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I was a very shy child. I have distinct memories of bypassing social engagement, choosing instead to read or draw quietly in a corner.
Having had such a childhood, I was completely unprepared for my confident, self-assured son. Rather than tiptoeing into a room and quietly sitting in a corner, he marches in boldly and greets each person, child and adult alike. I find it bewildering, but also a relief. I’m so glad he doesn’t experience the uncomfortable embarrassment during social interactions that I always did. I’m proud and happy for him that he has such a developed sense of self.
But because I can’t relate to his confidence, I also don’t always know what to do with it. I’m really very happy that it seems he doesn’t care what other folks think of him… but shouldn’t he just a little? Is there a point where self assurance becomes arrogance? Where confidence turns into cockiness?
His strong will manifests in other ways, too. He has big opinions for a small one. Serving staff at restaurants always giggle a bit when he requests, “No pickles,” or “With a straw, please.” He knows his own mind and stoutly voices disagreement or preference when needed.
To be fair, I give him plenty of opportunity to exercise voicing those opinions. He chooses what he wears from an offered selection of weather-appropriate clothes. He picks what he’d like to eat for breakfast and lunch (within reason), and when we begin our mornings I ask, “What would you like to do today?” But perhaps these encouragements to make his own choices have gone too far. Now he offers opinions even when unrequested.
When I think back to being a child, I hardly remember ever offering my opinion, even when asked. I had this (often ludicrous) fear that I would offend someone if my preferences differed from theirs. And perhaps that speaks to my fears as a parent. Though my shyness held me back in many ways, it also contained strong threads of positive concern for others, for politeness. Is my confident son lacking that concern for those around him?
As my son grows as an individual and as I grow as a parent, I’m learning that there might very well be a lot about him to which I can’t relate. That he’ll do things that I don’t understand and have motivations with which I can’t identify. I hope to learn to structure my guidance around who he is, rather than who I expected him to be. Whether shy or forward, meek or bold, the principles I want to instill about politeness, about caring for others, about courtesy and kindness are the same across the board. Rather than continue to worry about ways that his confidence may be a problem, I hope to help him develop a confidence that is guided by care for those around him. I hope I can become bold enough to do it.
About Liz Moorhead
Liz Moorhead is a high school teacher turned work-from-home mom. An illustrator and writer, she blogs for a top wedding site and shares her own personal experiences on her blog Happy Sighs in between walks to the park with her toddler son – all just outside of Philadelphia.