Saturday, May 9, 2009

Turns out one size does not fit all

I am the oldest of six children and as such started my mothering career with a "the youngest had it so easy" complex. So in my ultimate plan, which ultimately failed, I knew that I would be the queen of consistency. If I did it for one, I would do it for all. Completely fair (and completely stupid).

Fortunately it didn't take too long to realize my mistake. You could tell the kids were different when I was pregnant with my second. Turns out different personalities require different approaches. Who knew? Grounding one from TV is true torture while another HATES writing apology notes and the third breaks down in tears and corrects themselves at the suggestion that they've disappointed me.

Also, big surprise, kids were ready for different things at different times. My daughter was more than able to stay on her own for awhile at 8. My son...not so much. Some are natural cleaners, others need more, um, "encouragement." Some are dying for independence while their siblings need more help cutting those apron strings.

Some are physical, some throw fits, some talk back, and some are sneaky. One, who shall remain nameless, is a little bit of all four. Each one requires a unique approach. My plan of complete consistency was doomed to fail as soon as I relied on the randomness of genetics over exact cloning of myself.

And even if I had cloned me, things wouldn't be much better. Because circumstances change. With just two young preschoolers my schedule was pretty wide open, now with 4 in school and 2 preschoolers it is slightly insane. Plus, we make a little more than we did during undergrad and med school. Different size houses & yards, different friends & neighborhoods & school policies, different climates, all these affect parenting and make "complete consistency" not only unrealistic but also undesireable.

To top it all off, I've learned from my mistakes and tried to do better. I have accepted that the oldest is just made to be a guinea pig and no silly ideas of rigidity is going to fix that. I try to remember she had things that her younger siblings never had, too (like mom's undivided attention).

And so I find that my oldest waited for her bike till she was 6 while my 3rd had one at 4. Not a single kid went to preschool until #5. My oldest 3 didn't know Happy Meals existed until old enough to read, my youngest 3 think the world's ending if there is no toy in the bag. I volunteered weekly my first two children's first two years of school and I haven't been in yet this year. Things change. Kids are different. Mom is different. When it comes to parenting, one size just didn't fit all: one size didn't even fit one.


  1. As the mother of just two, not the half-dozen you somehow keep alive every day, I am totally surprised every day how different I am as a parent for the second vs. the first. The first baby - organic baby food until, oh probably age 2; the second baby - chicken nuggets at about 10 months. But I convince myself it is okay, because everything about these two children is different. I contend they have no genetic similarity - they just happened to get the exact opposite copy of each chromosome.

  2. OK, but it's still not cool that my mom put 3 times as much into my little sister's wedding as she gave me.

    yes, I am the oldest.

    no, I'm not bitter.

    ok, maybe a little...

  3. It's really nice to know you didn't put the first bunch in preschool. Everyone and their dog keeps saying I need to put them in preschool, but I'm not going to do that at this stage in our lives. No way. Besides, I have time to spend with her now, so I'm going to take advantage of it. Thanks for that very reassuring tidbit of information. :)

  4. You mean I don't have to count the number of pieces in every cereal bowl to make sure I'm being "fair?"

  5. I understand this concept and yet, deep in my heart, I keep thinking when #2 comes, I'll make sure he gets everything we gave Abe. I know it won't happen, but I guess I have to learn my lesson the hard way too.

  6. Yes, I completely agree! Somehow I figured this out much younger (well at least before I became a mom). I was also the oldest and often my brother or sister would tell it is unfair our parents treat us differently. I told them they have to we are all different. I don't care about things they do care about.
    Happy Mother's Day!

  7. ha ha, my kids are different as night and day, but I still try to neglect them all equally.

  8. Too bad we have to learn all of those things in the trenches...I guess we grow as much as they do. It makes me wish I was as far along in my mothering skills as you are though!

  9. I remember you saying I will never do that with my kids. I would just step back and laugh because I knew things would repeat themselves because they always do.

  10. Such wisdom!

    I was telling a friend yesterday that the reason society is so messed up today is because all our oldest children are surviving. Back in the day, parents would try all their bad techniques on their first child/ren, and then a disease or accident would take the child's life. For the children who survived, the parents had much more practical experience and we had generations of hard working, salt-of-the-earth type people. Now days, with all the children surviving, the ones we messed up with our parenting are in therapy and passing the mistakes on to their children.

    Am I sick to suggest this? Makes sense I guess, since I'm an oldest child. ;o)