Danny was the joy of his mother’s life from birth on, and yet a nightmare for both parents from the time he could walk. He typified every good thing you could imagine about an ESFP child, but he was also the most adventurous little boy that anyone could imagine. The fact that he was tall and sturdy for his age, and exceptionally well coordinated, allowed him to get into more trouble than would have been possible for the average child. At five his mother’s heart nearly stopped when a neighbor ran over to tell her that Danny was on the roof of the house. He had tossed a Frisbee to their dog and the wind had somehow caught it and blew it up on the roof. His dad had been cleaning out gutters that morning and had left the ladder propped against the house. Dan just scrambled right up and was now having a great time looking over the neighborhood.
His father was summoned from the garage and quickly brought the young man back down to earth. Needless to say he was scolded fiercely and confined to the house for the rest of the weekend. Unfortunately for parental comfort and cardiac health, this was just one of many such escapades in the ensuing years. His parents tried to keep him busy and tired with sports, Scouts, trips to big-league baseball, etc. This was of some value, but it didn’t really stop irrepressible Dan. He was nearly banned from Scouting when, against all rules, he climbed a 40-foot tree on an overnight campout. He took up skateboarding and was soon the neighborhood champion, but he earned two concussions in the process. And so it went.
School went fairly well, in patches. Surprisingly for an SP he rather liked math, and did pretty well with that. Writing, spelling and English, on the other hand, he just endured. His parents kept him somewhat on track on homework and chores by restricting his skateboarding when he got seriously behind. They seemed to have a sort of uneasy peace during his eleventh year until the day he and a friend went missing.
The boys had taken off together in the morning, promising to be back for lunch. In midmorning a powerful rainstorm began, and Dan’s parents went out looking for the two of them, but had no luck. When the boys did not return by dinnertime, both sets of parents were convinced that something was very wrong, and the police were called. Danny’s home was about a mile from a local river, and the first thought was that the boys had gone down there and somehow fallen in. Police scoured the area in the evening and a massive search was begun the following morning, in the midst of rain that continued to pour. Much of the day went by, with the parents living in terror, and then the boys were seen emerging from a huge storm drain not far from the river. Danny, at that point, was pulling his friend Jared out of the opening.
Going into the drain had been Danny’s big idea. He had known a way in for a long time and was dying to see if they could follow it all the way to the river. They got in with no problem, but then the sudden rainstorm came and water rushed in behind them. At one point the water was literally carrying them along. Suddenly, when they had nearly reached the river, Jared, who had been bouncing along in front, feet first, had one foot violently thrust into a diagonal drainpipe that was clogged with old debris. Danny came along behind him and slammed into him, driving his leg in further. Jared screamed in pain, yelling that his leg was broken, which indeed it was. Danny tried to pull him back out, but there was no room to stand and get a grip, and with each attempt the pain seemed to get worse. By now the pipe was half full of water, and the boys decided that there was nothing to do but wait until the water subsided. They hadn’t counted on the intensity of the storm and water soon filled at least two thirds of the pipe. Danny was afraid to leave Jared for fear that he might drown. They shivered through the night in the very cold water. With morning and some faint light, Danny began little by little to work some of the debris out from around his friend’s foot and leg, holding his breath and ducking under the water to feel it, time after time. Finally things loosened up and Danny was able to pull him out. The boys used Danny’s jacket, a piece of wood from the debris pile, and their belts to make a splint for Jared’s leg. It wasn’t much, but it eased the pain a little. After that the two boys slowly scooted back up the drain with Danny pulling Jared and both boys keeping their heads above water. Eventually they were able to return to the point where they had entered. Danny hauled Jared out and, at that point, they were found.
Was Danny a villain? A hero? A heroic villain? The parents went through every imaginable emotion. They felt absolute fury that he would do such a thing and yet pride that he had stayed with his friend and brought him out safely. Danny felt an enormous sense of guilt himself. He had talked his friend into this and felt terrible about it. In the weeks that followed, the family had many long and serious talks about Danny’s risky behaviors. His dad was good friends with Dan’s soccer coach and ran the problems by him one morning. As it happened the coach had been a boy much like Danny, full of life and adventure, and full of physical competence. His advice, which the family took to heart, was that they had to go with his strengths rather than against them. They needed to find ways to help him challenge his abilities, without seriously risking his life. Keeping him busy and active, as they had been doing for years, was part of it, but not enough. In return for a much-chastened Danny’s solemn promise to keep their rules, they agreed to a series of adventures that they would schedule for him in the coming summers. He is due to join a junior group in white water rafting in the coming summer, and a little later they will send him off to an Outward Bound group where boys must survive on their own wits for a number of days. They are also discussing the possibility of instruction in rock-climbing later on. It feels a little like fighting fire with fire, but so far Danny is cooperating with family rules and eagerly looking forward to summer. He currently thinks he would like to be a Navy Seal when he grows up, and the family uses this fact to remind him that grades really do matter.
“Dangerous Dan” is not meant to be typical of all ESTPs. He is an extreme example of a very strong ESTP. He is also unique in being a strong, well-built boy with a great deal of physical skill and delight in that skill. He does, however, illustrate the more general idea that these children are very curious about the physical world, and are adventurous and daring. With strong Extraversion and Perceiving preferences, they can be pretty impulsive. Even with very young ESFP children you have to watch carefully to see what risks they might be willing to take that would concern you.
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