I’m sure I’m not the only mother of a little girl who imagines raising a “Mini Me.” Shortly after I gave birth to my daughter, I pictured what she would be like as she grew up. Would she look like me? Act like me? It soon became obvious that, even as an infant, Little Peep resembled Hubby over me, so I was really hoping she’d at least adopt some of my personality traits: outgoing, quick witted, friendly, and…errr…modest?
As Little Peep grew and began nailing the baby milestones, I would boast that she inherited her smarts and strength from me, of course, since Hubby claimed responsibility for her looks. She was a bright and playful infant at home, always demanding our attention for interaction. However, when taken out of her comfort zone–to visit the next door neighbor, for example–she would retreat into her shell and cling to me like a Capuchin monkey. When I’d briefly step away from the Mommy and Me play groups we attend, I’d discover Little Peep in hysterics upon my return. (She now joins me on all restroom trips during class.) I chalked up her behavior to the Separation Anxiety phase of childhood, and others assured me she would grow out of it.
Only, she hasn’t–not yet anyway. In fact, her shyness has become even more pronounced. Little Peep is approaching two-and-a-half years of age, and her less-than-sociable personality has defined her as “shy” everywhere we go. She speaks to no one other than a few select immediate family members. If anyone else tries to talk to her, she will give them a blank stare, look down at the floor, or say, “I want my mommy.” She will not wave, high five, smile, or make you feel warm and fuzzy in any way if you do not belong to her Inner Circle.
Her shyness has become a point of frustration for me at times. It’s natural for adults (especially relatives) to want to make a connection with young children, and when my daughter refuses to reciprocate, I can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. I have to become the mediator between my shy daughter and the pouty lipped adult who just can’t understand why a little girl won’t interact or play along. I often feel the need to assure other people that she really does speak. In fact, I explain, not only does she speak, but She. Does. Not. Shut. Up. She sings, counts, plays pretend, has an excellent imagination and memory, yada yada yada… And then I hear myself saying all of these things out loud until the little voice in my head screams, “Shut up! You sound like an annoying, bragging mama!”
So, why do I feel the need to assure the teachers at Mommy and Me, as well as relatives and neighbors, that she can indeed speak and that she’s just incredibly shy? Maybe it’s because I feel that my daughter is a reflection of me. I want them to know that I have taught her about numbers and colors, Santa, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider. I want them to know that I’m doing my job. And another part secretly still desires the Mini Me, which would look more like a chatty, friendly toddler.
If Little Peep is anything like me, she’ll outgrow this extreme shyness, as my mother assured me I behaved the same exact way. On the other hand, she could grow into more of an introvert, which is how I would describe my husband. And then she would share his looks and his personality…which I guess is actually a pretty good thing. After all, some of the attributes I admire about my husband are that he’s a quiet observer and an intense thinker. Maybe that’s exactly what Little Peep’s behavior is all about these days: observing and thinking; taking in her surroundings. And perhaps like hubby, when she’s comfortable with the people around her, they will see bright, spunky kid she really is.
Aimee Daly is a meat-eater living in Queens with her vegetarian husband and finicky daughter. She spends her time coming up with meals that everyone will enjoy after spending most of the day keeping her toddler occupied. Prior to mommyhood, Aimee had a full-time career in human resources at a Fortune 500 company and was addicted to crocheting.