On birthdays and differences

I am so happy to say that my heart has endless space and capacity to love both of my girls.

But they are different.

Their personalities are so different and they arrived at different times in my life and they bring out different aspects of me as their mother.  This makes mothering them fairly, equally, so very challenging.

E is now three and regularly runs and jumps into my arms with abandon. When she hugs, she clings, like a monkey or a leech, legs squeezing my side, fingers grasping at my flesh and hair if need be.  She rarely wants to let go first.

Z doesn't usually want a hug, more often than not she shrugs me off roughly as if my arms are a fly to be swatted. One could point out that she is 6 now, getting a little big for constant snuggling. But she's always been like this, she just hasn't always been big enough to shrug me off so successfully. Sometimes I neglect to notice when she actually needs a hug rather than a firm talking to.

And so E becomes the one I hug and cuddle and Z becomes the one I Expect More From. Do the older and younger always fall into these roles by virtue of their birth order? Or are they made this way by it?

Lately I've been purposefully seeking out moments to hug and cuddle Z and am often surprised to find that when I pay attention and the time is right, she melts into me in ways I had forgotten were possible with her. I shouldn't be surprised by this revelation but I am: she needs cuddles too. Her moods must be read carefully and correctly but when they are, she can snuggle with the best of 'em.

I'm also seeking out moments to expect more from E. As the younger sister, she is often excused for misbehavior we would never accept from her older sister.  We remind her older sister often that E is "only three" and still learning how to communicate and share and follow the rules. E hears all of this of course, and yesterday when I told her not to jump on the couch, she smiled sweetly at me and said, "But Mama, I only THREE!"

Riiiiight. This is the lesson I have inadvertently, but clearly, taught her.

We had a mellow birthday celebration for E this year. It was small, we didn't invite the entire neighborhood in addition to all the families at my husband's workplace. We just invited two friends to a nearby farm and bounced and fed animals and ate strawberry cupcakes. It was very different than Z's huge birthday bash, but it's okay.

(I hope it's okay.)

I want to be equal in my mothering of them but struggle mightily when their needs and behaviors swing wildly and inspire very different reactions from me.

At least they both resemble me.


shannon said...

so thoughtful and eloquent. So much of the same feeling going on over here... only my 6 year old boy wants snuggles ALL the time and I have to reject him more often than I'd like, worried that I am not giving enough to my 3 year old. This mothering of two tugs at me in ways I couldn't have imagined. Thanks for putting it into words.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

shannon- How interesting! See, I was wondering if all second/last borns become/are made cuddlers and here you say your first is the cuddler. Evidence that they are born that way, not made that way.

This makes me feel better! :-)

shannon said...

Ah! I hadn't thought of that! Glad it makes you feel better :)

Kathi D. said...

There is so much truth to this post. It is hard to parent them the same when they are so different. T is also a master snuggler and always has been. M has learned to snuggle and now likes to snuggle, but when she was younger she was more about being close to me and clinging at times, but not about snuggling. I think they were born that way. T's personality from the first time I heard her cry has been different from M. The part that may be nurture is how much we expect from them and what they learn from that. We also expected more from M at 3 then we do from T and part of that is that we have mellowed a bit, but part of it is that T can't/won't follow the rules M was able to follow. We can't hold T to the same standard because she will just refuse in big and bold ways her sister never considered. Sigh... But your post has reminded me to work with her on it instead of assuming she is "just 3".

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