When I was pregnant with my second baby, Juliette, I remember having a conversation with my mom about how your parenting has to adjust to the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of each kid. She told me she approached every situation with the child in front of her in mind, knowing the message that needed to be received but tailoring her delivery based on which of her four children she was talking to. I remember thinking that made sense but I couldn’t imagine that this second baby would be completely different from my then-toddler Sophie. They were from the same gene pool!
Wrong. I was so wrong.
Parenting my children is comparable to parenting Margaret Atwood (creative, prim and stubborn) and Katniss Everdeen (brave and bold, and maybe a little too daring for my poor heart). Or maybe Evel Kneivel (infamous daredevil, minus the drugs and assault charges).
Sophie, four going on 24, is an old soul who speaks like she’s an adult. She said her first words at eight months but refused to walk until she was 18 months old, even though we caught her doing it when she didn’t think we were watching. She’s creepily intuitive at times (the other morning, as I sighed after brushing her hair, she put her arms around me and said, “Don’t worry, mama, I won’t grow too fast”). She hates being “in trouble” when she’s disciplined for something, and will apologize in a second. She’s also a little too sneaky for my liking, and she’s quick to tell a fib. She’s like Ms. Atwood in her love of books, her ability to tell vivid, imaginative stories, her willingness to take a stand when she senses injustice, and her tendency towards the persnickety when she Just. Doesn’t. Feel. Like. It.
Juliette, on the other hand, is a 19-month-old bruiser. My mom calls her “teremunda” in Italian, which loosely translates to “earthquake,” and the name fits. She walked at 13 months, but she was mobile way before that, scooting and crawling from seven months. If she could pick up a bow and arrow, a la Katniss, she would. I left the room for all of two minutes when she was 18 months old, only to return to find her scaling our built-in bookshelves, halfway to the ceiling. She has a bad temper but a joyous, happy heart, and her exuberance is incredible. She talks in adorable, demanding two- or three-word sentences: “Awant. Milk. Peese.” (“I want milk, please.”) And she gets totally pissed if you don’t understand what she’s saying. She scares the crap out of me because she’s fearless, balancing precariously on toys with wheels, flinging herself into the pile of her sister and cousins when they’re wrestling, and fighting to get down and walk in dangerous situations (busy Saturday-morning grocery store parking lots are a particular favourite). She laughs if you tell her no. I imagine I’m going to lose years on my life just worrying about this kid.
Both of my children are delightful in different ways, and I admire the essence of who they are. But I have to change tactics all the time when it comes to how I parent them. In the same instances I had to encourage Sophie to be physical, I have to ask Juliette to slow down. When Juliette would prefer to climb on to the counter to get what she wants, I have to ask her to repeat the name of the item so she learns (which she hates). I liken it to getting a Bachelor’s degree in Toddlerhood only to be told the curriculum completely changed when I went back for my Master’s, while also attempting to get a diploma in The School-Age Years at the same time. My kiddos might look alike, but that’s where the sameness ends. At least at this age. I do worry a little that their differences will make it difficult for them to be friends in the future, but I know it’s too early to tell. And in the meantime I’ll just muddle through nurturing the introspective spirit in one and the stunt-double tendencies in the other.