As we are aware that the habits we instill in our children will carry through to their adult years, I recently worked my way through the “Practical Personality” material by Mystie Winckler and did my best to “type” each of the kids, and both parents.
Hubby and I studied the information on each child and made a list of strengths and weaknesses we wanted to be aware of as we made our plans for the coming year. It’s a tricky balance between understanding their individual needs and coming up with a system and schedule that works for all 9 people in our home. Or if we need more than one system, systems that I can manage without going crazy.
I don’t know that we have a complete answer yet, but there was one result from our studies I didn’t expect. One of the children is a “type” that I struggle to relate to. The risk-taker, highly motivated by reward, wants a grand adventure, don’t-pin-me-down sort that I delight in and yet have no idea how to raise.
I’m not big into risk. I’m self-disciplined and dependable, loyal. Risk-taking, and the people who do it, intimidate me. So how do I raise this person? How do I help them walk in their amazing strengths and use them for good, while fighting some of the struggles that come with this slightly unpredictable bent?
The very aspects of this personality (ESTP, by the way) that will serve them well in their adult life are absolutely daunting to a parent and teacher of this child who doesn’t fit the mold of “sit down and accomplish all of your tasks – do them well- and stay on schedule!” Schooling at home means I can consider the temperament of each child, but it doesn’t mean I have any idea how to HELP build healthy habits and stay true to their God stamp.
Now, obviously, God knew what he was doing when He put this child in our family. He wasn’t surprised and He has deemed us just the right people to shepherd this kid into adulthood. We put our faith in His sovereignty and are grateful that He trusts us with such a fantastic individual.
So, as with most things, we will try something and see how it goes. Parenting is basically just throwing noodles at the fridge to see what sticks. Some days, we don’t see any progress, any indication that anything we are doing is getting through, effecting change or growth. Or even creating a sane human being.
I will admit, I get frustrated when the fruit takes a long time to show. My friend Annie recently wrote about a friend who planted an avocado pit and was surprised to get an actual avocado-bearing tree out of it after several years of being utterly forgotten. She writes,
“But the part we didn’t see were all those days in the middle. The dead days. The days where nothing grew and nothing changed on the outside, but everything was changing on the inside.”
These days aren’t entirely dead, but I have to remind myself that the work I’m hoping for, praying for, aiming for in these people I’m raising isn’t always something I can see. That dormancy doesn’t last forever. And that my hope is not in my efforts, my fruitless noodle-throwing, but in the work of Jesus.
“He alone brings life from death, even when it feels like no new fruit will ever will grow in those dry, barren places.”
P.S. Do take the time to read the rest of Annie’s piece. I’ve been studying through Romans with the SheReadsTruth crowd and her piece happened to strike me right in the Parental Feels. But there’s so much more to what she had to say… Please go read it!
*Those are affiliate links to Mystie’s material, by the way. All proceeds go toward my coffee fund. 😉
On long or short car rides as a family, Husband and I often roll our eyes and joke that we are chaperones on the longest middle school field trip ever. Because with kids ages 13 down to 5, the humor level never rises above 5th grade. And we’ll be here for the next decade – trapped in a vehicle with poop jokes and missing deodorant.
My kids are a miracle. I’m aware of it. After two very hard years of infertility and miscarriage before God blessed us with (a whole lotta) children, I am keenly aware and grateful. I talk to friends struggling with infertility now, or who are pregnant in a high risk situation, and I remember the fear and trembling that I felt. I cuddle up to my baby (who is five but he still cuddles don’t judge) and sniff his head – I am so grateful.
But I realized recently, I forget to wonder and marvel at who they are now. Oh, sure, I’m grateful for every year, I cherish the moments, all the things we’re supposed to do. But these days are hard days of parenting. It’s emotionally exhausting, loving a child so much and realizing I can’t do anything to change the heart within. To just patiently love and pray and wait for Jesus to do the work. So I think I’ve lost sight of the fact that those big, meaty thirteen-year-old paws are just as much a miracle as the tiny, dimpled fingers I kissed a long time ago. They are growing, maturing, and the humans they are becoming are just as much a gift to me as the babies they once were.
The 10 year old doesn’t have cheeks for days any more, she’s got earrings and a new confidence in her step. And if I’m not careful, I’ll keep missing those cheeks of yore and forget to marvel at the miracle she is at 10. She’s finding her rhythm, finding the things that she loves to do, conquering dyslexia, and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. I see her falling in love with Jesus as her friend. And I should stop and wonder at it, rather than missing the girl that was or chomping at the bit to meet the woman that will be.
My 11 year old embraces his quirks, has a story to tell for everything, keeps up with his big brothers like a champ, and is learning to be comfortable in his own skin. We all know his growth spurt is eminent, so we watch him like we watch the almost-blooming rosebuds in my husband’s garden – certain it’ll happen while we’ve blinked or gone inside. But he’s a marvel right now, just as he is, all 60 pounds soaking wet of him.
I think it’s too tempting in this particular parenting season – the official Middle of It – to turn and wish for the old days, when your biggest problem was nap time and they all still smelled good most of the time. It wasn’t easier then, but it seems like it now. So we miss their cheeks and dimples and pigtails and forget to appreciate the miracle of the Awkward Middle. The big front teeth, the unkempt hair, the oversized feet, the jeans that are never long enough, and the spots on the face. Growing up is painful. And these people we made are Surviving It. Isn’t that amazing???
I may not survive parenting them through it – but they’re gonna make it on through just fine.
And aren’t we all in the middle of our own awkward stage? Jesus is still teaching me, still molding, still waiting for my teeth to grow into my face. (Spiritually speaking, I mean. My physical teeth fit fine, thank you.) And it’s a miracle! My Christian walk feels like the tween years all the time – nothing fits right, nothing comes out of my mouth right, I’m just not completely cooked yet – not on this side of heaven.
So God keeps parenting. He perseveres despite my mood swings, my two steps forward followed by four steps back. He keeps loving, keeps urging me on, setting high expectations and reminding me of grace when I fail. He disciplines me and provides for me and shows me patience beyond patience. He’s the perfect Middle School Parent.
What better picture of this than my own, miraculous, Middle of It All kids. Those tiny little upper lip hairs and mood swings are a Wonder. Their little bodies still work (thank you, Jesus), I can practically hear them growing if my close my eyes and listen. And as we lope into full on teenager years and my weeping and praying gets amped up even more, I don’t want to forget that they weren’t just a miracle in the past decade, they are a living, breathing miracle right in front of me. A work in progress. Just like me.