By: Cassie Van Der Hyde
In the journey of parenting, I’m still in the early stages. Read: Trial and error. In order to preserve my sanity, I don’t read many advice columns or books. Too much stress! I’d rather read personal experiences than spend my time questioning whether I’m following “The Formula” correctly.
My oldest is almost nine. She’s always been independent, but she’s just now beginning to really develop her interests. Honestly, it’s been a real challenge to me to let her have those interests without me overthinking it. I’m a quiet, rule-following, somewhat cautious person who likes to worry a little extra about things. Amelia is free-spirited, unafraid to take risks, and has a true love for life in general. I am learning (slowly) to give her lots of opportunities to make new friends and do things that might make me feel a little afraid–within reason.
My middle kid, Elias, is a little more like I am–careful, reasons things out well before attempting, and likes his feet planted firmly on the soil at all times. What a challenge for me to also give him space and the ability to safely say no to things he truly doesn’t feel comfortable doing!
Personalities are tricky. It’s so tempting to make my free spirit stay safely, closely tethered where I can keep an eye on her. Likewise, I could also force my quiet guy to be in every group activity so that my ego wouldn’t be damaged when he’s not following all the others. Neither of these approaches lead to happy kids or happy parenting. In fact, I usually find myself super frustrated at the arbitrary rules I’ve placed on them that even I don’t feel like enforcing!
I’m one of six kids, and while we share the same sense of humor, we are utterly different from one another in most other ways. All of us deal differently with stress, show love differently, and rebelled from the rules in our own unique ways –sorry, Mom and Dad! I know it was a challenge for my parents raising all of us under the same set of values and character expectations but with six different personality approaches, but they did it! Sometimes that meant sacrificing their comfort levels–like when I was in high school and I took several long-distance mission trips to a number of challenging places, or when my brother decided he wanted to take flight lessons as a teenager. I’m thankful that they were able to say, “yes,” (maybe even through gritted teeth sometimes) to things we were passionate about so that we could grow into our own interests. In the end, they ended up with a nurse, an electrical engineer, a CPA, and a special-ed teacher, and two more kids still in the process of tending to their interests in school.
Like I said, I don’t like following parenting formulas designed to leave us feeling exhausted and inadequate – Should I homeschool? Charter? Public? Private? Sign them up for team sports? How about an instrument? Are they ever going to learn leadership skills without being in the Scouts? Augh!! There is no one size fits all! I’m still learning to love and care for all of my kids as they grow and not to stifle their joys in the things they love to do and learn. I’m trying to be careful to discern the difference between things that are character problems and things that I just don’t feel comfortable with! The former, of course I have to address… the latter? Maybe I’m the one who needs to learn to champion those personality differences and love them each in their own special way.