Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Family of Opposites

There are six people and six very different personalities in our family. Unlike Tom's original family, in which the five people had very similar personalities and temperaments, this family consists of six completely individual personalities. That had undoubtedly made things interesting and fun as well as challenging and difficult.

It probably started when Tom and I, absolute opposites, met in September, 1977, almost 30 years ago. Tom was shy, deliberate, measured... and very, very charming (in a shy, measured, deliberate sort of way). I was out-going, impulsive, and demonstrative. It took us six years to do all that dating, breaking up, dating again, and getting married stuff, and another year after that to welcome our first child into the world.

There was no wondering what Elisabeth would be like, not even for an instant, because the second she presented herself (she still doesn't just walk into a room, she presents herself!), it became obvious that this little thing was -- and would always be a determined dynamo! She never does anything half-way; instead, she attacks it with 120% gusto. Whether it was learning to ride a bike or learning the alphabet back then... or her approach to school or career now, there's no half-way for Elisabeth. Everything in life is a welcome challenge and opportunity and she lives her life fully, with blatant honesty, and yes -- fairly loudly, like when she arrives at home for a visit, throwing the door open, yelling a gleeful "helllloooooo!" (even at 3 AM -- she "didn't realize"), greeting the animals with whoops and hollers, and then sprinting into the kitchen, throwing open the cupboards and announcing that she's "starving"!

Peter, in contrast, is more like Tom in his approach, but nowhere near as shy. He's factual and exacting and literal, but he's also our stand-up comic and always has been. Peter's talents are in making connections, figurative and literal. He cracks people up with his hilarious anecdotes and off-beat analogies and when Peter's around there's sure to be continuous laughter. He also has a talent for making physical connections -- as in, talking apart and putting together just about anything mechanical. When the boat engine was broken, it was Peter who knew how to fix it. Even when he was 5, Peter could dis-assemble and re-assemble anything mechanical, from phones to lawnmowers. Where Elisabeth is book-smart, Peter is life-smart. Both will go far in life, and for completely different reasons.

Aleks has absolutely NO interest in anything physical or mechanical. He dislikes participating in organized sports (but does know everything about European fussball) and he could care less about machines or things. Instead, Aleks' passion is ideas. He is our philosopher and politician, and I am constantly impressed by his depth of knowledge about society, politics, activism and ideas. Whereas Peter likes nothing more than working on an engine and talking about it, Aleks likes nothing more than to work on a theory and writing about it.

Kat is a mixture of Tom and me in both appearance and personality. He often says "Kat is brown, Carol is orange." Her personality, too, is a blend of both her parents. She tends to be shy and measured like Tom, but there's also a side of her that I totally and completely KNOW, because it's a side of myself that I never exposed to many people, but I see it in Kat and hope she nurtures this side of herself. Kat's a thinker and a feeler, but she's more private and measured than the other kids. Whereas Elisabeth would be described as "feisty" and will provoke just to observe the resulting sparks, Kat is described often as "a sweetheart" and will go to great lengths not to rile or provoke. If Kat's angry or upset, she tends to quietly slip away to deal with things on her own. I do notice though, that in the past few months, Kat's getting bolder and more expressive, not as tentative about saying what she thinks, not as concerned about disappointing. This is a good thing and I love watching her come into her own.

I also love watching these siblings develop more mature adult sibling relationships. As different as they are, they understand each other well and are connected. Aleks and Kat, being twins, share an extraordinarily tight bond. They socialize with the same group of friends, often take classes together, have a whole arsenal of private jokes, and compete just enough to end up with wonderful grades (came in the mail today -- straights A's for both!)

Aleks and Peter, the most different siblings and not especially close as they were growing up, have even formed a tight bond lately and rumor has it that as a "bro thing," Aleks will get the same tattoo as Peter, except a mirror image.

Elisabeth and Kat, also complete opposites and also not especially close as they were growing up, have become very close over the past few years as Kat would fly to visit Elisabeth at Cal (and develop a serious crush on Elisabeth's house mate!) and these days as the two of them spend more and more time doing "sis stuff."

Next year at this time I'll be preparing to usher three kids out the door as Peter, Aleks and Kat all head to university -- Peter likely in Eastern Washington and Aleks and Kat across the water to UW. That will be a hard time.

But after 30-some years it'll also be nice to bring our lives full-circle, as Tom and I will have a chance to re-discover what it was that made these opposites attract so many years ago.

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Home's Jewels said...

Elizabeth sure looks like you! It's fun to compare notes on kids, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

You have beautiful children and it's wonderful that you see and appreciate each one for who they are. They are lucky kids to have you as a mom!

And isn't it amazing how individual each sibling can be in the same family. We had four in my family and all very different. My sisters were one year apart in age and grew up sharing the same room, and schools and of course parents and they are total opposites.

J said...

Thanks for the interesting portrait of your family.

Rebecca said...

hello Carol - I found your blog from a comment over on Jennifer's blog and thought I'd pop over and say hello. I LOVE this potrait of your family - sounds like you have great insight into their characters! (I too have four kids - still all littlies, though, and all boys. I have a set of twins in there too)

Karenkool said...

WOW! Great post. Beautiful kids. I have six kids, no twins and my oldest is 16. My sister has seven. We were just talking about this yesterday--hers being farther along in young adulthood--how much she appreciates each one of their personalities and traits and how they melt her heart, the way they relate with one another. I can admire those things in my kids to some degree, but I think it really becomes apparent and amazing as they begin taking flight on their own.

I think I'm gonna like this next phase! Thanks for the encouragement.

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