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Posts Tagged ‘personality’

Quirks

cafe with girls theo guitar movie 010

One thing I love about having four children is being able to compare and contrast their personalities. It was an enormous relief to me when my second baby was born being completely different than her older brother. He had been such a difficult, attention-needing, intense baby that I had seriously begun to wonder whether he was that way because of something I was doing wrong. Then along came Miss L, the complete antithesis to the screaming, colicky, unpredictable baby her brother had been. She was a sunny, easily pleased, predictable and mellow little personality who occupied herself very happily wherever we were, which was lucky, because I was still having to spend all my waking attention on demanding Number One.

By the time Miss L hit her toddler years, things changed. We went through a rocky patch when her Very Intense Need to Declare Herself as an Individual was acted out with or without external provocation. Like the time we were leaving the house and she insisted that she wanted those particular pocketless pants to have pockets. Or she wanted her favorite hat to be a different color. Or any variation on this theme:
Her: I THIRSTY!!
Me: Okay, would you like some juice or some milk?
Her: NO JUICE!
Me: Okay, milk then?
Her: NO MILK!
Me: All we have is milk or juice. Or water. Would you like some water?
Her: NO WATER!! NO JUICE!! NO MILK!!!!
Me: er….
Her: I THIRSTY!! I NO WANNA DRINK!!
Me: er…okay, well….here’s a cup; tell me when you want something to drink.
Her: I THIRSTY!! I THIRSTY!
Me: So, milk, water, or juice?
Her: Flinging the cup, beginning of flailing tantrum.

Me: Walking away.
Her: Following me.

Luckily, by that time, older brother had transformed into a lovely, reasonable and calm preschooler, baby #3 only needed to be fed and changed to be happy, and I was a seasoned enough parent to realize that none of any of it had much to do with me. Which is why by the time baby #4 was born needing to be held 24-hours a day, I did so without once worrying that I was going to create an over-dependency.

Now I have two daughters very similar in personality and interests, and two sons very similar in interests but quite different in terms of personality.

I still find it endlessly fascinating to watch them make their way in the world, to see how they react to things. Fascinating and sometimes, a bit boggling.Who, at 13.5, would choose to walk on her hands on the way home from having hot chocolate at the coffee shop? The older sister of the girl who totally gets why someone would want to do that, I guess.

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The second trip to the Big Library in 3 days, and this time I found a totally unexpected surprise….the new David Sedaris book When You AreĀ  Engulfed in Flames. It was one of three Recent Bestsellers (which can only be taken out for a week and can’t be renewed and cost two dollars a day if they’re overdue) that I couldn’t leave the library without.

It totally made up for the parking garage ticket being called “unreadable” by the machine, and having to press the Help button, and then having to explain my dilemma to the voice on the speaker over the sounds of my 7-year old shrieking, “Mom, drive! Drive! There’s a whole lineup of cars behind us!” and then getting out of the van to explain my situation to the people in line behind us while we waited to be rescued.

As a testament to the differences in personalities between my children, Tee was also in the car when this happened, but he had to be told about the event when we got home.

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One Folk Festival, so many stories to tell.
This one is about Jay and the tightrope.
In this picture, she’s being helped across the rope by the kindly volunteer. I took the photo, thinking she’d go across a few times and then move on to any one of the other fun circus activities that were set up outside the family tent. I should have known better. I should have sat myself down on the grass right then and there and made myself comfortable. From Jay’s perspective, crossing that tightrope alone was at least theoretically possible, and that was enough for her to take on the challenge.
Sometimes there were ten kids in the lineup, other times she was able to finish the attempt and hop right back on again, sometimes she fell off right away, other times she made it halfway across. All that mattered to her was that she was making even microscopic improvements at least some of those times.
This was one of the rare times in my parenting career that I didn’t have to cut short the fun, so I decided to let her keep at it for as long as she wanted. Which turned out to be forever. It wasn’t until the cable was pulled out of the logs that she stopped, and by then she’d managed to go from the hand-clutching wobbly beginner to a girl who knew how to cross a tightrope all by herself. She’d also managed to collect an audience, many of whom were called over by the volunteer who wanted witnesses to her single-minded determination. Look at this kid! She’s been at it for I don’t know how long! She just keeps on getting into the line! Look out Mom, she’s going to run away with the circus! I wasn’t worried about her wanting to join up with any circus. I knew that once the tightrope was done with she’d forget about it completely and move on to something else. It wasn’t the thrill of balancing on the rope that she cared about. It was the challenge.

When she was on attempt #324, I pulled her aside and whispered that I thought her determination was possibly her greatest strength. That there might be braver or more talented people in the world, but that she had the determination of ten of them.

She looked me in the eye, smiled, and got right back in line.

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The week before she left for her diving trip L didn’t seem interested in playing with friends. She hung around the house, reading, packing, and making up crazy games for the little kids. Her parting gift to Jay was a trip to the playground, and a lesson on back flips off the swing set. She swung really, really high, and then vaulted off the seat and did a back flip in the air before landing, sometimes adding a twist. By the time we left for home, a cadre of smaller children had gathered to ooh and aah, which initially had Jay glowing in vicarious pride, but soon resulted in her retreating to the monkey bars in a sulk. She sobbed all the way home about how nobody noticed HER, nobody cared about HER, and how much she hated being the youngest.

Fast forward two days and Jay is at that playground every chance she gets, trying to get up the courage to do what L did. I went with her this morning, and she tried to get me to rate her “flips” on a scale of one to ten. Then she asked me to be the announcer of the Monkey Bar Olympics, giving me my script, which went something like It’s the world-famous Jay, winner of eight gold medals, attempting the dangerous one-handed manouver, and we would ask the audience to not use flash photography as it might distract the athlete, and here she goes, look at her go, it’s Jay ladies and gentlemen, doing a double bar skip, please hold your applause, and she’s done, she’s finished, it’s Jay, winner of yet another gold medal for Canada.

Clearly a fourth child in a family of over-achievers.

Luckily for number three, he’s oblivious to the relentless race for success. He eschewed the trip to the playground in favor of more fulfilling activities, like making full body costumes out of paper and electrical tape. Stop! Do not enter the realm of the vile and evil masked knight…..

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Tee’s been using his half hour of computer time lately to play Civilization III, a strategy game that he bought with some hard-saved allowance.

Trouble is, when he’s not playing it he’s thinking about it, talking about it, or daydreaming about it, which leaves very little brain space for anything else. He tends to get fixated on things, either positively or negatively, a trait that may serve him well later in life, but which sometimes makes parenting him difficult. He doesn’t transition easily, he tends to block out all information other than anything directly pertaining to object or idea of current fascination, and he gets “tunnel-vision”. On the flip side, he can play by himself for days at a time, needing absolutely no input from me at all, and I’m pretty sure that a bomb could go off beside him when he’s absorbed in what he’s doing and he wouldn’t notice, so at least I know he doesn’t have an attention deficit disorder.

In his desperation for more computer time, the clever boy came up with a sure-fire plan to convince me into allowing it. First, he showed me the game and pointed out it’s educational aspects. Then he suggested that he do an hour of “research” for every half hour extra of time played. By research he meant learning about aspects of the game he didn’t know much about, via library books, or books on our shelves. I agreed, with the caveat that he write down what he’d learned in a notebook so that I could keep track of it (and so that he’d get some writing practice in, but no need to let him in on that).

Today was Day One of the Grand Computer Plan, and so far it’s a success. Tee’s satisfied, thrilled with the extra half hour he played, and I’m happy with the page of notes he took on the Gunpowder Plot. I guess his research started with gunpowder, but he now knows about Guy Fawkes, saltpetre, and a little more about England in the 1600’s than he did yesterday. I think I’d call it a win-win.

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I wish that our world honored differences.

Many of us struggle our whole lives to fit in. What an incredible waste of our precious individuality. I feel this sentiment acutely now that I am a mother, now that I have four interesting people growing up in my house. I want them to be able to celebrate their unique strengths, to be able to charge fearlessly down the paths that they choose, unhampered by the fears of what others might think. It is a short time we have on this planet. We’re all experimenters, and it would be nice if we could let go of our individual and collective fears enough to suspend judgement of each other.

Maybe I’ll write a post on idealism next.

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I’ve spent a lot of time and energy this school year trying to figure out my second son. After many false starts, lots of second guessing, and moments of intense frustration, he and I seem to have reached consensus.

Looking back, I’d have to say that a big part of the problem was that I was extending my growing belief in unschooling to general parenting, allowing Tee a whole lot of personal freedom in terms of behaviour, the result of which was a back-talking, entitled sort of attitude that drove me crazy and made life in a large family difficult. The more difficult he got, the more I loosened up on the rules, thinking that he would begin to see the consequences of his actions and begin to take responsibility, but it didn’t work quite that way. He stopped listening, stopped cooperating, and started to feel really badly about himself because the rest of us were often very annoyed with him.

I eventually got so frustrated that I clamped back down on the rules. Simple rules, clear consequences. Can’t control your anger? You have to stay by my side today. Hit your sister? Same thing. Don’t do what I say? Loss of privileges.

At the same time, I continued to support his independent choices during “school time”, allowed him to follow his interests and let him choose not to do the projects I had set up in lieu of whatever it was he wanted to do.

So now I have a grateful, happy, cooperative boy, who enjoys school tremendously, is bursting with creative energy, and whose behaviour is much improved.

Trouble is, Jay the “good kid” is suddenly moody, pouty and stubborn, I think in direct response to Tee giving up the “bad kid” label. I never thought of Tee as the bad kid, but he was getting a LOT of negative attention, and I’m sure that Jay noticed. She’s been extremely eager, hardworking, sunny, and cooperative this year, eating up all of the positive attention she got for that attitude. Now that Tee is getting a lot more of that attention, I think she’s feeling a little insecure.

Very interesting.

I hope that I can help the two of them become more of a team and less of a rivalry.

Any ideas?

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