As a relatively new parent, I find myself comparing my child to other kids. Timmy is a vibrant 38-month-old boy. He’s a happy, easy-to-please toddler who also happens to be very shy. It takes him a couple of hours (minimum) to warm up on a playdate setting. He tends to play on his own first then later on (and by that I mean two hours later) he will interact with other kids. I’ve met other toddlers his age and even those younger than him who immediately talk to people they’ve just met.
Meet the parents
I guess it’s pretty normal to compare your child to other kids but not to the point of forcing him to be like them. It’s like looking at two products and using the other one as reference instead insisting that they should be alike. I believe it’s beneficial to learn from other parents and their children. Timmy takes after his dad in this area of shyness. I am touted as Ms. Volunteer growing up. I had no problems singing or speaking in public. I think I was in kindergarten when my mom was called to the Principal’s Office because I kept standing on my chair with my arms raised up high whenever I wanted to recite (which was practically all the time).
Meanwhile, my husband Omar has never been comfortable with new people. He admitted that he cried everyday during his first week in preschool because his mom wasn’t there and he was in a new environment. He may be a teacher and speaker now but these are the only platforms where he is comfortable speaking to a huge group of people. Otherwise, when you see him in a gathering with no acquaintance in sight whatsoever, he will make himself invisible in whatever way possible.
Our toddler’s personality
Timmy’s innate shyness has two advantages. First, his aversion to strangers protects him from possible kidnapping. No kidding! I see that as a great advantage! Second, it makes him mysterious. When people win his smile and attention, it’s like hitting the jackpot. Haha! He will show off his tricks, try to get your attention, and he will never forget you. In fact, he has a people hangover if there is such a thing. If he warmed up to you and you had even just a few minutes of play, he would look for you from the time you parted all the way home. He would even pray for you that night! The next day, he will still look for you and wonder why you’re not there to play with him. Timmy will bring up your name the rest of the week as if he’s having a minor separation anxiety.
Over the past three years, I have learned to embrace and accept this uniqueness. I was never frustrated about his shyness in the first place. But I have been careless in handling it sometimes. Like there was a time when I would tell him to join a picture taking and sit on the lap of one of her cousins or uncles. He would cling on to me for dear life and I didn’t even realize how hard it must be for him to see his mom trying to give him to another person! Later that night, my husband (who is an absolute expert in this area) lovingly told me that what I did was stressful to Timmy. I apologized to him and my baby even though he doesn’t understand why I was saying sorry. I told Timmy that mommy will never do that again.
Timmy might be showing signs of being an introvert but he loves doing things with the people he’s comfortable with. He would often say, “Want mommy/daddy to join me.” That covers everything from reading books, playing basketball, coloring, watching TV, tinkering with his toys, and role playing (i.e. talking with his stuff toys and dinosaurs). He likes spending time us and his grandparents. I’m beginning to see that time might be one of his love languages aside from words of affirmation. I remember he would sit so close to me while I’m writing. He may be doing other stuff and not talk to me but he still wants to snuggle close because he sees it as quality time. He also loves it when he is complemented for what he did, may it be for a jump shot or just by putting things back to their proper place. Come to think of it, time and words are my love languages, too!
Our boy’s ACTIVE nature
You can only keep Timmy in one place when you’re doing things with him. Otherwise, he’s a ball of energy running around, shifting from one activity to another. When in the mall, he’s not the type who would point at things and ask us to buy stuff for him. He’s more of the play-and-drop kind of kid. He would play with a certain car for a short while then leave it. Instead, he looks at malls and stores as free spaces to run and explore. I guess we really have an athlete in the making.
If you have a kid like that, you need to be fit. Haha! And it’s something that my husband and I need to work on. You can’t keep your toddler in the stroller all the time. You have to give him the freedom to explore and yes, run. It’s a team effort on who runs after Timmy and who watches over our stuff and keeps an eye on the “territory” so to speak. I always end up doing the latter because I don’t have the stamina to run that fast and that long.
It’s a different story when daddy’s not with us. I have a “no running” policy when it’s just me and Timmy. We rarely bring the stroller anymore unless of course it’s going to be a long day or an extended trip. I guess most moms would agree with me that grocery carts are one of the best things ever invented for moms with tots. The grocery is my fall back when Timmy feels the urge to sprint. It’s the best place to do informal homeschooling, too! You have all the fruits, vegetables, and some live fish, too (well, the ones we eat at least. Haha!). Bookstores are perfect for down time hangouts for our active boy. Timmy enjoys going through books and yes, he can sit down for a good amount of time when you read to him.
Our boy’s REBELLIOUS nature
No child is perfect and rebellion is not unique. In fact, it’s one thing that humans have in common. We all have rebelled against the rules at one point or another. No matter how sweet and adorable your baby is he or she has a rebellious nature. The urge to do what you want (without fear of consequences) and get away with it is something that comes natural for any human being. Laws and other disciplines are put in place to control our reckless nature. Same goes with kids. Timmy doesn’t like being reprimanded. He tends to raise his voice when you tell him to stop doing something. Respect is BIG in our family. You will not get away with answering back with unintelligible words no matter how cute it sounds. Timmy gets spanked when he does this. He doesn’t get spanked a lot. Sometimes months would pass before he gets another spanking.
Now, just hearing the word “spanking” makes him cry. He hugs us immediately and says sorry quickly. It was tough disciplining him. We love our son but we know that tough love should also be done. At first it was just Omar who was spanking him. Later on, I’ve learned to put my foot down and do the same. I needed divine help to make sure that my voice is firm and my spanking is painful enough to be felt. If you know me, you probably can picture that my spanking won’t hurt a bit. So it took a lot of effort on my part to make it sting.
My husband and I needed to be a team to ensure that we discipline Timmy so we can help develop his character. It was hard but when you see your child improve you’ll realize that it’s worth it. We also made sure that after spanking Timmy we talk to him and assure him that we love him. Those moments of tears will be later on replaced by playtime and his favorite—tickle time.
Parenting is only half the story
In my few years of being a parent, I’ve learned that being a mom doesn’t give you all the power over your child’s life. It’s true that being a parent is only half the story. The other half is learning from your child. As I teach Timmy, I also learn from him. I’m not only teaching him to nurture his fine motor skills but I’m also learning how to be a fine listener when he demands my attention. I’m not only teaching him how to read but I’m also learning how to be patient along the way. I’m not only teaching him good manners but I’m also learning how to apply it with him. I’m not only teaching him independence but through him I’m also learning how to be more dependent on God.
I know we will discover more of Timmy’s quirkiness as he grows up. His strengths will be more pronounced. His skills will be more defined. And we will do our best to develop them and encourage him to do the things he loves. I’m excited to see how God will continue to develop his character. I even look forward to writing more blogs about him! Chronicling these things allows me to take a step back and appreciate my son for who he is and how God created him.
Take some time to look at your child and appreciate how unique he or she is. Maybe you could write a list of the qualities you like about him or her. Even your child’s flaws are silver linings for improvement, too! Believe me, you’ll be surprised to see how blessed you are.