As parents, we are often told how much our children look like us. He has your eyes, she has your smile. For me, it's hard to see myself in my children. When people ask me who they look like, I immediately think "I don't know, they just look like themselves."
But other times, it's like looking in a mirror, not because of how they look, but how they act. Nathan is a very funny, talkative, outgoing kid. But he can also be very shy and timid in unfamiliar settings. He is not the child to join in immediately, he takes a while to warm up. He holds back at first, observing and taking it all in. Once he feels comfortable however, he is a chatterbox, walking up to anyone and everyone and starting conversations with them. I am the exact same way.
It was a cold and dreary day yesterday. It was too cold to play outside and we had already been cooped up in the house for a few days due to the snow so we told Nathan we'd take him to Mall Tots, an indoor play space. He was so excited and when we finally got there he held my hand, beaming as we walked through the parking lot, telling me everything he was going to do once we got inside. But when we got there, he immediately hesitated. He looked around and maybe it was the loud noise, or maybe it was the group of kids he didn't know but suddenly he wanted nothing to do with Mall Tots. He clung to my leg and told me he wanted to go. I was frustrated at first, selfishly because I had just paid a $5.00 entrance fee, but mostly because I knew he would have fun if he just gave it a chance. But there was no convincing him, he wanted to leave and when he started to cry, I gave in. I held his hand and walked back out the gate we had just entered.
It's hard for any parent to watch their child struggle but I think it's even harder when we see ourselves in that struggle. I could see on his face yesterday that he simply felt overwhelmed, enough so that he was willing to skip out on an activity he had been excited about all morning. I have felt that way many times. I know I've missed out on fun due to feeling shy in a particular situation. I find large groups of new people overwhelming, especially when they all seem to be the best of friends and I feel like an outsider. I will sometimes skip an event because I am too nervous to participate.
I will most likely always be this way but what I've learned is not to let it hold me back; to try to put myself out there, even when it's scary and I hope I can teach this to my children. We stopped at the food court yesterday and got a snack. We snuggled together and talked about why he had wanted to leave the playspace. He decided to give it another try and this time he ran through the gate and jumped right in. We stayed for almost two hours.
He might not jump in, but even if it takes baby steps, I hope he always joins the fun.