02/27/2015 05:32 pm ET Updated Apr 29, 2015

Little Shells, Little Masks

Susannah Lewis

I said something today that I've said many times. And as always, as soon as the words left my mouth, waves of guilt washed over me.

I told my son, "Stop being so shy."

I wouldn't have scolded him in the slightest if he'd turned to me and said, "Stop being such a tool."

In the comfort of our home, both of my children talk a blue streak -- bluer and streakier than one could possibly imagine. They love to run and play and dance like a hybrid between Carlton Banks and a vomiting cat. They love to laugh and snort at their own hilarious jokes. Their true personalities are a real hoot to witness. Their true personalities bring me joy.

But as soon as we step out the door of our relaxed abode, they crawl into little shells and hide behind little masks. When asked questions by teachers, other parents or kind strangers in the grocery store, they sheepishly nod and barely whisper:

Yes m'am.

Thank you.


When my kids are comfortable enough to do their farting cat impersonation again, I ask them, "Why were you so shy back there? You should speak loudly and clearly when someone speaks to you!"

And they hang their little heads in defeat and promise to do better next time.

Those waves crash into me yet again, nearly causing me to falter and stumble into a sand dune of horrible and critical parenting.

If you regularly read my blog of follow me on Facebook posts, you probably assume that I'm an outspoken hillbilly who has no qualms about putting a crabby Wal-Mart cashier in her place. Maybe you think I often engage in conversation with strangers or crack jokes at every opportunity. Newsflash: That's simply not true.

Unless I've consumed copious amounts of wine, I don't have much to say to unfamiliar faces. Large crowds and uncomfortable settings refuse to let me speak. As a child, my fingers convulsed at every piano recital. I was extremely tongue-tied during every high school speech I had to give. My lip quivers and my legs shake. I am shy. Sometimes, I am quite painfully and awkwardly shy.

And I hate that about myself.

I believe my shyness is one of the reasons I find solace in writing. Although I'm often tight-lipped, I'm flooded with thoughts. I'm always observing others, forming an opinion, thinking of rebuttals if I'm asked for my two cents. I take all of these thoughts swimming in my head and let them comfortably flow through my fingers into Facebook statuses, blog posts, novels. I write because, most of the time, I'm too shy to say what I'm really thinking.

I often wonder why I scold my children for simply possessing the sins of their mother.

I just wish they were comfortable enough to share their true personalities with others. I wish people could see that my children have a lot to say, and quite often, their words are intelligent and witty. I wish my children could answer a question without shifting their eyes to the floor and biting their lips. I wish they would open up, just a little bit, and show others what truly amazing little people they really are.

I wish I could, too.

But on the other hand, is that shyness really a sin?

Is it so horrible that my children aren't constantly annoying grown-ups with crude questions? Is it so terrible that they are skittish about carrying on a conversation with a stranger who may be a kidnapper? Is it so awful that my kids aren't brazenly running all over the church like banshees? Is shyness really a bad thing? For me or for them?

No, it's not.

I'm just so incredibly proud of my children, and I wish they would let their light shine for all to see.

Maybe they'll slowly ease out of their shells. Maybe they'll slowly remove their masks.

Or maybe they'll become writers.

This post was originally published on Whoa! Susannah. Follow Susannah on Facebook.