Raising Kids the Same - Myth or Fact?
We have three boys, ages 3, 6 and 8. We believe in being consistent, treating our kids equally and providing similar opportunities for each of them. However, after eight solid years of parenting, can we sincerely look back and say that we have raised our boys equally? Let's take a closer look.
Does Experience Make a Difference in Parenting?
We often laugh when we remember the things we did to care for our first child. Not only did we pack a diaper bag the size of a suitcase for a quick outing to the park, but we also religiously logged the times when our little newborn would feed and poop. Our schedules revolved around the baby's schedule and we focused all of our attention on our first born son.
Yes, we were clearly overjoyed with the addition to our family. But we were also newbies with limited parenting experience. And with this lack of experience also came a lack of confidence in situations when the unexpected happened. I am speaking, in particular, about the numerous trips to the pediatrician at the sight of the slightest sniffle. I know now that these were unnecessary because invariably we were told it was just a virus and luckily our children always turned out to be perfectly healthy. These days, with number three in toe, it takes consecutive days of a high fever before we consider packing up and taking the trip to see the doctor.
I am left to wonder if we were, are, and always will be overprotective of our oldest son. He is, after all, the one who paves the path for his younger brothers.
Does A Child's Personality Affect the Way we Parent?
It seems that within our family, each of our children have a unique personality. And interestingly enough, their personalities did not clearly define themselves until all three of them were born. It was only when we had them side by side that we began to take note of their similarities and differences.
We did not appreciate the extent to which our first son came into this world as a reserved, conscientious and sensitive human being until we met son number two: the oppositional, risk-seeking and confident type. We know they both have a good heart and are well intentioned, but on a day-to-day basis they could not be more opposite.
And then there is 'the baby' of the family, who somehow finds himself more in between his two brothers in terms of personality. He is quick to learn but enjoys being pampered. What sets him apart from the rest is his love for attention. We call him our little entertainer, and he has developed a keen ability to get what he wants. If not from us parents, one of his brothers will surely always come to his rescue.
This backdrop is important because it questions our ability to parent similarly, regardless of the child. Just the other day, our middle son complained why he had to wear jeans to school when his older brother was allowed to wear athletic pants. My response, plain and simple, was that I felt a proper outfit for school would help remind him that school is a serious place for learning, while his brother would actually benefit from approaching life a bit more casually. No sooner was I done with my explanation did I wonder myself if this rule was in fact fair.
And then there is the youngest of them all, who in a moment of hurry, puts so much gel in his hair that all we could do was laugh. He had been watching his brothers do it, and acted very matter-of-factedly when he announced that "he was ready for school". How did we overlook the fact that he had broken a rule about climbing up on a shelf to reach the gel and taken something that was not his to use?
WHO IS WHO?
Do Time and Energy Affect Our Parenting Skills?
Just the other day I said to my boys again that I wish I had been born an octopus. It seems almost daily that I am longing for an extra set of hands and ears to tend to them all equally. We empower our children to take care of themselves and care for others, but invariably I am being pulled into more than one direction at the same time because they need me. Not in a few minutes, but now. Times three!
It almost goes without saying that time and energy play a huge role in how we are able to parent our kids. And of course the more kids one has, the less time and energy there is for each individual child. For instance, our middle son will come home from school and make his own lunch. While some might applaud how independent he is, I am focusing on the fact that he doing things so much earlier than his older brother did not necessarily because of interest but because of necessity.
He is tired of waiting. And to that end, I would have to admit that our attention is often either devoted to our oldest or youngest child. First, because they demand it relative to the fires I need to put out (completing a book report or changing a dirty diaper) and second, because (under the circumstances) our middle son has turned into someone who will simply do as he choses. Did I mention the candy wrappers I will find when I take the time to vacuum under his bed?
Then there is also the odd day when two out of the three boys are out of the house and we are left one-on-one with the third. What a treat! Our home is quiet, we can hear ourselves talk and we are overjoyed all over again to be able to devote our full attention to just one of the kids. We have time, we are patient and we are truly connecting with the child. How would this influence their behavior if we could parent like this all the time?
Does The Dynamic Between Parent & Child Influence How We Parent?
I am not sure if the old saying 'opposites attract' applies to the dynamic between parent and child, but I do often find it most difficult to parent our oldest son in part because he is most similar to myself. Unfortunately, the similarities we share are also those that I find most complicated about myself. Surely I can understand his behaviors and sympathize with his emotions very deeply, but this understanding also influences how I parent him relative to his brothers. In his presence, I find myself motivated to push back more frequently when I see him struggling. Without solving his problems for him, I do hope that I am able to initiate changes now which will allow him to maintain his balance effectively in the future.
When something is challenging, I respond by requiring more breaks. It is my natural defense to seek distance, physically and emotionally, in order to maintain my composure and parent successfully. I have always been told it is okay to walk away and explain to the child that I need a time out, but invariably this need seems to arise with our oldest son. While our middle son does also benefit from a little separation, it is more effective to send him to his room "to take a deep breath". To attempt something similar with our youngest one would be almost comical. Not only is it physically impossible to sneak away from him, but before long he would have me laughing off the situation with one of his funny tricks.
Raising kids the same - myth or fact? The verdict is still out.