When my my first child was born, I had no idea what I was doing. No parenting book could have prepared me for sleepless nights, cluster feeding, and leaky boobs. But eventually, I got the hang of things, as we all do. When my second child was born, I was faced with new struggles I had not dealt with the first time around.
Different kid. Different struggles.
Not much has changed, years later. As my children have grown, they have blossomed from babies, to toddlers, to children with distinct personalities. In some ways they are similar to each other, and in other ways they are different. And in some very obvious ways, they are similar to myself and my husband.
Those who know our family often joke that our daughter is a carbon copy of me, and that our son is a carbon copy of my husband. Truth be told, this is heartening and frightening at the same time. And as a further matter, we have found that parenting our children often requires us to employ different strategies based upon which child we are dealing with.
While we love them the same, and while we have the same house rules for each of them (work hard, be kind, have fun, be yourself), we also realize that they are different people with different needs.
Our daughter, like myself, is a self-motivated perfectionist. She taught herself to read and do math, does workbooks for fun, and practices whatever she is learning in school or activities until she has mastered it. We have never worried about her academically. However, she is, like myself, introverted, anxious to speak up or show her true personality, and hard on and discouraged with herself.
Growing up, my parents never once had to ask me if I had completed my homework. Rather, they had to send me to bed and ask me to stop studying. I was regularly overworked, over-stressed, and upset with myself when I could not live up to the standard of perfection I had set for myself. Knowing these things about myself and about our daughter, I find myself overcompensating by emphasizing failure, imperfection, and confidence, so that she might avoid the stresses I succumbed to as a pre-teen and teen.
In contrast, our son, like my husband, is Good Time Charlie. He has no trouble raising his voice in a group, making friends, standing his ground, or reading social cues. These qualities are ones that will serve him well and take him far in life. However, despite still being little, he often lacks initiative (it took us a year to get him to put on his own shoes without assistance), has very little impulse control, and shows zero interest in doing anything that he does not deem to be “fun.”
Just as I worry about my daughter entering her pre-teen years, I similarly worry about my son, but for very different reasons. While we are raising both children to make smart decisions, I envision my son needing a little extra guidance when it comes to his social choices.
While my love for my children may be the same, my children are distinct people with distinct needs, wants, strengths, and weaknesses. What I expect from them as people (hard work, kindness, respect, among other things), will always be consistent. However, how I approach my children may have to differ, given their markedly different personalities. And being armed with the knowledge of how I and my husband were as children (and how our pasts have impacted us as adults), we plan to use that knowledge to color our approaches to each child in the hopes of guiding them to making the best decisions for themselves.