Shy or just reserved?

There he stood, leaning against a tree. He watched the other boys playing but didn’t approach them. I knew he wanted to, but he still held back and watched. Ea he hung out in the pool alone while the other boys dove off the diving board. It wasn’t fear of the diving board that kept Jase away. It was the awkward shyness of not knowing how to join his friend who is playing with other boys he doesn’t know or doesn’t know well.

This was the scene recently at a birthday pool party that Jase, Lexie and I attended. It was a joint celebration for Jase’s friend Aidan and for Aidan’s sister, Morgan, who is Lexie’s friend. While Lexie had no problem running off with some girls, it was Jase I knew who might struggle at the party.

Last year, his best friend Noah also came to the party, so he was fine that Aidan was hanging with his cousins who Jase doesn’t know. However, this year Noah didn’t make it to the party. This left Jase feeling very left out. I encouraged him to join the other boys who I am sure were not excluding him on purpose.

But this reserved boy has always been a worrier. He is more likely to sit back and observe before joining in. He is hesitant to join a big group and does better with one-on-one interactions in small groups. He is me.

I remember these feelings and problems from my own childhood. Even as an adult I sometimes struggle with feeling like I fit in. But even though I know what he is going through, I don’t know what to tell him to make it better. Maybe he just has to find his own way.

Three years ago, I wrote about Jase being shy and a worrier. I had hoped he would grow out of it. But it doesn’t look like that has happened.

But the funny thing is that he isn’t consistent with his shyness. He has performed in the school talent show. His teacher told me he was always participating in class and even about him dancing in front of his classmates. Of course, this was at the February parent-teacher conference, and maybe that is him half the year to feel comfortable to do those things.

At the recent pool party, he spent the first hour and a half either by himself or watching the other boys. I don’t know what happened but then all of a sudden he was with the group doing crazy dives off the diving board. I saw him talking to a boy he didn’t know and popping balloons with him. Suddenly, he was fitting in and not ready to leave when the party was over.

Maybe this is just how Jase is. Maybe he needs that time to access a situation before joining in.

Living with a “shy” child brings back childhood memories

Jase has always been reserved. He is more likely to sit back and observe first rather than jump into the action. I would call him “shy” but everything I have read discourages you from labeling your child, whether it be shy (Jase) or a drama-queen (Lexie).

And it seems Jase has gotten worse this past year as all of a sudden he is worried about what others think of him. He was all for using colored hairspray for the crazy-hair day at school until it was time to walk to school. Then he became worried about what others would say or that no one else would have crazy hair. Nothing I said seemed to help him.

The thing is I remember feeling the same way as a child. I wanted to blend in. I didn’t want to be the center of attention, and I certainly didn’t like people laughing at me. Jase is definitely the same.

Even his teacher said her focus this year would be to build Jase’s confidence. He has been hesitant to participate in class and to talk to her in a one-on-one conversation. When we bought his teacher a book from the school book sale, he slipped it on her desk when she wasn’t looking. He tried the same thing with a karate permission slip he needed signed before taking his last test.

This reserved attitude is one of the reasons we held him back from kindergarten and enrolled him in the “Gift-of-Time” program. When in preschool, he didn’t actually talk to the teacher until April. He never looked most of the adults in the eye as they helped him during drop off or pick up. That extra year did a lot for him.

As he continues to grow, I hope he will grow out of his shyness. Both my husband and I were shy as children. We both have shed some of that shyness. I am still reserved in groups. I wish I knew how to help Jase, but all his shyness does is remind me of my own childhood.

Recently, I turned to the Internet for some help. I really liked the advice from Parenting Your Shy Child from the Shake Your Shyness website. They at least understood that all kids are not shy in the same way. Jase is confident at home and with his best friend. It is in group settings such as school or settings such as at Lexie’s soccer game where he didn’t want to ask for a donut after the last game of the season. (The coach brought extra for siblings.)

They list some activities to try and there is even some suggested reading. One thing that I found interesting is that parents can be reinforcing their child’s shyness by their actions. I think to help Jase it will take some time. But hopefully, I can put away my own memories of childhood and have the patience to help him overcome or at least better handle his reserved nature.