It’s a great time to be an introvert.
Susan Cain is quietly revolutionizing what the world thinks about the kids who don’t raise their hands in class. The shame once associated with being reflective, solitary, and the best friend to a few rather than the notorious friend of many is slowly eroding as parents, teachers, and employers are learning that introversion is not a bad word, not a character flaw to be addressed or screened for.
The spectrum of introversion and extroversion is wide, and there are many degrees within. “Ambivert,” for instance, is that magical marriage of gregariousness and contemplation under which many people qualify. Only an exceptional few are 100 percent verted on one side of the scale or the other.
If you’re wondering where you fall, here’s a simple test. If you hear the following statements, or statements of the same ilk, you’ll be able to appreciate just how useful your role as parent can be in letting your introverted freak flag fly.
What do you mean you don’t want to go for drinks? It’s Friday.
Diedre! Say something! You are the only one here who hasn’t weighed in on whether or not Katy Perry could beat Taylor Swift in dressage.
Wait...what do you mean ‘you’re reading’? Like, a book? That’s it? Not like ‘reading the cookie recipe for Jimmy’s birthday party while you vacuum,’ or ‘reading Twitter on your way to Jeff’s art opening so that you can be a part of every conversation there,’ or ‘reading your Facebook post from two years ago today so that you can cleverly re-post it to your timeline to show everyone how much more wonderful and interesting your life has become in those two years’?
So, for those of you with whom this resonates, rejoice! Thanks to Ms. Cain’s efforts, you are (or are soon to be) a valued member of society again. You can channel your resentment for being singled out by your group-project-loving teachers as awkward at best or troublingly isolated at worst into an aggressive assault of introversion in your current social circle, workplace, and even family.
You can expect an adjustment period from your friends and family as they normalize introversion. After all, we are indoctrinated as infants when the babbling or rambunctious baby gets more coos and attention than the baby who quietly observes. For this, they can hardly be blamed. You happen to have the perfect aide to navigate your introverted way into an extroverted world: your kid.
Consider these scenarios:
You’ve been invited to your cousin’s fiancé’s bridal shower. To save yourself from group games involving toilet paper gowns and touching strangers, bring the kid!
(The risk of committing a major bride-to-be invitee faux pas is real without asking permission to do so, but weigh your options: would you rather be chasing a toddler out of the room or making the bride-to-be’s mother and aunt uncomfortable with your running commentary through the gift opening ceremony? Ooo…a cutting board. I have one of those. A little bit of scorn doesn’t seem so bad.)
You arrive to meetings precisely on time as to avoid the small talk in the minutes in which your colleagues are gathering. On the occasion in which four of the six of your meeting mates are late, you find yourself in an incomplete group with nothing but time.
Though terrifying, controlling the conversation is vital for your particular brand of introvert – the kind who thinks and writes with eloquence, but struggles to form complete sentences when speaking. You know the three of you will not sit in silence, so you have the opportunity to set the tone by mentioning your baby.
Well, my Sophie was likewise cavalier with my time this morning. We strolled into daycare 15 minutes late, so she missed breakfast with the babies. Someone will then ask a simple, direct question – How old is Sophie now? – and, after answering, you can talk about any number of the baby’s latest adventures in that universal language that resonates with anyone who is a parent or who was parented.
This strategy eliminates the fear of the conversation topic for which you might have something good to contribute, but know you will inevitably stumble through.
Your aunt has a day off work and shows up at your door wondering if you’d like to get lunch. This one is easy. You thank her, but cite a week of sleepless nights – your toddler must be experiencing another sleep regression – and fib about taking a mid-day nap instead.
To all the introverted parents, feel no remorse or shame in manipulating your way out of social scenarios. Parenthood is an essential tool for an introvert in these quietly exciting times.