Bit-by-bit it is OK.


I know her heart.

I know the thoughts and the feelings that power her actions as if they were my own.

Because they are my own.

I walk tall into new situations with my head held high and my smile big and wide. Not because I want to. Not because my heart tells me to. But because for years I’ve told myself that shy is not a way of life. That I should change. Conform. Be outgoing. The world, I have convinced myself, rewards outgoing. And I must be what the world rewards.

But I am not outgoing. And neither is she. I’d prefer to take in new situations slowly, peeking around my mother’s skirt and feeling safety in the clutch of her hand. And so would she.


But I’ve convinced myself that the world rewards outgoing. That jumping in with both feet, without fear of falling, is the only way. And so I force myself to go out and jump.

And then, I force her.

I ignore our hearts and I force us out there.

This weekend, we started a new year of dance class much like we ended the last year. She held back, she clung, she just didn’t want to go into that room. I forced, I cajoled, I tried everything to get her out there.

She felt bad. I made her feel worse.

M brought back the positive, just like he did before. He told her he was proud of her for trying to go to class. He asked her to try harder next week.

And she replied, “Yeah. I didn’t to go in today. But that’s ok! I’ll try next week!”

I cried. I cried because she missed a dance class that I knew would be fun if she could just go inside. But, more than that, I cried because I can’t seem to get over myself and be there for my girl. I can’t stop viewing her shyness as I view my own, as a weakness. I cried because she inherently knows that yes, it is ok. It is ok to try, and not succeed, and try again. It is ok to be yourself. It is OK. And bit-by-bit, my actions scream to tell her she is wrong.

I cried because her thoughts and feelings are my own. And now I need to deal with them. I cannot bury them. The stakes are higher.

We left the studio, while her classmates danced. We headed home to grab her swim suit and left again to meet up with friends at a fountain full of kids enjoying the waning summer heat. I wanted to cancel. I had even threatened canceling in my attempts to get her to dance. But we went.

Her friend was already soaked when we arrived. Running around without a care as water shot into the sky around her.

But my girl, she clung to my leg. She shook her head when we dangled her swim suit in front of her.

And this time? I let her.

I hugged her close and, with all of the reassurance I could muster, I squeezed her while we watched her friend dance in the water.

And you know what? Within ten minutes, she shed her shoes and went to dip in a toe. Then two toes.

Soon she was changing into her swimsuit and holding my hand as we walked the perimeter of the fountain.

girl in fountain

And before I knew it, she was there. In the middle of the fountain, far outside my reach, dripping wet and pouring out excitement everywhere.

girl in fountain

And looking back for me every minute or so.

I breathed easier on the way home. My heart, and, I hope, hers too, just a little bit healed from the pain of the morning.

It is OK to be shy. It is OK to warm up slowly, walk cautiously, jump only when we feel we can withstand the fall if we need to. It is part of our process.

And, bit-by-bit, I actually believe that to be true.


  1. Well, that was the cry I needed this morning. As the mom of an introvert, your words just rang so true to me. I have been there. Thanks for writing this. It was beautiful. -Lisa

  2. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. A beautiful post and such a self-aware perspective on mothering. I’m an extrovert and so is my boy but what really spoke to me in your post is seeing something in your child that you consider a weakness in yourself. I feel like my boy has the best of me in that he is kind to a fault and has never met a stranger, but he also has a quick temper (that like mom he gets over quickly) and I can feel myself coming down harder than I should because it is one of my traits I would change about myself. Your post reminded me I should be there to guide him and find a solution rather than upset at my own weaknesses.

    • It was such a realization – almost like an epiphany – that I was reacting to her because of my own insecurities. One of the toughest things about parenting, I think, is helping our children with things we have not yet mastered ourselves. But oh what a noble endeavor. Good luck with your boy!

  4. Thank you for this post!

  5. Thank you so much. feels close to my heart.

  6. We learn so much of ourselves all over again with our little ones. My eldest son and I share a similar bond to you and your daughter. I know him so well because I see so much of me in him. More than my other kids–which presents other topics and issues–regardless. I think the message, at least for me, in situations like this is to realize everyone learns at different rates in different ways. To be respectful of that. To understand that our children are people too. When do we push? When do we pull back? Oh yes, I’ve been exactly in your spot.

    • Such a tough spot, isn’t it? You are exactly right with those questions – when to push, when to pull back. I wonder if I’ll every figure it out…

  7. Hi sweet Tricia! I was so glad when I went on to SITS to join the Sharefest, that it was your post ahead of me. I believe in following the rules for the sake of those who put these blog-hop-type-things together and that meant that I’d be visiting your blog. I knew I would enjoy it too by the introduction you gave this post, but I always enjoy your posts. This one made me nearly cry! Wishing you all the best!

    Tina – mom of 4 and author of 5 blogs
    Christina Morley recently posted..Make My Saturday Sweet – Blog Hop #6My Profile

  8. Oh Tricia, this is just so beautifully written!
    I myself am desperately shy (though you wouldn’t guess it if you visit my Facebook blog page!). My shyness has held me back from many missed opportunities which I now regret. I have 3 little girls and they were very shy like me. Slowly we have all come out of our protective shells and are taking braver, more joy-filled steps. Just take things gently and at a natural pace.
    I’m so happy you stopped by my blog earlier because it has now led me to yours!
    Happy SITS Sharefest! x
    Jess WhoaMamma recently posted..The Haunting Words of Mr FMy Profile

    • Thank you so much for your sweet words! And it is always good to hear from a fellow shy girl with shy girls 🙂 I am so encouraged to hear that you are growing braver together and I hope the same is in store for us here.

  9. Tricia – this is such a beautiful post. My heart swells because this describes so much of how I feel and my feelings/worries about my son too. I’m shy. He’s shy. When he was younger, I so very much wanted him to be the one who jumped in with two feet and without hesitation because I wasn’t like that and I thought that would make life so much easier for him. But he didn’t and I would get upset. Because you’re right – what I saw in him was a reflection of what I didn’t like about myself. I took so much patience to hold back and let him be and to let him take his time. But he’s finding his way and so much more confident now. You are absolutely right – it’s OK to be shy.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..5 Lessons on InjuryMy Profile

    • Oh thank you, Christine. I’ve been amazed at the reaction to this post – so many mamas, all of us writers, but shy with shy little ones. Your experience is so similar to mine and it is encouraging to hear that your boy is finding my way. Gives me so much hope!

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