Some things never change. I once was at a Mothers Of Preschoolers(MOPS) meeting and the mentor mom there was sharing with us. She was encouraging us that some things, some personality traits, come installed. She showed us her three children's kindergarten and graduation pictures. Each revealed a personality, and interestingly, each child stayed consistent. One child had a confident look in Kindergarten and in Senior year. Another one I remember clearly is the class clown. The wry smile on this boy's face was exactly the same. It has been at least ten years since I have been at a MOPS meeting (except for one that I shared at) but this stayed with me.
Today I celebrate my middle daughters 14th birthday. As I look back she has changed, of course, but there are some ways, that are essential to her that have not. When she was a toddler, we would visit my grandmother, and Grammy never failed to say “such a smiley kid, I never saw such a smiley kid!” When you meet her today most times you will see her contagious smile. She has a way of putting people at ease and she knows real empathy. She is better at hospitality than anyone I know and better at planning a bookclub or dinner than I am. She has been making place cards since she could write.
I do not remember when she started baking but her passion for it has never ended. She aspires to be a baker one day and she will ask several times a week if she can bake something. I believe the thing that gives her the most pleasure is that her creativity could make people happy. She has always been the family cheerleader. When I was sick, she would do whatever she could to cheer me up. I still have a drawing in my room that encourages me which says what I do that makes me "the best mom." This is what she has always done. Many will site birth order, she is a classic middle child. But I can attest that these traits were in her from the earliest times. As a toddler she was like this, I always had dandelions in a vase because they were “so pretty” and I needed them to cheer me. She could never go anywhere without a card or handmade present for whoever we were going to see.
Why am I telling you all this? Am I just wanting to brag on my child? Well, there has also been a timid nature to her too. She was so painfully afraid of being the center of attention. In group settings, she would be hiding in the back of the crowd. The more I prodded her to step out in confidence the further back she would hang. She had to be comforted, allowed to know she would not be forced to do anything. If I used that tactic, she would often try something she feared. I have another daughter I had to, for example, put on the merry-go-round, she would love it after but I could not let her think about it. Clearly I am not writing this to brag. Many a time I had a crowd looking at me as I was trying to calm a daughter who was crying and clutching at me, begging me not to make her do the thing she feared. It took me a while to realize too that middle daughter needed a different tack than the first. Not my brightest mom moments.
I am writing this to remind you that you are your child's best detective. Intuitively, you know what is best for your child and with a little trial and error you can know the best ways to encourage growth and acceptance in your child. Acceptance, of the personality that they came pre-loaded with and maturing of the qualities and skills you see. Allowing my little baker to experiment in the kitchen has led to some flops and those have been her greatest learning experiences. There is a purpose for each child and you are perfectly matched to help them see some of the good purposes that God has planned for them.
Your child is different from every other child in the world. They do not have your neighbor's child's temperament nor their exact situation. You may live in the same place, go to the same school and have the same cultural background but each of your children have such unique qualities. SO DO NOT COMPARE! Temperament, that is another good thing to touch on quickly, a great example of this bedtime for this middle girl of mine. She did not need much sleep, apparently. I put on soothing music and I would not hear from her and I expected to see her asleep, I would peek in and there was her little round head peeping up over the crib-rail. Never upset, always smiling at me, which was less endearing at 3 am. She still is a night owl. Temperament changes very little in my experience, the circumstances that the child brings her temperament to will but she will come at everything with that temperament.
Remember my MOPS mentor mom. Even her children's school pictures showed this consistency. I suggest you focus on the qualities and temperaments that are lovely and useful and encourage those. These will be the things that they bring to bear on the world. Encourage the God-given stuff that will promote His good purposes for them and for His kingdom. Happy 14th Birthday, SUNSHINE!
Paula is a wife and mother of 3. Follow along on her journeys of motherhood and her fulfilling work as a postpartum doula