A couple of weeks ago, we had quite a discussion here about introverts and extroverts. Mostly introverts, because you know, the blogosphere is a haven for introverts. Everybody who ever felt socially inept, unpopular and never fit in has found here a community of our own kind.
I don’t exactly fit in to the neat, tidy categories, which has always made me a bit uncomfortable with them. But one of my commenters, the lovely Michelle of Endless Strength, clarified that introverts aren’t necessarily shy. They can function in company, it’s just that it doesn’t energize them–it drains them. They need to recharge afterward.
Well, yesterday morning I took Nicholas to the grocery store. Mindful of another recent blog conversation, I left the radio off and decided to take the time to focus on this child who, candidly, is by far the most difficult of them (so far). He never shuts up, and he turns everything into a battle, and thus our interactions all too frequently consist of me shutting him down or forcing him to comply with instructions. I wanted this trip to be time to bond instead.
So when he launched his usual epistle of questions that make no sense and cannot be answered in human or angelic tongues, I took a deep breath and problem solved them to an answer anyway. Or I asked him to answer them himself, because I think this is how he processes his world–via Q&A.
When Nicholas talks (and talks, and talks), I almost always get this tight, anxious feeling in my chest, this seizing up of my intellect and a crying need for silence. But yesterday I made the colossal effort required to keep my brain moving and my heart open, and I talked to him. All the way to the grocery store. All the way around the grocery store. All the way home from the grocery store. I’m pretty sure I answered something on the order of two hundred fifty questions in that time, and not one of them yes or no.
(My dad once said of Nicholas: “You could just let him talk, but the problem is, he expects an answer!”)
It was a good trip, and I was grateful for it. But two hours after we got home, the boy was still talking. Still asking questions. Still expecting answers. I short-circuited. “Nicholas!” I cried. “You haven’t stopped talking for SIX HOURS! I need a break! Just stop talking!”
(That might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was talking to Alex when he wasn’t talking to me, so it probably wasn’t that far off.)
He paused then, as if his little brain was processing.
And in that blessed moment of quiet, for the first time I recognized Michelle’s definition of an introvert. I had put the effort in to interact with him, but afterward I needed a rest!
This also explains why I have such a difficult time writing when he’s around. He punctuates the entire day with words, and as a mother knows, you can’t just block out your child’s voice. He’s your priority, and your brain is wired so that any vocalization of your child has direct access to the “attention” center in your brain. My concentration snaps the instant his voice registers.
Have you ever had that experience where you are just about to drop off to sleep, and the baby wakes up? It’s torture. That’s how writing with Nicholas around is. Every time I almost get a thought formed, there he goes again, and my eloquent thought goes: Poof!
This has been the insight. I’ve identified the problem now: a need for recovery following intense interaction. Now the question is, how on earth do I get him to cooperate?
(Stay tuned. Friday’s post is going to be a collection of everything Nicholas says this week. Well. Not everything. But the most noteworthy things.)