Friday, April 04, 2014

Raising my Walter Mitty

My P is a day dreamer. He lives for reading, video games and drawing--things that take him into a fantasy world far more exciting than his daily life. He is bright, creative and funny--but it is sometimes difficult to connect with him. I borrowed a slogan from a friend who describes it as "living in a happy place that we have to dial long distance to reach."

I adore my son for many reasons, but honestly, the fact that he is a puzzle that takes time and patience to unlock is one of his finest qualities. As an extrovert who loves to communicate and longs to be understood, I am fascinated by the fact that knowing P is a right you have to earn. Few people get true glimpses into his heart and mind, but what a delightful gift he is when you get there!

A few weeks ago I watched "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." I understand the literary work is quite different than the movie, but what relished about the film was the chance to get a sneak peek into the mind of a person that escapes reality by delving into an imagined world where he is the hero--brave, strong, confident and capable. Meanwhile, people in his real life dismiss him as spacy and clueless.

I won't spoil the movie's plot, but ultimately, Walter Mitty is faced with the choice to continue living 'safe' while imagining his desired life or make 'daring' real life decisions in line with his fantasies. Although it was a work of fiction, it has weighed on me to connect these lessons to an application for my boy.

I read with interest an article explaining one of the reasons boys love video games so much is because they get to be the hero. They can accomplish things (new high scores, beating levels, unlocking characters) much faster in a pixelated world than they can in real life--and that feels good. This realization offered some perspective to the screens that are so often my parenting nemesis, but it also challenged me to look for ways that my boys can find those feelings of heroism and accomplishment in real life. (This is a work in progress.)

An extrovert raising an introvert is a unique challenge. I love my boy and all the gifts his life offers to the world. Helping him find a voice--especially in our family full of other (louder) ones--is a journey.

I am grateful for P as a living, breathing daily reminder to slow down and invest in getting to know people who don't always wear their heart on their sleeves. I'm learning that like my P, many of the quietest/fringe people are full of little known treasure. What joy to discover it!

**Updated 5/15/14 to add: ** Tonight our family finally sat down to watch the movie I based this post on. Predictably, P loved it. After the closing credits I had a stolen moment with my P. "You know that movie reminds me of you? Walter's imagination, his courage when it counted, the world travel."
With a huge grin he said, "I'd love that to be my life, Mama..." Then he squenched up his face and continued, "But dog trainers don't make enough money for all that travelling."
Then he went into his room and got a sticky note from his drawer and in his prettiest cursive wrote a quote from the movie, "Beautiful things don't ask for attention." He stuck it to his bulletin board before climbing into bed. I love that kid!


Nichole said...

I would encourage you to read Quiet by Susan Cain. As an introvert who has learned to be an extrovert in certain situations it was so validating to me to read this book and understand why I feel the way I do so often. It also gave me a lot of valuable insight as I raise my introverted daughter. It's really a great read.

Nichole said...

I almost forgot! I LOVE what you said about getting to know him being a gift that you have to earn, but that it is delightful when you get there. (Paraphrasing obviously) My husband recently said that I was not an easy person to get to know, but once you know me I am easy to love. We've been married for almost 10 years and it is probably my favorite compliment he's ever given me. Perhaps because it shows how he has invested himself in me to get to know me over the 13 years we've been together. Your P may not understand that now, but as he gets older I would imagine it would be a great thing for him to hear and know about himself.

Christine said...

Your P is very similar to my son. My son is now 23. I think I have commented on your post before in regards to your sons. I love reading about your family and watching them grow. We have similar views on raising a family. Even though my son was and still is to some degree an introvert, he meets people very well in the workplace and gets many compliments for his demeanor. And really I know that raising him in a Christian home and doing our best in teaching him to be polite and respectful to others played a part. But I must give credit where credit is due. My son worked for Chic-Fil-A while in early high school and college and the owner of the store invested in his employees. He instilled pride, professionalism, manners, meeting someone with a handshake, introduction and to look that person in the eye and make them feel important. Just practical ways of greeting someone new. This made such a huge difference in my sons life. It just affirmed him and gave him a way of meeting people that he grew comfortable with. I am very sure that your children see the model that you and your husband are in this area. It makes it so much less intimidating if you know those practical steps to take. Well anyway that is the observation I have and it may give you something to use.