The extroverted feeler and the teacher

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: brace.

My sister was an extroverted feeler.

In fourth grade, she started getting sick a lot. My mother noticed a pattern. My sister was sick on Monday. She was avoiding school like crazy.

My parents were having difficulty figuring it out. EF’s grades were great. She was unhappy.

Then my parents went to a parent teacher conference.

My mother told this story: “The teacher said that EF came to her desk and asked to borrow a paper clip. Later, she came and asked to borrow a second paperclip. The teacher then produced the two paper clips. “Your daughter made braces with the paperclips. For her teeth!” The paperclips were bent.

“Um. Don’t you think that is sort of creative?” asked my mother.

“No.” said the teacher.

My mother would laugh telling the story and say, “After that, I pretty much let EF miss every Monday. I would not have wanted to go to school with that teacher either.”

The extroverted feeler and responsible behavior

My son is an extroverted feeler and my daughter is an introverted thinker.

When he was 12 and she was 7, their father and I were working out the details of a divorce. Their father moved out for a year, moved back in for a year, and now was out again. It had taken me two years of couple’s counseling to decide that yes, we did need to get divorced. Now we were in the year of hammering out the details.

One day he came over and was obnoxious and rude. I got angry and yelled and threw him out. I slammed the door after him. I didn’t usually do that and it felt both good and bad.

The kids were conferring. I wondered if I’d scared them, losing my temper. They both came to me.

“Mom, we don’t want you to yell at dad and make him leave.” said the EF, arms crossed. The IT stood beside him. “And no slamming doors.”

“But he was rude first!” I said, realizing as I said it, uh, lame. And where have I had this conversation before?

“We know that he was rude. But we aren’t talking about him. We are talking about your behavior. We don’t care what he does.” They both looked stern and fierce.

“So I have to behave no matter what he does.” I said. They nodded. “You are right. I apologize for yelling at dad, throwing him out and slamming the door. I need to behave anyhow. That’s what I tell you, right?”

“Yes, mom.” And then they both hugged me to comfort me.

I felt sheepish for behaving badly, but mostly proud. Proud that my kids felt comfortable confronting a misbehaving adult and the one with whom they were living, me. Right after a yelling tantrum, too. And proud that they were giving me back the message that I’d given them for years: I don’t care what the other kid did, that is not acceptable behavior. And overall I felt pretty good that I really had not yelled and slammed doors very often: we’d done the majority of our fighting in the counselor’s office and had tried to make it very clear that it was not the kids’ fault.

The photograph is of my son in Thailand. He was a Rotary Exchange Student, to Trang. I don’t know who took the photograph.

Previously published on everything2.com.

 

The introverted thinker and the giant

My mother tells this story:

“The introverted thinker is three. I tell her to clean up her toys. She has a mat with cardboard houses and cars. I hear her in the other room, talking. First a low voice, then very high voices.

Low voice: “Stomp, stomp, stomp.”

High voices: “No, no, help, help! Run, run!” (small crashing sounds).

Low voice: “I am a giant, stomp, stomp.”

I peek in the room. The introverted thinker is kicking all the houses and cars over, being a giant. Then she cleans up the houses and the cars.”

And my mother laughs, and everyone who listens.

 

And do adults feel like giants to children sometimes? Giants in uniform who take their parents away? And can the child do anything? How helpless they may feel. 

My son took this picture of his sister.

The introverted thinker in the garden

My second earliest memory is between age three and four. We have moved to upstate New York, Trumansburg, and are living with my grandmother. I am old enough to know that I can’t pick random things outside and eat them. However, my grandmother has a currant bush: red currants.

I am amazed to see her picking and eating something outside. Does she not have to follow the rules? And then she lets me eat some. And I do not instantly die.

“You may pick them and eat them off this bush whenever you want.” says my grandmother.

I remember the color of the currants and the taste and the miracle of having permission to go eat something on my own recognizance, outside in the great wide wild world. I was so thrilled and entranced with the currant bush and my grandmother.

Here are red, black and white currants from the farmer’s market yesterday. I put them in a fruit salad with a honey melon that was so ripe that is dripped, and added apples and blueberries and lemon juice. Mmmmm, bounty. The tartness of the currants is delicious with the sweet melon.

 

The Introverted Thinker whines

One morning, the Introverted Thinker was whining. She was about 8, she was tired, the alarm had not gone off.

“I.T., you are whining.”

She continued to droop and delay and whine.

I thought, “I hate whining.” I thought of my parents. My mother would say, “Go away and come back when you can talk to me without whining.” I’ve read parenting books that tell us to say, “I can’t understand you when you whine. Say it without whining.”

But I was in a vulnerable place myself. I thought, when we whine, we are feeling very vulnerable. And to be sent away until we stop expressing that vulnerability, well, is that the message that I want to send? I thought, what do I want to be told when I wish I could whine or when I DO whine? Certainly not to go away alone with my whiny self. I thought: I want to be loved anyhow, even when I’m behaving badly.

I hugged her right away and said, “I love all of you, even the parts that whine.”

She stopped. Instantly. She just stood there in the hug for a moment and then got dressed, ate breakfast and went off to school. She didn’t seem insulted or hurt. It was just as if I’d heard her and reassured her: I am present when you are vulnerable and I love you. The whole you.

First published on everything2 on Wednesday, August 4, 2010