however to go to the grocery store before we had to pick up Noah.

So we, all four, hit Kroger this afternoon. Holy. Crap. Three kids at the grocery store is such a game-changer. I don’t have to do it often, but when I do, look out. If you see us walking into a store, do yourself a favor and go get a coffee down the street or something. Gracie is able to sit in the front of the cart now, which is fractionally easier than having her in her bulky car seat. But because of her visibility were stopped by several strangers who wanted to have conversations with her while my boys tried to cram as much junk food and matchbox cars into our cart as they could while I was partially distracted by being Grace’s interpreter. One lady actually said she wanted to die over how cute Grace was. I can’t disagree with her on the level of cuteness, but I am a bit biased. Consequently, this led to Noah asking me why that lady wanted to die. “Will she go to heaven because Grace killed her?” Of course I was laughing and could barely answer him.

Anyway, we made it through the store. Noah only acted up twice when I denied his request for cupcakes or something unhealthy and wouldn’t continue to walk with us while Luke screamed, “MOOOOOM! BROTHER ISN’T COMING WITH US! HE’S GOING TO GET LOOOOOST!” which in turn upset Grace who began to pout and wail. But eventually, and probably to the relief of all the Kroger shoppers, we vacated the premises with our cart full of groceries. Luke had to pee as soon as we got to the car so we had to turn around and go back in to use the restroom. But then we really left.

I made dinner after we got home and unloaded the car and put everything away. I fed Grace who took a late nap (poor thing has absolutely no consistent napping schedule). And by a minor miracle, Scott got home an hour earlier than I had expected. And when I saw him I thought, “I did it. I made it through today.”

But it got me thinking tonight about my sister and brother-in-law who are approximately sixty-two days (Cathy I am sure you have the right count) away from becoming parents. You will have these days that feel so mundane yet challenging and you’ll wonder how you’re going to make it. But you will and you will be even stronger than you thought you could be. I know the events I listed above were not anything too awful or challenging. I actually enjoy the chaos on some strange level. It’s a privilege some people will never be able to experience. And I have to remind myself that it’s all good, honest work.

Now I am going to steal a piece of Halloween candy off the top of the TV stand and call it a night.

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My sister, Gracie and me at her baby shower. Isn’t she a beautiful mommy already?