How many times have you been told – don’t compare your child to anyone else’s because every child is different. From the pediatrician, from the preschool teacher, from fellow moms, we hear this mantra again and again. I remember when Big M was little, she was the mellowest, easiest baby – or so my friends all told me. She slept when she was supposed to sleep, she ate when she was supposed to eat, and as a toddler, readily took to a sippy cup, removal of her pacifier, and upgrade to the big girl bed. Don’t hate me just yet… all this was true, and then she turned 3 (but that’s a story for another day).
Every Child is Different
When my girlfriend’s struggled with getting their babies to sleep through the night, and sought my advice, I’d tell them my routine with Big M, and they would laugh at me, “That’ll never work with my kid!.” I smugly thought they must just not be consistent enough, it works for me!
It wasn’t until Lil’ M came along that I realized just how different every child could be… While I was pregnant, hubby and I used to debate about what she would look like. Big M is my mini-me. Put our toddler pictures side by side and it’s a struggle to discern who is who, from the big blue eyes, to the little pug nose. It was hard to envision another girl would look any different. But Lil’ M arrived and is the spitting image of my husband, with only my blue eyes showing I had any hand in her physical make-up. And while we debated her appearance, I never thought about WHO she would be – what would her personality be like? But she made her personality evident from day one!
From birth, Lil’ M was a speed eater. While Big M nursed for 20-30 minutes at a clip for months, Lil’ M would suck it all down in 5 minutes and be ready to be up and on the go. And just in case you weren’t sure she was full, she would scream with a set of lungs I never thought possible in a week-old newborn. I was certain something was wrong – she couldn’t be eating enough (despite the scale tipping to the contrary). I went to see a lactation consultant to make sure I wasn’t starving my baby – she weighed her before and after feeding. In 5 minutes, Lil’ M was drinking 6 ounces! She was screaming to make it known, loud and clear, she was full!
While Big M never crawled, and did not stand in her crib until the week of her first birthday (the same week she took her first steps), Lil’ M crawled for a few weeks before taking 5-6 steps at a time at 9.5 months, and full out sprinting, jumping and climbing by 10 months. Big M was, and still is, as cautious as Lil’ M is fearless… Lil’ M is the first child in our house to receive liquid stitches at the ripe old age of 12 months, when she fell while running and carrying her Leap Frog Lap Top.
Big M took her time talking… by 18 months, I was worried she might never speak – but she soon did, and it came out in full sentences, with near perfect pronunciation and a vast vocabulary. Lil’ M has been speaking something that approximates pig latin for months, made about 10 animal noises before she said any words other than Mama and Dada, and at 16 months will try to repeat anything you ask her to, with plenty of imperfection, but she will give anything a try. Meanwhile, the pediatrician keeps warning me that second children often speak later.
As you might imagine, they even play differently. Big M likes to line her toys up with great precision. According to Grandma, what she does with LIttle People princesses and animals, her father did with his matchbox cars, lining them up like they were in a parking lot instead of racing around. Lil’ M is the master of destruction, leaving a trail of toys in her wake, as she drops whatever she is currently holding in favor of the next great thing! This difference in ‘style’ often results in World War III level drama, which at the toddler/preschool age is enough to terrify me for the shared bathroom wars of adolescence.
Having read a little on the nature vs. nurture debate in college anthropology and psychology courses, experiencing nature at work might make you wonder if parenting has any impact at all. While Lil’ M is a much wilder spirit, I applied the same routines with her with the same end results – she’s a great sleeper, amazing eater, loves books, Elmo and Daniel TIger… and watching her interact with the world is just as fascinating, although it often requires a greater sense of humor and nerves of steel! And as they like to sing on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood – “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways… we are the same!”
How different in personality, behavior, and appearance are each of your kids? Is the oldest always cautious, orderly and more serious? Is the second child always wilder, fearless and the provider of comedic relief?