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Monday, July 30, 2007

Socialization

I bet you thought that this post was about my kids, didn't you?

It's not.

They are all perfectly well socialized little creature, thank you very much. Even Logan--who, for a time, was a concern thanks to his habit of gnawing on his playmates--has become quite a nice little social butterfly. All three of the children have a solid core of friends, enjoy outings and look forward to big gatherings. Atticus is the least engaging of the three, but even he longs for outside-the-family companionship now and then.

And then there's me.

That's right. I am actually the antisocial person in my house.

Before you ask, no--you can't blame it on homeschooling, because I most decidedly was nothomeschooled. I spent my days in classrooms of 30 or more kids, enjoying the best that my local public school had to offer. I had recess. Weekly music classes. I was in talent shows and band and the editor of my school newspaper. If you hold me up to the social measuring stick, for all intents and purposes I should have turned out just as conversational and engaging as the larger chunk of my biological family, or at least as social as the general public. And yet ... no. Clearly, I am missing some piece that would make being around other fill me up. Instead, it runs me down.

A lot of people don't realize this about me. They mistake service and inertia for a genuine desire to be surrounded by people. A look at my life probably does give the impression that I like being around people on a pretty constant basis: I participate in several ministries, lead this and coordinate that, show up at the group functions, yada yada. I guess I pull the whole thing off well enough, because when I finally get close enough to individuals to admit that spending time with groups of people is very much like slow torture for me, they are usually shocked. And my high school drama teacher said I couldn't act! :-)

I wish I could figure out exactly what about me makes being around other people so darn hard. It's not that I hate people, after all. I don't! The idea of parties and barbecues and so on just makes me tired and spent. Playdates on more than a weekly basis are ... a lot. I rarely feel the need to "get out with friends." I can go quite a long time without seeing someone and still feel close to them. A weekend like this past one (which was fun, but packed with a large group beach outing and a huge church barbecue) leaves me running on empty, even if I had a good time while I was there.

Despite these feelings, I do all of the above. First and foremost, I want my children to have the joy of being around others. They seem to have learned some skill that I lack, and have no problem negotiating a 40-person shindig. I like to think that this is because of my great parenting, but I have the distinct feeling that it has nothing whatsoever to do with me. Secondly, I feel very strongly that my family has been called to outreach and to mentoring. Obviously, we can't do that unless we are visible. Third, I believe in community service. While I can write wonderful emails for various causes from the comfort of my own home, I certainly can't be as big an influence as I can by sitting in on meetings and making my voice heard. Finally, I do it for the people in my life who delight in such things, and for whom time is a love language.

So I work toward conquering my inner hermit. I face the world and I smile and darn it, I engage. I schedule the outings. I go to the plays and the practices. I meet folks at the park and I get together for coffee. I am the team mom, the director, the leader, whatever it takes. And inside, I relish the times that I am able to look across the table at my little family of five enjoying a board game and think, "Now this, this is a party."


3 comments:

Gayle said...

You know, I really have the DESIRE to be the social gal and the life of the party but I find big group gatherings to be rather torturous too! I can enjoy myself while I'm there but I really have to psyche myself up beforehand and then both hubby and I are emotionally spent afterwards and need a good long nap.

KH said...

You're an introvert. Tried and true! I've been reading a book by Wayne Cordeiro (a pastor at church in Hawaii) called Doing Church as a Team and he touches on this subject in his chapter called, Finding Your Fit. He writes, "Extroverts and introverts who have given their lives to Christ have one thing in common: they both love people. Yet there is a big difference in how they react after loving others. After being with people for an extended time, an introvert feels drained and needs to have his or her emotional batters recharged; to do that, he or she needs to pull away from people for a time.... In order to pace yourself with others, you must discover how you're wired. Every person will need to discern his own temperamental balance, as it affects how you are best able to do ministry." He goes into more detail in the book. He himself is a "mild introvert" and needs time away to re-energize. So you're quite normal - nothing is wrong with you! :-) I've not finished the book yet, but I've quite enjoyed it. I do recommend it as a good read so far!

MJ said...

Hey, just saying Hi from HSB. People drain me too, but I am not as involved as you are. Hopefully, God will give me a place/person to minister to, so I can be more involved.

MotherJoy from HSB