I really don’t like the word “shy” however we can paint a picture with this one simple word. My daughter is “shy” and it has taken me years to not only accept the way she is, but accept the way I am. I, too, am “shy”. I like to call it introverted now or maybe “socially awkward”. Being “shy” has put stress on my daughter from day one. She has always clung to me and hid her head from strangers. She refused to smile and wave at people she didn’t know when they pleasantly said, “Oh she’s so cute, Hi there”. It took her an hour to warm up in groups, even events such as our family Christmas. Frequently, I would get frustrated and try to pull her away from me which just created more of a melt down for both of us. I felt judged by so many that I was doing something wrong, that I was spoiling her and creating a negative reliance on me. By the time she was almost 3 I decided she needed less time with me and to go to a school and socialize her.
The first preschool my daughter went to was a daycare that had class time. The classes for the 2-3 year olds was from 9-2, 3 days a week. That was way too much for my already shy girl so I paid for the 5 hours but picked her up at noon. She would cry most days when I left her and occasionally woke in the morning pleading to not go. My brain told me that she needed the socialization, that she needed to go so she could get “used” to being around people and that she needed to get “used” to me not being there. My heart ached and I had guilt that I had created this to be harder than what it should be for both of us. All of these other kids where there happily and the teacher would see us coming and swoop her up and tell me, “Go, she’s always fine when you’re not here.” After about 6 weeks, I finally listened to my heart and took her out with the excuse that she was just too young. I was relieved to not have to torture us anymore, but I was very ashamed. I was creating this evil monster in myself that liked to beat my heart and tell myself what a horrible mother I was and what a weird kid I was creating.
When she was almost 4 I decided to try another preschool, this one smaller. I also waited till January to enroll her. It was 2 days a week for 2 hours; much more my style. I wasn’t pleased with the teachers as they also told me, “Go, she’s always fine when you’re not here”. They also failed to give me progress reports of how my child was doing. Keeping in mind that this was a small church-funded, and very country preschool I played it down. I decided to continue this preschool when she was 4 as she would have a friend join her in class. I hoped that it would help bring her out of her shell. I also hoped that the teachers would begin giving me a bit more of an update as most of the kids would be going to kindergarten after this year. I was woefully disappointed on both points. Bella did better, but still clung to me when I’d drop her off. She would only play with her friend she knew and didn’t socialize with other kids, especially the boys! I began to get angry with the school instead of myself or her. I began to become more confident in myself as a mother by then. I was pregnant with my son, lost friends and fought with family. Myself was the only one I had and it was time for me to find my true self. As I grew more educated in my preparation for birth I also became aware of Attachment Parenting.
That is when I stumbled across a cooperative preschool. A co-op is a preschool that is play-based and parent involvement is not only crucial but required. We started the year out much like the other schools, but she blossomed during the year. By the end she was talking with boys, and other parents. She would raise her hand and participate in class. She still had small “shy” moments but for the most part she was gaining confidence in herself and her surroundings.
I gained confidence in my parenting and myself. At some point I accepted that Bella wasn’t shy, she was BELLA! This is who she is. She is sensitive and takes a bit more time to warm up to things. She is hard on herself and needs constant encouragement. She is bright and incredibly smart. She is outgoing and funny and full of love for her brother, friends and her family. I am beginning to notice how her courage is growing. She speaks up now and doesn’t hide when we go new places. She makes friends when we go to the park.
This year, we have decided to skip the school scene and take a different path. We are going to homeschool for kindergarten. I am nervous, but extremely excited too. She is super excited as well. Our acceptance of each other and ourselves has created a new path to some pretty amazing things. I feel this is the best way for us to grow into confident people.