Sage Advice: Introvert Ventures Outside Comfort Zone
A father ventures into the anxiety-inducing world of social interaction for his son
Dear Amy: I am a happy introvert. Always have been. I like to go to the movies alone, out to eat alone, and other activities by myself. My wife is the same way, though we obviously enjoy going out together.
My question is about our 7-year-old son. We’ve never done playdates or thrown birthday parties that his classmates in daycare or school were invited to because interacting with other parents is terrifying.
I feel bad that my not wanting to interact with other parents might be depriving my little guy of friendships.
So far, my son doesn’t seem to mind our household’s version of normal, but he is outgoing and I don’t want to squash his extroverted nature.
Should I go far outside of my comfort zone and force play dates, or will my son eventually make “real” friends when he’s ready?
Dear Joe: Many only children basically pair up with their parents in a singular way, and I assume your son enjoys this closeness with you two.
But yes, you should go outside of your comfort zone. That’s what parents do. Because when parents bravely try new things, their children are inspired to bravely try new things. (That’s how I ended up screaming my way down an amusement park roller coaster.)
Being your son’s father will change you in many ways. You should do what you can to adjust to his extroverted nature. So – try harder.
At the age of seven, play dates and birthdays do not involve other parents. I know that some parents throw festival-sized combination birthday/cocktail parties with tons of kids and parents, but a birthday party should be child-centered, and it need not be overwhelming.
So yes, encourage your son to have a friend over, or to go on an outing – perhaps to a movie – if he would like. You should also encourage him to play soccer, clarinet, chess, or any activity outside of the home that you think might be a good fit for him. If you and your wife are turned off by the sideline parent-scene on the soccer field, then you and she can sit quietly together. Your son will grow and change. And if you foster his interests and encourage him to take some social risks outside the home, you will, too.
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
© 2019 by Amy Dickinson