How is it possible to have two children, raised in the same environment, from the same parents who can be so completely different? I know a set of twins, a boy and a girl, who are so completely different that I didn’t realize they had the same parents or that they were even twins. She is kind, funny, and generous, while he is rough, blunt, and more selfish. They even look entirely different, she is tall and skinny and he is shorter and much stockier.
This is true for most siblings, and I believe that birth order and age differences have an effect on how we, as parents, treat them as they are growing up–think middle-child syndrome. Older parents tend to baby their children less. More experienced parents have an easier time raising their second and third child, and have an easier time letting them test their freedom. It amazes me every single day how completely opposite my children are in so many ways, I guess it is a good thing that they are so different, but one is a giver and the other is a taker.
I have a daughter and a son, ages 12 and 9, consecutively. My daughter was born breach and a few weeks prematurely. Because she was our first and was so small and fragile when she was born, she was coddled throughout her infancy. She refused to sleep through the night. As she grew older she became even more of a princess. She would throw temper tantrums and would cry for hours if she didn’t get her way. She was a girly girl who loved to play dress-up. She played with dolls for hours on end, and still does at times. She has always hated to read and has a stubborn streak a mile long, and refuses to say please or thank you. As she has gotten older, she feels that she is entitled to certain things, and that her brother is not. And, she acts so differently with her father than she does with me. But, she is tall and skinny and absolutely beautiful. She is smart and funny and shows her love by doing little unexpected things like making cards or drawing pictures.
My son is sweet, generous, and loving. He was not born early or breach or with the help of an epidural, and in fact was a healthy weight at birth. He immediately slept through the night and only cried when he was hungry, rarely throwing a temper tantrum. He is all boy and plays fairly rough, yet he is also gentle. When his sister hits him, scratches him, or says something mean to him, he just takes it and will go off into his room to work through it. It doesn’t even occur to him to fight back. He is happy-go-lucky most of the time and doesn’t let many things bother him. He loves school, loves to read, completes his homework as soon as he gets home, and acts the same way with his father as he does with me. As he has gotten older, he has stayed sweet, generous, loving, and polite, even sharing toys and candy with his sister when he knows that she will not reciprocate. He loves to hug. He is smart and funny and loves to try new things.
I know that the way my children behave is partly my fault, and the fault of their father, and partly just their own innate personality–nature versus nurture, and all that. The funny thing is, that when my daughter is at school or over at a friend’s house she is kind, sweet, and polite. Her teachers describe her as quiet and helpful. I guess these are signs that we are doing our job.
I love both of my children to the moon and back, and would not change either one of them. They are unique people who are becoming independent and intelligent young adults and I am grateful for them and for the experiences I have had, and will continue to have, raising them. There is always give and take in any relationship and in any person. And I can see that they are both givers and both takers, just like the rest of us.