My daughter Avery, who is almost five, is very shy. When she is around kids she knows well, she is an adventurous, giggly little girl, but when she is with kids she doesn’t know, she is quiet, shy, and takes a while to open up. With Kindergarten fast approaching in the fall, her shyness has been weighing heavily on my heart. Will she make friends easily at school? Will she feel all alone? What can I do to help her? Then one beautiful spring day, my worries were put to ease.
The sun was shining as I picked up the girls from daycare and I couldn’t wait to take them to the park later that evening. A 62-degree day in March feels like 80 to us Minnesotans, and we were definitely going to take advantage of it. As soon as the kids were done eating supper, we headed up the hill to the park. As we got to the top of the hill, Avery noticed some of the older kids she knew playing basketball. She was super excited to see them, but once she saw how many other kids were with them that she didn’t know, she quickly became shy and wanted to just play on the playground. As we played on the playground, the rest of the kids then decided to put together a game of kickball. Avery watched out of the corner of her eye and I could feel that she wanted to play so badly, but was just too shy. I told her that we could go over there to check it out and encouraged her to play with the other kids, but she told me that it was ok and that she would rather play on the playground.
About 10 minutes went by and then she asked if we could go and watch the kids play. We went over and sat on the bench to watch the kids and three of them came over to talk to her and ask her if she wanted to play. She quickly told them no and that she would just watch. An older girl then took her hand and lifted her up and told her that she would go out there with her and teach her how to play. To my surprise, she went. She sat out there in the outfield and held that girl’s hand so tightly, but as time went on, you could see the grip loosen and that scared look on her face was now a smile.
After the third out, it was now time for her team to kick. She watched as the other kids each took their turn, and then it was her turn. The kids rallied around her and encouraged her that she could do it. She told them she didn’t want to so one of the boys told her it was ok and that he would kick for her and another girl told her that she would hold her hand and run the bases. So she got into position, the pitcher rolled the ball, and the boy gave it a nice kick. Hand in hand, the girls ran around the bases and all the kids cheered her on and told her that she was going to get a home run. As she rounded third base running as fast as she could, all the kids (including the kids on the other team) ran to home plate to meet her. Once she touched home plate, the kids all cheered and lifted her up into the air and began chanting “MVP… MVP!”
I will never forget that smile on her face. To some parents this might be something so small and insignificant. But to watch my sweet girl come out of her shell that evening and step outside her comfort zone was such a great joy. As a tear rolled down my face, I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Equally important was how proud I was of all the neighborhood kids for being so compassionate and encouraging to her. There are a lot of kids that would have just gone on playing and would not have spent the extra time helping and encouraging her, but these kids went above and beyond and I am so incredibly grateful for them.
On our walk home from the park, my daughter smiled the entire way while talking about how much fun she had and said that she cannot wait for more kickball games at the park this year. It was at that point that my worries about her being so shy were put to ease and I knew that shy or not, my sweet little girl will be just fine.