My shy son written by Tuyala Bernardo
I have a beautiful 7-year-old son that sometimes reminds me of myself at his age so much, that I can only shake my head. I remember how shy I was when I was his age. Everybody was a threat. Not a threat like I was afraid they were going to hurt me, but more in the lines of that I had to say something to them. If they were a stranger, I had a hard time just looking at them. It made me so uncomfortable because I felt that my boundaries were being crossed just by looking them in the eyes. It is a really personal and intimate thing for me. My mother always gave me a hard time about it and she always wanted me to great all the guests that came. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t just say hello. It wasn’t that I didn’t like people or that I was afraid of people but for me it was an obstacle so big to just say hello to people, even bigger when it was people that I didn’t know or even if they were family if I didn’t see them on a regular basis and felt comfortable with them then I didn’t want to greet them or talk to them. I don’t know you, so why would I say hello to you.
Over the years there were a lot of people who didn’t understand why I was so reserved when I met them for the first, second and third time. It was even worse when it was someone from my home country, Angola, they just couldn’t understand why I was so quiet. I remember one time, when I was around 10, and still very shy there was this episode that stuck with me until now. We had some guests over from Angola, and they were talking to my parents having a good time, and I was just sitting there listening to the conversation, when suddenly one of them looked at me and then said to my mother, “they say that the quiet ones are spies for the government”. And my mother instead of defending me, said something to appease the guests because she didn’t want to look like a bad mother who didn’t raised her daughter right. Just to make it clear my mother was neither shy or afraid to say what was on her mind. I don’t quite remember what she said but I remember feeling wrong and feeling that I should change the way I was so that I could fit in. And it made me feel very alone. I have changed over the years. I am better at social interaction than I was as a child. I can still be awkward at social interactions with new people though because you know, introvert and I can still be very quiet at social gatherings.
When people comment on my son´s shyness and quietness I calmly try to explain why that is without making him feel wrong. He is a boy that thinks a lot about what you say, so if you ask him a question even though it is a joke, he will sometimes think for a long time, just to be sure to get the answer right. Some people may think that he doesn’t want to answer them or perceive it as arrogance but he is actually just thinking really hard and he just don’t want to give a wrong answer. So sometimes he just doesn’t answer because he doesn’t know what to answer and just ends up staring at the person who asked him a question. Awkward.
But I still find myself surprised over people’s ignorance and how they still want to comment about why my son is quiet and that he has to change. Especially when it is family because it is seen as though when it is family you naturally have a bond, but when you are shy and reserved from start, it doesn’t really make a difference whether you are family or not it matters whether I feel comfortable with you or not. He is only 7 years old and it is a work in progress. He will learn to say hello to people at social gatherings, it is not the end of the world. He will learn all the social rules that is good to know but he is his own person already at seven years old and I cannot make nor will I force him to say hello to people just to appease other people.
And why have I written all of this you may ask. Well it is my intention to make people think about how they talk about and to these quiet and shy children. They are not shy and quiet all the time because they are multifaceted human beings just like the rest of us. Their shyness and quietness are not made to provoke you or irritate you, they just don’t feel comfortable around you yet to open
themselves up to you. Give them time, talk to them in a calm matter without trying to overstep their boundaries and in time they will interact with you.