We’re on the train headed home from visiting my grandmother in Montreal, and the seat beside me is empty. My four-year-old daughter Anna has found some toddlers to charm and they’re sharing cucumbers a few seats away. I’ve checked with the other adults to make sure it’s alright, but I don’t stay to make small talk. Whenever we take public transit in Toronto, Anna always wants to be seated next to the nearest child. If they’re not interested in talking to her, she’ll happily just watch them play video games on their devices, or point out every cartoon character on their belongings. Her social interests are not just limited to children. While she’s happiest when she discovers a friend her age or older (I often joke that what she really wants is an older sister—she’ll follow a big kid anywhere), she’s also content to talk to babies, adults—even animals.
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When I was a child you could take me anywhere—but that was mainly because I’d just sit silently and draw. As an adult, I’m more talkative and I know a lot of people, but I’m also happy to sit alone with a book or magazine. Despite being a good conversationalist, I’m not actually particularly social. I make coffee dates, and have one-on-one visits with people on occasion. If I’m especially interested in an event that is taking place, I’m happy enough to check it out alone. I’m fine in crowds, but I rarely go to parties that aren’t ones where I’m accompanying Anna. During the warmer months, I like visits to parks and backyards; in the fall and winter, I like Internet TV and experimenting with popcorn flavours.
In contrast, Anna will run to the window if she overhears people talking outside. We’ll go to the farmer’s market or a neighbourhood event and she’ll manage to hold entire conversations with adults. While she’s sometimes slow to warm up at parties, I tend to think it’s because she’s sensitive to noise. She still wants to be the last person leave a party. I recall, the summer before she turned three, when she wanted to go to far more events than I did, and would remember every single invite to a BBQ or playdate.
“Mama, weren’t we gonna go to Kai’s house? Mama, didn’t Ava’s dad say we could play together? Mama…?” Even in gatherings with my childless friends, Anna tends to want to stay longer than I do. We recently went to a daytime Halloween party that was all adults, toddlers and babies and she painted everyone’s faces—both kids and adults.
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Anna’s ability to make so many new friends has become a bit of an ongoing joke between us. Sometimes, when I watch her interact with people on the bus or in the park, it’s like she’s known these strangers for years already. (Of course, because of her age, we’re starting to have conversations about “stranger danger,” and her interactions with some adults have decreased a little on account of that.)
I know there are other reserved parents out there like me—and they may have an even more social child than I do—but Anna’s desire to be around people at every possible moment is a stark contrast given my own desire to just read and sit quietly by myself. Which I may just go do right now, come to think of it… while I still have this moment of solitude.
Are your kids more social than you? How do you manage it in your situation?
Tara-Michelle Ziniuk is a Toronto-based queer mom to a four-year-old. She started off as a single-mom-by-choice, and now co-parents. You can read more of her posts here and follow her on Twitter @therealrealTMZ.