Slouching Mom sent her questions first, so she's up first. Emily will follow in a second post.
1. An essential question in the psychology of personality is whether one's personality is determined more by genetic or environmental influences. Using Patience's and Persistence's dispositions as a frame of reference, state your opinion as to the relative contributions of nature versus nurture in the development of personality.
I'm not sure I could quantify or prove it, but since having children I am more convinced that our personalities are predetermined to the majority degree. I'm not sure whether this surprises or validates what I previously thought.
It's probably my single largest stressor in parenting.
Patience is so much like me it scares me. Her hairy eyeball and downputting phrases such as, "I don't know you," to the school person? That is classic me. I don't like to call her mini-me, but...you know, that saying about a duck and quacking.
However, I don't want her to end up like me, so I try so hard---too hard?---to provide a very different experience in the hope that she'll come out better. This is very telling of the view I have of myself and much of my life.
She's such a perfectionist. She's so ambitious. She's her own worst enemy. She takes things so hard. She gets frustrated so easily. She's so creative and bright. She thinks about things you can't hardly imagine, or thinks about things in ways you can't hardly imagine. She is hyperaware of her surroundings, especially people, and has an uncanny ability to read people, almost to the point of knowing what they are thinking. She notices the God in the details. She is eloquent in her descriptions and understanding of the world around her. She is truly an amazing child.
(And yes, acknowledging that, all things considered, is also telling of a potential revision of the view I have of myself.)
I want her to gain mastery of the elements of her. I want her to know how to keep her pros good, and be able to handle and turn to the best possible outcome her cons.
Like all parents do, I want her to have the best life possible full of wonder and joy. I want her to enjoy life, overall, and be able to ride out the parts that you can't enjoy.
I expected a completely unique person, so seeing so much of myself is a shock, both gratifying and horrifying.
Here is a chance for what could have been my potential to do better.
You see why it is my worst aspect of parenting?
On the flip side, it pushes me to resolve within myself and do better as well, so as to set the right model.
And I know I have not made her so---although being so similar I am sure I passively encouraged certain traits---because I have worked so hard to NOT facilitate certain traits, such as perfectionism. Yet here we are. She came as she came.
As for Persistence, she is a total politician. She knows how to work a crowd. She came an extrovert. I think she's the extrovert version of her father, only fair and blonde. Which is weird. How recessive is that gene? I see some of myself in her too: the mischievousness, the experiments, the curiosity, the independence. In a way, she blends two sides of us. Maybe the best sides. She has a huge charisma that works much better within her than it does within me (too aggressive) or my husband (too quiet). I am almost too comfortable in my faith that Persistence will be okay and do okay. It makes me nervous,like I ought to be more careful and pay closer attention. So, for a while I do, and what I see simply shoots me back to my complacency. She's fine. Persistence is a pretty chipper, strong-minded, bright, charming, friendly, good friend, eloquent kid who is relatively sure of her importance in the universe. People like her, they respond to her in ways they never did with Patience. Everyone wants to know Persistence.
I marvel at my kids, and know they will be who they are in spite of me more than because of me.
I guess that's why I attribute a lot more to nature these days.
And here's the crucial bit: I work so hard because while I believe so much of who we are is predetermined by nature, how we are is more attributable to nurture. With good example and guidance, we can make the most of what we came with. I just hope I do good enough parenting to help them do their best with what they came with.
2. Describe your ideal day.
Err, it depends on when you ask me, but since you asked me today?
I just want to be alone. Nobody asking anything of me, no demands on me, no deadlines, no tasks, no chores.
I want to be away, by myself.
I want to sleep in, comfortable in a bed, with a great book on the bedside table. I don't want to get up until *I'm* hungry. Then I want to be able to join a group breakfast with pleasant chatting, on a terrace, with temperate weather and a water view. Afterwards, I want to be able to take a walk alone through nice gardens. I want to find a hammock under a tree, where I can hear waves crashing. I want to stretch out, sink into the rest, and read some more.
When I feel dozy, I want to catnap for ten minutes, then go get a massage, muscle and lymph. I want to doze further while being pampered, from start to finish.
I'll enjoy a quiet meal with pleasant companions.
Go to bed, watch a good chick flick, fall asleep early, sleep deeply all night, and wake in the morning rejuvenated enough to miss my family and be ready to return home.
3. What do you look for in a friend? According to your own definition, are you a good friend?
(Advance caveat, excuse my generalizations and stereotypes here. I know there are exceptions. )
Loyalty and honesty popped into my head first.
By that I mean...I like to know where I stand, no guessing. I need to feel comfortable with my friends, not suspect a hidden agenda. I am a fairly straight arrow and expect that others are, so am often unpleasantly surprised. If I want you to know something, I tell you. If I need something, I ask you. I do not often use a lot of fluff or buttering up. I am not good at the little things, like calling every day, shooting the breeze, chit chat, remembering all your details and asking after them, thinking of little warm fuzzies, etc. So some people are sometimes unpleasantly surprised when I don't do these little things but then act friendly.
This is why historically my better friends were men, instead of women. Men don't usually weight these things highly, or expect them all the time. Walking up and getting straight to the point is usually fine with men. And I tend to be direct that way. Also, if I'm in a rush and do nothing more than breeze past with a hello, men tend to say, "Oh she must be in a rush," and dismiss it, move on, go about their day. It seems like women tend to analyze it, "Oh my, Julie didn't seem as friendly as usual, she wasn't chatty, she opted not to sit and talk with us...is she mad? mad at me? Is something wrong in her life?"
On the one hand, this level of care and concern is sweet. And women are awesome for it.
On the other hand...err, sometimes it just is what it is, and I wish it could begin and end there, with less fanfare. Like I said, if I've got an issue a friend needs to know about I'll tell.
This is why now I am sort of angsty at times about friendship, because I have more women friends.
Do I think I'm a good friend? Yes and no.
By my definition of who and what I like, yes.
By the typical female definition, no.
I think the little things weigh a ton for most women in friendships. Also, I tune into myself and my own life, a lot. Umm, again, a little more like men. I think this might be part of the introversion, but not totally. I am far more introverted than a lot of women, especially when it comes to certain life topics or situations. When I turtle, I can't tell you how many friends get personally offended. The very, very few do not take it personally and get upset or hurt.
And yet...you can always count on me. Do you need me? Ask, I'm there for you (but don't expect me to guess). Want loyalty? I'm your gal. You don't even need to ask. Need discretion? Unconditional caring? Call on me.
To me, this sounds like a good friend. But, I acknowledge that those little things matter and I think a lot of people have a hard time seeing past them.
I know it sounds like an unfair expectation---because don't we all like and love people despite certain things?---but I like to know that someone likes me because of who I am rather than in spite of who I am...make sense?
Since moving to Texas I have been reminded of this. It's not something I ran into as much in Massachusetts, where people seem more understanding of directness, and were not typically intimidated by me. Now, back here, I remember all the things I felt before about being Just Too Big a Personality for the Southern Way. My type of personality is actively advocated against in this culture.
(This happens to be a great segue to the next question.)
4. You've enumerated several reasons why you miss living in Massachusetts, as well as a few reasons why living in Texas has been challenging. Tell us something that is uniquely positive about living in Texas.
(If I were not in such a rush...I'd link to posts with photos of the beauty where we live, posts about good times here, and so forth. But...I am in a rush and can't easily---out of two and a half years of writing---easily find everything I would want. So trust me they exist?)
Here, a few photos:
It's beautiful, isn't it?
And because we have a major space and military base here, we have a lot of people from all over. On the main street within five minutes of my house, I can choose from five Thai restaurants, three sushi, three Greek/Mediterranean, one Syrian, countless Italian and Mexican/Tex-Mex, and on and on. Oh, yes, seafood and American food, too. We run out for Mexican like it's fast food. A soft beef taco is the equivalent of a McBurger.
But then...why do I make this my whipping boy when clearly it is a great place and I am obviously fond of it?
You have to understand...we had the rockiest entry into this state of any moving story I've ever heard. We had so much tragedy and catastrophe our first year here that everyone (and this is not an exaggeration) sat and waited with baited breath for us to dramatically release a "Goodbye Cruel State" press release. I swear to you we both have PTSD from moving here and all that happened that first year. The last three years have been a sort of blur of simply putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on.
I am proud of how we've managed to hold ourselves together in the face of everything the last few years have wrought.
Yes, I know hello vague melodrama.
So please understand, when I trash talk and gripe and vent about here, it's really just sort of a steam valve for the personal challenges I can't (won't) blog about that I have had to deal with since moving here.
It's not really Texas' fault that things have been challenging to this level, not fully, not directly. But we've had to face things here we didn't in MA.
We've also gained---and re-gained---things we missed and lacked in MA.
I left Texas not because I didn't like it---I have a lot of respect for this state, which has many cool things about it---but because it never felt like my home. Its culture grew on me and I carry its mannerisms to a degree, but they are largely adopted and surface only, rather than innate.
The first time I arrived in Massachusetts my entire body and psyche sighed in relief and the feeling of homesick left me for the first time in my life.
Then began the heartbreak. It wasn't my place. MA is such a familial culture. We were always Outsiders. It ended up our best friends were other immigrants to the state, rather than natives. And I once again found myself in company of transients, just like I had been my entire life.
I do not know if I can describe how it feels to feel like you are home and yet never feel welcomed fully. You know, it's like marrying someone and hoping for/expecting a warm welcome into his family and getting ambivalence instead.
I identified so much with the ways of MA, but I wasn't from there, and oh how that seemed to matter.
I think people were just so fascinated by the Texas thing (in a good way) that inadvertently it became too much of a focus of "you're from THERE, not HERE" and ultimately made me feel like an outsider (or side show freak). I mean here I was, from the alleged wild west and yet...I didn't carry a gun (had never done, and didn't even know how to shoot one), I had no accent (a constant marvel), no Western wear, and although I knew how to ride a horse, I was a bigger fan of dressage competitions in Hamilton than I was of rodeos in Pasadena. I'd never even been to a ranch nor seen a cattle drive, other than in the movies, and even people in New England can watch movies.
How I must have disappointed.
So, fast-forwarding to when we decided to move to Texas...
When we lost yet another bid on yet another house that we couldn't really afford anyway, we sat and crunched numbers and values. As much as we kept trying to be creative about it, it was clear: we couldn't afford to remain in MA, at least not anywhere proximate to where we were, and achieve our life and financial goals.
Jon said, "Well if we move west of 128, it won't make that big of a difference, we'd have to move outside of 495 and in that case we might as well move to Texas." Believe it or not, that hadn't even occurred to us. When we began crunching those numbers and considering our life and financial goals, suddenly it seemed like Texas was the right answer. So we moved to live near Jon's family because, well, they were all in one spot. Amazing to me, with my family not a one in the same place.
The thing is...it is good to raise kids here.
Our neighborhood is awesome (as I have said before!) and the people are really low-key and nice here. There is a comfortable lack of pretension. People are very casual here. I appreciate the moms in tank top and gym shorts, with flip flops and no makeup. I'm proud to be one just like that. We're still by the water. The schools are good and it is easier to live more cheaply here. Plus, family is a big bonus.
I do glorify MA. It's like reminiscing about the grand times in college. And I do whip up on Houston. So let's flip that since you asked, Slouching Mom.
Here's a few salient points from MY POV (as controversial as it might be) about how where I live now beats the pants off MA:
* I heard more anti non-WHITENESS in the Boston area than I ever have in my entire life, and I lived in Atlanta briefly where there are unofficial "all white counties" still. My first good friend in Boston was AA and people actually commented---like it was okay!---how amazed they were that a white woman and black man would be friends. Our town in MA was so white, when we moved to the amazing and wonderful diversity that is Texas (which I am more used to) Patience was surprised by the variety of skin tones. That's just WRONG in my opinion. At one playdate she exclaimed, "Oh my goodness mom look at that CHOCOLATE BABY! How'd she get CHOCOLATE? Does she taste sweet?" I am so grateful to be back in diversity. It is so mixed here. We have all manner of cultures, languages, races, and socioeconomic groups just right here, close enough we all go to one elementary school together. I love that my kids need to know two languages here.
* Where we lived there was such a focus on money, and I guess there had to be, but wow, society...just not my gig. I know how it feels and how it stays with you to grow up feeling like a Have Not amongst Haves. I did not want that for my kids, and neither of us was ever going to miraculously become a high wage-earner.
* There was a lot more pressure for The Best. As in, The Best for your Kids. One lady in MA actually criticized me to my face---and I'm not making this up---when I finally said I couldn't afford to do something by saying, "Well sometimes we don't like to spend the money, Julie, but we do it because we love our kids and it's the best for them." Umm, no, this isn't a choice, I do not have the $5000 it takes to go to your nanny referral agency and I am not pre-registering at that private school because we cannot afford it.
I have talked about how lovely my neighborhood is, how good the people are here, the wonderful diversity, the overall good values that mesh well with us, how we are happy to raise our kids here, how great it is that by happy chance my sister just moved here too and the kids love having family around (they thrive in it) in this post and other times. I want this to matter most, and it all seems perfect, doesn't it?
So why do I bitch and moan?
My complaint is with how I have gotten increasingly sicker and sicker since moving here and how much I hate hate hate the incessant heat and lack of seasons. Being so personally physically miserable is a real drain on everything, and the entire family. Mom ranging somewhere between 85% (on a good day) and 10% (on a bad day) is tough for us all on many levels.
I feel like this is the right place for our family, for the kids...but to a degree, wrong for me personally.
I wish we could have our life here as we have it, people included...in MA.
In the end, I don't think we've yet found the right spot for us. I admit we keep looking.
5. Imagine that Patience (or Persistence) is in fifth grade and has been coming home from school every day teary and depressed. Her best friend has been acting cliquish and has decided that P. is no longer worthy of being her friend. She's been teasing P. in front of other kids. What do you do? How do you advise your daughter?
Oh wow, that depends on so many factors. I'd hope I knew the mom of the friend. I'd like to talk to her. Get some insight, see what she thinks, if she knows, what she's doing on her end. I'd give Patience (or Persistence) support. When it got to a fixing point, I'd do my best to help her guide her into building other and new friendships, as well as help her remember her worth, and come up with words to handle the teasing.
I don't really know that age, so it's hard. But this is more or less what I did when we dealt with this in preschool. Her esteem wasn't affected at that time. And knowing she had some power in the situation and could count on me seemed to help her find a new confidence.
Since the teasing was happening at school, I'd talk also with the teacher.
Controversial as it may be, I believe that with children, adults DO need to intervene in quite a few cases. Yes, watch and see if kids work it out, but if (when) they don't, step in and help them with guidance...provide information and feedback and help them find an okay solution. It aggravates me to NO END when adults sit on the sidelines with a "kids will be kids and everyone will bounce back fine tomorrow" blase nonchalance.
I have watched moms completely ignore taunting on the playground. Bad as it may be, it makes me want to slap them. If your kid is sitting there saying, "NO! You can't play with us!" you have a job. Get off your rear and go do it. Raise considerate people. Please.
I don't think you have to make all kids be friends all the time, but oh my word you do have to make them be polite to their immediate peers.
Thanks, Slouching Mom for such great questions that I had to write a novel to answer them!! ;)
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