Introverts are in the news, even if they’d rather not be.
Time, NPR, Scientific American, and a host of other media sources are all buzzing about the new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.
Introverts are cautious, quiet people who might prefer to work through a crossword puzzle at home rather than spend a night partying with friends.
My kids are introverts, just like their parents. And their grandparents. Must be a genetic thing.
Many people misunderstand my children’s social apathy as some sort of negative effect of homeschooling. Long ago, I stopped trying to explain that they’ve always been this way.
When my son was just a toddler, barely walking, we took him to a Gymboree class so he could play with the other kids and get some good exercise on the colorful equipment. Oh, he got a workout alright, as did I, but he had zero interest in playing with anyone his own age.
Even at that young age, he was choosing to play alone. And loving it. At the time, I wondered why he would cry when playtime was over and the teacher called all the kids over to the rainbow parachute for story time. Now I know he was just ticked off at being forced into the larger group.
In kindergarten, first grade, second grade, it was the same. He enjoyed playing with his one or two friends, but didn’t much care what the other, more extroverted, kids were doing, either in class or on the playground.
My kids know how to step out of their introverted comfort zones when it’s necessary. They can fake their way through a party if the need arises. Just don’t ask them to enjoy it.
Both my son and daughter have stood up on stage in front of hundreds of people to confidently win various spelling and geography bees. They’ve played soccer and basketball, team sports that require social interaction. They participate in Scouts, leading meetings and activities. They attend sleepovers and birthday parties just fine.
They know how to get along in a noisy world dominated by extroverts.
But I’m sure glad my kids aren’t one of them. I love their quiet focus and cautious reserve. I love the thoughtful little poems my daughter writes and the way my son carefully observes a social situation before stepping into it.
They have an amazing ability to thrive in solitude without the need for constant confirmation from the crowd. This makes my job as a parent much easier, as I get to avoid much of the social drama that seems to plague the teenage years.
But I also have to be careful. I have to teach my kids how to balance their desire to be alone with the unavoidable role they’ll need to play to get along in this outwardly-oriented society.
Fortunately, they are not alone. There are plenty of introverts out there. Up to a third of the population, some research suggests. Maybe more, since most introverts don’t care much about answering surveys.
If we could only get them to rise up and take over, the world would be a much quieter place.