Starting Early

Our kids are growing like weeds. Our tiny girl shot up two inches in the last two weeks, and is now as tall as her ham hock of a brother (though not nearly as round). Their growth isn’t merely physical; it’s amazing watching our babies’ personalities develop as they emerge from their infant cocoons into interactive attentive babies.

Little Annie figured out how to talk this week. Not words, of course, but a steady stream of baby gabbles and chortles rather than just the occasional coo. She started “chatting” a week after Jack, but now that she ‘s started, she’s making up for lost time. Our little social butterfly has things to say from the moment we pick her up in the morning until her head meets the mattress at night. Having someone to talk with is irrelevant . She gives long smiley discourses to her toys, the ceiling fan, the furniture, and her long-suffering brother, all of them excellent listeners who never interrupt. Jack prefers to observe calmly (and looks at his sister like a fresh arrival from Mars). Our boy saves his conversation for face-to-face interactions when he’s feeling particularly confiding. He makes you work for those bashful little conspiratorial grins, but they’re so worth it. Three months old, and who falls where on the introversion/extroversion scale is already starting to shape up.

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“Maybe if I block her view she’ll stop talking my ear off…”

We know the chemical factors and genetic predispositions toward introversion or extroversion already exist in infancy. Extroverts tend to thrive on people interactions. They may like quiet, rest, and a good book as much as the next person, but interactions with people typically energize them – the more interactions (within limits), the better they feel. When they engage with another person the chemical reaction in an extrovert’s brain actually parallels that of an addict getting a fix. Introversion, meanwhile, does not equate to shyness. An introvert may like people very much, but interactions tend to drain their energy. Too much “people time” and they become overstimulated triggering a crash and complete exhaustion. Without rest and alone time to recuperate, the cycle only gets worse. (If you enjoy these sorts of nerdy parallels, read the book Quiet – this introvert loved it).

Surprisingly (to us), introverted vs. extroverted personality traits already explain a lot about the twins and how they react to their days. The classic reactions describe our kids to a T. Case in point: Today we took the babies out on their first “real” daytrip. We drove two hours to the coast, walked with them on our favorite island beach in blustery overcast weather, then headed into an old historic coastal town for lunch and a walk. The kids were great throughout the day – calm, and happy. We had a wonderful trip. While out and about, numerous people stopped us to comment on the twins, take a peak at them, coo, or smile. Post-adoption, we are what’s known as a “conspicuous family” – white parents, children of a different race, and twins to boot. As we sat in a coffee shop where we’d stopped to change, feed, and play with the babies easily ten or a dozen people stopped by to ask their ages, talk about how cute they were, and smile at the kids.  At the end of a day of people, new sights, and interactions Annie was on top of the world – a smiley, happy, cooing baby despite a completely off-kilter nap schedule. Jack, however, was utterly done in despite sleeping far more than normal. The more changes and people in a day, the more likely our son will crash early and hard. Our daughter, however, will be in paroxysms of delight by bedtime. As they grow it’ll be interesting making sure that A) Annie gets the frequent interactions she seeks without driving her introverted Mom and quiet-loving Dad up the wall, while B) making sure Jack gets the occasional quiet breaks and frequent rest his personality requires – especially once his chatterbox sister can follow him around all the time!

If you have kids, what surprised you in their early days?

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2 thoughts on “Starting Early

  1. Interesting comparison. I guess when I look at our kids, what surprised me most was how happy with his own company Tom Kitten is. Compared with Ginger at the same age (and even now) he is much more content to occupy himself – either exploring or just watching what is going on. After a while, he will want a cuddle but then he will want to be on his way again. Initially I thought it was just a second child phenomenon – ie. I simply couldn’t hold him most of the time when he was first born as we had some serious jealousy issues; but I think it is more than that – I think he is just a really content personality.

    Ginger has surprised me. If you had asked me as a baby I would have said extrovert. But as she has gotten older she has become more shy, and though she likes company and will seek out other young children to play with (anywhere!) she does have a fairly low saturation point where-upon she needs her space. For instance, now she is supposed to be napping, but I know she is awake as I can hear her. But, she will happily spend a couple of hours looking at her books in bed – she seems to need the space to recalibrate herself for the afternoon.

    I found Personality Plus by Florence Littauer a really good read on personality types from a Christian perspective – having just got it down from the shelf to check the spelling of her name, I see that she has also written Personality Plus for Parents.

    • So interesting that you saw Ginger become more reserved with time – I wonder if we’ll see similar shifts as the babies mature. I like the idea of a little quiet time alone with books for a toddler who needs to recalibrate. Personality Plus/for Parents sounds like helpful reading! As a teen I knew large groups of people exhausted me and I dreaded extended social occasions, prefering to watch or to hang out with a smaller group of people. However, I only heard others describe me as shy. It was incredibly helpful when my pastor finally pointed out that I was an introvert in college – learning about that made it so much easier to plan days and cope so that it was possible to enjoy being with others rather than dreading it. Hopefully we can equip our kids for that, whatever their personalities may be.

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