Children are born as individuals and have their own unique personalities. How can you appreciate your child’s own uniqueness?
Every morning I would drive up to the curb at school and my daughter would hop out of the car. Then there was my son. He would talk. And talk. And talk, telling me just that one more interesting thing. Eventually, I would have to make a bold interruption and say, “Son, get out of the car. Get. Out.” He was just friendly and cheerful and not in a hurry that kid.
He’s the one who would call from college and talk. And talk. And talk, telling us that one more interesting thing. My husband and I loved it until we got to the point in an hour-long conversation when we would look at each other from over the cell phone. Will he ever hang up?
Our daughter was another story. One day, when she was a teenager, she ran errands with me. For three hours we drove around town, and she said nothing. I got my feelings hurt and decided to stay quiet, waiting for her to say something.
She said nothing for three hours. At the end of those errands, I was convinced she hated my guts, and I gave her the silent treatment for the rest of the evening. (Who’s the teenager and who’s the mom again?) Finally, I grew up and asked her what was the deal. Why didn’t she talk to me for three hours?
“I couldn’t think of anything to say,” she said. She didn’t have a fountain full of words like her brother, and I horribly misinterpreted her quietness.
She is the child who, if she calls, our hearts stop beating. Who is dead? Who is in the hospital? Who is bleeding? Something must be wrong if this child picked up the phone.
Appreciating Each Child Individually
Let me tell you the mistake I made as a parent: I tried to get the quiet kid to be the talkative kid. You know that jabbering boy? He gets that from me. I talk. And talk. And talk. So, I figured I just needed to get the girl to do the same thing. Get her out of her shell.
Oh my, I was so wrong. Now I’m 52 and that girl turns 27 soon, and she is still quiet. We’ll hang out, and, at some point in our time together, she’ll usually say, “I’m sorry I’m so boring.” But now I know her superpower: the hospitality of listening and listening very well. The other day I sat in her living room and told her about how I was quitting my job and how much it hurt to do so.
She listened. And listened. And listened.
I poured out all of my sorrow, and she absorbed it into her quiet but strong, compassionate spirit. When I was done with my long story, she said, “I’m sorry.” It was a small number of words, but they came with eyes that felt all that I was feeling. She somehow took my torrent of emotions and brought them into her own heart, to help me carry the suffering in my story. Yes, this is who she is–not a storyteller but a story bearer.
If only I had understood this gift of hers when she was young, instead of trying to make her into someone else.
So, I say this to you mothers who have a kid under your roof whose personality you don’t understand. Please don’t try to change that child into a different person. Ask God to show you, instead, what a special gift this unique person is to the world.
It could be that the very quality in your child that confounds you now is the quality that will be the greatest blessing to you down the road.