One of my daughters is very much like me, both the good and my (perceived) not so good characteristics. She’s apprehensive about change, a worrier, a little too serious sometimes, and nervous about trying new things. She’s a bit on the quiet side, a thinker, cautious with her emotions, and needs her space. She’s also very organized, witty, funny, and a voracious reader. She has a huge heart for animals, is very responsible, and almost seems wiser than her age at times. She keeps her room clean, plans out her outfits ahead of time, and I can trust her to follow instructions and return from a friend’s house at a specific time. While it’s not always easy parenting her and dealing with her stubbornness, I feel like I have an idea of what to expect with her as I tread familiar territory, because in many ways she is a miniature version of me.
But I also have to keep myself keenly aware of this by letting her figure out her own way and not pushing onto her my expectations and my ways of solving things. Just because she shares some of my personality characteristics, I don’t want her to feel she has to be exactly like me.
Raising my other daughter, however, has been an interesting experience – to say the least. She’s the total opposite of me in almost every way. She is outgoing, positive, full of pure joy, and sees the best in everyone and every experience. Sometimes I simply watch her in awe. How can she constantly be in motion? Dancing, spinning, singing. Sometimes I break down and ask her to be still while she’s talking to me because she’s making me dizzy! She gets 15K steps in per day without even trying. How can she be so easily happy almost all the time? Her smile is all-encompassing. She shines on a daily basis, sparkles almost. She is a creative spirit who wants to re-purpose every box, toilet paper roll, and piece of paper I plan to recycle. Her room is a disaster. I tell myself it’s a manifestation of her creativity, but it drives me crazy. How can she find her clothes in the mass disarray that is her dresser drawers and bedroom floor? In order to find papers sent home from school, I must bypass the designated ‘Friday Folder’ and dig deep into a backpack that’s littered with toys, snack wrappers, partially eaten granola bars, and random school store purchases to find the papers crumpled and torn at the bottom.
She’s full of interesting ideas like wanting to have a hot cocoa stand in the winter instead of a lemonade stand in the summer, and I once caught her going door-to-door playing her guitar for neighbors in return for tips. She’s a caring and sweet kid, the kind who asks me how my day was and often thinks of others. She loves to snuggle, hug, and be loved. I constantly remind myself to let her blossom. I don’t want my organized serious nature to crush her love of experimental cooking without recipes and impromptu dance parties to her own singing. She’s a ray of sunshine that is bright to look at and also hard to contain and focus. Getting her to sit down and read is a major undertaking and convincing her to follow through with a task is challenging since she is easily distracted by everything around her.
I don’t want either daughter to ever feel I love them less than the other. The competitive nature of sisters is real, I know this from my experience with my own sister. She is two years younger than me, our age difference the same as my daughters. In my mind, my younger sister has always been the pretty one who easily had many friends and was well liked. I was always the smart one, a little quieter and harder to get to know, and okay I’ll admit it, a little more stubborn and more difficult to deal with at times. Maybe we just fell into our older and younger sibling roles? Maybe we naturally tried to differentiate ourselves from each other? We’ve grown closer as we’ve gotten older but we definitely had our moments of jealousy and fierce fighting growing up. Of course my mom would never admit it, but it seems to me that my sister was probably simply ‘easier’ to love in some ways. My sister claims I have always been the favorite. Kudos to my mom for never making me feel that she loved me less because I was a bit more complicated.
I really do wonder how my two kids raised by the same parents can be so different. The concept of nature vs. nurture is an eternal wonder to me. I feel privileged to have been blessed with both of these amazing daughters and their unfolding personalities. I have learned so much in the good times and the trying times with each of them. I savor the kinship I feel with the similar child, the sort of inside joke we have at times as we approach things in the same manner. Which is directly offset by the ‘butting of heads’ we also experience as stubborn meets even more stubborn. I also am in awe of the opposite child’s untamed spirit, plot twists and surprises, and the times she takes me outside my comfort zone simply by being herself. I try my best to shine the spotlight on each child for their respective strong qualities and accept and embrace the challenges I face with each of them. They keep me on my toes that’s for sure, and I look forward to seeing how our mother daughter relationships evolve as they grow up.