I'm totally kidding about that headline, but I've always wanted to say it to annoying strangers who get in my kids' faces at the grocery store.
My kids are my greatest teachers, and perhaps the best lesson they have given me is that no person - be it Mother, Father, Teacher - has the ability to control another person's soul. We may be able to help shape ideals, help instill values, but there are personality traits that are just inherent in us from the time we're conceived.
My son is what a lot of people call "shy." It's not a label I agree with, because he's really not. He just knows what he likes and what he doesn't like. During a fabulous hour-long pediatrician's visit for his 5-year visit (love our kids' pediatrician!) she observed him for a while, asked a lot of questions, and noted "he's just that kid in the class who's a little bit smarter than the others. He's smart enough to know better." Now I'm not saying my kid is smarter than other kids (hee hee!), but I do know he's keenly aware, almost hyper-aware, of his surroundings: the noise, the logistics, the possibilities of what could happen. He's always been that way. He observes everything in great detail, makes very quick assessments, and decides. If he decides it's not the situation for him, all bets are off. The doc says most kids grow out of this, and eventually play into what we adults expect as normal social kid behavior, and we just need to understand that he just may not be the lead in the school play.
When people who know (very loud, extroverted) me observe my "shy" son, they often say (and I've heard this a LOT): "How did YOU get a shy kid? Is Dad shy?" No, actually. I was. When I look at my son, I see myself at exactly 5 years old, wearing this ridiculous peach pouffy hideous dress ...thing... that was my mom's favorite, hiding in the bedroom during one of my parent's many gatherings. We always had tons of people over at our house when I was growing up. I remember very clearly this one party, where my mom came into the room and begged me to come outside and say hello to everyone. I really didn't want to. I cried. A lot. I remember the moment - and the feelings I had- clearly. I wasn't necessarily a shy kid, I just knew I did not want to be in that room with those specific people at that moment. I went out on my own eventually. Which is how I've always been, and still am to some extent this day.
My son is not quiet, by any means. He is not at all reserved. He is quite loud, animated, boisterous, imaginative, and extremely high energy. Have I mentioned how LOUD he is? I think it's funny that some people think he's shy. To me, he's anything but shy!
So now I'm the Mama. I'm the one throwing the parties and bringing my kids to this social activity and that. But when my son doesn't want to go to someone's house, as much as it pains me sometimes because it's my friend's house and *I* really want to go socialize, we talk about his reasons for not wanting to go, and if they're reasonable, I say... okay.
There are many, many circumstances where I think I need to be firm with my kids about rules. And certainly we discuss the importance of being polite. But when it comes to circumstances that are not so important in the grand scheme of things? It's not my job to push my kids into doing things that make them totally uncomfortable; what kind of message does that send? I definitely work with them to go outside of their comfort zones, but not to the point of making them miserable. I am working on just letting them be themselves. It's not always easy. My friends don't always understand, especially if their kids are different, and especially if my friends have totally different parenting values (many of them do). For me, it's just another step in the process of learning to let go, and let them grow.