One of the most enjoyable parts of being a parent is seeing your kids’ personalities emerge. Even six years after our first, and two more later, witnessing our little people turn into, well, little people is such a surprise. There are some similarities amongst our girls—like their great senses of humor, their musicality, and their love for dancing—but really they are all quite unique and very much individuals.

A week ago, we went to the Intermountain Nursery for their fall festival. We’ve gone every year since we moved to Fresno, and it’s always a lot of fun to see the local arts and crafts, sample some great food, and hear a variety of live music. And this year what I really noticed, and loved watching, was how each of our girls’ personalities shone in different ways in that setting.

I was mostly on Aliya duty last Sunday and she never stopped. She’s been walking for about three months now and is steady enough and confident enough to head out on her own adventures. In fact, she’ll often give a little scream when you pick her up when she wants to be on her own two feet, so I just let her go. I did run a little interference for her in more dense crowds, but for the most part, she chose her own path and made friends along the way. “Shy” is not really a part of this girl’s personality at the moment. She walked straight up to groups of adults who would be talking, looked each one in the eye, smiled, then moseyed on. I watched stranger after stranger just be immediately charmed by her independent, cute-as-hell smile and felt humbled and proud at the same time. She even walked right up to this older man and put her arms out, requesting to be picked up. He asked if it was okay and I said it was fine. I knew Aliya’s sense of who is safe and knows what they’re doing was good enough to trust, and I asked him about his kids. They were grown now and he told me the saddest day of his life with them so far, was the day he couldn’t pick them up any more. I could tell that having a minute with Aliya was pretty special for him and Aliya was right at home, even in this stranger’s arms. When she was ready she leaned over, he set her down, and away we went. We did that for hours, literally.

Now Maia on the other hand, she’s a little more reserved in social settings. She sat in the stroller much of the time, and only ventured out for short periods. She got out to say hi and be with Cousin Olivia at first, then was out for little bit to dance in Grandma Jennie’s arms, but then went back into her little chariot, content with observing things from in there. When one of their friends showed up later, she of course got out and wanted to be in among the little tribe of kids, but in general, it seemed Maia needed some space between her and the crowd and had no problem asking for it, which I thought was great. I want her to be comfortable even if it’s a little anti-social. When she’s ready, she makes her presence known. In fact, it was really interesting watching how much other people were drawn to her, even though she really wanted nothing to do with them. Maybe it’s because she’s stand-offish, or maybe it’s because she’s so petite and cute, I don’t know. But if you think you’re going to make Maia you’re friend, you will be set straight. Maia really likes things on her terms.

That leaves Little Miss Thang, Keana. She and Aliya seem similar personality-wise, because I remember Keana, even as a baby, charming the crowds and being open to just about anyone. Still, they are different. Aliya has a little bit more edge in her outgoingness, whereas Keana is still our little happy-go-lucky. People everywhere have described her simply as “a light”, and that pretty much sums it up. There could not be a more loving little girl. It doesn’t matter how old you are, younger or way older, if you’re ready to play, Keana will be right there with you. She also loves to dance and she didn’t let her slight nervousness stop her last Sunday. There really weren’t many people dancing, and really no other kids, but Keana was right up front, busting out all her moves. It was really cute watching her assimilate some of the moves of the older people around her. She danced as long as music was playing. She admitted to me later, “Papa, I was a little scared to dance. But I just like dancing so much I just did it anyway.” I have much to learn from Keana.

That’s really what it is: noticing, appreciating, supporting, and learning from these kids as they grow into who they’re going to be. Watching Keana, Maia, and Aliya is a constant reminder to me that I’m still growing too and that who I am is exactly who I am supposed to be. When I remember this, it helps me with them. It is such a gift and such a joy to be a part of this.