My husband and I took our boys fishing yesterday after dinner. It was a beautiful evening: low 80s with a nice breeze. The weather was perfect, especially for central Texas.
The weather was the only perfect thing about our outing.
Fishing was a disaster. We spent the whole time running after our two year old (who kept getting too near the water), untangling fishing lines, and unhooking hooks from shirts and tree branches.
We finally left after an hour of high tempers; Aaron eventually cut the rat’s nest of fishing line from one pole after our toddler drug it all over creation, despite constantly barking at him to PUT THAT DOWN! DON’T TOUCH!
“How did we expect that to go?” I asked my husband as we huffed and puffed the kids back into the car. We were irritated and disappointed.
“Well, not like that, obviously!”
We both laughed a bit, and then sighed deeply.
Our kids are constantly thwarting our expectations of what we thought parenthood would look like. It is a deeply rooted struggle for me, and one that I most recently learned may be part of my intrinsic personality.
I’m a personality test geek and I devour every article I come across that discusses the Myers-Briggs personality types. I am an ENFJ (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging).
Here is a list of things that typically cause stress for an ENFJ:
Being in critical or confrontational environments (mm hmm. Someone is always fighting at my house)
Lack of appreciation or affirmation (#SAHMlife)
Lack of harmony (We live in the house of wrestling and screaming)
Unexpected change (Moving! New house! Toddler Sleeping habits! Oh, and Air Force!)
Inadequate time to complete work to their standards
Tense relationships or environments (Hi, Autism and ADHD!)
Having to do mundane, repetitive tasks (#SAHMlife)
Having to conform with something that goes against their values
Over-empathizing with others to the point of losing track of their own needs (I get lost in my kids’ needs and emotional breakdowns)
Being misunderstood or not trusted (Autism and ADHD daily communication struggles)
People not living up to their idealized expectations (and…this)
I read though this list with wide eyes, shaking my head. I just had to laugh because that list is PRETTY MUCH MY LIFE as a stay at home mom of 4 boys, dealing with Autism and ADHD on a daily basis.
Add in the recent changes we’ve experienced this year by joining the Air Force life and, well, yeah. I am stressed.
My expectations kill me on a daily basis.
When people say, “lower your expectations” I’m like, “And how does one do that?” It goes against my nature, like breathing underwater.
I didn’t go in to our fishing evening thinking, “And now for the next hour, I will untangle fishing line, reel in my temper, and curse the fire ants that will bite the living daylights out of my ankles!”
In my idealized mindset, I hoped we will have a good time. You know, catch fish, make memories, snap a picture or two, and actually enjoy being together as a family. But “disaster” seems to be our MO (which by the way, means “Method of Operating. I’ve been using that phrase for years—correctly!—but never knew what “MO” meant. But I digress…).
I have to laugh because I don’t want to cry, but let’s just say that my personality and the four children I’ve been given are not a match made in heaven.
Except for, by faith, I have to accept that they were.
God made me.
He made my kids.
And He gave them to me.
Me, the one with the idealized expectations, the lover of harmony, the one who is full of empathy and affirmation for others, who is creative and has high, high standards for herself and for others.
He gave these boys to me.
And dear Lord above, I’ve wished and hoped and prayed that I could be different, that they would be different, so that somehow we could all get along, that our family could be peaceful and happy all the time.
But we were made, created to be ourselves. My personality and who I am is Good, and my kids, with all of their gifts and challenges, are Good.
But we clash, oh we crash and burn hard. It’s that middle ground, the daily back and forth between us that needs redemption.
But do you know what? I wouldn’t be able to have hope for redeemed interactions with my kids if it wasn’t for all my “idealized expectations” that are part of my ENFJ core.
My life is stressful, for many reasons, but my God-given personality helps me keep my head up, helps me to keep trying again and again and again.
So that’s what I’m praying for these days. Not that my personality will change, or that my boys’ personalities will change, but that our relationship can be redeemed for Good, that Love will reign, despite all the stress and tension that lives between us on a daily basis.
What about you?
How does your personality type deal with stress?
How does your personality mesh or clash with those of your loved ones