It was a sad day and a day that turned into a day of fretting for a young mother whose little girl was away all day at kindergarten. Why? Was the mom worried how the little girl was doing at school? Did she wonder if she’d like her new teacher or make new friends? No. No. And no.
This is a story about my mom, an Enneagram 2 and me, a type 7. Of course, neither of us had any idea what the Enneagram was back in 1963 but the signs were everywhere. (They always are, if you’re looking.)
I wanted to go to school from the time I learned there was such a thing. My mom had to tell me, repeatedly, that I wasn’t quite old enough but that one day I would be. Finally, she had the perfect solution to quell my incessant questioning. She said…”when you turn 5 years old you can go to school.” So, on July 10th, the day I turned 5, I woke up so excited, knowing this was the day I would go to school!
It was not the day I went to school. I would have to wait until September, an eternity away. My little anticipatory heart was broken.
But the day did arrive and I made friends with everyone in class, except snotty Toddy because….ewww. I loved my teacher, Miss Halapaska, whose name I remember to this day because it sounds like ‘jalapeño’. School was everything I had dreamt and more. I loved school!
But the sad day arrived and my sweet mother constructed scenario after scenario, comprised heartfelt speeches to convey the devastating news to her little 5 year old daughter. My pet turtle died that day. How could a mother gently explain death to a child?
Per usual, I came home, excited to share all the stories of my day with my mom and, again with my dad when he returned home from his day of making money which is what I told my teacher and all my classmates he did when it was ‘share your dad’s job with the class day.’ My dad's job was so much easier than my mom's which was being my mom. But stories would have to wait because my mom thought it best to get to the tragic news so we could proceed with the grief and tears and begin the funeral arrangements she had prepared for Tootie the turtle. I don’t remember if she was wearing a black veil at that time but I knew she looked sad and that I wasn’t going to get a snack any time soon.
She hugged me and said…’Honey, I need to tell you some sad news. Tootie died today. I’m so sorry but I have a little box we can bury him in and we can have a little ceremony and talk about how much Tootie meant to us and what a great pet turtle he had been” to which I replied…”why didn’t you just flush him down the toilet and then we can get another one?”
Even little 7s don’t know how to process grief and look to the possibility of what the future holds. A new turtle would make it all better, it seemed. My mom didn’t flush Tootie down the toilet but, in her wisdom, made me stay with the moment and talk about Tootie as something I had feelings for…something I loved. She, as a type 2, processes everything through feelings-her own as well as the ones she assumes those she loves must be feeling. Type 7s process by thinking and planning for the future…hard feelings tend to get in the way. She wanted me to feel. I wanted to get on with life. It was a pivotal moment in both of our lives.
I don’t remember much about the event other than from my mom who has shared the story with me many times. Little 7s don’t want to stay anywhere too long, including the past, but she knew, intuitively, that this was a sneak peek into my personality. Without the language of the Enneagram to put words with these actions, without understanding what my fears or motivations were, she knew my energy was different from hers.
Learning to observe these energies in our littles is such a gift to both the child and the parent as it helps us to understand how we all navigate feeling safe and how we attempt to get our needs met in this big, big world. In Enneagram language, these energies are called ‘Stances’. If the subject of Stances is new and you’d like to know more in relation to observing them in children, I invite you to read my Blog entitled “No Girls Allowed”. Knowing this one piece of information can make such a difference.
Look for the signs…they’re everywhere.