Most of the Whomptons are introverts. Raging introverts. Krystal and Samantha are happiest when curled up on couches, tucked under blankets, and reading books. Raina has become this person as well, and she forcefully sighs when she is reading and someone wants to interact with her. Eric has devoted much of his life to solo video games and then he became a computer programmer. When he first started working, he could go 8 straight hours without interacting with another human being.
Interacting with people requires a lot of energy and so introverts need quiet alone time to recharge before going out again. Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge and are energized by being with people. (I don’t know how extroverts feel about being alone.) When I began teaching and putting so much of myself out there each day, I came home incredibly exhausted and spent. I would walk through the door, sit on the couch, and stare out the front window for an hour. Eric would try to interact with me then – being a happily married man, happy to see his spouse – and I would snap at him and tell him to “please go away and let me watch the squirrels! I need this!” He would look hurt but eventually understood that I needed some quiet time to reset before I could be a happy, humane person again.
I enjoy my summer vacations tremendously. I send the kids off to camps or daycare and then I enjoy eight interrupted hours by myself. It’s a wonderful summer when I can do this for three straight months. I come back to the new school year completely refreshed and joyous and happy to see everyone. Generally, this enthusiasm lasts about a week and then I go back to doling out my energies and then trying to conserve where I can.
In some ways, being an introvert makes me a terrible friend. I rarely pick up the telephone to call someone. For multiple years, my new year’s resolution was to call a single friend once a month. Just one phone call a month. I was never successful.
What I’m trying to say here is that I am an introvert. A strong one. And I’m the LEAST introverted introvert in the house. Eric, Samantha, and Raina need even more alone time than I do to be successful out in the real world.
Lola Kai, Whompton #5, is not an introvert at all. The extrovert in her struggles in our otherwise introverted household, but she has learned to advocate for herself. As a toddler, her favorite sentence was “I GO!” which meant that she wanted to get out of the house and go anywhere – anywhere – as long as she got to see people. Present day Lola, at four years old, is still the same way. She also makes regular phone calls to reach out to family. She decided to call two people yesterday, for instance, and she happily chatted with them for a while. She will play solo occasionally, but she’d much rather play with someone else and it doesn’t really matter who. If someone is walking along the street, Lola will run, throw open the front door, and shout “HI!” to him. If the person responds in any way, then she bolts out of the house to have a conversation. She stations herself to chatter with the neighbors as they work on their yards or build sheds or get the mail. She has befriended more people in the neighborhood than I have, and I’ve lived here for almost 12 years. She begs us for more and more playdates and the adults cannot comply at a rate that is satisfactory for her.
This dynamic brings inherent tensions. The more we provide opportunities for Lola to be with people, the more tapped out the other four introverts are. The more quiet time we provide for the introverts, the more frustrated and stir crazy Lola gets. In the end, no one is perfectly happy. We clearly do not have the right balance yet and it’s possible we never will. But I’m hopeful that other folks out there have similar situations and can make recommendations of how we can meet Lola’s extroverted needs without completely exhausting her introverted brethren. Do you have suggestions?