My oldest two children are best friends, but are also so different in so many ways.  The closer I study each of them, the more I realize how often I can miss the nuances in their personalities.

Our oldest is so sweet.  She is the first to run over and say “are you okay” when she sees someone fall.  She is also sensitive.  If I speak too harshly, she is likely to break down and cry.  I know when I have crossed the line with my words based upon her response.

Our second child has always been harder to read.  For the first 2 years of her life, I was certain that she has a layer of iron in her butt.  It took a lot to get a response from her during a spanking.  It was hard to tell whether she understood what we were saying or not.  She could sit there with a stone face, not in a disrespectful way, but almost like she could turn off her emotion at will.  It was strange.

In recent months, as she is taking more, and as I have watched her closer, I am beginning to realize that what my oldest child displays on the outside, my middle child feels on the inside, yet doesn’t always show it.  The big lightbulb moment for me was when I had scolded her for something (probably making a mess) and told her leave the table.  A little while later, when I had calmed down, I sought to speak with her.  She emerged from this cardboard house I had built for the kids saying, ‘I was hiding from you.’

You see, when I scolded her, she obeyed and left the table without any expression upon her face.  This was always frustrating because I always wondered if she understood.  When she disobeyed, or did something wrong, and was disciplined, she showed no recognition of there being a problem.  She took the spanking without a fuss, but also without any remorse, almost like she didn’t know she should be remorseful.

When she emerged from that house telling me she was hiding from me, I realize that she just handles things differently.  She tends to keep things inside more.  She was always the quieter of the two.  Our firstborn can talk up a storm, our middle child was content to sit quietly.  She saw less need to constantly express herself verbally.  Yet, that didn’t mean I could discount her feelings.

Since that day I have begun to study her more closely, and am learning to speak to her differently.  I have recognized that just because she doesn’t outwardly express things, it doesn’t mean that something isn’t going on inside.  I have come to understand that my job description includes seeking to cultivate each of their hearts, which requires individual study and application.  They are indeed different people.  Our son will require a different approach than both of the girls, which we are already beginning to see in his sensitivity.

Where our oldest is constantly expressing herself, I will have to make a greater effort to draw out our middle child.  Her pat answer for so many questions is ‘I don’t know.’   I don’t let her get away with that anymore.  When she told me she was hiding, i asked her why.  She said, “I don’t know.’  Sure she knew, but she just didn’t want to say it.  It required time on my part to sit with her, assure her that she could talk to mommy, and ask again.  Sometimes I do have to help her form the answer, as she just can’t quite put the words together.  But taking the time to reach her now, showing her that I am willing to take time for her will hopefully reap dividends down the road when she is older.