Personalities on display
I’m lucky enough to have one of my best friends live just up the street. Just up a hilly street, in fact, that her kids walk, scooter or ride bikes down frequently. One recent morning my kids and I were finishing breakfast when we saw her three kids scooter down the hill on their way to the bus stop. The first, her oldest son, Matthew, breezed by in his easygoing manner, zig-zagging across the road with his foot poised above the brake just in case, a happy-go-lucky look on his face. “I’m here. It’s morning. It’s all good.” The next, Grace, scootered slowly but surely by, her foot methodically beating the ground, more for assurance than for speed. She paused at our driveway looking for my daughter and, spotting us in the window, beamed, waved up at us, and continued on toward the bus stop. Finally there was Henry. Following his brother and sister by a full five seconds, he flew by my front yard in a blaze of glory, head down, focused, fast. He passed one, then the other of his siblings before flinging himself onto the gravel near the bus stop with a little jump. Just for show. So that pretty much said it all. All their distinct little personalities right there on display. I love when we can see our kids in this light. Not that it reveals everything about them, or limits their possibilities. But, for me, it is a surefire glimpse into their most basic approach to life. I remember one family vacation when my kids were really young. They were sitting on the edge of a boat, poised to jump into the cool mountain lake. My oldest, Nick, who was about 7 at the time, looked back at his dad for encouragement. “Should I?” “Go for it!” Dad said with a smile. Not convinced, he looked at me. “Should I?” “Absolutely,” I said. “Jump in!” He moved a little closer to the edge of the boat but stopped short. He looked at his younger brother and said, “Come on, Ben, I’ll jump if you do.” “No way,” Ben said without hesitation. Some coaxing ensued, and the two boys went back and forth trying to muster the courage and the companionship to jump into the unknown. Meanwhile, my daughter, who was not quite 4, took one look over the edge and, while her brothers continued to debate, said, “I’ll go.” And she did. A surefire glimpse into their most basic approach to life. The challenge for adults is not to assume this basic approach defines our kids. We have to be open to the possibility that they may, in fact, simply defy that natural inclination and do something quite uncharacteristic. Like when Nick rappelled off a 600-foot cliff. (This from the boy who wanted assurance it was OK to jump 2 feet from the side of a boat.) I can think of dozens of examples when they’ve decided to stretch, to think outside the box, to push beyond their comfort zone. We’ve all done that. We all have our basic approach to life; our innate personality traits that we instinctively show to the world. But it’s when we dig deep and go beyond that basic instinct that we really discover what we’re made of. In the end, that is what truly defines us. Charla Belinski’s column appears every other week in the Post Independent. Contact her at Belinskis@comcast.net.
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