The irony is not lost on me of my latest consequence to my almost 13 year old daughter. The end of the year middle school celebration is a trip to Valley Fair, an amusement park full of rides and all other sorts of stimulation in which no one over the age of 20 should be subjected. My daughter does not want to go.
I know, I know. Some kids don’t like that sort of thing. They are nervous in groups or it could get overwhelming. Some kids don’t have that sort of stamina. And blah, blah, blah other reasons. My kid IS NOT one of those. She is very social, has tons of stamina, and has always needed less sleep than anyone I know.
But something happened this year. She stopped wanting to do group things, whether they were school sponsored or not. It took a little while for us first time parents of a pre teenager to figure it out. And by figure it out, I mean to take notice of it. She did a few things, but for the most part she stayed home.
She is a complicated being and refuses to fit in any box that might help us understand her better. Although she is social and energetic, she often sits on the edge and watches. She loves being in range of the action, loves to feel the buzz. But she likes to scope it out, watch others, get a good feel for whats going on in the fray. I must remember that she has always been like this. She didn’t walk until she was 16 months old, but when she did she stood up and walked across the room and never fell. At her earliest Easter egg hunt, she stood and watched all the kids gather eggs rather then get eggs herself. When she was learning to ski, her favorite part was hanging out in the lodge and watching everyone around her.
I must remember that she was in the same small campus with the same few kids for seven years and middle school is a new routine, new kids, new campus. So, she has probably just been following her normal mode of operation as she gets acclimated to middle school.
She is also an extrovert that has an incredible amount of energy that is not easily harnessed. This means that as a young child, she never played with toys but would rather us sit and juggle for her. Her energy is more emotional than physical. She loves to be engaged with people ALL THE TIME.
When they were little and home all day, we would often do different activities together, like go to a park or go to a zoo or a museum. When we came home, my other two children and myself would need to decompress, doing our own quiet thing. My oldest was never able to do this. She would be so energized by the outside world that when we came home, she had twice as much energy as before. She would go from me, and then to each of the other kids ready to do another major endeavor - write a play, make an obstacle course, wash cars, have a home art show. And we wanted to sit and read or have a quiet snack on the deck and watch how the leaves fell from the tree.
Friday night, I took her to a friends dance recital that was amazing. It was two hours of incredible dancing with loud, electrified music. She wanted to stay afterwards and hand deliver six roses to each of her six friends in the show. She wanted to congratulate them and inhale the after show excitement. They were all going out for ice cream afterwards and I just didn’t have the energy. She was disappointed but handled it well and thanked me for taking her.
I came home to melt into facebook or mindless internet surfing while she started cooking a full dinner at ten pm. She kept asking and wanting to review each piece and I had to pay attention to every move she wanted to try to emulate. I always feel bad about these moments because I don’t want to deflate her. I try to find the energy. Finally I asked her, “Do you know what introverts and extroverts are?”
She replied, “Yea. Introverts are bad. And extroverts are good.”
I smile and wonder if I even have the strength to go there. I try. “Well, no. Extroverts love going out to events and get energized by all the activity and people around them. It makes them want to do more. Introverts can go and enjoy it, but they are recharged by coming home and being quiet and alone. Thats what gives them more energy.”
She replies, “Like I said. Extroverts are better. Of course those things give me energy. And excite me. Why would anyone want to be alone after something like that?”
I didn’t expect her to get it, but I thought an introduction was appropriate. I just told her the two were different and neither was better. I asked her just to start noticing the difference.
School is out this week and I am not ready. Several life changes have taken over the last month and I am not as prepared or, sadly, as excited as I usually am for summer. Yesterday, she needed so much and was so full of energy that it almost brought me to tears wondering how I was going to handle it this summer.
So, yesterday, she could not entertain herself for longer than 10 minutes without needing me. And then, when I couldn’t or wouldn’t oblige, the typical mouthiness of a preteen started to take over. After several warnings, I issued my judgement:
You will go to Valley Fair on Tuesday with the school. I need that last day of energy gathering before the launch into summer.
So, no, the irony of my child’s consequence of being forced to go on an all day, end of the year fun celebration to an amusement park is not lost on me.