Personality to Burn
May 28, 2010
While I was pregnant, and just after finding out we were having a boy, I remember seeing men suddenly in an entirely different light. Not men I know and for whom I have all kinds of context, but strangers walking along the street, buying milk or catching a train. Instead of existing as complete unto themselves in the moment I happened to notice them, they suddenly had pasts, personal histories. And although their stories were mostly unknown to me, I could safely assume that they had at one point been babies, and had mothers who’d carried them as I was carrying my son at the time. Sure, it’s obvious that everyone was a baby, in their beginning, but I found that this realization as a mother represented a radical shift in my perspective; it leveled our complex society of status and classes and tiers into one of real equality. I wasn’t about to invite the smelly homeless guy on the sidewalk over for dinner, but I did recognize that somewhere, at some time, that man had a mother, and it opened my heart up a little bit more.
In the same vein, I took notice of the enormous diversity of men in our world. I noticed various postures, laughs and unconscious gestures, and imagined my son as one of these fully-developed people, going about their individual lives. I wondered, "What kind of man will he be?"
In the first sleepless weeks after Kaspar was born, Aaron and I studied his features, and his facial expressions, as if looking for clues. We wondered aloud about what interests he'd develop. Kaspar didn't do a whole lot at first, of course, besides sleep, eat, poop and look around him (in his seven to twelve inch diameter field of vision), but now that his personality is coming front and center, I recognize that it was present even then.
Kaspar’s a laid back baby. He likes to watch what’s going on, loves to be held, and smiles constantly, especially in conversation (still very one-sided, but engaging nonetheless). I thought this was pretty standard baby behavior, but then we started our nanny share, and the other baby has a totally different M.O; he gets bored when not directly entertained, he doesn’t like to sleep during the day, he’s not into be held for very long. He is super cute and sweet, and also happy, as his parents and caregivers address his preferences. The point is that he has a distinctly different personality than our baby does, and this is kind of fascinating.
I have heard from parents with older children that their personalities are indeed present from day one. I don’t doubt it. The nanny takes notes on the days that Kaspar is with her (we call these his "report cards") and always comments on how happy he is, and how easy. And it’s true—his is happy, and easy. I know that babies go through phases and that things can change at any moment, but right now I’m just thanking my lucky stars that we landed a low-maintenance munchkin. God knows I didn’t deserve it (I was a hellion). I don’t know what kind of man Kaspar will be— I really just care that he’s confident, healthy and happy. All personality differences aside, I’m fairly convinced that ‘confident, healthy and happy’ come quite naturally to us, from the start, and my role as a mom is to strike a balance between effectively nurturing/guiding/example-setting, and not getting in the way. Kaspar is his own person already, and I want to allow him to grow into himself freely.
Were your babies’ personalities present from the start, or did you see significant changes as they grew? If you have more than one child, do you use different techniques and approaches in parenting them based on differences in their personalities? How have you nurtured your child’s natural tendencies, interests, and preferences?