Sunday, February 06, 2011

Perspective is Everything

Are our personalities set in childhood? Or do they adapt and change over time?

Little Susie is the youngest in our family, and so she's forever having to speak up to be heard. 

Jimmy is our oldest, so he's used to being the boss and getting his way.

Mary's the middle child, so of course she's forever acting up and bossing others around - in order to get our attention, I guess.

Well, Billy's father and I are divorced and now there are other step children in the family. I think Billy acts the way he does to make sure his step-siblings know when they're crossing into "his" territory.

Sweetie is an only child, so she tends to have a hard time cooperating with her peers and accepting that she's not always going to get her way.


Funny. Seems like no matter what the situation, a parent can always explain away their child's less than pleasing behavior. Or - on the contrary - proudly proclaim how it is that their child is the confident, outspoken little smarty (cough-pants-cough) you see before you.

Interesting. It just seems to me that children will turn out the way they're going to turn out based a whole lot more on how the adults in their life treat them - regardless of birth order - and what's expected of these kids, as well as straight-up biological makeup. Yep - I say there's something to be said for the innate personality a person adopts just from good old genetics. After all, studies have shown that one's personality is pretty much set by 1st grade.

(That being said, it does drive me just a wee bit crazy when Grand Mama, Uncle Fred, or Great Aunt Betsy twice removed says something like, "Did you just see that smart alec expression on Billy's face?! Oh, he gets that attitude from wise-cracking Grandpa Al, no doubt about it!" It's especially crazy when Grandpa Al lives in Wyoming and young Billy has never had the pleasure of meeting the old coot.)

Yep. A kid's personality is going to be what it is based on nature and nurture. Not necessarily, I think, because said kid is born first, in the middle, or the last of 20. Which, okay, birth order could have a thing or two to do with how they relate to others. But there's a whole lot more to it than that. considering a kid born into any of these situations could end up being bossy, outspoken, confident, troubled, shy, dramatic, etc., etc., etc...

And why am I thinking about this issue these days, you may ask? Well, I'd have to refer you back to D.I., I'm afraid. As I stood last weekend with the other parents from Sweetie's team, all watching the group struggle through their challenges, I overheard some of them explaining their child's - uh... gumption!... to each other by describing where the kid falls in the family and what he or she has to do to get the coveted parental or sibling attention. Each different scenario - surprise! - coming out with the same result.

And there I stood, not offering Sweetie's family placement, but noting to myself how her (non)sibling situation "produced" in her a surprising similar outcome to the others with larger families.


SO.... that's what I have to say about that. 

On a related note... It seems to me that how adults interact with each other and, in fact, their needfulness for each other, is highly relevant to what's going on in each of their lives at the time. Were estranged friends, for example, to reunite and reconnect several years after a fallout, it very well could turn out that their new relationship is both strained and tentative because of what happened in the past (as well as what life's like currently for each of them.)

Not all together a bad thing, really. And of course, that makes sense. It's just now a different, careful progression into a new way to relate to each other. Okay.

Is the way each individual behaves within a new/renewed relationship truly how they are and have always been? But perhaps because each of the 2 friends "needed" each other in such a different way years ago than they presently do, their "true" personalities either didn't matter before or (more likely) the little quirks were "allowed" before as just that - silly little quirks.

It's all about time, really. And perspective. People grow up. Time moves on. Various life happenings affect you and, consciously or unconsciously, you change. Maybe a little, or maybe a lot. So that who you were before - the "before" person that the other remembers and is currently playing to - is simply not there anymore. At least not quite. As much as you feel you are presenting your current true self - admittedly changed from who you were before - you're just not sure the other person "gets" that and is smoothly adapting to you and the current state of affairs.

Or  maybe it's you who isn't adapting well to the current truth of an old friend, given the way things used to be. Hmmmm....

Like I said. People change. And new relationships, even with "old" friends from before, change too. They need to, in fact, if they're going to thrive, progress and evolve further. Just like friendships that start in one's youth and continue on to present day without interruption - they too change and evolve with time. Your friends need you in different ways throughout a friendship, just as you need them differently. That's life.

Relationships are hard. Establishing renewed friendships with old friends can be even harder. Will you get the friendship you imagined you'd get, with the same fun, awesome person with whom you used to be so close? Or do you find instead that said person just is no longer "there"? And neither are you. Not quite, anyway. Both fine, just... different.

Hopefully, in the end, you'll wind up with a renewed friendship combining the best of old and new. A new way in which you currently "need" each other. A fresh way to view, accept and appreciate each other. Always moving forward...

Ugh. It was so much easier when our parents arranged play dates, introduced us to our new best friends in the form of their friends' kids, and our sometimes quirky behaviors could be easily explained away with fixed home-life statistics like birth order or passed on genetics from wise-cracking Grandpa Al.

1 comment:

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Positive perspective is main thing.