I’m An Extrovert & I Finally Understand My Introverted Kid

We recently had an exceptionally jam-packed weekend where we went from thing to thing for multiple days in a row. Activities ranged from sports games to family get-togethers to playdates with friends. Our first real break came Sunday evening, when my phone dinged with a message asking if my 10-year-old son wanted to shoot hoops with some of the neighborhood kids. I immediately texted yes, without checking with him, because I assumed he’d love to join. Turns out I was absolutely wrong.

“Nooooo,” he groaned. His response confused me because he loves basketball (and these kids). “I just saw them yesterday,” he lamented. “I really want to be alone.” I was baffled because I am an extrovert, and when it comes to hanging out with my friends, there is no such thing as too much. Why would anyone turn down a chance to hang out with their friends? He barely had to leave the house for this get-together!

Being an only child has shaped me in many ways, and I believe that’s part of why I want to be around other people constantly. Growing up, friends were all I had, so they were everything to me. Nothing brings me more joy than being around friends and family. Being with people energizes me, and every activity is more fun with company. I seek out companionship constantly, whether I’m power walking the neighborhood, discussing a novel at book club, or even at the hair salon (seriously, I have a buddy that I go with so we can chat while the dye soaks in). I get a terrible case of FOMO if I cannot attend every event that crosses my path because I can’t stand the idea that I might miss out on connecting with someone.

Because I am such a people person, I naively assumed my kids would be too. But after his comment, it finally dawned on me that my son is an introvert. More often than not, he is delighted doing his own thing at home by himself. He relishes spending time alone reading or researching sports stats and chess strategies.

I have to admit there have been times I’ve worried about this and even wondered if this behavior is mentally and emotionally healthy. But the thing is, he has plenty of friends. He hangs out with them all day at school, plus practices and games. So he does see his buddies regularly and gets plenty of social interaction. The difference is he doesn’t need constant companionship like I do. We are just wired differently.

My realization has been profoundly helpful for me in understanding my kid, and it’s made a difference in how I interact with him. I used to scramble around setting up endless playdates for him, because that’s what I would’ve preferred at his age. But it turns out, a packed social schedule exhausted and depleted him. Now I’m doing my best to respect his need and desire for alone time.

One of the beautiful things I have learned about being an introvert is that being left out is not always a painful experience. I recently overheard my son’s friends making plans for later that evening and I began to panic, thinking that he would have his feelings hurt to not be part of the group. He also overheard their chatter, so I pulled him aside to ensure he was okay. “Why wouldn’t I be? I hung out with them all day, I’m actually looking forward to being by myself tonight,” he explained. I was flabbergasted because it would have really hurt my feelings to be left out — but he was actually grateful not to be included.

I’ve learned that being introverted or extroverted is neither good nor bad; these characteristics are largely inborn and it’s just simply who we both are. I am doing my best to appreciate and respect both of our social preferences. It’s my job to foster an environment that works for him and keeps him comfortable. Instead of just accepting him for who he is, I have learned to celebrate his temperament as I seek to understand him better. He is self-sufficient, driven, and independent and his introversion makes him unique, and I treasure that.

Christina Crawford is a Dallas-based writer, guacamole enthusiast, and mom to three feral little boys. She spends her days putting out fires (actual and metaphorical) and trying to keep goldfish alive. Her words have appeared in Newsweek, HuffPost, Health Magazine, Parents, Scary Mommy, Today Show Parents, and more. You can follow along on Twitter where she writes (questionably) funny anecdotes about her life at @Xtina_Crawford

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