Have you ever thought you had your kids figured out? The youngest is like me, the oldest takes after his Dad... you know them best right? So obviously you of all people should know who they are, what they like, what their personalities are and what makes them tick...
Yeah... I thought I had it all sorted out. The Kaper... he takes after me in many ways and Josh tends to favour his Dad... except that I was wrong in many ways. Really wrong!
A few weeks ago Kaleb had to come home from church early due to asthma and allergies, Josh spent the afternoon with his cousin and Grandparents. Between his brother talking to him all morning, then all the kids in church and then an afternoon with his extroverted and talkative cousin he was totally done in. I put the boys to bed (they shared a room) and within minutes Josh was back downstairs announcing he just couldn't take it anymore.. 'Everyone talks! Too much talking! I need quiet! I need my own room!' It was comical really because he was so emphatic about it and as an extrovert I just don't get what the issue is. I would love to just be around people all day and all night. I talked him off the ledge and got him back into bed that night but on reflection I knew that he was right, it was time to sort out a space for him to call his own.
The next Kaleb was home from school because of his asthma so while he sat quietly in my office I went about clearing out space in there for Tim to move his office into mine and making Tim's office a bed room for Josh. It took all day but when Josh came home he had the surprise of his life; his very own room! He was beyond thrilled (he literally smiled for a week after!)
Over the following few days I looked into each of the boys rooms every day, and I began to see something of a trend emerging. I had always assumed that since Kaleb is more like me, and Josh like his Dad, that it would make sense that Kaleb would be the messy unorganized one and Josh the neat and sorted one. I was wrong. As the days passed I noticed that every morning Kaleb attempted to make his bed, he put his dirty clothes in the hamper and his toys were always put back into the box provided. Josh however, had clothes strewn from end of the room to the other, his toys deposited whereever he had last been playing with them. His bed was not made, not even once. Josh would come home from school and head to his room for some much needed quiet time after school and Kaleb often headed to the playroom downstairs.. the playroom had always been a mess, always! However, with Josh not down there I began to notice how neat Kaleb was keeping it. He would play with something and then when finished he would return it to it's rightful home. The more I noticed the more there seemed to be to notice. At school I watched as Kaleb neatly put his things away and became unsorted when the box for their lunch boxes wasn't in it's rightful place, when I joked about it with the teacher she said 'oh that's Kaleb, everything in it's place and keeping things tidy'. Even this teacher knew my child better than I did!
I had often forced Kaleb to clean the mess in the playroom believing it to be his mess, and there was always a battle about it. However, once I realized that it was actually usually Josh's mess down there I began to get Josh to clean his own mess up. Two things happened; Kaleb started to feel understood, and his attitude began to shift. The meltdowns have trickled off and since he now has his spaces sorted he is more at ease with himself and his environment. Josh, having been getting away with a lot all these years had actually been building an identity around being the 'good' kid, and as he was found out, exposed shall we say, he began to unravel at the seams. Kaleb also began to form a new identity, the one of the neat child and he took great joy in naming his brother as the messy one. As these two dynamics began to play out Tim and I began to talk to the boys about where they should build their identity... it has been such an exciting period of growth for all us.
Teaching the boys that they are not loved for how they behave, or the state in which they keep their room but rather for who they are to us. Our children, dearly loved for no other reason than they are our children. End of story. Nothing can separate that love from them, they are our sons and no matter what they do, say, think, become; they remain and will always remain, loved. As we watch them struggle within this shifting time in our family dynamics I have found myself considering where I have placed my identity. Have I put my worth in something tangible or have I placed my value, my identity in being a child of God, loved for being nothing more than His? As I said, it's been an interesting shift in our home, on all fronts we are all learning through the process.