Letters to Ivan

On Raising Extroverts

A lot of life and love wonderfully fill my house. The older kids imagine, experience, and articulate continually. Looking at a brontosaurus toy, little girl named it, “Giraffe-y Dinosaur.” She learns words and then cherishes the objects: “milk-y bottle,” “blankie,” “Mama-y.” Everything ends in an -y. When she cannot talk to me about her things, she sings at the top of her voice or babbles to her baby doll-y. She takes after her older brothers, who seem to never stop talking. They tell silly stories, plot their next adventure or building project, disagree and try to persuade or out-talk the other. For example, yesterday second son was giving “tickets” to eldest son for some imaginary infraction. “I am sending them all to your mail box,” he announced. Without missing a beat, eldest son replied, ” I guess I have a bunch of junk mail, then.” Even baby boy has added to his repertoire of brilliant smiles and coos, since he now waves with big arm sweeps and finger movements that bring joy to us all. A recent visitor noted the kids’ talkative disposition and ease in interacting with adults. Looking at my quietly-disposed husband and me, he said, “you are raising a gang of extroverts.” Indeed, it does feel that way!

Two days ago, second son excitedly told my husband of a time in the future when they would be in a “Daddy’s Club” together. Naming his two brothers, his dad, and himself, he rejoiced that they could all one day be daddies. He made a side note that little girl and Mama could have their own “Mama’s Club.” His love for family makes me think I am doing something right.

Alongside my many mothering failures, I also learn how to walk my precious little ones through challenges. One saying goes something like, “Give a hungry man a fish, and he will be hungry tomorrow. Teach him how to fish, and he will never be hungry again.” I apply this to mothering, making my primary role “enabler.” I would rather my kids learn and choose wisdom, than they act well or play nice when I am present to enforce it. I would rather they make little mistakes now and learn their limitations (sleep is a necessary evil!). Yes, I do give them the “materials” with which to encounter reality. This means providing basic facts, explaining how to live out Judeo-Christian morality and the reasons for it, and inculcating logic. But a lot of learning results from their own discovery or thinking. In their quest for the good, the true, and the beautiful, then, I suppose it is no surprise that so much life happens within these four walls.

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