I think a big part of parenting is accepting the children you have, and not trying to force them into the children you wish you had. I would love it if Sam was a social butterfly, delighted to go to parties and be around lots of people, I think his life would be easier. But the fact of the matter is that Sam is an extreme introvert, and really hates big crowds. His immediate reaction to any kind of party is to climb into my lap and beg to go home. He hates having strangers talk to him, doesn't like people he knows paying attention to him when he wants to hide and that's just the way he is.
I can't change that. (Believe me, if I could magically make him be super polite and friendly all the time, I would). What I can do is understand the child he is, and do my best to teach him techniques for surviving in the real world. I don't want to shield him from the world, he's part of a large extended family, on both sides, as well as a busy, active family with three older sisters. He's got to go to parties, and part of life is being around those that you love. We spend a lot of time at parties off to the side, going for short walks and getting away from the action. In the middle of the Hanukkah party at the synagogue, I sat along the wall, away from everyone and read a book while he climbed on the chairs behind me. He was happy, I was happy, and I'm sure most people thought that not only was my son rude and unpleasant, but that I was totally anti-social as well. But the choice was either that, or sitting in the middle of everything with him screaming on my lap.
The thing is, after about an hour or so, if everyone leaves him alone, he'll relax, open up and really enjoy being around everyone. But when we first get there (wherever there happens to be), he's in no mood to talk to anyone. Any attempt to jolly him into talking or playing is met with hostility on his part, and outright embarassment on my part. Because he'll snarl or cry and I can't do anything to stop it. I'm thinking about making a sign "Please just ignore the boy until he talks to you."
Can you tell we spent all weekend at parties? And I'm dead certain that there are a lot of people out there who think I'm a horrible mother because my child is rude and unfriendly - but he's not really - if they'd just give him some time to relax and feel comfortable before swooping in with kisses and hugs, he'd be fine. He is who he is - and he hates parties. I love him exactly as he is, and wish that it were easier for him - but I make no apologies for him. If you don't want to get snarled at, don't talk to him. Leave him alone and let him come to you - he will. He's a bright, beautiful, sunshiney little boy, who loves playing and interacting. He's a lot better than he was, as he gets older, he gets better at being around a lot of people, but he still needs time to scope things out on his terms.