Posted by: Hannah | 11/25/2011

fortress of solitude

Ron is an introvert.

It’s taken me a while to figure this out, but he is. I am too, so it shouldn’t have surprised me, but I’ve had 30+ years of practice living in an extroverted world. I hide it well. As long as I can occasionally escape to a quiet refuge for a few minutes – even a bathroom stall if need be – I can usually manage it. To the point where for years whenever I did any kind of personality test and ‘introvert’ showed up I was always sort of skeptical.

I’m older now, and more in touch with myself. I know that too much of anything – lights, noise, movement, people – overloads my circuits and makes me anxious, irritable and panicky. I have adapted. One has to. The world is not set up to be kind to the introvert.

Ron will someday learn that too. But meanwhile, he’s having a rough time.

I forget sometimes, because he’s so welcoming and friendly (and LOUD!) in his own house. His physical surroundings play a huge role in his comfort level. He doesn’t mind how many people are here in the house at any given time – or at least he’s never shown any indication that it’s a problem for him. Take him out of his den, though, and he gets uncertain.

We went to the mall a couple of weeks ago for maybe half an hour. He wouldn’t stop sucking his thumb the whole time and when we escaped back to the car, he breathed out and said “I like it in here, Mama. It’s so QUIET and NICE.”

We tried taking him to see a movie. The crazy-loud sound system, mammoth screen, and bright colours overloaded his circuits entirely. Before the previews were even finished he was in Hubs’ lap, face buried in his chest, thumb securely in his mouth.

Just this morning, he burst into tears when we arrived at preschool and buried his face in my neck. “Too many kids, Mama. I am SAD!” Eventually I settled him with an individual craft project and he was mostly OK… but it hurt my heart a little, because my first impulse was to scoop him up and bring him home where we could bake cookies, or something. Except that he will need to adapt. I know that in preschool he is safe, and in an environment he is familiar with, and sometimes he’s going to have to push himself a little. It’s only three hours. If I’d brought him home, it would be a struggle to drop him off every time. I know this.

But oh, the mama guilt was intense this time, because I knew exactly what he was feeling. I have days like that, even now. Days where I just want to be by myself, in my own space. Days where the thought of going to convenience store for milk and needing to make small talk with the very friendly owner feels like too much. Days where standing in line at a cash register makes my palms sweat and my stomach clench. Days where I would give almost anything to not have to interact with a single living soul.

My little man. I’m going to pick him up soon. I hope I hear that he had a good morning.


Update: He did have a good morning, if a quiet one. For snack they decorated gingerbread men, which he enjoyed. Apparently though he told his teacher that when he got home, he just wanted to watch a movie and then go to bed. Man, kid, I hear you.



  1. See, I had the opposite problem. I was pegged as an introvert, when really I was an extrovert. Just one with social anxiety. I have a lot of sympathy/empathy for introverts, having walked that line myself. I would shut myself away from the world, but I longed to be a part of it, just as the introvert longs to be away from it. I think as long as you’re sensitive and understanding to his needs to recharge in quiet, he’ll be okay. Just think how much harder it would be if he had extroverted parents who thought there was something wrong with him?

  2. You and I are opposites. I kept doing and redoing Myer-Briggs tests because I was coming up as an extrovert. This seemed wrong because I can go days and days without leaving my house and I love it. I’ve just decided I’m an extrovert with misanthropic leanings.

    Good for you for recognizing Ron’s personality and needs. You’re such a good mom.

    • Thank you. I appreciate that.

  3. Aw. But you’re such a good mama to recognize his needs. Both my boys like other kids, they like school, but they need downtime in their own home a lot. They come home for lunch (we live close to the school) because the thought of being all social ALL LUNCH HOUR is just too much for them.

  4. i show up as almost a 50/50 introvert/extravert split on the MBTI, with the small change falling on the side of extravert. but the busier my life gets, the more introverted i begin to think i am. i need socialization, absolutely. but god, i need recovery time. and god, i overwhelm. and i wonder – suddenly, reading this – about Josephine and the way she falls apart at certain times…thanks for the food for thought, H.

    • We had some real issues with Ron since his third birthday – screaming tantrums that just left the whole family breathless with their intensity, and they seemed to come out of nowhere. Eventually we started putting him to bed a half hour earlier, and making damn sure that he had time for breakfast & a bit of a chat with Mama & Dad before the extra kids start arriving. We also are very careful to make sure that he gets time every day to play by himself, in his own room, regardless of how many other children are here. It’s made a huge difference – he very rarely melts down anymore, and he usually know when one is coming because we’ve learned to watch for the signs. These children… just when I think I have it cased, they throw something else in front of me. Everyone always says how much Ron looks like his dad, but in personality he’s much more like me than anyone thought. Realizing that has been significant.

  5. I’m an introvert too so I understand that need to just break away from people sometimes. I distinctly remember not wanting to go to daycare because the number of kids seemed overwhelming, however I guess it’s a good thing to learn how to manage. It’s nice that you see this in him and allow him his time to unwind.

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