I have confessed before that I am an extrovert of the highest order. I am textbook extrovert: energized by parties, a verbal processor [by the way, husbands love this], and almost always over-committed to activities and social events. I hate to miss anything. When I leave for an evening to see friends, I worry about what I’ll miss at home, and vice versa. The other day I was literally using the restroom and I could hear people laughing and a panic spread through me like, wait, am I missing fun???
My point is, I check all the extrovert boxes. And then some, probably.
But life looks different now than in my most social years – I am married, with a child, a puppy, a full-time job, a house, the whole shebang. I’m busy just making it through a regular week, you guys; adding the occasional Bachelor-viewing, a monthly book club, and just generally maintaining friendships. One minute you’re trying to fill your time because you live alone in a small apartment, and the next minute you’re trying to recall what having time to fill even felt like. I’m still an extrovert – but I’m an adult extrovert. Which means: I want to go to your party, but also, I want to find a reason not to go to your party. My extrovert needs are met just living in my home. The struggle is real, but I digress.
Back to the topic at hand: my child recently entered the third grade. She’s 8. She’s still little, but approaching middle school with a rapid pace I am not at all comfortable with. And friends, while it remains to be seen if she’ll be the true diagnosable extrovert I am, she is already so social. Just SO. VERY. SOCIAL.
Which means I am managing not one, but two very social people. I’m so tired.
Here’s what this looks like, if you’re curious: homegirl regularly comes home on a random school-night, let’s say Tuesday and says, “Is anyone coming over tonight?” Um, like who? It’s a Tuesday. She skips out of school roughly 3 out of 5 days a week with a sly little grin on her face, holding hands with one of her BFFs, en route to bat their lashes and con me into a last-minute playdate. She leans over in church, where we are sitting with our adult friends and she whispers, “can I invite them over for dinner tonight?” While I weep tears of pure joy at a Saturday with no activities planned, our girl weeps because obviously we are ruining her life and also she’s ALREADY BORED.
In the spirit of honesty, I love that the kid takes after me. I am proud of her for having a lot of friends, for wanting to invite others to our home. I love hosting, always have, and she is following right in my footsteps in that regard. But the trick is, we already have a lot going on most of the time with me in charge of the calendar. If you think it’s hard to manage just being an extrovert, try managing two.
I learned later in life that I can’t do all the things my natural inclination tells me to say yes to. I have to say no, almost as often as I say yes. I have been to the place before where I’m so over-extended, and believe me, it isn’t easy to get back. There are simply too many things. The school alone sends 47 flyers home per week, which my child glances at briefly and says CAN I GO!? with the urgency of someone who’s been in isolation for a month. And chances are, when I consult the calendar, it will show we already have something going on that night. [Insert 100 eye-roll emojis. Just put all of ’em here.]
And so, as the social parent of a social child, I am saying no for two. If my 8-year-old maintained our calendar, we’d be spending a lot more at the grocery store each week, what with all the dinner guests. We’d have to quit our silly jobs, because there’s no time for working when there are events to attend. Every Saturday I would cry because there would never be an ounce of sit-on-my-couch time. She doesn’t yet have the say-no skills. She doesn’t yet have the foresight to know if she doesn’t rest, she will also not function. So she might be mad at me for saying no to something, and have no understanding that I’ve done it so she can continue to be her sweet, silly, social little self at fourteen other events. For these conversations, there is wine. All the wine.
I am responsible for making sure that she has enough fun, but also gets enough sleep. I will have to say no to school skate night in order to make room for a cousin’s birthday. I have to make sure that she gets to go to her friend’s house and also make sure she doesn’t forget what her parents look like. I’m thrilled beyond measure to have some pals over, but we also have to do our homework, clean the house, take showers, etc. I have to make sure that she gets to participate in the activities she’s passionate about, but also is home every now and then when her friend calls and wants to ride bikes for a while before bed.
I have to say yes for two, and say no for two, and try to keep one from outweighing the other. It’s a delicate balance.
All that to say, I’m tired all the time. But I am tired knowing that I’ve done good, solid parenting. I’m hopeful to harvest in my child that which I’ve found so fulfilling in life – being surrounded by people I love and enjoy and who make life better. Meanwhile saying no, all the time, in order to keep the important things at center focus. The struggle is real. But it’s a good, worthwhile struggle.