Same Rules Plus Same Parent Doesn't Equal Same Child
In the midst of the shifting sands of back to school, or delayed back to school, or back to your dining room table for virtual school…it can suddenly become very apparent that each of your kids are handling transitions, stressors and uncertainty in different ways. This can leave a parent a bit bewildered because, HELLO…they are being raised under the same roof – why on earth are they not somewhat the same?
In times of uncertainty we almost always default to the parental math that says same rules + same house + same parent = same child. And that’s when the scary, red pen comes out and marks that problem as incorrect. Because same rules + same house + same parent doesn’t actually equal same child but, in fact, equals individuality. Even more scary, that equation equates to a whole lot of unknown. Those who love math love it because it is predictable, so this very unpredictable equation just feels wrong. But if you’ve ever raised children into adulthood or have friends that have, you know that children who grew up together, who had the same mathematical formula, can turn out vastly different from one another.
So why is that? What is the X factor? The answer is in their individuality. They are each crafted with their own temperaments, their own temptations, their own strengths and stressors and will and weaknesses. Deciphering the puzzle of who they are, what makes them tick, and how to best support, equip and encourage them in their unique differences is just plain hard.
Here’s what most parents fail to realize: much like your children are not the same, you are also not the same parent to each of them.
As they have grown, you have grown. As they have entrenched new responses, you too have entrenched new responses. As they have learned patience and empathy and perseverance, you have learned patience and empathy and persevered.
Thinking back to when I was raising four boys under four, almost 20 years ago, I can laugh at the things that used to upset me. A disrupted nap time, a child who failed to show a sibling grace or allow them first dibs at a toy, a child who could never remember to put his cereal bowl in the sink – I was convinced that these were all going to lead them off the path and into a world of continual dirty cereal bowls, lack of strong character and no sleep.
But, remember, parenting is a beautiful, fluid, growth process that encompasses the totality of the family unit. Each of you are not independent of one another. You are not all existing in separate entities, but instead are engaging and growing and imparting new relational constructs almost constantly, without even realizing it.
To be surprised that each of your children didn’t turn out the same is to be surprised that you aren’t the same parent you were with your first child. They aren’t the same. You aren’t the same. And there’s beauty in that. There is perfectly imperfect beauty in that. So embrace it. Give it a hug. Welcome it into your formula, and stop trying to solve an equation that isn’t even done developing yet. You’ll get there together.