A few weeks back I was visiting an elderly relative along with my wife and daughters. We were visiting this family after one year. My younger daughter did not remember them and paid no heed and she was not even making eye contact. Immediately came the remark “she’s very shy” and the comparison with my elder daughter who was very outgoing with everyone when she was her age.
Later we were all discussing technology (WhatsApp video of Google duplex) and pandemics. My younger daughter was involved in caricaturing our family pictures in her spiral notebook (which she always carries around). She showed the pictures to the elder member in that family. She was looking for compliments but instead he caricatured her picture and she did not agree with him! So, so she went back to her drawing and occasionally eating some banana chips (after taking approval with me!)
Given my younger daughter’s affinity to liking people, Susan Caine, author of the book “Quiet” would label her as an Introvert.
The same evening, we went for dinner and the waiter Pritam was very hospitable. He made all of us feel good. After completing the starters and main course from the buffet it was time for dessert. My elder daughter ordered for a vanilla ice cream. I told her to share it with the younger one and we started chatting. In the next couple of moments my younger daughter got out of her seat, spotted the same waiter and told him that she wanted chocolate ice-cream. Both the ice-creams came and they both were very happy. In that one hour she enjoyed our company, ambience, environment as they made her feel good. I observed that in that moment when she wanted something, and she was comfortable to ask, she was outgoing in that environment. In contrast to the earlier tale where the environment was un friendly she was out and ready to go.
Next day it was time for a final visit to an elderly family member. He was alone at home. My younger daughter had seen him a couple of months back. She made funny faces and mimicked him and was jumping all around the place. She compared his face to a caricature of Gandhiji from the calendar hanging above him and she was poking fun.
In the lift if my younger daughter does not make eye contact with our neighbours the immediate comment we get is “she is very shy.” In fact, this is what we heard in the drawing room two weeks back. My wife immediately mentioned that that it was time and environment and our younger one did not get any of those opportunities to get this skill. When our older one was young we both were working, both our parents were working and hence she was taken care by our neighbour and various day cares in different countries. She got the experience of dealing with the world at an early stage. My wife said that she had consciously decided not to use the word “shy” in front of my younger daughter.
Children need to be complimented and I understood why my wife refused to publicly now accept that she is shy. In the first place she was not comfortable and not complimented for drawing caricatures, she withdrew into her soul space. In the other place she was comfortable, when she saw the caricature she immediately compared it with my relative. She was so very soulful at his place.
To finally round off our family visits we met two kids under 5 years. My younger daughter joined the kids and they were watching the movie “Ice Age.” I was excited to see the animation and was feeling great. That evening on TV, as I was flipping through the channel, there was a talk around the “Glass Age.” It just occurred to me that our children are today brought up in this age of glass (Digitally native). James Altucher calls this as the “Choose yourself Era”. This was a perfect reference to what I saw with my younger daughter. I, for sure, will not compare her with my elder daughter now, I am also not going to judge whether she is an introvert or an extrovert. As clinical psychologist Dr. Shefali Tsabary says, “Parenting is not about raising a child, it is about raising a parent.”