Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Testing the Waters

First thing, sorry about the title of yesterday's post. It never crossed my mind when I typed 9 months that ya'll might think I was talking about being pregnant. I didn't mean to be such a tease.

Back to the zoo. In addition to Michael climbing like a monkey and playing with other kids, I got to reflect on something else I've seen with Michael recently. It's the constant tug of war between self confidence and insecurity. On the playground, Michael has no problem running up to other kids and trying to initiate play. He just dives right in. It can be hard to watch because some kids don't want to play. None of the kids have been mean about it, but it's still not easy watching a bunch of 8 year olds dismiss him. It makes him sad, and part of me wishes I could fix that. But, it's all part of growing up and learning boundaries. For the most part though, he's been able to find someone to play with anytime we are at a playground.

Knowing this about him, it's interesting to see him hide behind my legs when we walk into a birthday party or are meeting a new adult. In his mind he has clearly defined "safe" places where he has no problem diving in head first, and cautious places where he wants to stand back and check things out before he sticks his toes in the water.

He's so sweet and shy when he's unsure. He speaks softer and stands back more or hides behind me. He'll watch everyone closely while he tries to figure out what's going on. Once he does decided to give the new situation a try, he'll enter slowly while gauging everyone around him. Sometimes this is slow, sometimes not.

Once he is comfortable, a whole different child comes out. A loud child. An enthusiastic child. A somewhat pushy child. Once Michael is comfortable with you, he has no problem correcting you. This morning he made sure that his daycare teacher was 100 percent clear on which two dinosaurs were hanging from his belt. (Spinosauros and Brachiosaurus.) The generic "dinosaurs" was not sufficient. At the playground, while he may have been a little cautious about some of the playground equipment, he didn't seem to have any problem directing the kid's play or correcting other kids if he disagreed with them.

I have mixed feelings about both sides of this behavior. Sometimes I get frustrated with his unwillingness to try something new. Being cautious is good...to a point. I think he misses out on things because of this. It took him 9 months to get up the nerve to try the various ladders at the playground, during which time he could have a lot of fun. He also misses out on a lot of good foods because he refuses to give anything new a try. It's frustrating for me, and very limiting for him.

On the other end, I'm glad that he has the confidence to speak up for himself. That's very valuable, and will come in handy many times through the rest of his life. I'm happy that he likes to sing the Spiderman song, but I do wish he'd lower the volume when we are in the grocery store. I'm glad he feels comfortable taking charge during group play, but I hope he learns how to be tactful about it. I'm pround that he likes to learn and has great attention to detail, but I do hope he develops a kind and considerate way of disseminating all that detail. *

Mostly, I just hope that he finds a good balance between caution and confidence. We are doing our part to help him figure that out, but as he grows and spends more time at school and with friends, we will have less influence than we do now. We'll just have to do the best we can, and hope for the rest to fall into place.

*I noticed a few times when Michael had "Sheldon" moments. As is Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. It wasn't pretty.


LauraC said...

I think you're doing a good job just letting him be himself! I struggle with the introvert/extrovert thing with my boys all the time because Nate is SO extroverted. He just dives right into any situation. Alex stands back to assess it before diving in (sounds like Michael!). I worry for Alex (being an introvert myself) but I also know that he needs to take his time with things to feel truly comfortable.

Plus I know Nate will be there to pave the trail for him. Don't get me started thinking about school where they will be separated or I might have a panic attack though.

Steph said...

I worry about this with Cooper too- in certain circumstances he's fine, others he's very shy and reserved. I try to let him work it out on his own, but sometimes I just want to help him, but I know he needs to learn a lot of this on his own and find his own comfort zone.

Karen said...

My Michael is definitely cautious when it comes to new situations with people he doesn't know. I sometimes think it would be easier if he was an extrovert (like myself). Then I look at Katie and realize that my extroverted child is probably right in front of my eyes!

Stacey said...

Ahh, this could be about my child if you substituted baseball info for dinosaur info and sprinklers for monkey bars.

I took Cole with me to the dentist yesterday to see a cleaning before his first visit next month. He would not look anyone in the eye let alone answer their questions. Similarly, I believe our pediatrician thinks Cole is speech delayed because he's never said a word to her. Put him around kids though and he because Mr. Talkative McBossy Butt.