Monday, May 6, 2013

Apples and Oranges.

How do you parent multiple kids without getting into the comparison game??

The kids and I have this great tradition going. Every Friday morning, we go to the kids' great-grandparents' house, where their great-grandfather, PawPaw, makes us pancakes. I love PawPaw. I love that he loves to make us pancakes every Friday morning.

I distinctly remember one particular visit, after Naomi was born. She was a wee one, fussy as could be, and as I sat on PawPaw's couch, trying to calm her while tying Cub's shoes, PawPaw shook his head and said, "Well goodness, Caleb wasn't nearly this fussy when he was a baby."

Oh. My. Word.

With my postpartum hormones blazing full speed ahead, I burst into tears and began blubbering a nonsensical defense for Naomi's fussiness, giving every excuse under the sun, then abruptly feeling guilty for feeling the need to come up with a nonsensical defense for Naomi's fussiness, and then feeling overwhelmed that my poor second-born simply did not stand a chance in life, always existing under the enormous shadow of her older brother.

It's safe to say I've worked through those emotions.

Some thoughts:

1) All of my children are different.
2) Different is good.
3) Observational comparison is not a bad thing (refer back to the first point).

Remarking on an obvious difference between children might be nothing more than the statement of a fact. Example:

By the time Caleb was two, he knew all of his letters, could read two letter words, and could count to twenty.

Naomi is almost three and does not know all of her letters, does not read small words, and ... well, she can count to twenty.

These are simply facts. Observational comparisons are fine.

The danger lies in the dumb conclusions you might try to draw from them. Does it mean Naomi is less intelligent than Cub? Nope. They are simply two different kids who learn ... differently.

And a greater danger lies in trying to parent each child as though they were all the same. If I were to try and shove Naomi into the proverbial box in which Caleb exists, she would freak out. Caleb's box is clean, with clearly defined edges. Naomi's "box" would be more of a free-form octagon, covered in hot pink puff paint with a pile of purple glitter on the floor. Her personality is her own and we respond to her accordingly. She is so incredibly right-brained and Caleb is so incredibly left-brained. It's so funny. They are little copies of my husband and myself. Caleb typically obeys right away. Naomi's obedience is better achieved through a little motivation. Incentive, if you will.

And Lydia is a third personality in the mix. She's a fast learner, but with a strong will. Kind of a perfect blend of her older siblings, actually! We're beginning the process of teaching her commands as she learns to talk and we will have to figure out what makes her tick, too.

Did you ever read Max Lucado's "You Are Special?" I love that book. And I refer to it when I think about the differences in my kids. Because, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter at all who jumps the highest, runs the fastest, knows the most ... what matters is whether or not we are communicating to them that their value comes from the fact that they were made, intentionally and lovingly, by the Creator. They are fearfully and wonderfully made, unique as can be. And the "dots" ... the comparisons people might make or the standards they might set, that tarnish their view of themselves ... only stick if they let them. Their worth comes from a far greater Source than any expectation someone else might set for them. We have to approach parenting with that mindset--that each of our children are different, and that different is good. Different is evidence of a creative, multi-faceted God, who cared too much to create us all the same.

So. Did PawPaw's comment bother me? Sure it did (obviously). I tend to get defensive if I feel that my kids are being short-changed. But did he mean anything by it? No. It was a tiny example of comparison, but it was the first time my kids were ever compared, so it stuck with me. And, since then, I've learned to love the differences in my kids. Are there times I wish that maybe Cub would chill out a little and be more easygoing, like Naomi? Sometimes, ha! It's true. But, good grief, I wouldn't change a thing about him. We're going to naturally compare our kids because they are different. We just have to look past what we think they should be and embrace who they actually are.

Straight edges, pink puff paint, and all.

Have a lovely day.

1 comment:

  1. SO helpful - thank you, Katie.. really appreciate it.