Shy Clown?

I’ve started to wonder how my son, who is so much of a clown and a performer that he keeps me in stitches almost every night we are together, can have a side to him that’s so painfully shy, it’s just on the other side of some kind of actual social anxiety problem.

I’m noticing it more and more lately. The card he made for his girlfriend, he couldn’t get up the gumption to give it to her on her birthday. I tried to strategize with him about different ways to give her the card that would be low-key and he just couldn’t even deal with it. We even play-acted some scenarios so he could see how it would go, which has been helpful for him in other situations. He finally got exasperated and told me he would handle it and didn’t want to talk about it anymore. A few days later I followed up casually to see if he ever gave it to her. He threw the card away. 😦

He’s going to be “star of the week” next week at school: a rotating thing where you and the kid fill out a short booklet about things they like, stuff about their life, and then fill up the star of the week bag with different things that symbolize the kid’s life or things they like. Then they talk about it/you at a designated time each day of the week. Every single thing I have suggested he take, he doesn’t want to take. Even things I know he really likes. When we were filling out the booklet, he got stumped at the page where they wanted to know what’s “special and different” about you. I rattled off a half dozen things and he rolled his eyes, said they weren’t cool enough things to put down, and then said he just wanted to leave it empty. I finally enlisted his Dad’s help in it as they were together the other night when I was doing a theater thing, and D then agreed to settle on the fact that he runs really, really fast. (And he does – faster than a lot of kids even older than he is). But he doesn’t want to cut out any pictures to glue on the booklet as suggested, he doesn’t want me to put any photos in the bag, and DEFINITELY not any baby photos, etc. I feel like his booklet is going to be so boring and sad. It’s not about me, it’s not like my personal art project, I keep reminding myself, it’s about D and what he feels comfortable with, and I really think he’s not comfortable with the idea of everyone looking at him and talking about him as the star.

Which is basically the complete opposite of my personality.

And the opposite of how he is at home with me. Last night, for example, we went up to get the laundry but it turns out one of the washers runs way slower and had 7 more minutes. Instead of going back downstairs, I started clapping and singing some stupid disco song and he joined right in, bopping up and down and clapping his little hands. We just stood there dancing and bopping for several minutes like a couple of loons, alone with the storage lockers and the whirring laundry machines, laughing and acting stupid. This is just kind of how we are together all the time. He will act like this when we’re at the grocery together, whatever. When I took him to Great Wolf Lodge last year and we walked inside and he saw how massive it was, he did a fake dramatic faint and collapsed to the ground, arms akimbo, for all to see, just to crack me up. But when it’s just him alone, and I’m not there? “No way, that makes me nervous.”

I told him last night at dinner that I am taking him to the mall Saturday, and Dad will meet us there, to stand in line so he can see Santa. He FLIPPED OUT. It was like I told him he was going to have to get naked and run up and down the Dillard’s wing or something. “MOM! I CAN’T DO THAT! I WOULD BE SO NERVOUS! I remember last year how nervous I was!” But you did great, I tell him, we do this every year, we’ve been doing this since you were a baby. It’s SANTA. You LOVE Santa, don’t you want to ask if he got your letter and tell him what you want? He doesn’t want to go.

Which is basically exactly his Dad’s personality.

I’m overriding this one. I’m not going to drag him onto Santa’s lap and hold him there by force, but I’m not giving in to it or it’s just going to be a slippery slope of what he feels comfortable doing and not doing when there is no reason to feel uncomfortable, and I’m not going to indulge it. I *know* this kid. If he can get over himself, he’ll be so glad we went and will probably talk about how cool it was for a week straight, and be all excited about what Santa might bring him. He’s like this about going to kids’ parties, too, and then once he gets there he has a great time and is completely lacking self-consciousness. So I’ll get him dressed and we’ll go up there and try to get in line to wait. If he’s really, really upset to the point of tears or something, obviously I’m not going to make him, but I want to get on top of this now. I get that he was too nervous about the card to give it to the girl he likes, but I feel like I need to show him that you need to grab life by the horns or else you’ll just stay inside all the time and watch TV and never have any play dates or go to anyone’s house.

How on earth can I have a kid that’s shy? How on earth can a kid that’s such a clown have anxiety about 2 seconds on Santa’s lap? About having some casual conversation in a classroom full of friends about things he likes and thinks are cool? I can’t even fathom this.

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