A facet of parenthood that continues to amaze me includes the seemingly natural behaviors you sometimes have to actually train--especially across gender lines and personality types.
Our P is an introvert in a family full of extroverts. An avid reader, gamer and frequent day dreamer, his personality is hilarious, caring and intelligent--but he doesn't allow just anyone to get to know that about him.
One of his greatest strengths is the fact that he is comfortable in his own skin--noncompetitive and seemingly unconcerned with keeping up with anyone else. (This is especially welcomed since his siblings are a bit more inclined towards score keeping.) Lately, however, the normal childhood rites of social passage are becoming important to him. He has specifically become concerned with play dates.
Unfortunately, P is far more enamored with the idea of having a play date than he is with the experience itself. P asks me to invite friends over for him to play with--but when they arrive he can only handle 'group play' for so long before retreating to play alone for a bit. As an extrovert struggling to understand, it took time for me to realize he wasn't fleeing because anything was wrong--he can simply only take so much. He loves knowing he has a buddy here, but doesn't enjoy the responsibility of entertaining them or being tethered together for any length of time.
K & R are social butterflies, always up for a group experience. Invariably, when P abandons his guest for the security of a book or other solo activity, his siblings fill in until he is recharged enough (and prompted by his Mama) to return to play. He and I have had a few open conversations lately about how to be polite in these situations. While it doesn't seem to come naturally for him, he really seems eager to learn.
With R still sidelined by the flu, P received a solo invitation to go across the street and play with a neighbor today. He was thrilled. As he was getting his coat I reminded him that a play date meant playing together--and to try and remember that it might hurt his friend's feelings if he wandered off. He nodded affirmatively that he understood--and I could tell he really was making mental notes. I could almost see him running through his mental list of Do's and Don'ts.
My husband walked him across to our neighbors' yard and came back into the house chuckling.
"Well," he grinned, "they started off together, then P walked over to get a soccer ball and play alone. Before I could say anything he stopped, ran to me wide-eyed and whispered, 'Oh! Remember what Mom said?' before dashing back over to his friend."
"That's great! He remembered our talk!" I celebrated.
"Oh, yes, then he told Redding and his mother all about it."
So, he's not the smoothest guy socially...I am pretty sure it is what makes him so endearing.
I am grateful for sweet, 'safe' neighbors and friends where we can practice our skills...even if announcing it all the while.
P.S. Loved this post on how to raise an introvert.