At this age of parenting, I have to assume we have each achieved a certain degree of self-awareness. We often know our own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of our child’s other parent.
For me, though, that awareness does NOT necessarily translate to having more patience with my kids when they show the same strengths and weaknesses. In fact, it kind of make me want to claw my eyes out. We have two sons. We have a daughter, too, but she is entirely her own person, thank God.
Our older son is literally a younger, male version of me.
He is incredibly sensitive (overly so sometimes!) and such a rule-follower. He is constantly reminding me to “drive fast, but not over the speed limit”. This little man loves babies and animals, and gets all his week’s homework done on Monday.
For these reasons, my husband sometimes struggles to relate to him.
My husband cannot understand our son’s deep sensitivity, and quickly grows impatient with his (frequent) tears. My husband wants to hunt animals, not feed them and build them houses, as my son (and I) do. I caused a little marital argument the other day when I removed a mole-killing trap from our yard, so as not to harm said mole. Apparently I didn’t disengage the trap, though, and it could have stabbed anyone who found it in the garage. Oops. Details I don’t consider.
Our second son is wildly personable, talks to everyone, and is quite ornery.
I either want to hug and squeeze this kid until it hurts, or lock myself in a bathroom. This little one makes me want to scream or belly laugh; there is no middle ground. He learned to make elk sounds (Google that one) before your basic household pets: cats, dogs, and the like. He can identify the difference between deer and moose antlers, and generally just takes after his dad.
Yep, you guessed it: sometimes I have trouble relating to my second son.
Some days, he drives me CRAZY and uses up my entire quota of patience by nap time. It’s funny how the very qualities that initially attracted us to our child’s other parent can drive us crazy when they come out in our child. Granted, those qualities are generally untethered and uncontrolled in children!
Which is where you come in, as the parent.
Sometimes our kids are SO. GOOD. at pushing our buttons because they are demonstrating some personality trait we don’t like about ourselves or our child’s other parent. How quickly we forget that the biological chance of sharing undesirable personality traits with our kiddos is pretty high! So here’s the good news: the faster I recognize why I am so irritated with a particular child, the faster my patience reserves fill back up. The same might be true for you.
When I grow irritated with my older son for being too slow and perfectionistic, I remember this direct quote from his preschool conferences. Preschool teacher: “He struggles a bit with perfectionism….maybe you could model making mistakes and giving yourself grace?” Me: “ummmm….” Yeah…I do that all the time. No really, I do. When I am frustrated with our youngest son’s irritability, I try to stop and wait for him to make me laugh. Because that’s what his dad does; he makes me laugh when I’m at my angriest.
Here’s the good news: even some of those qualities you don’t like about yourself have made you a pretty fantastic adult. And with some help from you, the same will be true of your kiddos. Extreme sensitivity might give your child a deep passion for the plights of others. Dogged persistence could make your little one very successful in his or her career. Chances are, your mini-me is going to be just fine.