Thursday, June 21, 2007

Way of the Chameleon

I’m an only child. When I was 4 years old, I asked my parents for a big brother for Christmas. I never really wanted to be an only child. I always really wanted siblings, or a big family. Some way or another to get lots of people around me. Instead, I’m an only child. I grew up with my parents, my grandfather and my great aunt. That’s about it.

So I looked for lots of people elsewhere. In friends. At school. As I got older, at work. But the real bitch of it is that I’ve no real clue how to be social. I’m really shy and not very good at the whole get to know you game. I watch my husband chat up total strangers with such ease and confidence. Makes me want to deck him. How does he DO that?!?! My mom and dad are the same way. They can all start and maintain totally normal and entertaining conversations with random people. Then walk away knowing someone new.

I, on the other hand, have to literally gear myself up for going into groups of people. Even people I already know. For some reason, around every corner in my brain is the thought that not only will these people not remember me when I show up, they will have certainly decided that they no longer want to share breathing space with me. I’ve had this social paralysis since I was a kid. So I learned to be a chameleon. I learned to change shape, color and tone to match whatever environment I walked into. So that I would fit in but still be memorable. So that I could construct some sort of social script for myself as I went along, shape shifting my way from one conversation to another.

It was exhausting. Utterly and completely exhausting. Still is.

And today, I saw my son doing it too. He is very possibly one of the sweetest, most intelligent and kind children I’ve ever met. Today at play date I watched him go from fighting and playing rough with one friend, to playing in the sand so sweetly with another, younger friend to playing by himself. Morphing his way across the playground.

And I burst into tears. Am still bursting as I write this as a matter of fact.

I so desperately want my children to have an easier childhood than I did. But I don’t know how to give that to them. Do I shelter them? Do I fling them into the fray? Do I do a mix of both? Do I let them find their own way but always be there to either pick up the pieces or celebrate or both?

I just want him to feel like he fits. Somewhere. Anywhere. I want him to know the comfort of being loved and appreciated. I want him to be secure in his friendships and life. I want him to not be afraid of people.

I want him to step out of his chameleon skin and into his own.