I gotta tell you, one of the hardest things about parenting is understanding a child who is deeply different from you. Of course, conventional wisdom always say it’s hard when you’re too much alike also, as when two strong headed personalities clash. But at least the parent can understand that; you can see where your child is coming from.

I’ve been struck lately by Austin’s extreme shyness. I don’t even know if it’s actually shyness, but he has this way of completely withdrawing from social situations that I find really frustrating. When he’s alone with any one person (Mark, me, my mom), he’s talkative and playful, creative and very very funny.  But when you throw the kid into any kind of group setting (even with people he knows very well, like family), he loses his ability to speak and simply hides his face behind me as if he’s two years old.

I know all kids are different and, of course, I know Austin’s been through a lot and relies on me for a sense of safety and comfort, but it is still so tough.  He won’t even look at people when they speak to him, won’t say hi to his cousins or grandparents, won’t accept offers from friends who want to play, and then regrets it afterward. He wishes he had engaged with the friends reaching out to him — friends he’s often eager to see but then rebuffs in person, wasting perfectly good opportunities to have fun.

I’m not sure what to do about it, or if there’s anything I can do about it, but I wish he was able to let his true self shine through.  I wish I could share the sweet and engaged and engaging Austin that I know and love with the rest of the world.