How can you best take care of yourself as an introvert? Not by eating your own young! Instead, make sure you get the introvert food you need each day.
My beautiful wife Adrianne and I have four kids: a 16-year-old, a 13-year-old, and two 10’s. I love them all to pieces. I’d step in front of a truck for any one of them.
Sometimes, though, I can fully appreciate why some species eat their own young.
Introversion and parenting, it turns out, don’t always mix well.
Challenges of Parenting as an Introvert
As an introverted person (special note to children everywhere: parents are indeed people), I crave a little peace and quiet in my day, either to re-energize or to remain energized in the first place.
As an introverted parent, I get debates at breakfast and video games after lunch and whining about [fill in the blank] in the middle of the day and random-fact-sharing competitions during dinner that do absolutely zilch for the quality of the kids’ post-dinner kitchen cleaning, to say nothing of my psyche.
As an introverted person, I long for some time alone, some blissful solitude, to think and regroup and just be.
As an introverted parent, I am almost always surrounded by anywhere between one and four needy birds, cheeping in unison with their mouths wide open as they beg for an attention worm.
As an introverted person, I dream of focusing on one thing, one activity, one human being at a time.
As an introverted parent, I can’t spend 20 seconds reading a book without a kid interrupting with some global crisis—like “he’s/she’s being a bully!” or “somebody stole my candy!” (“somebody” is responsible for a lot of crime in our house) or “I can’t find my [fill in the blank]!” All voiced with obligatory desperation and exclamation points.
As an introverted person, I pray to have to say something only once and be done with it for all time.
As an introverted parent, I have to repeat myself constantly—repeatedly repeating my repeats and recycling endlessly through complex instructions like “you gotta blow your nose when you’re stuffed up” and “the garbage doesn’t take itself out” and “you’re not required to ransack your entire dresser drawer, like you’re an overzealous detective executing a search warrant, just to get the shirt you want at the bottom.”
Let the feasting begin!
But wait a minute.
Not so fast.
Parents Get Revenge as Grandparents
Years ago, when my even-more-introverted-than-I-am father was still alive, I asked him how it had come to pass that he and my mother had been abducted by space aliens and replaced with lookalikes who were most certainly not act-alikes.
It was obvious to me that something had happened to my real parents, because the two impostors standing in front of me were routinely giving our kids ice cream for breakfast and picking up their crap for them and throwing $100 bills into their birthday cards.
“Cripes, Dad!” I crabbed at him one day.
“You never did this stuff for us when we were kids. What the hell happened to you and Mom when you became grandparents? What is going on?!”
I was expecting a complicated, lengthy response.
But instead, in true introvert form, my dad answered with one word and one word only:
You Mean We Did This to You?
I had to think about his reply for a few seconds; it didn’t register right away.
But then it clicked.
“Oh my god, Dad,” I whispered.
“All the crap the kids do that I’m always telling you about—we did that same stuff to you and Mom … didn’t we.”
“What do you think?” he replied, shaking his head at how long it had taken me to (finally) catch up.
He was right, of course.
We were equally horrible as kids—or at least my three siblings were!
But somehow I had convinced myself that when my poor introverted dad had come home from a long day at work and had sought out a little uninterrupted quiet in his garage or had issued a seemingly simple instruction, we had responded “Yes, Fathah” in an English accent—and had then darted off not only to cook dinner, but to clean our rooms and take baths and brush our teeth without being told.
We had given him exactly what he’d needed, when he’d needed it, without fail or delay. We had saved his introverted soul.
Yeah. Not so much.
To Take Care of Yourself as an Introvert, Give Yourself Plenty of Introvert Food
The Circle of Life says that what goes around comes around.
So instead of devouring my kids when I’m frustrated with them, I’ll do what’s best when you need to take care of yourself as an introvert: I’ll feed myself introvert food—solitude and reflection time and focus—whenever and however I can.
I’ll set aside a few C-notes that I can give to my grandchildren someday—along with some Pixy Stix for their lunches.