Thursday, May 24, 2007

Personality types and housekeeping

Have you ever thought about the personalities of your kids? What character traits do they have? What are their strengths? What spiritual gifts might they have?

This struck me especially this week, because I was talking with my mom about Hannah. Hannah loves to organize things. When she plays, she usually spends most of her time placing toys in specific locations...and then moving them somewhere else...and then moving them somewhere else. They're not so much playthings as they are articles to be organized. It's funny to watch. When she's doing this and Audrey comes up and messes something up, Hannah is more than likely to scream, kick, hit, whatever, to discourage Audrey from continuing to mess it up.

My initial response is to tell Hannah to relax, that Audrey can play too, but the problem is, she can't play too. She messes up what Hannah's trying to do. Hannah's organizational skills may be the thing God gave her to contribute to the world. If I don't protect her and allow her to practice and enjoy it without getting discouraged, she may just give up.

Complicating this is my own struggle with my personality. I am also an organizer. When I was probably 8 years old, my parents began paying me to organize things for them. I'm very good at looking at a mess, looking at a space, and then envisioning exactly where everything needs to go in order to fit. I weed out unimportant things or things that do not belong there, and find a place for everything else. This is a skill I believe I was born with. The problem with it is that I'm also a musician. Most musicians I've been in contact with are the complete opposite of this personality type. As a teenager, I began to be embarrassed by showing up 5 minutes early to parties, or by carrying a daytimer, or by friends coming into my room and noticing the way my closet or dresser drawers were set up. During that time I all but killed off that aspect of myself. I purposefully showed up fashionably late, and allowed piles on my bedroom floor. But it never felt like me.

As an adult, I'm still trying to figure out how I want to run my household. At its worst, this personality is inflexible, fanatical about cleanliness, and threatening to people around you. At its best, it is lifegiving, helpful, and refreshing. I want to be the latter. I want Hannah to be the latter. But I also want my closets organized. And I don't want to keep junk in my garage. And I hate having toys all over the living room and bathroom gunk in the corners of the bathroom. It drives me nuts. As much as I've tried to not let it drive me nuts, it still does.

I have noticed lately that figuring out how to keep an organized household is a lifelong pursuit for moms. It's not just me. But, we all know people whose houses are always clean (I would ask - at what cost are they always clean?), and people who live in a dump (I would ask - do you want to teach your kids to live that way? Really?). The answer, like most things, lies somewhere in the balance between the two.

As my sister Holly likes to say...Your thoughts?

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