I am not sure about anyone else with more than one child, but my children are complete polar opposites. You know, night and day, yin and yang, light and dark... I know that you are suppose to treat your children the same but I really believe that this is a disservice to them. How can you parent two children the same if what makes them tick is completely different? Don't get me wrong, I love my children the same, there are no favorites. However, I don not think it is fair to either of my boys if I parent them the same.
Spiro, my oldest, is extremely sensitive, takes everything to heart, strives to please everyone, and even though his chronological age is 6, he really is about 42 years old. I can remember at my six week check up with my midwife, her first thought upon meeting him was "what an old soul". I am not sure why that meeting embedded in my brain, but that is exactly what Spiro is, an old soul, wise beyond his years. The ongoing joke is that we would like to be like Spiro when we grow up. He is the safe one, the follow the rules one, the one that needs constant praise for a job well done and the one who thrives from routine and struggles with change. He seemed to be very content in my belly and entered this world a
week late after 16 hours of labor via Cesarean, he had decided that he was comfortable in there and wasn't about to come out into the cold world and I
can't say that I blame him. When he was younger, before I had been blessed with my second, we would be at a store and I would see another mother struggling with a child about his age. The other child would be in full tantrum mode, kicking and screaming, crying, throwing himself on the ground and I would think wow, I wonder what she's doing wrong? and, then I had Billy...
Billy, is my youngest, he is charismatic, charming, a risk taker, a leader, and is not looking to please anyone. At 4 , he has a hard time separating from me at times, but I have a sneaking suspicion that will come to an end one day in the very near future. He is ready to take on a new adventure at any time and stuff just doesn't "get" to him. He is the one who is willing to try anything once and the one that when he gets something in his head, nothing is going to stop him. He entered this world two weeks early, after 5 hours of labor and 3 pushes. That was it, he was ready to take the world by storm. He did everything early, he was crawling by 6 months, walking by 9 and climbing out of his crib by 18 months. I can remember being at his 9 month check-up and assuring the pediatrician that something must be wrong because he was still getting up 4 times a night and Spiro had started sleeping through the night by 8 weeks old. She assured me that he was fine and that I was lucky with Spiro. He never did sleep through night consistently until he was about a year and a half. All experience, I had as Spiro's Mommy, was out the window and I was starting from scratch because Billy was not Spiro.
Our fish Goldie kicked the bucket a few weeks ago. In the midst of the holiday chaos, I may or may not have forgotten to feed him after I moved his location from our kitchen desk to our office. Now for all the animal rights activists out there, call the dogs off. I adore animals, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, worms, lightning bugs... and in my defense Goldie was 2 years old and as I told the boys quite "elderly". With no clear cause of death from an autopsy, (we elected to hold a small, closed service in our powder room) there is no proof that I am at fault. It was an honest oversight, I mean, I didn't forget to feed the kids or the dog so I guess 3 out of 4 ain't bad, right? Unbeknownst to me, I sent Spiro in to discover the dead fish when I asked him to run up to our office and feed him. I am sure he will be discussing this along with many other things in therapy in about 25 years. To say he "took it hard" is an understatement, he was basically inconsolable for about 2 hours. Between the "my life will never be the same without Goldie" and "will everyone die" I started to really wish that I had I just left the fish on the kitchen desk. Spiro required a lengthy discussion on the meaning of life and the circle of life and why things die and what we learn from it. I explained to him that he had missed our turtle Theo when he passed away over the summer ( I plead the 5th), and that although he missed him, life moved on and now Goldie and Theo could be together in heaven. He started crying harder and said "Great, now I am thinking about Theo too". It was at this point that I realized that I had jumped out of the plane and forgot my parachute inside. I spent the next hour digging myself out of a very large hole that I had dug, until he understood or got tired of crying ( I am still not sure which). Billy on the other hand, handled things quite well. He looked at Spiro as if to say, "Seriously, bro, it's a fish? Take it easy." but instead just shrugged his shoulders and said "Mommy, Goldie got dead". I agreed that " Yes, "Goldie did get dead" and he asked me how? To which I replied, "He was elderly". For him, that was it. That was all he needed. He moved on, never looked back and hasn't brought up the fish since.
Just for the record, although Billy was a lot easier to handle through "Goldie Gate" he never had any shame in throwing down in the middle of any store, school, church... and I now look back at the poor Mommy I had judged in the middle of target with her screaming 2 year old and realize it is not always your parenting but sometimes the will of your child. It goes back to the old nature vs. nurture argument. I truly do believe it's a combination of both. I think each child comes to us with a portion of their personality already imbedded in their souls and I think it is our job as parents to recognize these qualities and patiently foster them. My children's uniqueness to each other is what will make them great, Spiro will always be a focused, empathetic, follow the rules kind of guy and Billy will always be his own person, never a follower, letting things roll of his back and always searching for something exciting with not a speck of fear in his heart. The things about each of my boys that makes it difficult for me at times to parent are the things about them that I have come to truly admire and appreciate. The moral of this story for me? Treat your children as individuals not a group and always keep the animals in a place where you can SEE them all the time.