As we were rushing out the door to go to a party last weekend, Curly-locks suddenly stopped in her tracks and tugged on my arm.
With a determined and defiant face, my darling almost-three-year-old declared, ‘I not be shy today mummy!’
I was a little speechless because I didn’t know where this had come from.
What had brought her to say this and in such a bold voice?
As a shy person myself, her statement stirred up a mix of emotions in me. I know how difficult and sometimes paralyzing it can be being shy. It broke my heart to think she may have been going through some sort of internal battle which I was not aware of.
At her tender age, she has already picked up on the negative connotations associated with being shy and decided that it was something she didn’t want to be.
Curly-locks is an absolute hoot. She is playful, funny and cheeky. She is creative, inquisitive, a deep thinker, generous and loving. She is determined, sensitive and clever. She is happy.
She is also shy.
All it can take is a friendly hello or a smile from someone she doesn’t see regularly or doesn’t know and she hides behind my legs or gives them the Lady Di look, you know the one where she has her head down and looks up through her eyelashes?
I’m not sure how much of this is part of being a toddler, how much of it is her personality, how much is learned behaviour, or how much of it is inherited from us. Dave and I have joked in the past that with both of us being shy our children really have no hope.
In the past, I’ve apologised to people on Curly-locks’ behalf and remarked ‘Oh, she’s just shy’.
I always feel uneasy after I do this though. What’s wrong with being shy? Why do I feel the need to apologise?
I know it’s hard being a toddler – period. They are learning about and dealing with so many new emotions as well as struggling to be heard and understood. It’s not an easy time. The last thing Curly-locks needs is to have my preconceptions of shyness forced upon her giving her a complex.
I feel guilty, although it’s not only me and Dave, for calling Curly-locks shy. In times when she has felt timid, or scared, we have placed a label on her, on those feelings. She now associates those yucky feelings she has in social situations with this word. She sees shy as something to be ashamed of and something she doesn’t want to be.
As parents and shy people ourselves, we need to lead the way for Curly-locks. We need to show her how special shy people can be and that it doesn’t have to be a negative attribute.
If Curly-locks continues to be shy like her mummy and daddy then that’s cool with us. We may be quiet and reserved and take a little longer to get to know, but we are also down to earth, good listeners, deep thinkers and creative. We are cautious and analytical. We’re like a good book that you have to read right through, you just don’t go to the last page to find out the ending.
The next time Curly-locks hides behind me, I will not draw attention to it. I will allow her to be herself – the special little person she is.
Are you shy or have shy people in your family? How do you deal with it?