Stop Playing the Heavy, Mom

I’m a Green.

I seek knowledge and understanding. I’m conceptual and independent. For me, work is play.

I’m drawn to constant challenge and like to develop models and explore ideas. I need explanations and answers. I poke holes in things.

Can you imagine what being my child must be like?

A group I am working with recently went through a True Colors personality process. We took the brief assessment, noting statements that we related to best, and then added our scores to see what was most dominant. While I had a decent mix of the four colors, I was definitely Green. Green is me to a tee.

I am curious about life. I trust logic and consistency. I am more about determination than I am courage. More about insight than about love.

The facilitator gave our groups an assignment to build the tallest structure we could with raw spaghetti, marshmallows, and gumdrops. But before we even started, I asked, “Are we limited to these materials? Can we use anything else?”

She laughed. The question alone confirmed what color I was. I was already analyzing the process, trying to determine the strictness of the rules. The facilitator said the only rule was to build the tallest structure. So I immediately suggested to my group that we use two Starbucks coffee cups as a base.

I was the only Green in the room, so she put me in the Orange group, which are the spontaneous ones—the impulsive, the optimistic. This is the group that needs freedom, that thrives on action—the group that findsnotknowing acceptable. They playfully worked on our structure, wandering off focus here and there, troubleshooting as we went, while I suggested logical strategies for making our structure stronger. I also asked rhetorical questions, such as “The structure is turning—how about we build a brace to block the rotation?” But even as I asked it, I was already halfway through building a brace.

Meanwhile, one of my Orange peers was sticking gumdrops on top, just because we had them, not predicting that the extra weight would make the problem worse. Oranges are the experimenters. They were moving quickly trying things out, without forethought but with great eagerness and fun.

As we worked through the process, it suddenly occurred to me that my only child must be an Orange. And not only that, but I have probably tormented him his whole life. I’ve been poking holes in his spontaneity for 19 years.

Once we finished our structures and debriefed the process, we laughed about the Blues, the empathic ones, who kept checking in with each other, “Is that okay, Bob? What do you think, Cindy? Great idea, Barbara!” And one of them put extra gumdrops on everyone’s desks.

When the facilitator later asked us to bring the extra supplies to the front of the room, I saw a box of thin spaghetti on the table.

“Thin spaghetti? Next time you should use regular spaghetti,” I said. “Thin spaghetti breaks too easily.” She laughed.

Later that weekend, when my son was giving me a ride to my sister’s for a family gathering, I told him about my True Colors experience. He said, “Oh, yeah, I remember that. I did that in school. I’ve taken it twice, and I am mostly Orange…with a little Blue.”

“Ha! That’s what I thought!” I said, so excited with my accurate assessment.

“I was thinking…” I said, “Have I been tormenting you your whole life with my logic and pragmatism?” 

He nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “You were pretty bad, but you’ve gotten better.”

“Hmmm.”

As we later pulled into my sister’s driveway, my son navigated his Civic over by their shed. But he was not parking in a real parking spot—it was just some extra space by the shed—and it was also far from the front door.

“Why don’t you go park over there?” I asked, pointing to the spaces in front of the garage doors.

“Nah,” he said. “This is where I always park when I come here.”

“But…” And then I realized what I was doing.

“There I go!” I said. “I’m poking holes in your parking!”

He smiled. I’m sure he was thinking, “Thank God! Mom is finally learning to let me be who I am!”

But all he said was, “Yep.”