The Emma Bear is a shy creature. Sometimes she is so shy watching her interact with people that she is unfamiliar with it is almost painful. She and I were at the post office the other day and a man who I have known since I was a child attempted to speak to the Bear. Immediately she buried her face in my neck and would not look in his direction. Her face was so red that I could feel the heat radiating from it. She stiffened and refused to even look at this person. He offered her a sucker and still the Bear would not turn around. She truly is a stranger with candy’s nightmare, if she does not know you or if she is unfamiliar with you then you have little to no chance of conversing with this little cutie.
The Emma Bear has much more in with her common that her Daddy than mere unquestionable adorability. The person that had offered her candy and I laughed about this just after he knew that she was not going to acknowledge that he existed and slipped the sucker in her back pocket for later.
“I used to do the same thing,” I said.
“Yes you did,” he agreed and we laughed and said our goodbyes.
On our way out of the building the Bear poked her head out from my neck and immediately interrogated me in regards to the whereabouts of her newly acquired sucker.
“But you didn’t even tell him thank you,” I said.
“Thank you,” she whispered. The embarrassment of being put in a social situation that she was not prepared for had yet to completely fade. I understood this completely so I gave her the sucker and asked her if she would thank this person the next time we seen him and with hesitation she reluctantly agreed.
What struck me as most endearing about this simple event aside from being incredibly cute and reminding me of how I was at her age, was that I know the Bear when she is not in public. I know how she behaves when she is comfortable. I know how funny and loveable she is. A person that met her with no knowledge of this would not be able to see the girl that is in front of me right now that just got out of the tub wearing only a towel and refusing to put her clothes on because she, “Cant’ find them.” They are on the couch beside her and she knows this. Those people who see this shy little cutie do not get to hear her four year old witty quips and comebacks that leave her daddy, (who prides himself as being fairly proficient in that area) at a complete loss for words.
What I love about seeing both of these forms of the Bear in action is that I can see how she develops and can help to nurture without being overt or forcing her into situations that at this point she is not prepared to handle. I have found that much of being a parent is directing traffic. When situations arise that you can guide your children in and out of and hopefully these experiences will be ones that are beneficial to your child and either way you hope that no matter the outcome your child gain learn from them.
When I was the Emma Bear’s age I was just as shy as she is now. I remember an exact situation in which a family friend at a gas station offered me a sucker and I refused. All I had to do to be able to get it was reach out and take it and still I was so shy that the thought of having this person look at me mortified me beyond movement. I leaned into my madre and I don’t remember speaking until we got home. Shyness can lead to socially awkward moments and at a young age these can leave lasting impressions on who you become.
This perspective is easier to understand if you consider how a child will act when they are comfortable in social settings and how they act when they are not prepared to handle them. The Emma Bear is incredibly shy in social moments that she is not prepared for and this lets me know that she has not developed to be able to interact socially in her own way. She has not grown into the person that she is going to be yet. She is still figuring herself out and that is just fine with me. If she is not ready or has not developed the coping skills to be able to interact socially in conditions that her comfort level isn’t prepared for then as a father I encourage her to interact but I never force her to.
Children are impressionable. Young children are incredibly impressionable because they are still developing. My Bear is not comfortable in situations where she thinks many people are looking at her or she is in the spotlight of people’s attention. Normally when she refuses to interact or does on a very limited basis I allow her to do so, politeness and necessities notwithstanding. I do not force her to interact, but rather encourage her to do so in subtle ways. These normally come as a whisper or a nudge in a direction, but if she shows me that she is still not ready I say okay and I deflect attention away from as a means to save her embarrassment.
I do this method because I want her to develop into the person that she is and not the person that I or others feel she should be. If I were to force her to interact it may leave an impression on her that this is how she is supposed to be. It may make her feel that the actions she took that were not her own and this would be accurate because they would not have been. I don’t want her to act based on gaining approval or acceptance. I want her to act based on her own decisions and choices. I want her to develop into the beautiful person that I already know she is, but I want her to do so on her terms. I want her to choose the person that she becomes, not become the person that she feels people choose. I want her to be independent and I want her personality to be strong enough to allow her to be so. This happens by allowing her to develop at her own pace.
If the Bear has not discovered herself this means that she has yet to develop into the person that she is going to be. I have seen my Emma Bear in action and I know the type of person that she has the potential to become. When she realizes that she can be the same person that she is when she is comfortable in social situations then I have no doubt she will put her amazing personality on display. I, for one, cannot wait to see and share that. Parenting is a mixture of subtle guidance, protection, patience, firmness, and teamwork with your child. My Bear will grow out of her shyness, her handsome father definitely did. Until that time comes when she can withstand all of the implications that come with being social the Bear is more than welcome to hide her face in her daddy’s neck. I will continue to whisper in her ear and encourage her to look out at the world that surrounds her. Until she’s ready to take it on I will take it on for her. When she decides she is ready to take on the world, I think I will take a step back and put my money on the Bear.