I’m often amazed by the different personalities within our family of four. My husband, an introvert by nature, has the brilliant, organized mind of an engineer with a tendency to view life as a puzzle to solve. He processes conversations slowly and chooses his words wisely. He also has this goofy side that wears a horrible Rod Stewart-like wig and gets on the floor to tickle the heck out of our kids.
I consider myself the most extroverted introvert I’ll ever meet. I appreciate deep conversations, hilarious stories, and coffee dates with friends. And yet I crave silence. Mmmmm….solitude (insert your best Homer Simpson here). I am a quick thinking verbal processor so I work at being patient with a husband who processes life at a much slower pace than his wife.
And then there’s our children…
A few weeks ago, I took Selah and Jude to the doctor for their annual check-ups. Aside from trying to figure out who needed which vaccines, I wasn’t expecting to learn much. Or at least to learn more than I already know about their personalities.
Boy, was I surprised.
We arrived with our “tick about to pop” look due to the unseasonably frigid temps. After unbuckling seatbelts, collecting coats and hats, and making sure no one had frost bite, we made our way inside. While waiting for our favorite doctor, Selah paced the small room and tearfully, frantically said, “Mom, am I getting a shot? If I do, I’m going to scream. Mom, which shot am I getting? Will it be in my arm or leg? It’s going to hurt like crazy. Oh, I don’t want a shot!” Because her shot records are literally all over the map (she has lived in 3 states in her 6 years of life) and she hasn’t had a shot in over 2 years, I could not figure out which one(s) she needed. I had tried to prepare her for the possibility of a “small pinch”, maybe two. Meanwhile, Jude sat on my lap, relaxed, making random comments about bodily functions.
Doctor entered the room, smiled, and greeted Selah and Jude, who remained shy, suspicious. While Doctor looked at his laptop and chatted with me, Selah mumbled loud enough for all to hear, “I don’t know why anyone needs to look at me. I’m NOT sick. Nothing is broken. I’m fine. I don’t even know why we need doctors. This is so stupid.” I can only imagine what Doctor typed as her comments filled his ears.
Selah volunteered to be examined first. After mumbling more about this seemingly pointless visit, she sat up on the table and allowed Doctor to assess her from head to toe…but only so far. She laid down and when Doctor gently put his hands on her belly, she slapped them away and said, “Don’t do that.” He kindly told her that he had to feel her belly to see if she had any poop inside. That made her giggle, barely. He finished the exam but not without more scowling from his patient.
And then came Jude, who happily climbed onto the table, giggled while I took off his shirt, and grinned throughout his entire exam. When Doctor checked his belly, Jude looked back at me and “whispered” loudly, “MOM, I THINK HE’S GONNA CHECK MY WIENER.” As my faced reddened, I managed a basic explanation as to why Doctor needed to check his wiener. (The first explanation had already taken place en route to the doctor.)
After the physical exams were complete, we learned that Selah did not need any shots but that Jude needed two. Selah was exuberant, then hugged her brother, fearing the worst for him. Jude got quiet. The nurse came in, gave two quick “pinches” on Jude’s arm, and left us. Jude sucked his thumb and held on tightly to his stuffed bear. But he never made a peep. Not a wimper or cry. Nothing.
I marvel at the differences in these two created souls. Selah, our intense, determined, compassionate deep thinker wants life figured out NOW. She loves Jesus and sings worship songs with great fervor, wanting to know the meaning behind the lyrics. She hands out justice on her terms and recently informed me that she “wasn’t made to wait.” She is fiercely loyal, hilarious, highly aware of her surroundings, and sensitive to the moods of others. And she’ll slap your hand if you’re a doctor and you try to touch her belly.
Jude, our smart, impish, typically easy-going fellow plays contentedly for hours. Literally. He gladly entertains himself with stories about his cars, trucks, tractors, trains, and Legos. He often creates scenarios where his toys argue with each other but eventually reconcile and he can memorize any song. He enjoys making others laugh and wants to marry a certain girl at church who finds him funny. And he’ll giggle his way through any physical exam.
Which personality do you think our culture values more?
From my observation and experience, Jude’s mellow, more compliant disposition appears more acceptable. This saddens me as I see the beauty in both personalities and I want so badly for my daughter to be appreciated for her strength, depth, and creativity. There are some who “get” her but Selah has begun to notice that “everyone loves Jude.” She is keenly aware of how others perceive her. I can see now that her sensitivity to others may also be a liability.
I can’t change our culture and I can’t make people appreciate the personalities of my children. That’s not my point. That’s not my job. My point is that no matter what personality type our culture may value, I want to appreciate each of them. And not only Selah and Jude, but each person in my life.
Can I learn to do that? Can I take the time to get to know the introverts without forcing them to be more outgoing? Can I laugh out loud with the extroverts and still be authentic? Can I be a little more sensitive to the wallflowers? Can I choose kindness and restraint with those personalities that challenge me more than I care to admit? Can I really see each person as handmade by the Almighty? Some days I don’t and some days I just want to be around people who are like me. And to be honest, some days I just want to be around me. I’m slowly learning to see the handprint of God on each personality and to extend grace, even to the ones who annoy me.
I hope that Selah and Jude will believe the Truth that God delights in them. Both of them.
I pray that they hold fast to the characteristics that God values (like humility, justice, and courage) rather than aim to meet the expectations of our changing culture.
I pray to be the kind of mother who helps them navigate the strengths and weaknesses of their personalities.
I hope that they will see the love and creative Genius behind their design.
And I want them to give thanks to the One who created them.
Because I sure do.