Don’t Box Me In

I love the idea of personality tests. At their best, I learn vocabulary that helps me understand my nature. At their worst, I feel put in a box, unable to achieve beyond what my personality dictates.

Nothing drives me crazier than someone noting, Oh! Your an ETXR? That’s why you love hosting parties! or I’m surprised you enjoy this – usually KDFTs like to stay home. Even the introvert-extrovert labels drive me crazy. I love people and value welcoming others into my home. I’m equally protective of my daily quiet time and crave more alone time than I can get.

Hosting with an Introvert

At this stage in their development, Bea and Elle seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Bea loves it when we have people over and is always talking about her “ten friends” visiting. If we’re out running errands too long or if too many people are in our home, Elle is tense until the house quiets and she can explore on her own. We laugh and call them our classic introverts and extroverts.

When we were reading the crucifixion story in the Bible with Bea, she wondered why Jesus was sad as he hung on the cross, after all he had two friends with him. He shouldn’t be lonely! But, later that day, when we were talking about things we wanted to do, Bea said she just wanted privacy – she loves her alone time.

It’s easy for me to want to box the girls into personality types. I have this idea that it will make my job easier. If I understood exactly why they tick and how to connect with them, life will run smoothly. In some ways, that does work.

I recently read The 5 Love Languages of Children. Recognizing that Bea’s love language is most likely physical touch has changed our relationship. If I can fill her “love tank” with snuggles and hugs and side-by-side physical interaction before a transition, we usually avoid meltdowns. Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell are quick to point out, however, that it’s difficult to identify a love language in a child before the age of 5. And even then, we all need all the languages – some are just more prominent.

Like so many things with life and parenting, I’m learning to hold my knowledge loosely. I watch the girls and am constantly trying to see what works and what doesn’t; what they respond do quickly and what doesn’t seem natural. But I also know that my findings can change in an instant. That what worked one minute may not work the next – not because of a personality trait but because we’re people. Complex, undefinable people.

How do you feel about personality tests? Are they insightful or do you feel constricted?