My Kid Is Shy — and I’m Not Sorry

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Isn’t it crazy how our kids can be spitting images of our former selves and unequivocally themselves all at once? I’m reminded of this fact time and time again when I look at my sweet girl.

In so many ways, she’s my mini-me. She loves to put on dance performances and smile for photo shoots, play Barbies until we can Barbie no more, and she has more sass and wit than most teenage girls. But unlike me as a child, she’s extremely reserved when it comes to meeting new people. Heck, sometimes it’ll take her a few months to warm up to a new face.

For a long time, this was hard for me to wrap my head around. If you could see her in her comfort zone, she’s loud, rambunctious, and the star of the show— totally the opposite of how she behaves in the presence of strangers. Around anyone new or even relatively unfamiliar, she would refuse to be put down and bury her head into my shoulder, avoiding eye contact at all costs. It just didn’t make sense to me; how could she be SO incredibly shy?! Who was this child?!

If you don’t have a shy child you may not realize this, but in general, people do not understand or accept this behavior from an adorable toddler. As if being a parent isn’t hard enough as it is. I feel HARD for my kids; I always have, so this hurts my heart – my kid is shy. I struggled for a long time between trying to force socially acceptable behavior and feeling pained for my child when she was being forced to say “hi” to a random cashier. As time passed, I started to learn something that I’m sure anyone with older kids can agree with: the older your kids get, the more *themselves* they become.

I see this in so many respects, but as she grows older, she seems to both blossom and change AND become more confident and rooted all at once. How incredible and satisfying for a parent to watch! Oh, and hard. It’s so hard when you’re trying to help them grow into productive members of society. Our job as parents is literally to shape the future of our nation— talk about PRESSURE. But our kids? They’re just that: KIDS. And they need or deserve so much darn pressure.

So to everyone who my child refused to talk to: I’m not sorry. I’m not embarrassed by her side-eye as you ask her for a high five. No, she doesn’t owe you a hug or a smile simply because you asked for it. Remember the famous line from Horton Hears a Who? “A person’s a person, no matter how small”… and my little person is shy. And that’s OKAY with me. Do I still ask her to be brave and polite? Absolutely. Do we role play and practice and discuss new and scary situations? All the time. But you know what? She feels how she feels and I’m not going to force interactions that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. Sorry, but I’m not sorry.

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