Thursday, March 25, 2010

Doing Dishes - a personality profile

I've been listening to a lot of podcasts recently that repeat in different terms that we as a human race come in four basic molds. I learned the Steiner (which refer to the medieval which refer to the Ancient Greek) definitions of melancholic, sanguine, choleric and phlegmatic. The four basic humors. But I'm hearing variations which refer to our nature energies (nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon) or to our crisis selves (rage, depression, distraction, avoidance), etc., etc.,

In this household, I'll probably stick to the first set of terms. I know them well having studied them during my Waldorf teachers' training and I'm ever amused by the many ways they manifest in daily activities in my household such as: doing the dishes.

There's the child who whips through the task, manages to soak the curtain beneath the sink, and then disappears. Often, there are dishes right behind him he neglected, and more than a few that require my rinsing them further.

There's the child that takes hours to delicately remove every tiny scrap of food with the point of his sponge. Scrubbing energetically isn't natural to him, so there are times he seems to be manipulating a powder puff on china rather than a scrubby on cast iron. His physical self, repulsion at having wet hands, etc, are far more present in his spirit than method and adapting to the tools at hand. In the end, the dishes are pretty clean, but not always.

Then there's the mellow kid. He sets up the two sinks -- soapy warm and hot clean water -- puts a chair in front of the work area (being eight, he's still a bit short for the task), and calmly gets to work. When he's finished he comes to me, ready to brush his teeth, put on his jammies and be read a book. All is calm, no hysterics, and the next morning I put away the dishes with ease. All are clean and sparkling.

These tendencies carry over to how we wash and vacuum the car -- he who sees half of the job no matter the explanation, and who is done in 5 minutes. Quickly done, poorly done, more than half left for me. If I push him to return to the task, I get a flash of moody, temperamental attitude. (no, this is not Leo). In fact, my own two were pretty on the ball for this task. Vacuum in hand they worked carefully on the seats and the floor. That I was right along side removing dust from the interior and mud from the exterior was reassuring, at least for them. For my little choleric, it was the annoying and heavy presence of a surveying adult.

Even the way they sponge off the table... yes, there's one that never gets the table fully clean, the other who sensitive to textures and moisture never completely squeezes the sponge out enough, and so though he does the whole table, it takes a while to dry... And my little one who is closest to the task, and yes, seems at this point to be the most calm and thorough in manner.

And me? a recovering and joyous sanguine. I do dishes quickly, mostly pretty well. I enjoy scrubbing and the hot water is lovely, and if my hands get torn up, oh well. However, I'm not a particularly adept wine glass washer. I leave that to JP (when he's around). I once had an au pair who took hours to do the dishes. She drove me batty -- how could you spend an hour on something that I do in 15 minutes? But goodness, her glassware sparkled!

How to appreciate our differences... That choleric? he's the moving force in many a bike ride/tennis game and more in this household. He definitely has his virtues and I would be the last to deny them. And my texture-sensitive one? He's a faithful and attentive friend to those he loves. No one will be written off. Simply, I hope, understood a bit better.

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