I have something to say about the way I’ve parented my children but you must know this: I have already told them that I parented them all differently. I’ll explain that in a minute. My sisters and I are all close in age and when we talk about how our parents raised us we have three different opinions of that. Maybe I forgive my father easier than my older sister, Erin. And maybe I don’t forgive my mother enough than my younger sister, Tracy. Either way, we remember things differently and have strong opinions and views of how we were parented. Don’t get me wrong: we had great parents, but they knew that we must be viewed as separate daughters and not do the same things with us just because it worked in the past with another child.
There are 9 years between my oldest and youngest. Mallory is 26 and engaged to be married and Morgan is a 17-year old senior in high school. It’s natural that the eldest would help to “parent” the youngest when the range is that wide. She was always happy to hold her baby brother on her hip or fix him some oatmeal, but when she noticed that I didn’t parent him the exact same way I parented her she called me out on it.
You’re too easy on him sometimes. I never would have been able to do that when I was his age.
The truth is, it hurt when she said that. I went over in my mind all the things I did when she was a child and wondered if she was right. In fact, I struggled with this accusation for many years. Every time he misbehaved or stayed out longer than he was supposed to I thought about how I handled her in the same situation. Is that okay to do as a mom? Is that even allowed? Sometimes, I was easier on him. His room wasn’t nearly as clean as hers had been when she was 10, but she is very particular about how her bed is made and where she puts important papers. Morgan’s bed is almost never made and he throws just about everything away except his savings account statements. Since they behaved so differently, I started to parent differently. Rather, I accepted parenting them in ways that weren’t identical.
Those two of my children in particular are more different from one another than the others. They’re extremes in many ways. She is hypersensitive to people’s feelings and he is able to say anything he wants without a hint of shame. Mallory is diligent about keeping lists and buying birthday presents that matter and Morgan grabs one at the grocery store just before we head to celebrate. Her closet is full of clothes and he wears the same jeans every day. He and I argued about those jeans just this morning. Once again I mentioned that he needed to get a new pair and that the ones he wears daily are old and looking raggedy.
Some of the problem is that Mallory wants to still help parent Morgan and even I know that being a mom gets harder, not easier. If she wants me to take him shopping she will tell me that she wasn’t able to go out of the house like that and that I would have marched her straight to the mall to buy a new pair. But, she cares about that stuff and he doesn’t. So, when she was younger I would have harped on her for that and with him I leave him alone. So, do I parent them in diverging ways. Kids don’t respond to the same thing when you discipline them and I finally understood that and was okay with it. But that goes the same for things that motivate them. She spent all her disposable income when she had a part-time job in high school and he has saved nearly every cent. Another way they diverge is on grades. I never had to remind her to do homework and keep up her grades and I stayed on Morgan’s case every step of the way.
So, no, parents. We don’t parent our children the same and it’s okay that we do that. They have varying needs and respond to our parenting in ways that we can’t know until we do it. Instead of worrying about that anymore I focus on what they have in common and what brings them together. Both Mallory and Morgan get together on a regular basis and have dinner or go to the movies and call it Sibling Council, a name that came about when my ex-husband and I divorced to give the children some time to spend together. Parents are never invited to it, but my children always end up telling me about how much fun they had spending quality time.
It doesn’t matter that they view the way I was a mother to each of them differently. I just have to be alright with doing it. It took a long time for me to come to that conclusion, but I am totally okay with it now. Especially when I see my children getting along.
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