For the Quiet Child (And For Their Parents) … You Can Stop Apologizing for Who You Are

August 15, 2014 | 38 comments

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.

 

 

by | August 15, 2014 | 38 comments

38 Comments

  1. Susan

    ABSOLUTELY beautiful. Your daughters are blessed to have parents who “get them.” Lovely, a joy to read.

    Reply
  2. Sharon Brobst

    Half way through this I had to stop reading, I couldn’t see for the tears. Beautiful. Just beautiful Jennifer. And these words right here , “Your quiet isn’t what makes you broken. It’s what makes you beautiful.” brought out a deep sob from a place that needed to hear this truth. Truth that I know. Truth that I believe. But somehow knowing someone else sees, someone knows, brings comfort to a soul that so often finds herself apologizing or trying to change who God created her to be.

    Bless you dear sister, Anna is blesses to have you as her momma, one who understands and can speak truth into the beautiful girl God has created her to be.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      And now I’m crying with you. Thanks for being here, Sharon. For hearing and understanding.

      Reply
  3. Constance Ann Morrison

    Thank you, Jennifer, for seeing the beauty in how God has made your daughter, how wonderful she is right now. Not later when “she grows out of it” or when she “gains some confidence” or when she “has enough faith to be bold.” What folly there is in trying to recreate her or any other introverted person. I’m glad she has a mom who loves and encourages her just as she is.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Just. Thanks. Your comment speaks volumes.

      Reply
  4. Tania

    Thank you for sharing this! I am the introvert, not my daughters. No. they are the ones out there in front of a group, leading the way. They didn’t inherit my “quietness”. You’re spot on. She may never outgrow the quiet, but she will gain confidence in herself and know that her gifts are just as valuable as those of her sister’s. I am grateful that my girls are outgoing. I get to enjoy their bubbly-ness without actually being bubbly myself. 🙂

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Tania. I am so glad that Anna has a solid self-concept, but feel for her, that some of her peers and some adults don’t “get” her. It’s not fun to be misunderstood. Thanks for being one who understands. 🙂

      Reply
  5. S.Etole

    It was difficult to read this through the tears. What a gift for both of you to recognize the wonder and value of who she is.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thanks, ((((Susan)))).

      Reply
  6. tascha

    Thank you for sharing. Brought tears to my eyes. I think of my daughter when I read this. You have put into words so beautifully!

    Reply
  7. Betty Draper

    Your quiet isn’t what makes you broken. It’s what makes you beautiful.

    This isn’t a flaw or a fault – but a part of you that makes you marvelous.

    I love these words…love the preapproved word…beautiful post.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Betty. Means so much. “Preapproved” is a big part of my book, Love Idol.

      Reply
  8. Ellen Chauvin

    From a 50-something year old introvert: That was beautiful!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad these words spoke to you, Ellen.

      Reply
  9. Joan

    what a blessing…beautiful children with an intuitive mother <3
    This so spoke to my heart, can hardly type, through the tears …just beautiful

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Joan. Bless you.

      Reply
  10. Mindy Whipple

    Years ago I remember asking an older outgoing lady in the church to pray for me to be bold. She spun right around to face me and looking me straight in the eyes she told me that my quiet spirit was a gift, it was who and how God created me. Such freeing words. Your daughter is so blessed to have such a heart-holding mama.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      What a gift. What a woman. We need more like her. So freeing indeed.

      Reply
  11. Amy Jung

    As a mom of a quiet child, I sure appreciated this! I do so wish that others — especially fellow believers at church — would be more understanding of how not all kids are extroverts. Thanks for the encouragement and the reminder to respect how God has made us all unique and beautiful!

    Reply
  12. Bridget

    Beautifully written Jennifer. I too was so much like your daughter and even though today I am more outgoing than I was it still doesn’t change the quiet woman I still am. It takes a mom to know those parts of her child. My sister was the vibrant outgoing one that always had the friends and she also had the voice to speak and I would crumble at the thought of speaking. For years I felt alone and shut out but over the years I know God made me just the way I am and uses me in just the right ways. Your daughter expresses herself in her creativity and funny, I am at home, alone, working on some wreaths for our church. Each one unique but each one getting full attention that they will radiate in their new position. God has led small children to our home that just need a popsicle and a quiet visit on the porch swing, or a child that needs a safe place to lay their head for a few nights while mom is in jail or small kids that smell the food baking in your oven through the vent and come over just to see what we are doing and let us know that they haven’t eaten yet and our supper sure smells good. Those special quiet visits with children, wow, there is nothing more precious and there is no judging, they don’t see the shy side of us because we are a lot like them. God has amazing things in store for your precious daughter and as long as you keep encouraging and loving her the way you do she will be fine. I still struggle with people questioning me why I am not more like my sister or they expect me to be and I am not. Sometimes I get remarks asking where she is because she is always so much fun and honestly I can say it hurts because it would be nice if just sometimes people would acknowledge that quiet people are ok too. Hold her close, love her and wipe the tears along the way and know that she feels your security just the way I used to feel my moms.

    Reply
  13. Annetta

    Oh how your story and your daughter’s pricked my heart. Your love and support encouraging her to be who God created her to be brought tears to my eyes.
    Yes we introverts often are misunderstood as haughty, snobbish, no fun, and more.
    It has been a challenge to be ok with who I am. We are the listeners, the ones who see the sad eyes, the ones who sense when things are not quite right or good. We need both of us- introverts and extroverts to “work” in God’s kingdom.
    I am not you and you are not me but we both are God’s special creation

    Reply
  14. Renee Ratcliffe

    Thank you, thank you for speaking life into your daughter and the introverted. Your words are a lovely affirmation of the worth of a quiet spirit.
    Gratefully,
    Renee

    Reply
  15. lindalouise

    Oh Jennifer – you are a wise, wise Mama. I was that shy little girl, and I remember the taunts. Your words spoke so much to the little girl heart that still lives inside of this grown woman. xoxo

    Reply
  16. Kim

    Tears at the beauty of this, Jennifer.

    Reply
  17. cj

    so many posts lately have touched my heart .. as a farmwife, as a 100% introvert who has often felt misunderstood even by my parents, as ones God has called, a rural country couple, to a small black church on the south side of the inner city, who, though loved dearly, sometimes hurt because we don’t have ones there able to “read between the lines” and call with encouragement and prayer because they just don’t live lives parallel in understanding .. we have the splinter and they are the ones in need of ER .. anyway .. thank you for all you share … it ministers to me in ways I can’t explain and certainly wouldn’t in front of an audience but appreciate more than you could ever know, especially today when we lost 250 acres ground we’ve farmed 25 years because they/their kids want twice as much $$ rent and we can’t swing it .. thank you .. just.thank.you. ,,, you bless me …

    Reply
  18. Michelle

    Thank you Jennifer.

    I have an adult son who is still very introverted.

    I worry I don’t know how to reach out to him.

    This post makes me see things may not be all that bad.

    http://newhorizonreviews.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  19. Lynn D. Morrissey

    What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful daughter by a beautiful mama. This shy, sweet child has inner qualities that speak louder than words could or megaphones could broadcast. Her gift of listening? it’s priceless. EVeryone wants to be heard (so as to be understood), and no one will listen with an ear of compassion. You are a precious mother to champion both your girls and to help encourage them in their individual gifts. I have a mother like that. She had to learn about four very different personalites and “gift sets,” but none of us felt unappreciated. I was painfully shy when we moved to a new neighborhood when I was entering junior high. And this followed me straight into high school, and even now at various times. I am extremely uncomfortable in new situations, and it hurts. People often mistake shyness for aloofness and arrogance. Just like the qualities you are encouraging in Anna, I have finally come to just try to thank God for the way He made me and to accept it, rather than fighting me every step of the way. I’ve concluded He must have had a reason to make me the way I am. And I am finding that there is always a place at the table . . . for those who set the table, those who concoct all those scrumptious five-course repasts, for those who are the life of the dinner conversation, and for those, like me, who love to just sit at the table long after the food has been eaten and the dishes cleared, in order to listen long and linger leisurely in quiet tete-a-tete communion.
    I’d love to listen to you, Anna, and Lydai, at your table, Jennifer. I appreciate how you mother!
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
  20. marthaorlando

    You touched my heart and soul so deeply with this story of your daughter, Jennifer. My own daughter, Sarah, was exactly like this growing up, and I, too, had to constantly remind her that she was beautiful and accepted in God’s eyes and mine. She’s turned out to be a wonderful young woman and mother. Blessings!

    Reply
  21. Meredith Bernard

    I’m in absolute tears reading this. I have a quiet five year old son who I’m always getting on to look people in the eye when they say “hi” and shake their hands and what’s wrong with you…and this does a gut punch for me today…in a good way. Why would I want him to be any different than God made him? It may appear rude to others, but so what? He’s five and he’s shy…until he gets to know you, until he trusts you…and then he is loud and wants to show you his fish and his room and his toy guns. My husband has told me he was the same way…but he was always listening and taking in what was around him. And people even thought he was mentally handicapped, until he was nine years old, just because he was quiet. Jennifer, I love your words and your heart and your example. I haven’t been on here much, but I will be on here more because I need your words. I’m so glad I read this today. And as I start homeschooling my son this year I expect the crowd will get louder as he stays quiet…God help me love and embrace my quiet son so that he knows he is preapproved… Just thank you today. xoxo

    Reply
  22. ChristinDitchfield

    Love this! Please give her a hug from me! I’ve discovered that Jesus will give me the grace to be bubbly and friendly and put others at ease when I need to, because it’s part of the ministry He’s called me to. But He gets the credit, because it’s so NOT me 🙂

    Reply
  23. Mitzi Rice

    Having been that “quiet” child and now that “quiet” adult, this post is such a wise and beautiful one. It is a very different kind of life when you walk through it quietly…the beauty seen and felt is quite different than what others see and feel. Kudos to you for recognizing this beautiful uniqueness in your own child and embracing it.

    Reply
  24. Michelle DeRusha

    I have a quiet child (and a quiet husband, for that matter…but that’s a whole ‘nother post, right?!). Too often, I’m afraid I miss the miracle of who God created him to be, because, truth be told, I am afraid that others won’t see it, or will abuse him for it, so I’m ashamed to say, I try to make him be someone else some days. Thanks for giving me the courage to cheer for my quiet child, Jennifer, and to love him and let him be exactly who he is.

    Reply
  25. Roz

    Such a lovely piece, I like many who have commented already was a quiet child and awkward in social circumstances. My sister was complete opposite and I often felt compared to her and certainly compared myself in a negative way. I was always introduced as the “quiet, shy one”, like it was a problem, “painfully shy was one term I heard! I hated being the way I was and still am to a degree. Now, as a mother of a son and two daughters, the youngest daughter having a very similar nature to mine I try to be careful to let her be who she is and to assure her that it is perfectly fine to be different from her more outgoing and boistreous sister. However I do sometimes worry that her shyness holds her back like it did with me in certain things. It’s nice to read this article and be reminded to nurture the beautiful nature that she has.

    Reply
  26. Alison Campbell

    What a lovely thoughtful post and celebration of your daughter’s special uniqueness

    Reply
  27. Baby Mama

    I am sitting with with tears streaming down my face. I can barely contain my emotion. You see, I was that quiet child. I still am quiet. I hate the spotlight, I like quiet. But, the teasing and the lack of understanding and the hurt that comes from being the quiet one can be quite overwhelming. I had no idea there was so much hurt from this until I read your post. Thank you for bringing to the fore an issue that people often over look. My daughter is the complete opposite of me, and I find myself so grateful for that. Perhaps I should rather be grateful she is just who she is – as opposed to the fact she is opposite from me. Telling your daughter how special she is, how God is proud of her, how wonderful she is – just as she is – is an amazing gift you are giving her. You are telling her that she is okay. And I think many children (even adults) need to hear that – perhaps even the loud ones. I know I certainly needed to – and tonight, when I get home, I will be telling my daughter that as well. Thank you.

    Reply
  28. Sara DeSmet

    That’s me…the little girl hiding behind her mom’s legs 🙂 Everyday I fight to be a little more outspoken. Awesome story Jennifer…thanks for sharing about your prescious Anna 🙂

    Reply
  29. pastordt

    Just gorgeous, Jen. Like that girl of yours. I’ve never met her, but she has always ‘called’ to me through this computer screen. There’s something truly special there. The heart of her shows in her eyes, I think. And it’s such a beautiful heart. You are blessed in your daughters – and they are blessed in their mama. Thank you.

    Reply

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