“That didn’t last long, did it?”

She was referring to the leaves on the trees. She shares my love of crisp air and fiery red leaves, and looks forward to hot apple cider and cinnamon doughnuts and afternoons getting lost in corn mazes. Last week the leaves were starting to change colors, she said. Now they’re all gone, and the trees are merely branches, naked and ready for winter.

I didn’t realize until a couple of weeks ago how much like me she is. First this shared love of everything fall, then parent teacher conferences. The first two teachers I sat down with said “Oh, I just love Erin. What a great student. But she’s so quiet!”

I asked both if we were talking about the same girl. I repeated her name. They both said they knew who my daughter is, and yes; she’s very quiet in class.

Her science teacher, the same woman who called me at home one afternoon to tell me how much she enjoys having Erin in class, told me that Erin isn’t quiet in her class. She’s not loud, of course; but she volunteers her thoughts, she’s a leader, she’s engaged. This same teacher told me that she’s recommended Erin for an award the school gives out regularly, but the other teachers haven’t seen her participate enough to ¬†agree.

This perplexed me, so when I got home I asked my girl about it. As she talked, I got it: she talks when she feels confident. Science is her favorite subject, and she adores her teacher. She doesn’t feel as sure of herself in other classes; in one, she doubts herself because it’s math, and math just isn’t her favorite subject. In another, she’s embarrassed to get something wrong. Her ears and cheeks burn, she says, if she answers a question and her answer isn’t right.

She’s just like me, this girl of mine. I’ve always been confident in situations where I’m “supposed” to be doing something: giving a speech, debating an issue, leading a class. But throw me into a room of people without a reason to speak up, and I’ll usually stay quiet.

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Fun with my girl at Nelson Atkins Museum.

Because we share this inclination, I don’t know how to help her stretch out of her comfort zone. Her science teacher is encouraging her to speak up in other classes, and she’s dangling the award as a carrot to talk. I’m not so keen on that idea, because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being quiet sometimes. I don’t want my girl to think that she has to talk just for the sake of talking to be a “good” student, and I wonder if this is just the age-old teeter totter of introverts vs. extroverts.

So I think I’ll start with dusting off this book and finally reading it. I met Susan Cain at Blissdom awhile back, and I was fascinated with what she had to say. I’m curious how it applies to parenting, especially parenting a tween girl who’s confident but sometimes quiet.

Have you noticed specific extroverted or introverted tendencies in your kids? I’d love to hear how you help them succeed in a way that lets them be themselves while still striving to learn and grow.

I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, and posting every day in November.

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