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The Space Between the Noise

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2 girls ~ 1 car ~ 3 hour road trip

The road trip part of that scenario usually bothers me. I spent the first four years of my daughter's life trying to figure out why she vomited up Cheetos and applesauce every time we went any distance in the car. Once I figured out she had motion sickness, I took the necessary precautions to help keep her lunch inside her stomach.

I bought sea bands, gave her crackers, cracked the window, and told her under no circumstances was she allowed to read, color, write, look at, or even think about watching a screen while we were in the car.

She is now eight years old and through many trials and errors, we have settled into a rhythm and routine for car rides. Her time is usually spent looking out the window or listening to others talk. My son, who talks incessantly, is usually with us; he is our entertainment on long trips.

This weekend however, it was just the two of us; my daughter and I. My daughter is an introvert. My husband, who is also an introvert, claims that the two of them can be in the same room for hours and never speak a single word. If my son and I are in the same room, thousands of words are spoken in a matter of minutes!

As we were heading out of town, her first words to me were "how long does it take to get there?" I paused for a moment and told her "about three hours." A soft sigh could be heard coming from the backseat as I am sure she was wondering what she was going to do in the pitch black for three agonizing hours.

Her sigh made me stop and think. The displeasure of having to drive three hours was suddenly lifted. I realized in that moment, that I have been given a gift.

For the first time ever, I actually welcomed my daughter's motion sickness.

My daughter rarely talks or opens up to me unless we are back-to-back in bed with the lights out. I asked her one night about how she deals with things that bother her.

"I have garbage cans or compartments in my brain, and each one is for something different."

Being the counselor I am, I asked, "What do you do when they get full?"

"I dump them," she said.

To which I asked "how do you do that?"

"Not tonight mom, that is enough for now."

This three hour car ride was a gift I was not expecting. I honored the silence; let her take the lead. About every 20 minutes or so, a question would be posed from the backseat. A question that I carefully answered, so as not to interrupt her or shut down the conversation. At times, the only noise in the car was the hum of the engine and the soft sound of Maroon 5 playing on the radio.

When she did talk, the words she spoke were meaningful; the questions important and the thoughts she shared with me invaluable.

I have found that I gain incredible insight into her world when I don't ask for more than what she can give me.

Our world can be challenging for introverts. We tell kids that they need to be more outgoing and social; share their feelings, express themselves verbally. We encourage cooperative learning, teams, and communities. We worry about the lone kid who sits by themselves everyday.

What I have learned being married to an introvert and a mother to one is simple; sometimes they just want to be left alone. It has nothing to do with being shy, depressed, or even arrogant. It has everything to do with what they are comfortable with and their need to have an environment with less stimulation.

They gain their energy from being alone.

Simply put, they have a preference for quiet, for less noise, for less action.

What I have learned on this journey is to look and listen first; talk later. Read their body language to know if I am invading their space. Take a step back from what I need, and respect what they need.

Embrace the quiet; enjoy it with them. Recognize that a lot can be said without any noise.

When two people are talking, the quiet pauses, or space as I like to call it, can be awkward. I have come to enjoy that space. It allows me to observe the more powerful things that cannot be said with words.

My daughter has taught me a lot about the quiet and wonderful world of introverts. The power of mindfulness and thought. The beauty of space and less noise.

I once read somewhere that silent people have the loudest minds. For three hours on a dark foggy night, my daughter's mind was uninhibited, unrestrained and beautifully loud.