My kids are just coming down from all the birthday hoopla over the last two weeks and beginning to write the gazillion thank you notes to friends and family. They love that part—just kidding. For the first time ever, the twins requested separate parties, and despite my best efforts, would not be persuaded otherwise. I made sure their celebrations wouldn’t be held on the same day (I’m not an idiot, y’all), ordered separate invitation designs on Etsy, and planned two verrrry simple shindigs for my twinning babes.
After the parties, both held at home—I told you my motto was simplicity—I had a chuckle over these funny little people of mine. How could two children who grew in the same womb at the same time be so completely different? Their celebrations were as unique as they are: Henry’s party was all scavenger hunts and racing cars through the foyer with his buds. No rules, no problem. Harper’s Pancakes & Pajamas party was planned in 30-minute increments (I don’t know where she gets that from) with a “fancy” meal, nail painting, and a lovely toast to the birthday girl.
Their celebrations were a visible reflection of who they are, and who they are is distinct from the other. Parents, it is entirely too easy to compare our children, certainly to each other, even to ourselves. In a generation where our kids value fitting in over belonging, and praise over quiet confidence, let’s keep reminding each other of a few things:
- We must parent the child we have, not the child we were AND
- We must parent the child we have, not the child on either side of him or her
For many of us, our dreams for our children may not line up with reality. You were a state championship soccer player but your daughter sits on the bench every game. You took piano lessons for eight years but your son would rather play football. You much preferred socializing to academics, but your child keeps her nose in a book and doesn’t seem to mind not having a swath of friends.
Often times, we have to put away our own expectations for our children and follow their lead. It also pays to realize that who they are in their 7-year-old bodies will be different from the people they become. They are still growing and changing and they need our support.
Parents, let your babies know they don’t have to be like you to be loved and accepted by you.
Secondly—and this is so important—our children should feel admired for who they are and not who they aren’t: the sibling standing next to them. One of the best decisions we made this year was to put the twins in different classes for first grade. Being in their own environment where they aren’t constantly compared to the other is freeing for them and for us.
When Graham and I spend time talking to our kids about their abilities without contrasting with a brother or sister’s talents, we empower them to explore their interests without fear of losing to a sibling with which they are competing. Note: this doesn’t come naturally to us! I have to constantly check myself to make sure I am not complimenting one to the detriment of the other. There is a time for open praise in our family, but often we ask, “How do you think you did?” instead of lavishing compliments in the presence of siblings, then later we let our children know we’re so proud of their efforts.
Sibling rivalry is natural and unavoidable. So is comparing one child’s personality with another. The best thing we can say to our children is, “You are precious to me. You belong in this family. You be you.”
Our love and approval will eventually translate into their own self-acceptance and that, girlfriend, is a good, good gift.