For the Quiet Child (And For Their Parents) … You Can Stop Apologizing for Who You Are
I can hear the sadness in your voice when you come to me, at the kitchen sink.
You tell me about how another girl at day camp has teased you for “being shy.”
You tell me how she scrunched up her nose when she asked you this accusing question: “What’s wrong with you?”
I dry my hands. Heat travels up my neck, to my ears. And I pull you in close, tears stinging my eyes. I rub tiny circles into your back – like maybe I can massage the truth in, the truth about who you are.
I tell you, once again, how I’m so glad that God made you just the way you are.
I breathe relief over the assurance in your voice – when you tell me how you know it solid: that God made you the way He made you. That you are God’s good idea.
But yeah… you’re sick and tired of the expectations of everyone else – of all these people wanting you to be someone you’re not.
You want them to see you the way your parents see you, and the way your grandparents see you. We’re the ones who really know you, who laugh at your crazy stories, and your hilarious dance moves, and your witty comebacks, and your exaggerated vibrato.
Girl, you know you’re preapproved, but you ask: Would it be too much to ask that others might see that, too?
I hear you. I hear your heart. And in your voice, I hear the voice of thousands of other little girls whose introversion is a point of confusion on the playground, in the church, in the classroom.
We live in a world that values the bold, and the extroverted, and the outspoken.
My heart hurts for every kid who would prefer NOT to stand up front to say their lines at the Christmas program. For every girl who is presumed to have some kind of personality flaw, self-image problem or learning disorder if she doesn’t raise her hand with the answer to the math problem.
Girl, hear me now:
Your quiet doesn’t make you broken. It makes you beautiful.
This isn’t a flaw or a fault – but a part of you that makes you marvelous.
Some of the nicest people I know are quiet, like you. I love how the quiet people listen. How they have these soft eyes, windows to an old soul.
What if the world were filled with only bold extroverts? Who would stop talking long enough to be the listeners? Who would be the pay-attention-ers? Who would slow down enough to really see, the way you see?
I wonder, what would happen if all the extroverts in all the schools and the churches and the playgrounds would stop long enough to see the truth about the quiet child.
Maybe we would all see the inner peace of girls like you, how you have your own beautiful shine.
Maybe we would all see what a deep thinker you are. Maybe we would learn how to listen better. How to enjoy simple moments with paint brushes and pens in quiet rooms. To wring the joy out of this life.
You show us how to embrace the quiet.
Girl, I love how attentive you are, how you scan a room with your soft eyes. I have seen how you find the people who are hurting, and without fanfare, make a way to make them feel safe.
I remember how you were the first one to bounce out of bed in the morning at the Haitian orphanage, to help feed and clothe the babies and the toddlers.
I was amazed when you decided, after quiet and introspective deliberation, to cut 10 inches off your beautiful hair so you could donate it to a kid who needs a wig. I had no idea you were even considering it.
I love how you run for the lilacs, how you can just lose yourself in the beauty of this world.
Oh, how you see this world.
My worst fear for us as parents and teachers and caregivers?
That we would accidentally break what God created, while trying to recreate you in some other image.
That we would miss the miracle of you.
A few months ago, your sister held a microphone confidently at the front of a church, sharing about our family’s recent trip to Haiti. You sat beside me, and we held hands. I kept squeezing your hand, and pressing my forehead against yours, because I wanted you to know that I was as proud of you as I was of her. You were on that same trip, and you did some amazing things, too, like raising $2,000 for a basketball court at a Haitian school. You simply don’t enjoy telling a big crowd of people about it.
I tucked you in that night, and in the dark, I told God out loud how proud I was of you. (I don’t typically speak for God, but I think it’s safe to say that he agreed with me.)
Daughter, have I told you lately how talented and beautiful and smart and funny and compassionate and humble you are?
You live life more quietly than your sister or most of your friends, but not so quiet that you Dad and I can’t hear who you really are.
For instance, we found out that you stuck up for a little boy at recess last year. Some older girls were calling him names. You told them to stop being so mean, but they didn’t listen. Maybe they didn’t hear. So you quietly pulled the boy aside and encouraged him to tell a teacher. Which he did.
And the next day, you helped that same little boy when he fell off a swing.
Most likely, nobody is going to hand you a microphone to tell that story. And even if they asked, you would probably quietly decline.
And if you did decline the offer? Your mama will be in the front row, with her palm out, waiting to hold your hand in hers.