This beautiful chica and I have a code word. It is strawberry… she came up with it. It is to be used when friends come and ask her to play, she is allowed to play, and she doesn’t want to play.
For example: A friend, whom she loves knocks on the door and wants to play. Anna comes back and asks me, “Mom can I play with Brooklyn, but can I have a snack of strawberries first?” I then know that she doesn’t want to play today and can say, “Sorry honey not today.”
We came up with this system yesterday. We live in a neighborhood teeming with kids which is absolutely fantastic. Yesterday several of them stopped by and asked her to play. I could see the uncertainty in her eyes, but she said she wanted to play and they took off. However, what Anna really wanted to do was draw/create/paint, by herself in her room. So when she started doing art and her other friends started having a tea party without her, feelings were hurt and there were tears. After they left and I was holding a crying 6 year old. I asked her why she said she wanted to play if she really didn’t. “I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings!” Was the tearful response. Then the code word was born.
I can’t decide if I am an introvert or an extrovert. I think I am somewhere in the middle, leaning more to the introvert side…Two of my children are also pretty close to the middle of this range. I need some alone time every day or I get really crabby. However if I’m alone for too long I get really crabby. There is a balance.
When Anna told me she said yes because she didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings I understood on a deep level. You need to be alone, you don’t want to hurt anyone, and you don’t want to be hurt because you missed something fun. It’s hard to find the confidence to learn what you need, and be OK with it; not to the point of being selfish of course. If someone is hit by a car and you are the closest person that can watch their kids while they and their spouse goes to the hospital, you aren’t going to bust out with, “Well I haven’t had any alone time today and it’s really key to my mental well-being”. There are certainly less drastic scenarios as well in which sacrificing alone time is necessary….
We teach by example. I want my kids to see that I am comfortable with myself and what I like to do. My husband has helped immensely with this. I used to say stuff like. “I would rather stay home, I’m sorry I’m such a nerd.” To which he would reply. “Get that out of your head! You are not a nerd and it’s fine.”