I was painfully shy as a child. (Perhaps that’s why I like writing so much better than talking.) So I’m sympathetic when my kids go through phases of feeling timid around people. The Muse went through a short shy period around age 4 or 5. Dolittle is in a shy phase, to the point of completely ignoring anyone who asks her a direct question. Lovely. And for the past month or so, BoyWonder has spent the first 20 minutes of any get-together in my arms with his face turned away from anyone who tries to talk to him (and then immediately switches gears and goes about his adorable toddler business). It’s a tricky one to overcome. Shyness itself is not a bad thing, but I remember not wanting to be shy, and my kids have expressed the same thing. So I’d like to help them at least feel like they have some control over it.
When I’m not sure what to do with one of my kids’ challenges, I often try to channel my friend, P-Diddles. She has a gift for such things. For example, part of the reason The Muse’s shy period was so short-lived was because P-Diddles taught me the art of making up stories about “fictional” characters who bear incredible resemblance to the moppet in question and then having those characters overcome their challenges. For example, I told stories to The Muse about a unicorn who was so timid that no one could understand her when she introduced herself. Then one day, she met a rabbit who was patient and wise and kind, and she taught the unicorn how to find her big voice so that people could hear her when she spoke. It totally worked. Like a charm.
Since we now have three moppets instead of just one, and bedtime stories are a whole other ballgame, I’ve gone with a different strategy for Dolittle. One of P-Diddles’ moppets was painfully shy in new situations, and she helped her by giving “Shy” an identity of its own. She’d say something like, “Why don’t you put your Shy in your pocket before we go in?” or “Would you like me to hold your Shy for you for awhile?” Brilliant. Seriously brilliant.
So yesterday, we were driving to meet a couple of new people, and I asked Dolittle if she could leave her Shy in the car while we were there. She loved that idea and promptly put it in the drink holder. A few minutes later, she started gritching about something, so I suggested that her Grumpy stay in the car with Shy. Perhaps the two could play together. Oh, was that a hit. Pretty soon there was a raucous party in the drink holder with Shy, Grumpy, Whiny, Cry, and Farty all in attendance (those last ones were her ideas, not mine).
Such a simple thing, but so effective. And if shyness (or whininess, or flatulence even) starts to rear its head, I can say, “Oh, remember, you left your Shy in the car? Did he sneak out because he missed you?” The smiles and giggles that image brings is usually enough to kick Shy, or Whiny, or Farty, right back to the drink holder.
God bless creative parents. 🙂