Rory is a complete rascal at home. The life and soul of the party. He never stops moving, running or climbing and chats away. Yet take him somewhere he’s not been before or that’s very busy and he retreats behind me and wants held. People then start saying, “Oh, is he shy?” – actually he is reserved, a classic introvert (he gets energised at home and when he has time playing by himself) and for a two year old, very deep. When we get home from somewhere new he wants to talk about it in great detail, clearly he used the intervening time to process and articulate what he thought.
Daniel on the other hand can be very quiet at home. His stamina is still an ongoing issue, and often when he’s at home he has to have time on the sofa sucking his fingers, reading books, watching TV or watching Rory run around. His energy levels are like peaks and troughs – one minute he will be building an assault course in the living room and jumping from the top of the armchair onto the floor, the next he’ll be curled up in the corner. He’s normally the life and soul outside of the house, loves anywhere there’s live music and often finds a kind adult to attach himself to when we go somewhere new, like a party.
Both those short descriptions of my boys would give you an informed picture of what to expect if you met them for the first time, information which means you’re less likely to force Rory to get involved in an activity with children he doesn’t know, or not understand why Daniel was fine one minute and then exhausted the next. Knowing a bit more about someone makes it much easier for you and for them.
Knowing your children means they’ll be relaxed knowing their parents understand them and what makes them tick, you’ve got their back and know what to push and when. It also means you’ll be more relaxed as you’re not stressed out about this lively child never putting on a show outside of the house or why your kid can be the party king or queen but at home is quiet or even sullen. My health visitor is concerned about Rory’s speech as he barely utters a word when she’s here. But, while she’s lovely, she’s loud and not someone he knows very well, so I know that’s why he doesn’t say much!
Even as toddlers we can start to notice personality traits – stubbornness, sensitivity, dramatic, bossy – most of which have strengths and weaknesses associated with them. We can use these to help us guide our children better, knowing their trigger points and encouraging the more positive aspects of these qualities.
Isn’t it hard when you spot the stubbornness you hate in yourself in your child though?! I remember being a bossy big sister to my brothers and when I see Daniel taking it upon himself to police Rory and boss him about it just hits me hard – I used to do that! I’ve certainly found myself looking to improve aspects of my personality once I see them reflected in my children!
The other way to really know our children and make your home a better place is to think about their love languages. I know many people have read the Gary Chapman book already, but for those who haven’t, he has articulated how people tend to express love in one of five ways:
- Quality time
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Physical Touch
This is truly life changing if you’ve not read it before. I’m not a touchy feely person. I love my personal space. I don’t particularly like cuddles. My mother has said as a young child I wouldn’t even sit on her knee to be read a story. Colin’s love language is physical touch. He loves sitting on the same sofa as me, cuddled up and watching TV. Early in our relationship I would push him away. What I was doing there was rejecting his love and hurting him. Plus I wouldn’t show love to him in the way he needed as I would never think to rub his shoulders!
My love language is words of affirmation so I need lots of encouragement to feel like Colin loves me. And unkind words cut me deep. So his sarky comments or jibes might've been fine to someone else but really hurt me. I joke that reading the Love Languages book early in our marriage saved our marriage, but sometimes I think that's not even a joke!
So, it’s been fascinating for us watching the boys and seeing how Daniel puffs up with praise, but Rory isn’t fussed. Rory wants to climb all over you, gives kisses all the time and even rubs your feet if he sees you’ve got bare feet. Learning that my child’s love language is physical touch makes it so much easier for me to offer that physical contact that instinctively I would avoid!
I’m sure as time goes by they will develop and maybe even change, after all how many toddlers feel loved by gifts, aren’t they all just in love with the box or wrapping paper?! For now though, it’s really helping us build a home where the boys feel loved.