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Challenge: Raising Siblings

How do you parent the child who's not like you?

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My firstborn is basically a boy version of me.

He’s polite to grownups, pays attention in class, wants to be awesome at everything he tries and gets frustrated when he’s not. He loves making people laugh, learns everything he can about the things that capture his interest (currently airplanes), and rarely makes a scene or gets in trouble.

Now before you go thinking I think he – I mean we – are perfect, consider the following: we’re also overthinking tattletales who talk a lot and don’t take many risks.

But you know what? I can handle him because I’m familiar with myself.

The only tantrum I remember Eli ever having was after a particularly hot and lengthy field trip to the zoo, whereabouts another mother suggested we buy our boys a “souvenir” of their visit. He wanted something bigger than I had in mind, and I was forced to carry him over my shoulder while navigating the heavy double stroller out the heavy single door.

Enter the other occupant of that stroller – his little sister, Adelyn.

Addy is a firecracker, not entirely unlike me, but enough so that I don’t know what to do with her.

She is fierce in her demands and fiercer in her outbursts. She knows what she wants and thinks screaming or throwing herself on the ground will get it. She is loud and wild and fun – and runs into things because she’s moving too fast to see them. She stands on the furniture, sits unlike a lady, and makes a scene everywhere we go. If you tell her no, it only makes her want to do it more.

If I’m being honest, reading as I’m typing, she’s a lot more like me than I thought. (Except for that last part – that’s all Daddy, and I ain’t one to gossip, he’ll tell you to your face.)

Now before you go thinking I think she’s all bad – I don’t think she’s bad at all. Addy loves harder than anyone I know. We get hugs, kisses, knuckles and high fives every time she leaves for school, and she’s the only one on the soccer field pausing every 30 seconds to scream “I LOVE YOU!” (She also screams this from the toilet and across a crowded room.) She is smart, determined and adventurous.

She just hasn’t figured out emotional self-control … but have any of us, really?

We expect a lot of our little ones, especially for being so little. I’m self-aware enough to know I fly into a rage when pushed to my limit, so maybe it’s time to focus more on hers.

I think as parents we expect every kid that pops out to be just like us, or just like the ones who came before them. As I navigate how to be there for the one who’s not like me – but maybe more so than I realized – I look to family and friends like you to find new ways to work with her instead of against her.

It’s an adventure, this parenting thing, and if there’s one thing I could learn from Addy, it’s how to be more adventurous. I think I’ll stop fighting and see where it goes. And maybe spend a little less time in grocery stores and nice restaurants.

After all, I’ve got another one coming right up behind her, who’s a little like brother and a little like sissy – the perfect blend of Daddy and me.

(Or so I think. I’ll get back to you in a few years.)

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