Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Embracing the Differences

Do you ever look around you, maybe at your sisters or your friends, and wonder if everyone’s marriage and family life are like yours? I do. I already know, since my older sister is my closest friend, that her marriage is nothing like mine. You might be thinking, “of course no woman’s marriage is like another’s!”, but I would respectfully disagree. I think that there are definite patterns in all relationships, and I think that these patterns have everything to do with temperament.

However, I am getting ahead of myself. My main point is this: I live in a very passionate (to use my husband’s word) or intense (to use mine) house. My husband and I are both extremely intense people. We are both Type-A personalities who tackle everything we do head-on and 100%. Now, try to imagine what that looks like in a conflict situation! I met my husband when I was 18 years old, and I thank the good Lord every day that He led me to him at a tender age because, had a few more years gone by, I don’t know if we could have grown together enough to compensate for our…intensity!

Naturally, then, my marriage won’t in any way resemble that of someone who is herself intense but married to a more laid-back individual. The dynamic is completely different. Still more different would be the marriage of two laid-back people. What a quiet household that would be! The real adjustments come, though, when children enter the picture. As you may know if you read Heart of the Matter regularly, writing about gifted children is my calling. Well, one hallmark of gifted children tends to be – guess what? Their intensity. Oh, boy!

The older my children get, and my oldest two are only just eight and six, the more interesting the dynamic in our house becomes. Without getting too technical (if you’re like me, you turn to Heart of the Matter first thing in the morning!), Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski isolated five different types of intensities typically exhibited by gifted kids: psychomotor, sensual, emotional, intellectual, and imaginational. Although your child certainly may have more than one of these intensity types, it is likely that one of them is more predominant than the others. For characteristics of all the intensity types, please reference this article. If you’ve never before thought of your child as gifted, reading some of these characteristics may cause you to look at him in a new light!

As you read through the characteristics, though, you might very well have another thought: with the exception of the intellectual intensity, surely the one typically associated with a gifted child, the other descriptions bring to mind a child who might not always be quite so easy to parent! While my six year-old son, referred to in previous posts as “N” is absolutely highly intellectual, he also possesses every psychomotor characteristic in spades! When you combine that with his emotional intensity, you have a child who would surely be diagnosed with something were he in public school. In my darkest moments, I silently wonder if he has ADHD, but then I watch him read or play Legos for hours, or watch him master a math concept three grade levels ahead in a matter of minutes. Hence, when well-meaning friends watching him have an emotional breakdown ask, “has he been diagnosed with anything?”, my ready response is, “yes: B-O-Y.”

Perhaps this discussion of the characteristics of gifted children seems like a digression from my original starting point, but it is really all part of my twofold mission in writing for HOTM: to help others identify, learn about, and nurture their gifted children, and to help homeschooling moms avoid the terrible trap of comparing themselves in anyway with anyone. I hope that this piece helps you further to see why it is so pointless to make these comparisons. Not only can you not compare your priorities with anyone else’s (yours are not theirs), but you can’t compare your families, because each family has its own particular combination of temperaments. My family’s boiling pot of two intense parents, two intense older children, one intense younger twin, and one (thank the good Lord!) placid and sweet younger twin makes for a very unique combination that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Of course there are other families with all intense personalities, and those families understand the, ahem, passionate house in which I live. The quiet and calm families at which I gaze longingly probably think my whole household should be teleported to an insane asylum!

So, what’s the upshot? The same as always! Trust in God! He gave you the spouse who is right for you, just as he gifted you with the children who are right for you! If you ever find yourself wondering why it seems that yours is the noisest, or most intense, house on the block, or, conversely, why your family seems to coast along in serenity while your best friend calls you in tears weekly because there has been yet another blowup over *something* in her household, consider the temperaments of the people who make up your family. Maybe it’s an angle you’ve never before considered!

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