When I was a kid, I could have been described in three words- quiet, shy, and polite. The kind of kid that parents liked their own children to hang out with. The kind of kid that did pretty well in school and was a rule follower so as not to draw any attention. A reserved kid. The kind of kid that liked to write and read and dreaded giving speeches.
Now that I’m an adult there’s is a better way to describe me. I’m an introvert. A friendly introvert, but an introvert, none the less.
So there I was going along contently in life as an adult introvert. A teacher who mostly talked to children in a soft voice, but could definitely chat with my colleagues or my couple of close friends. That worked fine until my own children became old enough to get involved in competitive sports.
And here’s what I’ve learned over those last few years- The sidelines are no place for an introvert parent. Seriously, it’s an introvert’s nightmare! All the OTHER parents around me are shouting to their kids…sometimes words of encouragement and sometimes comments about what they are doing wrong or to badmouth the ref. All the OTHER parents are chatting with each other and laughing loudly together. They know each other’s kids names and cheer for each one of them. They stand up, wander around and look for conversation. They plan outings together for after the games.
I feel lost in this world. Sometimes I feel left out or like I don’t belong. I don’t have a shouting voice (well, except the one I use on my own children in the privacy of my very own home). Don’t get me wrong…I will clap if my kids team scores. And, on brave day I might quietly call out “Go Evan” or “Good save Anna.” I don’t make much small talk with the parents around me and I don’t know most of their kids names to cheer on.
And big Confession here- sometimes I’m so uncomfortable that I actually sit near the others teams parents, so at least I can hide. Shhh….
I might come off a stuck up or rude. Possibly shy or antisocial. This bothers me. Because I’m not these things. I enjoy people. I love being social sometimes. I consider myself a nice person. I’m just an introvert. An observer. A listener. A quiet person. Someone who is friendly, but not really looking to make small talk. Someone who is there to quietly cheer on my kid without drawing attention to myself. Someone who might get lost in the shuffle. Someone who craves solitude more often than others might.
And the sidelines are a place that make me feel like something is wrong with me.
So here’s to all the parents that just want to watch their kid play sports. Quietly and alone. Or maybe sitting with one friend and talking a little. Someone that was a friend before this whole sport thing started. Introverts deeply need those couple of close friends. Please don’t mistake us for stuck up or not caring about our kids performance cause we are not yelling across the field to tell them what to do.
Take this recent event- my son finally got the chance to play offense in soccer. He always plays defense and I would have though he would have been thrilled. However, he looked miserable. I noticed this. I questioned it. I processed why he might be feeling that way. I didn’t yell at him to get his head in the game. And I think this allowed my to be empathic. Maybe he was tired or discouraged. Maybe he was hot and thirsty. Or maybe he just liked playing defense more than he lets on.
So here’s to all the introvert parents trying to survive these crazy sidelines. Observe. Question. Process. Maybe make a tad of small talk so you don’t come off as stuck up. But don’t make it with me. I’ll be hiding on the other side of the field.