Group settings have always been difficult for me; I never know when to speak, and when to stay silent. There is an easy-to-read give and take in a two person conversation which relaxes me, but add more people to the mix and I find myself waiting for an invitation to speak… an invitation which, of course, rarely comes (if ever). Hi. My name is Sarah, and I am an introvert.
I’ve generally just worked around (instead of through) my aversion to group settings, but after an incident I experienced with Ethan recently, I’m left wondering how to reconcile my introversion with Ethan’s need for socialization.
I started being invited to group play dates. I very much liked all the moms I’d see there (and of course, their children), but knowing how difficult those situations are for me was cause for real hesitation. I decided that just because I am happy being a hermit doesn’t mean Ethan necessarily is, so I needed to be uncomfortable if that’s what it took for Ethan to be happy. I agreed to meet up with the group at one of their houses, from which we would later walk a couple blocks for a picnic.
I wasn’t sure that I could transport Ethan those couple blocks by myself, and despised the thought of having one of the other mothers (who each have two kids) help. I was also nervous about handling Ethan by myself at the picnic location… if there were swings and slides, he would want to play, and I wasn’t sure if I could help him. As Ethan played with the other kids and the time drew close to leave for the park, I decided we needed to go home instead. I wasn’t ready. In fact, I was shaking and feeling a little sick. (Full disclosure: I had just a couple of days earlier gotten home from a weekend away to do a conference, which was amazing, but left me pretty wiped out. This might have added to my panic.)
He had heard the other kids chattering about the park and was excitedly doing the same. I was so ashamed that my own insecurity and inexperience was keeping him from something he should be enjoying. As I told our host we had to leave, I broke down in tears.
This was one of those days when I grieved my differences. I was angry for Ethan’s sake, and angry for mine. It’s not fair that these things are such a struggle for me, and it’s definitely not fair that Ethan’s along for the ride. I’m not okay with it. In the past few years, I’ve become more at peace with my disability, but if these days of grief don’t come, I suppose that would mean I’ve stopped growing, or at least attempting to grow.
I wasn’t ready that day, but I will be. Ethan is the best motivator I’ve ever had to keep me stretching and pushing myself to do the uncomfortable, the painful… the good. I guess if I fail him in a thousand ways, but he sees his Mom doing the right things (or trying to), even when they hurt, I have taught him something. Even better if I can also teach him how to try again. That, of course, requires that I fail first, and that he sees my failure.
Growth is painful. Tumultuous. Awkward and sometimes ugly. And worth it.
I want Ethan to have a Mom who is not afraid to grow and change and try again and push through the pain. I want him to learn it’s okay to fail and start over, and I want him to learn that by the example we’ve set.
So, as much as I wanted to get on here and gripe about how hard this all is for me, and how I don’t know how I’m going to be what Ethan needs, in the end I’m just thankful I’m not. He can learn much more from an imperfect me than from a perfect one.
And besides, God might just leave me alone if I don’t need His help.