I’m a Nine on the Enneagram of Personality: the Peacemaker. I won’t bore you with the details, but if you are interested, go here. The Helper, or Caregiver (type 2), is in no way connected to a Nine on the wheel. Yesterday I took the unvalidated quicky version of the inventory, just for fun, and discovered I do have a score on type 2, where I think other times I’ve taken the test I did not. I guess that’s not surprising. Maybe I am living into my role as caregiver to my mother—who will be 99 next month—and my 15-month-old grandson.
I suspect my mother is also a Peacemaker, and it is our similarity of personality that causes conflict. I must say, without prejudice, I think I am on the healthier end of the type than she; to the point of appearing, on the surface, to have completely different personalities. Wanting her to move up on the spectrum toward good mental health when she can’t, frustrates and irritates me; and we clash. As I have written here recently, I am reading letters my father wrote to her more than 70 years ago. I can see, in and between his lines, that her unhealthy patterns began long ago. There is no hope that I can change her now.
Elliot—and I will not predetermine his type by his red-headedness—is his own person. It’s too early to tell, but I think he’s a bit of a 4: The Romantic, or The Individualist. He is sweet, cheerful, generous, and gregarious where he feels safe; and reserved and cautious in a crowd. And he is given to (very brief) fits of screeching and flinging whatever is in his hands—food, toys, bricks—when he doesn’t get what he wants. Oh, wow. That sounds familiar, too; I’m a strong 4 on the brief test. I’m too old to stamp my feet and fling things, but I am so doing it on my insides when I get frustrated with Mama. (Maybe it does sneak out a bit, too.)
It’s Mother’s Day. I no longer “mother” the two amazing adults I gave birth to, but I—rather surprisingly—find myself mothering these other two generations. I did not give birth to my grandson and I did not choose to be born of my mother, but they are the bookends of my life right now. They are both wells of neediness and fountains of determination to be impossibly self-reliant.
A good bit of my desire for independence and autonomy is inhibited by life in my mother’s house. I am both more the Peacemaker as I try to, well, keep the peace, and more the Individualist—sometimes in the inhibited and foot-stomping unhealthy direction—in my struggle for self-determination. With Elliot, I let go of inhibition: we dance around the living room to the music on our favorite Songza stations, shake rattle ‘n rollin’ like no one is watching. I accept his need for autonomy and his neediness for my care as completely as I reject Mama’s. He teaches me to try to accept her.
When I struggle with this caregiving role, as in “how the hell did I get here?” I pull up Heather Lende‘s words. She is an author living in tiny Haines, Alaska, whose blog I enjoy. She writes this about caring for grandchildren:
Caring well for a child, even a very small little boy who won’t remember anything we do today, is a better way to make the world a better place than anything else I will ever do.
I wonder, is the second best thing to usher a parent, the one who loved me and my sisters best of all, out of this life? If all the world had the opportunity to care for a tiny person at the beginning of life and an old person at the end, would it be a better world? I am a lucky person.
Happy Mother’s Day to all who mother, to all who teach, to all who love, to all who are open to learning and loving.