Having finished reading Living with Intensity, and looking for something less scholarly and more prescriptive, I’m now reading Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students by Christine Fonseca. (Same caveat as before: I have no idea if any of my kids are ‘gifted’, but these theories seem to be helping me to understand my children, so I’m reading about them.)
In Chapter 4: A Matter of Character, Fonseca says:
I define introverts and extroverts in terms of how the person renews at the end of the day. Put another way, does the child seek social contact in order to rejuvenate himself, or does he require solitude? The answer to this could serve as a key toward understanding a child’s behavior, as well as the strategies needed to assist in the development of healthy and stable emotional reactions. (pgs 45-46, emphasis hers)
My kids, husband and I are all supergregarious. Beara, in particular, is a social butterfly whenever the opporunity strikes, which isn’t all that often, which is why this might be the case. That said, she likes to dance to unwind, totally in her own world, Big D likes to draw, Daddyman loses himself in his computer, and I bury my nose in a book. Yes, Daddyman and I both spend time blogging, and connecting with friends on the internet, but I’m unsure how Fonseca would categorize these behaviors; it isn’t like we are picking up the phone, or even IMing people.
I was feeling kind of blah the other day, and Big D offered to come keep me company. I said “did you know that sometimes I like to be alone? I didn’t have any brothers or sisters when I was little, and I got used to having time to myself.” She looked at me like I had three heads, whether because she couldn’t believe that I liked being alone, or because she couldn’t comprehend the idea of life with out her sibs (including her twin sister), I’m not sure.
When I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs type indicator, (and yes, I have had it professionally administered,) I’ve come up pretty much right smack in the middle of the Extrovert/Introvert axis, but this test is based on how one prefers to spend one’s time, not on how one best renews themselves.
If I had to guess, based on both Fonseca’s and/or my memory of the Myers-Briggs, I’d have said that I was borderline intro/extro, that Daddyman, Beara, and Buddy were extroverts, and that Big D was an introvert. I’m pretty sure that I was more of a solid introvert as an older child, but that might have been more due to my self-protective instinct than any hardwiring of my personality. (Preteen girls give Aussie alligators a run for their money in the ‘most vicious’ category.)
My theory on this is that a) people get used to what they have, and come to expect it, and (somewhat contradictorilly) that people will frequently seek out what they don’t have when they want the freshness of something novel, esp as a distraction. My girls are always together, so are comfortable that way, but sometimes get tired of it and want time alone. I was raised an only child, and get antsy when I don’t get enough time to myself. That said, I don’t do well alone all the time, and sometimes crave company at the end of a day spent in solitude. Sure, some of the introvert/extrovert spectrum is likely hardwired, but the rest is likely the force (and comfort) of habitual behavior coupled with the quest for novelty as something different, and thus relaxing and enjoyable.
I look forward to watching how my children’s personalities continue to unfold and develop. When various folks have said to me over the years “wow – she/he really has a personality now” I really have to wonder if they have actually ever seen my children before; they’ve all had distinct personalities since they were in utero, and yes, I could tell my twin girls apart! Ergo, five years in, I feel like I have *some* ideas as to who my girls are. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that I understand how to meet some of their emotional needs all that well, which is why I’m still reading and watching. And learning – always that. They have so much to teach me!