Chasing After Batman: An Introverted Parent Raising An Extroverted Child

November 11, 2013 | By Brent Almond | LESSONS LEARNED

chasingbatman2

Recently I found myself, yet again, frantically trailing after my son as he ran on ahead of me, weaving in and out and through the crowd like a pint-sized quarterback. This time we were at his preschool, attending a Halloween-themed fair, where each classroom offered a different adventure in which JJ would embark and then move on to the next as quick as he’d gotten the requisite prize. His little black cape swooped around with an extra amount of drama — the Velcro closure was itchy around his neck, so he wore his cowl unfastened and scooted up on top of his head so he could plow ahead, unencumbered.

He — being 4 years old and nimble, and me— about a parent-and-a-half in size, made this chase an exercise in futility. So I followed close enough to appear somewhat in control to concerned onlookers, and where he could hear my voice without me having to shout. But I allowed a bit of distance because otherwise we’d be butting heads all night, or I’d be plowing half the hallway down. Or both.

I perpetually cringed as he barely missed bumping into a child in a wheelchair or tripping the teacher carrying a large box of cupcakes, bobbing and weaving with such disregard and joyous abandon. The only way I was able to keep up at all was because every few seconds he would stop, plant himself in front of someone and declare,“I’m Batman!” Then off he dashed to vanquish the next foe and add another trinket or treat to his plastic pumpkin.

And I found myself, yet again, thinking “Is this normal? Is he okay? Am I being too uptight? Am I doing this right? Will he ever slow down?”

You see, I’m an introvert raising an extroverted child, and I’m way out of my depth.

I realize I may not appear introverted to some. I definitely have my moments in the spotlight, but they usually include a script or a score (and an actual spotlight), or a couple of rum and cokes. It doesn’t come naturally to me like it does to my son.

And yes, I realize he’s a four year old. And that four year olds are out of control sometimes. And that boys will be boys. But from where I stood jogged, he was the only one running the halls for as long and as fast as he was. And while there were several other Batmen and Batgirls, he was the only one declaring his Batman-ness with such ferocity and frequency. He’s also the one in his class whose cot is next to the teacher’s desk so he doesn’t wake the other kids at naptime. When he was in daycare, he called all the shots — who decided who would be which superhero and which bad guy and how it would all play out. And he was the one who they all gathered around in anticipation when he returned from vacation. He was the one a couple of daycare siblings took turns pretending to be when they played at home.

As I’ve done pretty much since our boy started to move — I compare how different a child he is to what I was at his age. Or any age. I was never the leader, the self-proclaimer, the Force to Be Reckoned With. I was the peacemaker, the best friend, the teacher’s pet. JJ isn’t the teacher’s pet in the traditional sense, but he’s known and loved throughout his school, by kids and teachers alike. Even on regular days when he’s not racing around in costume, everyone says hello and goodbye and talks about how cute he is in his raincoat or covered in Ninja Turtle Band-Aids. He’s just so ON…all the time.

As far as I can tell, JJ’s the most gregarious and extroverted child there. And by “there” I mean anywhere. He’s on this adventure and I’m along for the ride, making sure he doesn’t run too far ahead, knock anyone over, or cross the street without holding my hand.

Papa and I admitted to one another recently that we have “toddler envy” for one of JJ’s classmates. He’s nearly a year younger, sweet as the dickens, and is shy, though not painfully so. He’s a nice, quiet little guy… who of course thinks JJ hung the moon. As does his Mom. She likes having her son hang out with ours, in hopes that JJ will pull him out of his shell a bit. We long for the opposite to happen and that our hurried hare tries on the turtle outfit from time-to-time.

Admittedly, part of my introverted nature is me worrying too much what other people think. While it still hangs on, I’ve definitely shed some of that baggage, mostly out of necessity. Whether pulling out all my funny voices and song repertoire on a long plane ride, swerving through the supermarket to keep things out of reach, or dragging JJ screaming off the playground, I’ve learned to get through it with my kid safely and (somewhat) soundly, prying or judging eyes be damned.

Yet I want to make sure he’s kind to his shy, admiring classmate and generous to the ones that pretend to be him. I don’t want him to take his confidence and popularity for granted or use it to take advantage of others.

I don’t have any advice on how to make it easier for myself or for anyone else in my situation. But writing about it here helps me to think through it, to not get overwhelmed. I’m trying to strike a balance between teaching him limits and allowing him to go all out. To keep him safe while letting him take risks. To be considerate of others while being 100% himself. I want to take this unique opportunity and to grow from it, allow it to pull me out of my own comfort zone, and to stop relying so much on others’ opinions.

I’ve spent a lot of years (and money) pulling myself out of said comfort zone. In my son is the best opportunity yet to help push my limits, teach me fearlessness and to put myself out there; to live life as big and as loud and as fast as I can.

In the midst of all my unsettledness, I want to be clear that my son’s confidence and exuberance gives me great joy. I admire his being so out there, running bold and declaring to the world who he is and what nemesis or challenge he’s taking on next. But Batman or no, he still has to hold my hand when he crosses the street. We both need it, just a little while longer.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

P.S. If you’re not already a fan of the Designer Daddy’s Facebook Page, but you like the blog, please hop on over for a visit! In addition to posting things from here, I mix in lots of extra photos, take reader questions, and other assorted sweet & silly stuff. I have a couple of new things I’ll be rolling out soon, so stay tuned!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

51 Responses to “Chasing After Batman: An Introverted Parent Raising An Extroverted Child”

  1. Charlie says:

    I contend with this regularly. Within and without. I was terribly introverted. As I grew up, I had watershed moments of growth but they felt more phoenix-like than simply shedding a skin. I contend with my inner monologue constantly with my son. But he teaches me as much as I teach him. Great post.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Thanks Charlie — based on your “public persona” I never would have guessed a lurking introvert, former or otherwise. Someday we gotta get JJ and Finn together for a Cute Off. :)

  2. Vincent says:

    I appreciate your honesty Brent. The conflicts one faces are no greater than the ones beginning at home. I think you’ll both find a way because you must. My daughter who’s close to your son’s age is painfully shy. Yet recently she’s begun letting loose which has bolstered her confidence immensely. Time has a way of breaking the ice for us whether we’re ready or not.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Thanks Vincent. It took a while to sift thru just being stressed out from the tantrums (his and mine) and get to the heart of the matter — our differing personalities. But yeah, he’s still on the outside edge of toddlerdom, so everything is magnified. Looking to enjoy every stage, even the trying ones. :)

      Brent

  3. Leigh Ann says:

    I have 3 girls, and my youngest is definitely an extrovert. I’m not sure yet about her older (twin) sisters. But I don’t know where this kid came from, and I realize that I have to try my hardest to keep her spirit intact.

    One of the hardest things for me as an introverted parent is dealing with the friends THEY make at school. At first I was very much like you – more concerned about what people thought. Were they behaving? Were they disruptive? But now it’s the pressure to get to know parents of kids in their classes that makes me sweat. It hasn’t steered me wrong so far, but someday…

    • Brent Almond says:

      Leigh Ann:
      What about your daughter’s friends is stressing you out? (Just thinking ahead for myself) Is it that they’re über-outgoing too? Or is it having to put yourself out there and meet all the parents? Just curious…

      Thanks for stopping by, and good luck! Good thing you’ve got twins to tag-team babysit eventually!
      Brent

      • Leigh Ann says:

        It’s mainly the pressure to get to put myself out there and get to know the parents. The twins have some characteristics of introverts (sometimes preferring to be home, looking like they want to flee in chaotic situations), but they are not shy. So they make friends easily, which is great. But I have a hard time getting over that hump with other parents of “now we’ve introduced ourselves…now what?” I am almost never the first to arrange a play date or anything.Which makes me look rude, but I really struggle with that.

  4. neal says:

    Great post, Brent. I’ve been wanting to write one like this for a while, and just haven’t quite found the angle I want yet. And you pretty much hit it on the head.

    I totally get the toddler envy. I’d never trade my little girl, not for anything. She’s amazing. She’s my heart. But she’s also really freaking exhausting. I see another little creature sitting quietly, playing quietly, watching quietly, and it’s like looking at myself; it’s like recognizing a secret ally in this world of busy-ness and enthusiasm and go!go!go! I mean, there are plenty of things that my daughter and I connect with, that bind us wonderfully together . . . but there’s no way around the fact that she’s a classic, charismatic, never-stops-running extrovert, and I’m about as introverted as you can get without being diagnosable. Well, probably I’m still diagnosable on the DSM. Whatever.

    Anyway, just wanted to say I appreciated this, and it’s good to know that there are others out there experiencing the cosmic joke of being an introverted parent to a extroverted kid.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Neal:
      Glad you could relate — I figured there were others out there, I just hadn’t noticed because I’m always trying to make sure my son is within sight!

      How old is your daughter? JJ is 4, and I’m 44, and I’m afraid that he’s just going to keep getting faster and I’m going to keep getting slower. :)

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts,
      Brent

  5. Denise says:

    Yes, I get this. My number one son is so extroverted, always “on.” He’s wearying! I’ve definitely experienced kid envy– sometimes when sitting in church next to mine who wiggles, talks, and says in stage whisper, “Mommy I don’t like church!” and I can see his peer, same age, sitting ALONE and with hands folded, halo practically floating above his head, while his mom is playing piano for something.

    • Brent Almond says:

      LOL. My Dad is a minister and my Mom is the church organist. It’s gonna be a few years before my son can sit through a whole service. I can just see him trying to run up and help Grandpa preach or try to push all the buttons for Grandma on the organ! :)

  6. Julie Enyeart says:

    Wow, so wonderful for me to read right now! A friend posted this to FB and I am so glad I clicked over! My wonderful 6 yr old is an extrovert, I’m very much an introvert, and I can’t believe how you just described my life, right down to the Halloween party:) We have really been struggling lately as we have had quite a year of upheaval and sadness. He is in kindergarten and on a star chart (loud voice being one of his targets) and I got a note on the bottom of his chart that said “E. had to be removed from Veterans Day Assembly”. Oh, and I’m a teacher myself so I can vividly see what happened and I am honestly so glad I wasn’t there. I so badly want to celebrate his uniqueness but it’s so HARD. I too want his tender heart to show and for him to be kind and respectful. So thanks again for this post and letting me vent. Best wiishes to you and your family!

    • Brent Almond says:

      Julie:
      Thanks for sharing your story/child with me as well. I’m sorry your family has been through a rough year. Do you attribute some of your son’s acting out to the stuff going on? I know my son is great at picking up on our stress and either throws extra tantrums or is just super silly ALL THE TIME. It’s obvious he’s wanting us to just stop and sit with him. I try (with mixed success) to give him some one-on-one time each day, without the constraints of a schedule/deadline. That seems to help us connect a bit.

      Hugs to your little guy!
      Brent

  7. Chris says:

    Wow, Brent! It’s like my inner thoughts were being presented to me on the screen in front of me. I have been the introvert my whole life, shy, quiet, hockey player. Yeah hockey player didn’t fit the introvert thing exactly, but it’s what I enjoyed playing and I was probably the most extroverted while playing hockey than any other time in my life. This is a great post. Thanks for writing it.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Chris,
      I’m no hockey player, but I sing and act in a chorus, and have done some pretty outlandish things on stage that most would consider rather extroverted. But like with you and hockey, I’m more comfortable there than I am in certain other settings and around certain groups of people. I’ve come a long way from when I was a kid, but seeing MY kid makes me wonder where he’s gonna go from here — not sure he can get any more out there! :)

      Glad you liked/related to the article. It’s been amazing to see the response it’s gotten — quite pleasantly surprising! :)
      Brent

  8. KIM says:

    This is beautifully written. If you are not a writer, Dad, you should be! Love your attitude!

  9. Noah Moore-Goad says:

    Brent-

    This is probably the best post from you in a very long time, It’s certainly my favorite.I was an introverted kid like yourself, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. There are no coincidences. JJ was brought into your lives because you needed each other. I firmly believe that. He is one lucky little boy to have two dads that love him so much. And you two guys have one awesome super hero for a son. You two are the luckiest guys to have such a vibrant, alive and amazing kid.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Thanks Noah! It HAS been such a long time since I’ve written something this personal. Not that I didn’t want to, life just gets busy and I had some paying gigs, and etc. etc. But it’s been amazing to see so many people relate to it, and yes — thank you, we are all three VERY lucky to have each other. On with the adventure! :)

      Brent

  10. Kande says:

    Yes. Exactly this. Yes.

    My son is also 4 and I am also 44 and YES. He’s just THAT klid who is WAY more “out there” than any of his cousins ever were, whose grandparents ask me if that level of high energy extroversion is normal and who complete strangers ask about whether or not he ever slows down. The answers are no, not exactly normal, but not cause for concern… and no, not until he passes out at night to get ready to do it all again the next day!

    Thanks for putting words to the heartfelt desire to bring understanding and balance, nurturing the clear leadership gifting these kids have been given while also encouraging sensitivity to different styles of interaction.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Kande:
      How often do you have to stop yourself from doing the math, as in “When he’s X age, I’ll be X”? What have we gotten ourselves into?!? :)

      I do like to think as a former kid who looked up to the outgoing kids, I can offer some perspective to help him be sensitive to all kinds of people. Just gotta get him to slow down and listen!

      Brent

  11. Sean says:

    This is wonderfully written, Brent, and hits very close to home. I’ve got a 3 year old that is already showing signs of being MUCH more extroverted than I have ever been.

    I suspect his interests will be similarly extroverted in nature, and I’m already mentally gearing up to support him as best I can, while being completely out of my own depth and comfort zone.

    Good on you for your patience, thought, and understanding; it will pay dividends in the future, when Batman still comes back to you for grounding after he’s flown a little too fast or had his wings clipped.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Sean:
      Thanks for your comment. I think — as an example — that I’m fine (and even looking forward to) being his biggest fan if he chooses to play sports. I grew up completely outside that world as a kid who preferred to stay indoors and draw. I think what seems makes me a little sad is thinking I won’t be the one he looks up to for that. Of course I’m worrying where there is nothing to worry about yet, but that’s how I roll. :)
      Best,
      Brent

  12. My youngest daughter seems to have a similar personality to your son. Always the life of the party but we worry that she’s going to run rough-shod over her more timid classmates. And all in stark contrast to her shy, reserved older sister. I loved reading this, you expressed many of my same thoughts about raising and extrovert.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Jaymi:
      Thanks for sharing — so awesome to hear from all these parents in similar situations! I kinda had no idea. :)

      Hopefully your girls can help balance each other out over the years. I have 3 younger brothers, and while we don’t get along 100% of the time, we’ve definitely learned from each other.

      Best,
      Brent

  13. Rachel says:

    This sounds like you were looking at my family when you wrote it. It’s so exhausting having a child this extroverted. Alex knows everyone at his school, and he’s only in kindergarten. He lives everyone and he always wants to be around people; it just wears me out sometimes. Good to know we’re normal!

    • Brent Almond says:

      Rachel:

      Oh wait, we’re normal? ;) I got some good advice from another reader who specializes in learning assessment:

      “Wonderful! What an amazing opportunity to join him in some of his adventures – then explain that you can’t join them all and take well deserved rest. Borrow some of his excitement, share it and then, when you are exhausted, find space to rest and recover!!”

      See? We’re allowed to take rests while they go nuts for a while! :)
      Brent

  14. John Kinnear says:

    Bravo. Wonderful post. I shared and then shared again.

  15. Fiona says:

    Seems to me you are concerned about all the right things. Whether we want to or not, we are going to be concerned about our children, and this is good, because the concern is a reflection of our love. You are clearly in love with your son – your concern shows it – and love is all your son really needs.

    Just keep swimming.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Fiona:
      Thank you — so nice of you to say. And it took us 3 different viewings, but we recently made it thru “Finding Nemo,” and he LOVED the “Just keep swimming” line. I of course was a sniffling mess at the end when Marlin finally is reunited with Nemo, and he learns the lesson of letting his son take risks and swim out on his own to have adventures. Tearing up again just thinking about it! :)
      Brent

  16. Larry says:

    Excellent piece. I can relate to an extent.
    Both my wife and I are on the introverted side. As a child, I was painfully shy.
    I so hoped my children would not be. Unfortunately, my older son in particular is shy. He also has anxiety. Anyway, he struggles socially and it is hard for me, as his father, to see. I even feel like its my fault but of course I can’t do anything about it.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Larry:
      Please don’t sell yourself short. You’re correct in saying that it’s not your “fault” your son is shy. But you can do something about it, which I imagine you already are — being empathetic. And maybe you and your son can learn to take some steps together. Not that you were asking for any advice. :) I just feel for you and your son, and am sending some good karma your way.
      All the best,
      Brent

  17. Cindy G says:

    I can totally relate to this piece. I am a total introvert. My girls and my husband – extroverts. We just went to a wedding and my 5 y/o spent the entire night on the dance floor walking up to every single person, introducing herself and asking them if she could dance with them. She even had one man doing Gangnam Style moves with her (though I bet he was sorry he did the next day. I don’t think bodies are supposed to move like that). Anyway, I spent the entire night going up to people, acknowledging her forwardness and telling them that if she becomes a pest, please let me know. I’ve learned a lot about parenting children so different from me, but I have a long way to go yet :)

    • Brent Almond says:

      Cindy:
      Of all the people you talked to, did any of them indicate her forwardness bothered them? I would be surprised if they did. Everybody loves a cute, precocious, life-of-the-party kid at a wedding! Alas, living with one is a whole different story… ;)
      Brent

  18. Tammy says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that we all think our kids are complete whack jobs until we’re around other kids for a while and realize ALL kids are complete whack jobs. And almost without fail, the great stuff we see in other kids are the things that are overlooked by their parents. Almost everyone goes through periods of doubt about their own progeny.

    My husband and I are going through a bit of your dilemma — our kids were the only people dancing during a huge party (they were basically the entertainment) and they just started a youtube channel. We don’t want to squelch their creativity or excitement over their projects, but this is so not something we would’ve been comfortable with — especially at their ages. And that’s probably why we feel like we have to let them just go. But I’m in cringe-mode about 80% of the time.

    • Brent Almond says:

      YouTube channel, huh? Christ, what kind of nutty tech is going to be available when MY son’s old enough for online “self-expression”? Give me strength. :)

      Thanks for stopping by! Come again. :)
      Brent

  19. […] earlier version of this piece appeared on Brent Almond’s personal blog, Designer Daddy. You can also find him on […]

  20. Marcie says:

    Hey Brent! I so love reading and learning for your posts. Harrison is just entering toddlerhood and I am always comparing him to what he does or how he acts to his classmates. Its impossible not to. Who talks more? Who is gentler? Who is sillier? Who is sweeter? I think its just natural to always be wondering how they will turn out as they start approach elementary age and then young adulthood. We don’t want them to be mean or use their gifts and talents in a bad way. But you and Papa are so great, you will guide him for sure. And it is totally challenging and wonderful that they are always questioning us and pushing us past our comfort zone so we can also evolve. It is so scary and wonderful being a parent!

    Much love!
    Marcie

    • Brent Almond says:

      Marcie:
      Right you are! I went to a Thanksgiving “feast” at JJ’s class today, and not a single kid ate any of the veggies! Made me feel silly for stressing so much about that at home. He’ll get there — I just need to have a cocktail and chill…

      Take care and hugs to the kiddo!
      Brent

  21. Cathy says:

    Oh my gosh, I’ve never read anything that so perfectly captured my daughter and I! Thanks for sharing this piece!

    • Brent Almond says:

      Cathy:
      I’m so glad you could relate! After getting so many similar comments, I almost feel like starting a support group or Facebook group for parents/children like us! :)
      Brent

  22. seattledad says:

    Great post Brent. I am with you, and neal. Lukas is 100% passionate about everything he does. Many kids are riding the middle, but he has always been full of emotion. I have had moments of envy when i see the ‘easy kids’. But what make him so hard to keep up with is what makes him stand out as such wonderful kid. He makes everyone smile. Sounds like what you describe in JJ. I am also a pretty big introvert so am with you there as well.

    • Brent Almond says:

      James:
      I think what helps me (at least lately) is making sure I take the time to stop and watch him, particularly at home. It helps me better understand him, give him room to be himself, and allows me time to plan my countermeasures when we’re out in public. :)

      Thanks for stopping by.
      B

  23. Anna says:

    Oh wow! This is so reassuring and I wish I’d recognised sooner that this was the crux of the issue for me and my daughter. She’s six now and hasn’t slowed down or stopped taking risks but she has acquired some sense of safety awareness so it’s not quite as nerve-jangling (my own term!) as it was when she was a toddler. It is utterly exhausting for me spending a day with her. Sibling rivalry with younger brother (more introverted) is taken to a whole new level – she believes she is quite entitled to discipline him and take on the adult role! She has actually said more than once, “it’s just so hard being a child”. She is a charismatic leader and it absolutely stretches me to my limit trying to parent her. She cannot stand the indignity of being told off, and the loss of control associated with it. Husband and I are working on developing her empathy and her being able to recognise and manage her own emotions, in the hope that it will reduce the ‘bulldozer’ effect!

    Great post – thank you. It is marvellous to feel solidarity!

    • Brent Almond says:

      Anna:
      Sounds like you’ve got a future world leader on your hands! :) Big props to you and your husband for trying to channel her drive and steer her in a productive direction.

      Right there with you,
      Designer Daddy

  24. Mary says:

    I just wanted to say that I enjoyed your article. I have three extreme extroverts out of four and I am an extreme introvert. I guess I’m saying I’m glad I’m not alone. Between my extreme extrovert husband and extroverted kids I am ALWAYS running after someone. It’s been wonderful. I wish I could be an extrovert and live life out loud like that and always be ON!

  25. Darrell says:

    I am a former introvert who is now somewhat an extrovert who is raising an 5yo introvert son who I look at and see a 5yo me so there’s hope for yet…

  26. […] if that were to happen, I can take solace in knowing that I’m not alone and it can be par for the course for many […]

  27. […] this one: CLICK HERE — where I talk about being an introverted parent raising an extroverted child. It got a bump […]

Leave a Comment (watch your language)