I am still learning how to live with my son and his tentative nature. It’s not specifically the tentativeness that is hard, I think given any noticeable personality trait I’d still be learning. Last week we went to two activities which have made me think more about Elliot’s nature and how I react to it (both internally and externally).
Wednesday’s activity was a visit to a friend’s sportball class, which had about eight kids and at least one parent per child. When we arrived, the room was empty and Elliot immediately started running around. The instructor soon arrived with some balls, gave one to Elliot and he started kicking it around. I was impressed with how comfortable he was. The class started off with circle time with some songs and a story, and Elliot was interactive with the instructor, which was surprising. It usually takes him much longer to warm up.
Then the actual sportball activities started, and he started to withdraw. The first activity was to run and stop when the instructor whistled, and Elliot would have nothing to do with it. The instructor tried to engage him, but that never works with Elliot. It wasn’t until the balls came out that he started to engage again. (As I write this, I’ve had a bit of an epiphany. In music class last year, Elliot didn’t get involved until the instruments were handed out. In swimming lessons, he’s often happier if he has a toy in his hands. Something to remember. There might be security in having something else to focus on.)
But back to sportball. Elliot eventually participated in each activity, but it always started with him withdrawing. And whenever the instructor tried to talk to him, Elliot looked down and seemed angry (I’m pretty sure it’s not anger, just a deflection technique, but on the outside he looks angry.) To the instructor’s credit, he did a great job at trying to engage Elliot, but he didn’t push too much. I wish all instructors were as good with Elliot as he was.
At the end of the class the instructor and I had a short discussion about sportball, and for some reason I felt I had to explain that Elliot was shy. Elliot wasn’t even the subject of the conversation, it just came up when he asked me about the instructor we’d had when Elliot did sportball last year. I feel this need to explain my son’s behaviour, and I don’t like it. I don’t like the “shy” label, and I don’t know why I use it.
Thursday’s activity was the Oak Bay “Pre-preschool” program, which has about ten kids and one parent per child. This week was our second week. Things were moving along quite well until circle time, which is at the end of the hour. Elliot likes it, and he quickly sat down in the circle when it was time. But they start with Ring Around the Rosie, standing up. And Elliot does NOT like this. I knew he wasn’t going to participate, and I didn’t push him. But the teacher kindly asked him to move so he wouldn’t get stepped on, and he lost it. Lying on the floor, crying and screaming kind of lost it. I was a bit shocked. He started telling me he wanted to go home, but I didn’t want to leave.
One of the other mums offered to take Amy (thankfully) so I could pick Elliot up. We walked away from the circle and I tried to figure out what was wrong. Difficult for a two-year-old to explain. My guess was that too much attention was focused on him when he was asked to move, but it really wasn’t that much attention. He did eventually calm down and we re-joined the circle. He didn’t participate in much, but he did peek around the boy in front of him so he could see the story being read.
So…the point of this post? I have realized that I’m not as accepting of his nature as I thought I was. My gut reaction is to try to explain away his behaviour as shyness and tentativeness. Yes, these are some traits of his, but why do I feel the need to “explain away”? Why not just accept him for who he is?
And my son’s nature is in no way a reflection of my parenting. The sooner I can learn that, the better. What IS a reflection of my parenting is how well I can support him through the difficult situations that he faces, where I draw the line between encouragement and pushing him too hard, and how I accept him for who he is. I’ve still got some work to do.