My daughter found her two year old in his “naughty spot”–the place he went to hide when he is doing something he knows he shouldn’t be doing–like sneaking candy or playing with his older brother’s toys. CC was sitting there with a purple marker, which was missing a lid, and saying “I color on nothing.” Jennifer searched all over and could see not see any thing amiss until she changed his diaper. He had a beautiful purple stomach.
It reminded me of an incident just before Jennifer’s wedding. Our friend Kim was altering Jen’s wedding dress at her home. Kim’s two year old was being far too quiet so she investigated. She walked into the work/playroom and found Molly sitting on the floor less than two feet from the wedding dress. Molly had climbed up on a dresser, taken down the black paint and proceeded to paint her legs, arms and face. When Molly saw her mom she waved the paint brush and said, “Black paint, Mommy.”
Kim quietly asked her husband to carefully grab Molly while she rescued the dress. Fortunately, all the paint was on the two-year-old and none on the gown.
Why is it that we seem to be born wanting to change how we look or who we are? It only gets worse as we grow up. I spoke to several Mother of Preschoolers groups over the years about how well we fit into our personalities and how we can learn to live with who we are.
I told them that I was “terror child” growing up. I had a terrible temper and would hold my breath until I became unconscious just to get my own way. Sometimes in the middle of the battle I would realize I really didn’t want what I was demanding, but because I had started to fight for it, I felt I must not only finish, but win. My poor parents had to put up with so much from me. Even my extended family benefited from my tantrums. In fact, after David and I were married, one of my uncles told David, “I’m glad you married her. You’re the only one I know who can control her!”
I used to pray and ask God to take away my temper because I didn’t want to always blow up. It didn’t help. The climax came when I told a friend’s mom off in front of the church youth group. What made it even more terrible was that my father was the church’s new pastor and my friend’s mother was the wife of the head deacon. In front of everyone I yelled at her “What are you try to do, run this argument like you try to run the church?”
After the youth group incident I began to ask God in earnest to change me, I felt him say, “Julia, I gave you your temper as a gift. Learn how to use it.”
What a shocking idea! I came to realize that a temper is a wonderful thing. When something is wrong in a situation, I can sense it early. I then have a choice. I can ignore the feeling and wait until the circumstance is unbearable and blow up or I can back up and take an objective look to see what is wrong. When that happens, the problem can be disarmed, actions can be changed or I can intercede for the right thing to be done. Having a personality that senses problems also helps me reach for justice and reconciliation. It doesn’t hurt that I also have a bent to be a problem solver.
For years I looked at myself as a mistake God had made. I thought I was flawed and had been wrapped up in a terrible package. Understanding that I was perfectly put together and that there was a purpose for the blend of personality and temperament I had, changed my life. I am different than anyone else, but I am not flawed. I have been wonderfully made.
Some of my greatest victories in life have been in working with children to get them to see themselves as a gift. A boy came into one of my preschool classes after having been punished many times for getting angry. I taught him that anger is a gift and he learned to recognize it and deal well with his anger. One day a girl in our class threw a fit about something. She screamed and kicked and threw things. The young boy came over to me and whispered in my ear “She should have seen it coming and just stamped her foot.”
Whether we try to change ourselves with markers and paint or try to recreate ourselves, nothing will work until we first accept our personality as a gift. As we realize that we aren’t a mistake, that we are perfectly created, it becomes easier to learn to use our gifts and become that wonderful person God planned for us to be.