Optimistic or Pessimistic? Can we choose?

Maggie and Max

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My daughter Maggie is in 3rd grade and is taking a standardized test this week in school.  It has been interesting watching her prepare.  I have always known that she tends to be more of a glass half empty person.  She doesn’t wake up happy, she is always talking about something that hurts or itches or bugs her.   She gets frustrated, when I ask her to do something unexpected.  She is a slow mover.  She has no sense of urgency.  In fact, she can suck on the same Jolly Rancher for hours, until it is but a tiny sliver and still doesn’t have the urge to crunch down on it.   She won’t raise her hand to answer a question in school without first knowing the answer.  She doesn’t want to be wrong.  She loves roller coasters, she is gutsy. She is patient and kind to everyone and has lots of friends.  She is smart and honest.  She can’t lie.   She thinks things through and takes her time.  Oh does she take her time.
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She is exactly like her father.
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She is almost the exact opposite of my son Max.  Max is a glass half full kid.  He literally wakes up singing.   He blurts.  He moves fast.  He puts a Jolly Rancher in his mouth and after only a few sucks he chews.  He can’t help it.  He could have a fever for three days and I wouldn’t know it because he doesn’t complain.  He does things in the spur of the moment.  He doesn’t think before he acts.  Which leads us to the lying thing.  “No Mom, I don’t have any idea how a carton of chocolate milk got into my backpack and exploded all over my library books”   He is smart too, but in school he wants to finish his work as fast as he can even if he is getting the answers wrong.  Instead of erasing a wrong answer…that takes to long…he just writes over the top harder.  He loves gym class and being outside.  He loves playing with his friends.  He is tender hearted, it doesn’t take much to bring tears to his eyes.
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He is exactly like me.
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So, are we born with this personality to some degree?  Let’s see Maggie cried for the first 3 months of her life.  Max was cool as a cucumber.  Was I anxious as a new mom, and did that rub off on Maggie?  Did my anxiety start her off on a pessimistic foot?  They say parents are more laid back with the 2nd child, so is that why Max has a calmer personality? I guess I think we are raising our kids the same way, in the same house with the same 2 parents.  Why did Maggie get more of Jason’s personality and Max mine?
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We have been talking about optimism this week at our house.  We have been talking in positives instead of negatives.  When Maggie says her toe hurts, we take a look and then say “isn’t it great that my other toes don’t hurt too”.  When she wakes up unhappy about having to take that test we say “Isn’t it great that it’s pizza dippers for lunch today”.  I know it seems silly, but I am working on the premise that this lean toward the negative is a habit and habits can be broken right?
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I might be taking this optimism thing a bit too far though, I might be giving Maggie a complex.  When we were saying our prayers last night I said “Lord let Maggie wake up joyful and optimistic tomorrow”.  Maggie said “Lord, help me remember to wake up joyful and optimistic tomorrow”.
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As I am writing this Maggie is still sleeping, so time will tell:)
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I have a super nice customer who comes into my shop for help.  She is a very good knitter.  She is a pessimist.  I don’t think she’d be surprised I’m saying that.  She comes into the shop saying she can’t do something and she has that something already done perfectly!  She just thinks she hasn’t.  She is funny and smart.  But she doesn’t seem to know it.  In fact, this week I was kind of razzing her a bit about it.  I told her she needs to think more positively, to believe that she can do it and to be happy for the things she has already done!  She knit an amazing vest last year for her daughter and never gave herself the credit she deserved.  There was something wrong with it up to the bitter end.  She finished it with flying colors even though she kept coming in saying “I can’t”.
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I wonder if she takes after her mother or her father?
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I just read an interesting book called The Geography of Bliss, One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World.  It was fascinating.  I loved it so much that I am giving away a brand new copy of the book next week.  Just leave me a comment below, or on facebook or stop in and we’ll get your name in the drawing.  Oh and speaking of books.  Jennifer and Kim are starting a book club in January!  Stay tuned for more info on that…
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Go forth and be optimistic!  Isn’t it great that your other toes don’t hurt too?
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36 Responses to “Optimistic or Pessimistic? Can we choose?”

  1. Amy Glaser says:

    A BOOK CLUB AT DKA! HOORAY!!! I am SO in for that. I’m already in two other book clubs, but one more won’t hurt. : )

  2. Elizabeth Narolis says:

    Now that is a book club i could love! Books and knitting, two things I cant get enough of (when my kids let me)!

  3. Kim Stack says:

    WOW! You are an amazing Mom & I too have the same issues with my kids (who are now grown adults – almost)! I wish there was a book that would tell us if we did this, our kids would do that – but that pretty much only happens when they are teenagers & we’re telling them NO. All we can do is do the BEST that we can & continue to be as good of parents as we can be & pray. Everyone has their purpose in life for ‘who’ they are. Amazing years are just around the corner…And ironically, I’m the pessimist in almost all cases – but have learned to be more optimistic. so perhaps we can retrain ourselves??

  4. Michelle Moser says:

    Book club with DKA friends….what could be better? Maybe that we can knit while discussing the books….yay!

  5. Aimee's mom says:

    Aimee takes after her dad. :>)

  6. Kevin says:

    Facinating and very reflective. I think it all starts with awareness. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.

  7. Angela Smith says:

    I must admit, I have read several of your blogs and always love your take on things. You are honest, and speak from the heart. You have a great sense of humor and come across very genuine. I must also admit, your entry brought me to tears today. I have 2 daughters with the exact same personality you described. I worry about our pessimistic daughter, Eva. She is introverted, and as you said, doesn’t seem to find joy in much. I am like our older daughter (Brekayla); optimistic, excitable, and humorous. It is hard to relate to Eva sometimes. I love her dearly, and often come to her defense when relatives ask, “what makes Eva happy.” She is sensitive and cries at the drop of a hat. We encourage and support her in everything she does. I don’t want to change her. I love her just as she is. There are so many great things about her. Is it wrong to wish she were more cheerful sometimes? Thank you for your article. It made me feel less alone.

  8. Aimee's mother-in-law says:

    Love you Aimee and the most important gift you give Maggie and Max is love. It shines through with your descriptions of all their traits…inherited or not. So many more realizations are ahead for you about the person within each of them. Enjoy….and keep the optimism coming!!!

  9. Patti says:

    Nice blog – you really got me thinking. We’ve noticed those same differences in our kids over the years (they’re 20’s now) and actually STILL “change focus” with them. In fact, I guess my husband & I do even with each other.

    What a sweet picture of your kiddos:)

  10. Allison says:

    I have heard interviews (on MPR Midmorning/Daily Circuit if anyone wants to go look in the archives) with scientists saying , naturally, “Yes, both nature and nurture”. But one thing that I remembered in particular and thought of while reading the post was one interview where they talked specifically about people being “hardwired” for optimism. The bulk of the population (I want to say in the 75% range but that could be off) are naturally inclined toward optimism. Which is not necessarily as rosy as an optimist would have you think. For people with that natural tendency to bias toward positive information and assumptions it is actually more difficult to assimilate and learn from negative information and experiences. The downside is the potential to fall too far on the negative side, but if you can learn to aim for the realistic middle ground (a trainable goal I think) then a pessimistic tendency doesn’t have to be a handicap.
    (Says someone with a pessimistic tendency and no children.)

  11. Barb Ray says:

    I loved this…while we all have our moments, I do agree that we tend to lean one way or the other. I think I lean toward the “glass is half full” side…but I sure do have my moments. With knitting, I just keep trying. I don’t mind messing something up and ripping it out as I learn. It drives my husband nuts! Which also makes me just a tad bit happy! LOL!!! Nature vs Nurture…the ever evolving question! 🙂 Was good to stop in and see you the other day!!!

  12. michele hokanson says:

    Love your blog, I think I could use your book my attitide is kind of sucky latley

  13. Carla Semple says:

    I could definitely use the book! Still home after three months. However, Mayo has finally given me a diagnosis….. 6 of them in fact. I could use some of your positive thinking Aimee. I love how you “get” your kids! They are very lucky!!!

  14. This is a great blog post! Makes me think of my own kids…

  15. Sue Hedin says:

    I listen to audio books while I knit, and I listened to “Geography of Bliss’ and loved it. Another book that I recommend that just may be related to some of the issues you are dealing with is ‘Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Doesn’t Stop Talking,’ by Susan Cain. Lots of great pointers on raising kids who are the quiet and sensitive side of the spectrum. It is life changing in many ways.

  16. Tamara says:

    You have inspired me to buy this book. I was always a positive person. Over the years I’ve let disappointment take that away from me. I find myself being grumpy about things that shouldn’t bother me. I’m going to break the habits of pessimism and be the person I started as. xo

  17. Jorie Kulseth says:

    Perfect timing for me to read your blog! I have been thinking that I would like to find a book club/knitting circle! I’m definitely interested, even though it would be a bit of a hike! The optimism/pessimism question is fascinating! As is the whole topic of how much our children reflect our natures. Thanks again, I enjoy getting your updates.

  18. Lovely and honest blog post. Think of the families you’re healing by asking those questions out loud and pointing to some resources. Nicely done, Aimee!

  19. Kathi says:

    Aimee,

    Wasn’t there a book for kids called “The Little Engine That Could”? I really believe in doing affirmations to charge my mindset as I see positive results from them. No reason it shouldn’t work with children. Does’t necessarily mean the innate nature will change, but how a person deals with subjects can and does change if they practice looking at things positively. Good luck in shaping your daughter’s outlook.

    Kathi

  20. Doris says:

    Wish I lived close enough to take part in the book club! Des Moines is a bit of a drive from you… I read the first chapter of this book and would love to read the rest. I’m a Maggie sort of person, wish I could be more like Max. I think the way you are working on it is good, I wish someone had guided me when I was little… Instead I’ve learned most things the hard way!

  21. Carol says:

    Aimee
    Interesting thoughts…I don’t have kids but a friend has twin boys and I can see the same differences in them. One is more sensitive, he seems like an old soul, cares about everyone. The other takes life as it comes, plays a ton of sports and is more optimistic than his brother. There parents are great with each of the kids. It makes me wonder if we aren’t born with the tendency already.

  22. Kris says:

    What a thought provoking blog. I never think too much about it but I am probably a glass half empty kinda gal but that doesn’t mean we aren’t happy people. It just means we look at things from a different point of view, one where we need to fill the glass. However, that said I am such a morning person I wake up happy and hopeful, it is only by the end of the day after dealing with drivers on the road or political ads on the telly (thank God those are done for awhile) that I get grumpy and negative. In fact, I never think of myself as a glass half empty but as I read through the characteristics I suddenly realized my husband is right. Shhhh! Whatever you do don’t tell him!

  23. Mary Williams says:

    First borns tend to be over achievers and thus perfectionistic. 2nd borns have sometimes been identified
    as rebels. Besides either or, I think another approach is to be mindful or to live in the moment. Being aware (noticing, honoring) of what is around you, and how you are chosing to be with it. (“Being Peace,” and “The Miracle of Mindfulness” by Thicht Nhat Hahn speaks to these points)
    When it comes to kids I think the best message is “I love you just the way you are!” Followed by “You can be anything you want to be.”
    Keep reading and sharing!!!

  24. Julie Luna says:

    Interesting! Reminds me of my own children. Thanks for sharing–gives me lots to think about.

  25. Vi Feirer says:

    hmm, you’ve made me think and it’s time for bed! I take after my mother and we know how a girl LOVES to take after her mother. It’s not all bad, LOL. I look at both my sons and see one takes after me and the other takes after the father. Hmm, you’ve made me think and it’s time for bed! LOL

    I’ve often wondered if I could change the negative in me and my son. I need to go see if I can order that book.

  26. Carole Truesdale says:

    Sounds like a fascinating book. I knit to TV. How about knitting to books on CD?

  27. Tami Hathaway says:

    Always enjoy your blogs. Looking forward to ready the book 😉

  28. Dawn DeMulling says:

    Sounds like a great book. I think people are born optimistic or pessimistic, but I think that if you are surrounded by pessimists, the negative energy can affect you.

  29. Terry says:

    My daughter sounds like yours – and she hates it when I try to turn negative comments into positives because she doesn’t feel heard. She needs to have her complaints/comments acknowledged – and does better when I ask her if she can think of her own positives.

  30. Millie Wilcox says:

    Love this post! Wish I could be around this winter for the book club(NOT for the cold and snow) so will have to participate long distance. Love the idea of a book club and your take on optimism/pessimism thing. Not sure where I fall, but I prefer to be the optimist. Keep sharing;0

  31. Jeani Junker says:

    Hi! Aimee, Love the Idea of thinking god thoughts. IF we all have a positive thoughts we would all do ok. I try to help my daughter to have a positive thought too. PS: Thanks for the pattern too. See ya,

  32. Julie Ritter says:

    Love the idea of a book club. Knitting and reading, two of my favorite things. I am adding this book to my list of must reads. I think optimism and pessimism are genetic, but the attitude can change with habits. I may be right or wrong. Can’t wait to read what the book says.

  33. Brenda says:

    I once read that ‘ you should try to be kind to people, because sometimes that might be the only kindness that person has that day.’ I think when we are give of ourselves to others, whether it be humor, attention, patience, and kindness, we end up being richer and more positive for it……….My mother always taught us to help people, not for what we get back from them, but so that the circle may be unbroken.
    I love reading your blog. 🙂
    I plan to stay tuned for your book club. I am a bibliomaniac.

  34. Laurie says:

    Hi, love the blog. I have no kids but four siblings and I do notice how different we each handle life.

  35. Jean says:

    I have always been a glass half full person. I grew up learning that someone somewhere had it worse than me. Love your blog and your store and your staff. I love coming to the shop because you ALWAYS feel welcomed. I look forward to many more years of DKA.

  36. admin says:

    Hi Angela!
    I would love to give you the book for this give away. Are you local or can I mail the book.
    I loved your comment and think we have a lot in common!
    feel free to call 651-342-1386
    aimee@darnknitanyway.com

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