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The Origins of Personality


I have two kids who resemble one another, but act like polar opposites most of the time. My son is sensitive and reserved while my daughter is loud and carefree, a cute, little bull in a delicate china shop. One of the secret gifts of parenting that nobody tells you about is getting a front-row seat to watching these personalities develop and blossom. I marvel at the fact that these multi-faceted creatures, made out of the same genetic materials, came out of me.

This past week we celebrated Zoe’s 4th birthday. The milestone has coincided with a lot of changes in Zoe, so rapid that every day she surprises me with some new gesture or turn of phrase.


“It’s cool, right?” She said to me on Saturday after I HAD to see her ride a teeter-tottery motorbike at a local park. I’ve never used that phrase before in my life.


As she rocked back and forth, I realize that she is becoming more of a distinct person every day, picking up traits from her family but also the world at large. Zoe is also letting her true light shine, which brings a lot of laughter. The dinner hour is her favorite time to brush up on her butt jokes, right as my patience is worn through like an old sock. As I ask her for the 19th time to eat her broccoli, I can’t help but fight back a snicker.


Allow me to get spiritual for a moment: I honestly believe that Zoe’s light and laughter is one of those so-called “God drops” in my life. You know, those everyday spiritual moments that are too perfect to be a coincidence, and could only be the work of some higher power much greater than our own. I believe that God drops are everywhere, we just usually lack the grace to notice them as they play out all around us.


You see, the Walsh side of me can take life a bit too seriously—all responsibilities and laundry, deadlines and bedtimes. By the end of the day, I am not only worn out, but also perturbed by feeling like I didn’t accomplish enough. This is the curse of the self-employed. There are never enough hours in the day to get it all done. It takes the wisdom of a 4-year old to remind me that life is more than what I knocked off my to-do list for that day.

As Zoe looks at me across the dinner table with a huge grin, she reminds me to lighten up and laugh. Life is serious enough, and butt jokes are much funnier than broccoli.

Nora Kerr is the owner of Memoir for Me, specializing in preserving the stories that matter.