Monday, January 22, 2007

The Torture of Shyness

I was a shy child. It was torture.

Especially each time I had to--because we moved all the time--start over in a new school (the greatest torture of them all). All those new kids who knew each other and all my new possibilities for looking foolish in front of them while searching through strange halls to find my way to strange classrooms... and dreading the unstructured lunchtimes most because of never knowing where to sit, lest I sit at a table the entire school knew was reserved for a certain clique or just sitting alone and advertising my loneliness. And gym class, well, let's not even go there.

I was shy about talking on the phone and shy about just talking, period, for fear of tripping over my words and being interrupted (therefore feeling as though what I'd been saying was boring). I feared new experiences, not knowing what to do, making mistakes. I felt awkward and afraid of nearly everything and like I said, mostly it was a pure, constant pain.

And I remember vowing, especially during my uncomfortable high school years, that if I had a daughter, things would be different for her. Well, I did and they were.

When Tom and I would sit with our six-year-old Naomi at McDonalds and she'd want extra ketchup, we'd tell her she needed to walk up to the counter workers and ask for some. And she would, no big deal. And I, her scaredy-cat mother who'd rather forego the ketchup altogether than ask for any, would sit and stare at Naomi in awe... and realize I was on the right track.

If she wanted her friends to come over to play, rather than me calling the girls' parents to ask for her, I'd hand the phone to Naomi. I did not want my daughter to fear speaking over the phone as her mousy mother had.

If she wished to buy something with her allowance, I had her go through the check-out lane by herself. I'd stand near the doors as she reach up on her tip-toes to hand over her money and I felt more awe, more gratitude, because my daughter could, quite easily, do what had always shaken me.

Now, lest you think we shoved and cajoled and forced her in the midst of tears to do any of this, let me add something vitally important. There was none of that because, from her toddler days, we'd given her a foundation, one neither Tom nor I had been given. We encouraged Naomi that she was as brave and intelligent as anyone else... that she was special because she was our daughter and we were grateful that God had chosen to send her to us... that with God beside her, she could do anything she needed to.

Naomi grew-up feeling loved and appreciated and capable. And while I watched her doing, with confidence, the things I still tried like crazy to avoid, I recalled the high school vows I'd made at 15... and smiled smiles of gratitude.

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