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Parenting An Extrovert During Coronavirus


We've been talking about the sacrifices and trade-offs so many people have been making throughout this global pandemic, so now we want to check in with someone who's really making a sacrifice - all the extroverts out there - and, of course, the people who love them - all stuck inside together. We're thinking of this because last year, I spoke to author Mark Oppenheimer and his now 6-year-old daughter Anna, an exuberant extrovert. Mark wrote a piece called "How To Raise An Extroverted Child In A World That Loves Introverts."


ANNA OPPENHEIMER: I probably wouldn't say that I hug people a lot. And I probably say that I just talk to people a lot.

MARTIN: So we thought we'd check in as we enter week - what is it, six or seven? - of the self-isolation thing we're all doing to see how extroverted Anna is coping in a world where she can't go outside very much and interact with others, something we know she loves to do. So joining us now from their home in New Haven, Conn., Mark and Anna.

Mark and Anna, thanks so much for joining us once again.

MARK OPPENHEIMER: Thank you for having us. Anna, do you want to say thank you for having us?

A OPPENHEIMER: But they're not having us, so they can't say they are.

M OPPENHEIMER: That's true because it's remote. Yes, well, we're glad to be back.

MARTIN: OK. Thank you. Hi, Anna. How are you?


MARTIN: Well, it's nice to speak with you again. Do you remember talking to me last time?

A OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, kind of.

MARTIN: Well, remember last time, we talked about how you like to hug your classmates? Do you miss seeing your friends and hugging them? Do you miss school?

A OPPENHEIMER: Not really. I mean, I miss school a little because I had, like, my book, like, J.K. Rowling, "Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince." And I have it at home, too. But I just - like, it's not - like, I just want to read at school because, like, my book at school, you know.

MARTIN: Got it - right. What about friends - you miss friends?

A OPPENHEIMER: Not really.

MARTIN: Really?

A OPPENHEIMER: Yeah. But, like, I'm fine with being inside, like...


A OPPENHEIMER: ...Even if we can't just go for, like, walks and just outside in the backyard. Like, it's fine. I mean, yes, I do. But, like, like, if I have to stay at home and, like, not see my friends for a while, then I'm fine.

MARTIN: I got it. Well, it makes sense to me. Could I talk to your dad for a few minutes?




MARTIN: OK. Hi. So it sounds like Anna's adjusting pretty well. But did you have to help her adjust to this new, even less extrovert-friendly world that we're now in?

M OPPENHEIMER: Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, initially, we had talks with all of our kids about what this meant. And so it meant that, you know, when we saw people on the streets, we had to keep our distance, and that's harder for some than for others. She has a sister who's not very huggy or touchy at all. And then...

A OPPENHEIMER: Clara (ph).

M OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, Clara - that's right. And then, you know, and then she and I, I would say, are the most demonstrative people...

A OPPENHEIMER: I wanted you to know.

M OPPENHEIMER: ...In the household now. So, you know, I think that it was definitely an important conversation to have - to establish the new boundaries. But, you know, in the life of a 6-year-old, that's now, like, years ago. So...

MARTIN: (Laughter).


MARTIN: Yeah, exactly.

M OPPENHEIMER: I think she and I have both together assimilated those new rules, which for my wife or for one of her older sisters, who are much less touchy, you know, no assimilation needed. It was just - it was fine.

MARTIN: Sure. Anna, can I just ask you one more question before I talk to your dad again?


MARTIN: OK. So what are you doing now that you have to stay inside a lot?


MARTIN: What are you reading that you liked recently?

A OPPENHEIMER: Oh, that's easy. I'm reading the Oz books.

M OPPENHEIMER: Tell her that slowly - the Oz books.

A OPPENHEIMER: The Oz books.

MARTIN: And if you want to hug somebody, can you - is there anybody around you could give a hug to if you're missing hugs?

A OPPENHEIMER: Rebecca (ph), Ellie (ph), Clara, daddy, mommy, Davey (ph)...

MARTIN: OK, and those are your sisters and brothers...

A OPPENHEIMER: ...Benny (ph) and Ochi (ph).

MARTIN: Who's Ochi?


MARTIN: Your dog. OK, well, that's good. Yeah, dogs are good for hugs, I think. Well, it was nice talking to you again.

A OPPENHEIMER: Yeah, I do, too.

MARTIN: Well, so before we let you go, Mark - I'll just finish up with you if you don't mind...


MARTIN: Do you have any advice for other parents who also have extroverted kids - especially if it's what we'd call maybe a mixed family (laughter), where some people are more introverted than others, and some people are more extroverted? They all have to figure out how to get along. You have some advice for us?

M OPPENHEIMER: Right. Well, I think that, you know, just from our neighborhood, I think that what's really been great for the extroverts - and I see this in some of Anna's friends and some of our neighbors, too - is, you know, the porch relationships. I don't know how you'd transfer that to the big city - I guess the balcony relationships. But we can do what we always do, which is sit out on the porch and wait for people to come by to just talk to. And it's always been a sort of 10 to 20-foot relationship.

You know, we have neighbors whose last names I don't know, but I have the 20-foot relationship with them, and Anna has that relationship with their kids. So that's been really, really helpful for us, is just - I think you need the human contact. I guess what I would say is that the Zoom calls with my kids' friends have not been as satisfying as actually seeing them in person, even if it's from 20 feet.

MARTIN: That was Mark Oppenheimer. He is an author and hosts a podcast on Jewish identity called "Unorthodox." And he was nice enough, along with his daughter Anna, to talk to us once again.

Mark Oppenheimer, Anna Oppenheimer, thanks so much for talking with us.

M OPPENHEIMER: Thanks for having us.

A OPPENHEIMER: Bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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