I am the mother of four beautiful children, all unique and wonderful in their own individual ways. One of my children is an extreme introvert. When I think of him, I often wonder how he might be perceived, might be viewed in connection to his teacher’s perspective. But this blog is not about a teacher’s perspective. It is about a mother’s.
This is my story- a story about being a mother to my son.
When my son first entered school, I lost natural hair color through worry. Stressing about his ride to school (where he was exposed to things like soft porn found in magazines the bigger boys read, exposed to language and stories children in our home would otherwise never have heard), stressing over his day at school (I will never forget the day I picked him up, wet with another boy’s urine: a bully incident which happened during an unsupervised visit to the men’s room), stressing about whether he had someone to talk to on the playground ( I hoped for the best), someone to play with during center time (I had co-ordinated with another mother to protect for this very thing). Stressing about that bus ride back home again (would he lose his hat again to a game of toss?).
Stressing. Because I knew my son. And I knew that school might not be the kindest place for him to grow and flourish.
Add to the outside factors in a school that might influence a child was the fact that my son was an introvert. I don’t know if his initial school experience was typical or not, as he is my only boy and I merely have his one experience to go on. But, I am starting to wonder, what with all the things that have been shared one with another via social media. Although the variables might change from child to child, there are certainly some parallels to be found when it comes to the experience of THESE children. Introverts. The ones who just pass through the system largely invisible.
My boy worried himself about school from the get-go. His first day home from kindergarten, I waited patiently under the old maple tree, picking at the moss growing along the spreading roots. I watched the bus go by, and then watched as it swung back again, up our side road, dropping my son off at the end of the lane. And, as eagerly as I chased him down to hear stories about the first of all experiences at school, he equalled my enthusiasm in stridency, storming passed me, eyebrows in a furrow. Pounding feet against the stone walkway, as he stormed into the house. It is a memory I will never forget. How I wished we could both sit in the late summer breeze sharing with each other all the wonderful things he’d done, all the magical experiences he’d been part of. But he had other priorities, other needs. He had some unwinding to do. And school for him wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Grade 1 was even harder. He clung to my leg for the better part of forty-five minutes that first day. He was anxious, worried about making friends: scared of being alone and frightened of me leaving. I held a Little One on my hip and clasped another toddler with my free hand. Three little bodies stuck to me like crazy glue. And while I tried to un-peel his little hands, I thought to myself, “There’s got to be a better way.” It was awkward, and I knew there would be eyebrows raised. My child was the leech and I, his seemingly over-protective parent. I felt that pressure to let go his hand, even as my mother instinct was telling me, “No! We’re both not ready for this step.” And yet, I let his hand slip first, turned and abruptly walked away. Hoping for the best.
Each year got both easier and harder. He began to distance himself emotionally from me, no more clinging. But there were new worries to be had. There were adaptations to classroom structure to fret over. Homework routines to make and then stick to. And the issue of his making and finding friendship to add to the mother lode. Not to mention the usual childhood rite of on-going bullying to endure, a rite that helped to establish the playground pecking order and the seating arrangement on the bus. Somehow, he found himself on the bottom of that pile-up. Never the ring-leader, often the victim.
Woven into each additional year was the stress of performance anxiety he placed on himself. He was not a behaviour challenge inside the school setting. In fact, quite the opposite. His teachers raved about his smarts and his ability to focus. His quiet, calm demeanor. But, there was something awry that I just couldn’t seem to put my finger on at the time. It seemed to be the combination of his trying to find his place in this new world of norms, along with trying to please both his peers and the adults around him, along with the very high expectations he placed on himself. All combined, becoming a triple threat of trouble. Perhaps the most taxing of all these three was the pressure he placed on himself to stay in tip-top academic shape, as that was often the only area of schooling he was able to truly control, the only thing he felt really positive about in his school experience.
And so, school became difficult. Tedious. Even dreaded.
And although my son has succeeded academically (he is now in Grade 9), there are many ways in which I feel he has fallen through the cracks. Because he is prone to performance anxiety on a personal level, but also because in a more general way, he is an introvert. And sometimes introverts and school can make for a complicated combination.
Sure, everyone admires your child because they are GOOD. Agreeable and easy and compliant. But you wonder if that same child of yours is just kind of drifting through the years, classroom to classroom- never really known for who they truly are on the inside. Merely acknowledged for the ease at which they have put their teacher. For that is what seems to matter. The ease to which we are placed. When something or someone is easy, we give that thing or person less attention. Less time and thought. It makes perfect sense, to be honest. Why fret about something that isn’t a problem? Yes, it makes perfect sense. Except when it is your child you are talking about.
When it is your child falling through the cracks.
Truth: it is difficult by times to peer inside an introverted child’s world and really understand what that world is like. Difficult to really see that child for the package they are. And unless one is willing to take the time to see the children who are quiet and easy and compliant as needing of equal time and effort to everyone else in the class, one will never understand there is more to them than just a smiling face and quiet demeanor.
These children are equal in importance to everyone else in the room. Does this mean the same treatment? No. It just means that they too deserve their teacher’s time and attention, however that might play out in a given day.
All kids are deserving. And this child of mine is no exception.