I am referring, of course, to my five children. Each of my offspring has developed into an individual with very distinct personality traits which has caused me, their mother, to develop into a chameleon of sorts by having to deal with their idiosyncrasies. Upon reflection, it isn’t the crazy pace of life we keep that has me spinning, rather it’s my constant adaptation to their needs and personalities that keeps me on my toes.
The oldest, Nick, who is nearing a quarter century (does that make him feel as old as it makes me feel?), has always been mature in thought, very articulate, always had an ease in speaking to adults while he was growing up (and yes, he can still do it now that he has joined the ranks). Nick has never been sports-minded, but he picked up a guitar at thirteen and fell in love with a plethora of music genres. School has never been his strong suit (wonder where he got that from?), there are times when procrastination is his best friend. However, Nick DOES have a passion for working on and with computers. Allen-Michael, on the other hand, is a freshman in college. He has incredible focus and time management skills. Loves tennis, HATES to clean his room, and is an all-around “nice” guy and good student. Not always the most articulate young man, his thoughts run deep and he has a great passion to be a faithful servant to others. Polar opposites in some respects, these two are pretty much on their own now, but, are never ever forgotten and always have their mom’s ear at the drop of a hat.
So now I really have “just” three (very individual) personalities to deal with on a daily basis(not including my husband and two crazy dogs…which are a story in and of themselves). Brigham will graduate from middle school this spring, he aspires to follow in Allen-Michael’s footsteps and earn a spot on the high school tennis team…he has always been a free-spirit, is very sensitive to others feelings, and often has his mind in the gutter (not unlike most 14-year-old boys). At nine, Maddux wrestles with preadolescence by moving between building Lego bricks and strategizing online while playing Minecraft. He competes with Brigham to be the family comedian. Again, not especially sports-minded, Maddux is a willing participant in boy scouts, taekwondo three times a week and is, overall, a very capable student. Mia, my only daughter, is six-going-on-sixteen. LOVES hip hop, hates ballet (mainly because she cannot stand the feel of tights on her legs) and is lukewarm on tennis…although her dad and I hope to keep her playing (good scholarship potential for girls). She is not into name brand clothing yet, thank God! Mia is an excellent student, a good friend to others and she is very outgoing. So how does a mother “deal” with all the different personalities that sprang from her belly?
First, and foremost, is parenting consistently. I say figure out your kids weakness (“currency”) early and exploit that to whatever level necessary for compliance. For example, Maddux LOVES his computer time (one hour a day), he will do anything not to lose it. He’s a piece of cake to discipline.
Second, I have always tried to build a relationship of mutual respect with each of my kids. They are free to share their thoughts and opinions, in a respectful manner, and I am free to disagree. For example, my daughter has been invited to a number of sleepovers this year which she has really wanted to attend. We have a ‘no sleepover’ rule at our house. She has a difficult time understanding why she can’t be like all the other girls. I let her voice her opinion and state her case, but her dad and I get the final say. She has a choice…attend the party until 10 p.m. (which is much later than her usual bedtime), or don’t go at all. So far this has worked a half a dozen times. She is trying to turn the tables and ask for a sleepover at HER house for her 7th birthday next month. This is a slippery slope I will not go down, so it’s my job to come up with an equally exciting compromise.
Third and final rule, guide. I allow my child’s strengths and abilities to come through naturally by exposing them to lots of different things and then letting them choose their course. We’ve tried all sorts of sports with all the kids…some stuck with a few, others just never found their niche. The youngest two expressed an interest in acting, so that has been something we’ve pursued by both attending local childrens theater and by giving them a chance to act in a few as well. Was I sad when they no longer wanted to be on stage, yes. But, they are being guided, not goaded, into activities. I will tell you, however, if they commit to something they have to see it through. Mia HATES ballet at this point (again the tights are an issue and, quite frankly, I can’t blame her), but she knows no matter how much she carries on, she has to finish the year and perform in the recital. She signed on in the fall, we paid for the costumes, boom! It’s a lesson in commitment.
Dictionary.com defines Karma as “fate or destiny”. These same offspring will one day be in charge of taking care of me in my old age. I hope the way I’ve parented them will come back to bless me. In the meantime, I gotta tell you, my choosing to study psychology is no coincidence and has indeed been a real life saver!