Monday, February 28, 2011

On Siblings- The Little Differences (Sara Rose)

I was reading this article about sibling relationships in Psychology Today and got to thinking about the actual differences between my kids, especially when Eva was at Owen's age.  I came to some startling and slightly humorous realizations.  Basically, I'm not sure they fit the whole birth order mold developed by Adler and Mendelsohnn, now the ideas presented in magazine. Check out the links to get an idea of what 'personality traits' are usually associated with children depending on where they lie in their birth order.

Perhaps, we're not very traditional parents?  Apparently, a lot of parents expect their older child to be more 'mature', 'mother hen like', and 'independent'.  The last child is 'often more doted on' and parents 'take it easier on them' and can be the more forward thinking and rebellious.  Middle children are supposedly 'always left with the least attention and feel the most insecure'.  

Nolan and I were both only children.  We were raised very differently and came to the conclusion that we also would raise our kids differently than we were.  My parents were focused careerists and we all know that my dad had his fair share of problems.  Nolan's parents were also pretty focused on their careers but as his mother was a teacher, she was around a lot more.  I became a latch key kid by about fourth grade and was always fairly independent.  I could play by myself, entertain myself, etc.  When I was around my folks, they expected me to be mature, although I was usually a snooty brat, but whatever.

Nolan's parents were very concerned with him being 'okay'.  He's adopted so I expect a higher modicum of worry comes with that?  They had very high expectations of him, wanted him to be popular, get good grades and be in everything.  My parents were big on choices.  Most everything I did, I had a say in the matter.  They didn't push me hard, they just expected me to do my very best and see what came of it.  They didn't worry about popularity, good grades, or activities, and probably would have preferred my being antisocial and quiet instead of a spaz-o who was in everything.

Nolan and I talked about raising kids, like the second week we were dating.  We knew what we wanted- good manners, strong sense of individuality and creativity, and a fairly high level of independence.  We encourage our kids to form opinions, know the reasons behind their choices, and understand themselves.  Obviously you can't expect this entirely from a 21 month old, he shows his strengths and independence surprisingly well.

Eva generally does well with this, but has a firecracker personality.  She's up one minute and down the next.  She's fairly emotional and seems to have a greater need for security and approval than Owen does, which is rather strange to me.  She really seems to 'need' attention and when she's good, she's perfect but when she's bad or down, she's heck on wheels. She is competitive, opinionated, and can lose her temper quickly.

I feel like she's got a more artistic temperament.  The one way I can get her to be independent for (seriously) an hour or more is to set her up with art supplies and let her at it.  She creates grandiose stories and absurd ideas, understands complex things like math and science fairly well, and loves story time to excess.  I have a feeling she'll either end up a doctor or a painter.  The easiest way to define her is to say she is a character of extremes.

Owen seems to be the hands on, go for it even if it kills me thing going on. He was a fussy baby with every allergy under the sun, would not sleep without us five inches or less from him, and seemed to need just as much attention as Eva always does.  Eva DID NOT take to the big sister/mother hen thing the way everyone kept saying that she would.  She was insanely jealous, resented his presence, and rebelled a lot.  Only recently has she seemed to slowly embrace that Owen could be fun to play with or be around. Now, they have learned how to antagonize each other (oh joy of joys) and I'm fairly certain that's not going to stop any time soon.

Eva spoke early.  Her first word was 'shoes' at about ten months and she didn't stop from there.  She grasped talking a lot faster than Owen has.  However, Owen walked at 9 months and has been running around ever since.  He runs, is very physical, but also very needy for attention.  Where he differs in that from Eva though is that he doesn't seem to want or need approval (although he does love an audience).  He's more of a "I'm going to climb the bookcase, get to the ceiling, and tear the curtains down.  You better not stop me but you damned well better be watching!" sort.  He's cuddly and comical.  

He likes to laugh and do insane things for a laugh.  The other day he got on top of a fairly high chest we use as storage and a side table for the couch.  He scooched himself off of it repeatedly, landing really hard, fussed a minute, then laughed hysterically.  He likes to take things apart and put them back together.  He gets especially frustrated if he can't run around or tinker with things.  I'd say he's fairly scientific and he's got a bit more independence going for himself.  At least, he doesn't seem to get as insecure as Eva, nowadays.  It used to be that you couldn't venture out of his sight for longer than a second. He does still want nap time with me or he won't nap at all. (I am embracing the idea that more sleep is always great!)

We're very focused on the ideas of fairness and open communication.  We want our kids to hopefully be successful at being independent, open minded, and firm in their personalities.  We try to encourage the idea that you don't have to be like everyone else, you have to be like yourself.  Growing up and as an adult, the households and parents I admire are ones who encourage creativity, independence, and good behavior. We also try our hardest to respect our kids and hopefully that will come around so they respect us as well.

Perhaps my kids fit the whole 'birth order roles' better than I think they do.  But it seems that both Owen and Eva have such extreme personalities, I can't always really gauge where exactly they fit it.  Perhaps they never will.  I do hope they become and remain close throughout their lives.I want them to feel as if they have someone they can rely on for a sense of strength and acceptance.  How we get to that point, is another story.

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