Our little family is compromised of two very different personality types.
My son and I are wacky, outgoing, impulsive, and live each day mostly relying on feelings. We keeping trying until we no longer fail or are satisfied. The flip side to our type is it can seem obnoxious or egotistical.
My husband and preteen daughter are level headed, logical, and live each day relying mostly on intellect and shaping ones self. They get frustrated when they can’t do something right the first time. The flip side to this type is by going inward they can be misunderstood as selfish, judgmental, or be so hard on themselves that they shut down.
We handle our faults differently. We handle our strengths and weaknesses differently. This makes the life of parenting extremely challenging.
The older my kids get, the harder it feels to parent an opposite personality. How can an apple raise an orange? By finding value and common ground with the orange? If she has a bad day she goes inward, there’s no prying that crustacean out of her shell. When I have a bad day, everybody including the mailman knows. She is my gem, so finding value in her differences helps me be patient. It forces me to grow as a person and teaches me how to be flexible in other relationships.
Something clicked when I was chatting with my much younger, but more advanced gym partner the other day. He was trying to teach me something, but seemed a bit annoyed. At the end of practice, I explained to him to not be patient with me solely because I’m a beginner. Be patient with me so one day we can be equals and in turn maybe I can help him sharpen his skills for once. Help me, help you. He’s using his abilities to help me either way, but the perspective change really fuels the attitude. Lift me up to your level so I can be a fierce partner for you. Iron sharpens iron. If I can show my daughter that kind of patience, it might translate as having some grace. And perhaps someday we can reach common ground in our attitudes.
Show grace by lifting people to another level. Critical people are usually the most critical of themselves, so it can be a difficult task to consider others right away. No one likes feeling consumed by soul crushing inadequacy. When I feel like a failure it’s pretty hard to see past it. Having compassion on yourself comes first. Let it set you free. Grace is one of those things that’s free of charge, costs little effort, and if your heart is right it gives others the freedom to be who they are. When you practice being kind and gentle to yourself and to others it works like a remedy. Even for jerks, although it might not show right away, but jerks are human too!
One time an irritated bank teller took out her frustrations on me right as I walked up to the counter. I don’t know what her day was like, but apparently it wasn’t great. I gave friendly eye contact and kept it light until she relaxed and smiled. Maybe she hated my outfit, I don’t know. I do know that if I responded to her rudeness with rudeness, there was a 100 percent chance her day would not get better. Maybe finding neutral ground is all you can do sometimes with people you don’t understand. Kindness works.
Many years ago I was in the store with my new, crying baby. I was trying to keep cool, but the cashier kept chatting, taking her sweet time, and was clearly new. We were broke so I was trying to do the mental math of the items on the conveyor belt, but kept forgetting because of Miss Chatty, so being a pillar of strength, I cried. The lady behind me touched my arm and helped me through the entire process and I’ll never forget it. Her kindness was like medicine. I could feel it run through me.
Here’s the thing: I can suffer through this season of life hoping to one day understand someone different from me. Or I can remember we’ve all got our own quirks and that’s what makes us special. Our common ground is we’re just people and most all people respond well to the qualities I’ve previously mentioned. Showing those qualities means I respect you as a person enough to be kind to you. I know I’m not perfect, so showing grace to someone else will hopefully be encouraging. If I love and value the person, the relationship will organically improve. I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I know how I feel when someone accepts me for my differences. It lifts me to another level.
Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.