• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #10 3-24-2020

We each have our roles to play in these times. My husband, for instance, is on one ZOOM meeting/call after another, figuring how to help vulnerable populations like those with addictions or those with HIV/AIDS or the homeless. Me? I have perfected the game of indoor tag with our dog Ginger. Ginger picks up something she is not supposed to have, usually a New Yorker magazine or one of our slippers. She then runs frantically through the house. Our house has that ‘open floor plan’ feel for the most part, with a clear circular run from kitchen to dining room to hall to den/living room and back to kitchen. So, when she starts to run clockwise, I run counter clockwise until we run into each other. This may not be helpful in terms of providing help and resource and leaving a significant footprint on the world, but it IS highly useful for the sanity of one dog and one dog grammie (aka me).

In light of what else we can be doing in case of TMFT syndrome (too much free time) ….

Here’s a fun idea – figure out who in your family is most alike and who is most distinct, and in what ways? Be it biology or environment, it’s a good time to take stock, because there is a good possibility that the people with whom you share space who are most like you, are also the ones more likely to drive you insane, and vice-versa. This is not always the case of course, but - - - if you’re an extroverted, loquacious chatty Cathy – you’d think your seven year old who is also outgoing would be the one with whom you’d bond, while bonding together in the little nest/prison called home…..or, if you’re an introverted person, cat not dog person, who likes nothing more than time alone, peace and quiet, soothing solitude – you’d think the child who shares those traits would be the one you’d respect and ‘get’, but instead, they are the one most often making you want to climb a tree (literally.)

In these times, we have the opportunity to get know ourselves AND our roommates. There are lots of (not scientifically based) online questionnaires (think BuzzFeed, not Cosmo or Teen….) and of course there are also tons of science and evidence- based personality inventories available as well.

What are we talking about when we talk about temperament? There are ‘the big nine’ so consider these, relative to you and relative to your relatives:

Activity level (Does your child innately have high or low activity levels? And you?)

Biological rhythms (Does your child have regular or irregular internal drives related to sleep, appetite, routine? And you?)

Sensitivity (Does your child have high or low sensitivity to stimuli, such as noise, light, chaos, etc.? And you?)

Intensity of reaction (Does your child react with high or low intensity, in general? Can they modulate their reactivity? Can you?)

Adaptability (Is your child highly adaptive or low to adapt? And you?)

Approach/withdrawal (Does your child easily openly approach new situations or does your child back away and withdraw from newer situations? And you?)

Persistence (Does your child have high or low persistence? What about you?)

Distractibility (Does your child have high or low distractibility? And what about you?)

Mood (By nature, is your child more like Eeyore or Pooh – more negative and pessimistic or more naturally positive and optimistic? And what about you? Which Winnie the Pooh character are you?)

We are all somewhere on a continuum with regard to these traits, and neither side of that line is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ We are what we are (or, as Popeye used to say, “I yam what I yam.” OK boomer.) The question is, where do you fall on that continuum and where do your significant others land? And once you have some sense of you and yours, what does it mean for you? Hopefully, the bottom line is empathy and compassion. Wherever we each fall on our continuum, we are not alone. And the lesson for these times is – we need one another to survive and thrive, even when it’s across six feet of distance.

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