Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Question of Personality

You Are An Intro-Extrovert!

Sometimes you're social - sometimes you're shy

You've got a bit of an Introvert / Extrovert split going on

You enjoy all sorts of situations. Parties, small groups, and alone time.

Too much of one, and you'll long for the other. You need variety!

Chances are, you've got both serious and fun friends - and they don't get along.

I've posted the above quiz in relation to this discussion at Danielle Bean's of this one at Amy Welborn's. It seems like everyone is talking about parenthood and introversion, or parenthood and personality type.

On the standard Myers-Briggs type of tests, I usually come out as an extrovert. But I like the Blogthings quiz above, non-serious though it may be, because it's more how I tend to feel. For instance, when a typical Myers-Briggs test asks a question like this: "Does spending time with people exhaust you or leave you feeling recharged?" my honest answer is "Totally depends on the people." And when the question asks, "Would you rather go to a party with friends, or stay home and read a book?" my answer, again, is, "Depends on the kind of party, the type of friends, and the author of the book!"

I'm not at all an introverted mom, but I don't know that I can take any credit for this. Growing up as the second oldest of nine children, I learned to tune out noise and distractions, not as a function of my personality but as a survival skill (those of you out there from larger families know exactly what I mean!) I had places in each of the numerous houses my family lived in that were my "quiet spots;" they ranged from a corner near some built-in bookcases to a tree outside a dining room window to a space behind a tall shelf that was set out a little way from the wall at just the right angle for a thirteen-year-old to squeeze behind and play a space-invaders handheld game (mute button on) for what seemed like hours at a time, though it probably never exceeded twenty minutes. Knowing that the quiet spots were there was all I really needed; being able to choose the occasional bit of solitude was sometimes more important than actually being alone.

So as I got older I sometimes enjoyed being alone, and sometimes preferred to be in the company of others. I remember especially in the months between quitting my job and Kitten's arrival, that I enjoyed the actual solitude of our tiny apartment--but was glad when Mr. C. got home each evening, and was glad to spend time with his family on weekends. I can't say that I'd enjoy copious amounts of solitude and silence; I'd probably be lonely, and I know I'd be less inspired to write anything--but by the same token the thought of a life of constant social activity seems like it would get rather tiresome rather quickly, too. A happy medium between social activity and opportunity for introspection seems like the ideal to me.

Before seeing all the posts on the topic of parents and personality types, I didn't realize how much of a blessing it is to be a middle-of -the-road sort when it comes to the introvert/extrovert category. After reading about how difficult it can be for the introverted parent to deal with extroverted kids, or for the extroverted parent to understand the introvert's need for some quiet alone time, I can realize that being able to relate and sympathize with either type is an advantage for a mom.

Even so, I know that part of being a parent is understanding that your children are their own unique selves, and that they will find early opportunities to express this. I recall being utterly enchanted by Kitten when, at age five months, she suddenly and abruptly refused to be covered by even the lightest of blankets, and would kick her little legs furiously until the blanket was off, grinning at me the whole while. She later became the most "blankie" attached of my babies, and had to drag around with her not only her own blanket, but one for her favorite stuffed toy, too.

But after Kitten came Bookgirl, who wasn't particular about blankets one way or the other; she sometimes carried a little receiving blanket around, but more in imitation of her big sis than for any other reason. I never really saw her snuggle it or chew on it like Kitten would do, and she never got into a panic if it couldn't be found.

And then Hatchick arrived; one day, when she was still only a couple of months old she was in one of those fussy baby moods, and I couldn't seem to soothe her at all. As I put her down on my bed to check her diaper for the umpteenth time to see if changing it would help, Kitten, age about two and a half, came and stood beside the bed and solemnly assessed the situation. "She need her blankie," Kitten pronounced; she went to the bassinet crib beside my bed and pulled the green fuzzy receiving blanked out of it. Then she set it gently down beside her sister, and placed a corner of it into Hatchick's hand.

Hatchick immediately stopped crying, her little fingers curling and uncurling around the soft edge of the blanket as her eyes began to droop closed. She ended up being as blankie-attached as her oldest sister (in fact, she still has that green 'blankie').

That moment, like so many in parenthood, was the kind of moment when you realize that God made families the way He did for a reason. If Mom can't intuitively grasp all the different facets of each child's personality, maybe Dad will know, or maybe an older sibling will hear a sound in the baby's cry that's easier for her to understand than it is for either Mom or Dad.

So if Mom is an introvert trying to understand why one son or daughter always wants to be with other people, or if Mom is an extrovert who gets frustrated by a child's shy demeanor, it's really going to be okay. Mom isn't in this alone.

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