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An Introverted Mom Prepares for Summer

Fifteen.  That’s how many days are left before my high-energy, ultra-extroverted, go-go-go girl’s preschool year ends.

No more little friends for her to play with every day.  No more structured activities and fun crafts, led by patient preschool teachers.  No more playground just outside, where she can run off energy and pick flowers and swing.

No more quiet mornings to listen to my podcasts in peace.  No more solo grocery shopping.  No more guaranteed hours to write, or clean, or read a book, or nap.

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I will openly admit, I did not handle last summer well.  By the end, I hit multiple days where I was in tears by the early evening, not from power struggles, or defiance,  or misbehavior, but just from sheer over-stimulation.

One day, when Dave asked why I was crying, all I could say was, “She just keeps talking to me!”

It was not one of my prouder moments.

If you’re not an introvert, you probably don’t get this, and you may judge my parenting because of it.  But I know my fellow introverted mamas are with me.  We love our kids more than life itself, but boy…motherhood is relentless! The lack of time to recharge in quiet and solitude leaves us completely depleted, wrung out like a used wash rag at bath time.  (And speaking of bath time…Honey, can you please handle that tonight?)

This week my pre-order of Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy by Jamie C. Martin arrived in the mail.  I first heard about this book from (you guessed it) a podcast episode.  I never clicked “add to cart” so fast in my life!

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Consider this your warning: you will be hearing A LOT about this book in the coming weeks, because I’ve already cried several times and I’m only finished with Part 1.

Jamie uses an analogy which I’ve heard before: think of yourself as an electrical device, like a cell phone or a hair dryer.  To use it, it needs to be plugged into an energy source, an electrical outlet. Introversion and extroversion are both about where and how a person “plugs in” for energy.  Introverts recharge in solitude.  Extroverts recharge by interacting with others. 

But Jamie took this metaphor to a place I’d never considered: not all electrical currents are the same.  As an introvert, if I stay plugged into the same situations which recharge my extroverted daughter, the current will be too much for me and I will BURN OUT (like the story Jamie tells of her American hair dryer in a British dorm room.)

Last summer I burned out. Spectacularly.

This summer, I want to learn from my mistakes and do better.

So below I’m highlighting five things I’m doing to prepare for a summer of mother-daughter togetherness, as my pregnant belly and the outside temperature both continually increase.

Prepping the Back Deck

One of the selling points of our house was the fairly substantial back deck.  But since we moved in, three years ago this month, we’ve never actually used it.  There are a few reasons for this, mainly that the railings have massive gaps in them, which I was terrified Abby would fall through.  Now that’s she’s almost 4, this isn’t as much of an issue.

This week I pulled out a broom and swept off all the leaves and pine straw.  It could use a hosing down as well, but still, even one tiny improvement helped me see the potential.

Add a couple comfy chairs, maybe an outdoor rug and small table, pull out a fan, and (most importantly) figure out an effective bug repellent method, and I might not hate being outside.

The deck is the perfect place for bubbles, Abby’s water table…and she may have a couple birthday surprises coming to spruce the place up a bit as well.

Additionally, our living room and dining room both have windows that look out on the deck.  I can imagine occasionally allowing her to have a little independence to play out there alone, with me keeping an eye on her from inside.

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Putting Things on the Calendar Now

I do so much better when things are already on the calendar. If I wait for days when I “feel like it” to get us out of the house, we’ll stay home 90% of the time, which will be miserable.

Since our budget already has a line item for preschool, which we won’t be spending in June and July for tuition, I have a little wiggle room to plan. So I’m trying to be proactive about getting some activities and outings scheduled now.

I’ve signed her up for swim lessons (as a bonus, this gives me motivation to take her to our community pool during the week so she can practice.)

A local theater in our town does several weeks of a kids’ program to develop singing and performing skills (this will be right up her alley, she’s nothing if not a HAM.)

Both sets of grandparents have invited her to visit for several days. (This will involve some logistical maneuvering and long hours on the road…but it is worth it, all the way around!)

I’m also looking at local story times, new parks we can explore, and regular play dates we can plan with friends.

I want to honor her extroversion, remembering that extended time at home, without other people, leaves her feeling just as depleted as I feel when I have no time to myself.

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Instituting Quiet Time

My awesome napper is outgrowing the practice, and it has caused much consternation around here, let me tell you.  I know lots and lots of moms transition their kiddos to quiet time once they stop napping, and I fully intended to follow in their footsteps…but it hasn’t worked out very well (yet!)

Asking Abby to sit and read in her room, or even just to go in there and play by herself, is like asking her walk barefoot over fiery hot coals…at least you’d think so, judging by her reaction.  (Of course…if she decides on her own to play in there…that’s another story.)

The number one thing I’ve realized through all our trial and error:  I need to be consistent.  Some days I feel okay, and therefore I don’t force the issue. Temporarily this keeps the peace, but ultimately it just makes things harder the next day, when I really do need the break.  The expectation needs to be the same every day or I can’t expect her to learn.

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I’m also trying to wrap my head around the truth that I’m not going to reap the benefits of teaching her to have quiet time just yet.  I’m still planting the seed, and if I never water or cultivate that seed, it won’t grow.

So right now, when I send her to her room for quiet time, I need to expect push-back.  I need to start small (15-20 minutes) and work our way up to the 1-1.5 hrs I’d really prefer.  I need to stay busy during that time, instead of trying to relax, because she’s going to get impatient, interrupt me, and I’m going to be frustrated.

This is a learning process and I need to treat it as such.

(One fun tip I read was to let her play music in her room.  I have a playlist of her favorite songs and a Bluetooth speaker she can use. My plan is to add a new song every day or so, to extend her time bit by bit.  We’ll see how this goes.)

Visual Cues

To help with managing expectations, I’m thinking about using a calendar or white board as a visual cue for the day’s plan.  I know this is something her preschool class does, and she really enjoys it.  I think it will help with transitioning through our day, and might even allow her some feeling of autonomy, if she helps me create the day’s plan in advance.

If you are a teacher, homeschool mama, or just a mom who uses visual cues for your kids, I’d love to hear your tips and favorite resources!

Preparing My Own Heart and Mind

Much of the work I need to do to prepare for summer is internal.  My own attitude gets me in trouble more often than any other thing on this list.

When I’m trying to “sneak” a little recharge, by zoning out on my phone while she’s playing nearby, I inevitably get snappy when she asks a question or wants my help.

When I expect her to get in her carseat quickly and efficiently, I set myself up for impatience and irritation.

When I try to rush her from one task to the next, because I procrastinated too long and now we need to hurry, I set us up for a power struggle and discipline issues.

When I let her one-show-a-day end and don’t stop it from automatically starting the next episode, so I can have a couple more minutes to do my own thing, I teach her that Mommy doesn’t mean what she says.

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I have to prepare myself for the work of mothering this summer: to teach, and train, and instruct, and guide, and discipline, and even to ENJOY my daughter.

These things will not happen by accident.  I must be intentional.

I set myself up for failure if I’m living distracted and irritable because I chose to sleep a little later, rather than get up to have time in the Word and prayer.  Or because I wasted the few minutes I did get to myself, scrolling social media instead of doing something genuinely refreshing and energizing, like taking a 20-minute nap or reading a book.

Understanding the difference in introverts and extroverts does me no good if I’m always viewing myself as put-upon and misunderstood by my child.  I am the grown up here, I have tools to navigate these (admittedly treacherous) waters.  It’s up to me to decide to use them.

What’s your summer plan?  Any tips for enjoying the summer as a mom? Leave a comment below! 

For more thoughts on parenting as an introvert, read this post from last year.

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