Admiring the Differences

Once, while talking to a neighbor about my kids, I mentioned that my oldest looks like my carbon copy but has her dad’s personality, while my youngest looks like her daddy but clearly inherited my soul.

I didn’t think anything of this comment, but my oldest heard it, and it evidently bothered her. She spent the next week or so trying to convince me that she was just like me on the inside. I felt awful, especially because her efforts to prove that she was like me only proved that the only personality trait she had in common with me was anxiety – something I already knew.

I am a type-A introvert, INFJ. I like things to be tidy, organized, and predictable. I like to know the plan, but I’ve also learned the hard way that sticking too strictly to a plan is the most sure-fire way to guarantee that things will not go according to plan. I am a rule follower. I like to do things right. I don’t socialize well, and I need alone time to recharge. While I inherited a family talent for art, I don’t enjoy it. Crafts are messy, and my products are never good enough to meet my own standards. I like to read, write, and complete puzzles, but I don’t enjoy video games or graphic novels.

My oldest is the total opposite. She is a type B extrovert, and if I had to guess, I’d say she was ESTP. She is messy, disorderly, and impulsive. She spontaneously comes up with ideas and wants everyone to drop what they are doing to make them happen. I’ve learned not to tell her “yes,” or even “maybe,” to any idea she proposes, because if something happens (like a thunderstorm preventing us from going to the pool), she becomes highly emotional. She’s less worried about doing things right than about simply getting them done, and she thinks rules are negotiable. She is incredibly social and fashion-forward. She also inherited the family talent for art but prefers messy crafts to drawing. Getting her to read, write, or sit and do a puzzle is a battle, but she’d play video games all day, she recently displayed an interest in graphic novels, and she designs power points for fun!

If you couldn’t already figure it out, these differences cause us to butt heads A LOT. I can’t understand why it’s so hard for her to develop simple habits, like putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. I can’t understand why she can’t ever just accept the answer she has been given. She can’t understand why I say no to a craft project because just can’t handle one more mess, or why sometimes I just need to do things alone even though she just wants to help.

Despite these differences and the challenges they cause, I try really hard to encourage her to be herself and to praise her for her strengths. Some days it’s really hard, and some weeks, like this past one, I really have to make a concentrated effort to focus on her gifts and her potential (hence, this post). But the truth is, while I might wish she would do a better job keeping her room clean, argue with me less, or even just pay more attention to what she is doing, I don’t want her to be my carbon copy inside and out.

I’m glad she is her own person, and I admire the qualities of her personality which I consider to be my own weaknesses. While I struggle with social interaction, she was awarded the “Social Butterfly” award at the end of this school year. Teachers and administrators have marveled at her ability to make friends with anyone, all of her friends’ parents tell me how much they love her, and more than a few have reached out to tell me how much they appreciate that she befriended their own struggling child. While writing is my superpower, and my need for perfection can be my greatest hindrance, she thrives in a visual world, where carelessness and imperfection can produce more beauty than symmetry and exactness, and I can’t wait to see the beautiful person she becomes.

Kelly first moved to New Orleans to attend Tulane University, from which she earned a B.S. in Psychology and English and an M.A. in English. She quickly discovered New Orleans was the place where she had always belonged and her high school sweetheart, Jeff, soon followed her here. They have now been married for 12 year and have two beautiful girls, Emma Jane (7) and Hannah (3). Kelly is a lover of all things nerdy and a proud fangirl. Though she loves to stay busy and involved, she recently left her job as a high school English teacher and sponsor to focus on her family and health. She is now teaching composition part time for a local university, working to revive her love of reading and writing, and focusing on being a more present mom.

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