My daughter and my son are six and a half years apart. Currently, she is ten and he is four. Every activity that is planned and each time a parenting decision is made it is a constant simultaneous time travel between parallel worlds.
Differences in their personalities have always been pretty apparent. When she was a toddler, my daughter was the motivation for friends and family who were still on the fence about having kids. To this day, sometimes I don’t even know what to do with the constant compliments we receive about her behavior and kind heart. She always has this “cool kid” factor and it hasn’t seemed to throw her ego out of balance yet. Her teacher lovingly describes her as reserved and very thoughtful, but with an edge. It’s awkward when parents compare their own kids to her if they have to vent.
Now I’m doing the same. I know the thoughts are not always productive ones but I do catch myself comparing my kids to each other.
My son is not my daughter. He needs more time to warm up in certain situations, yet he is definitely the person who creates the never a dull moment atmosphere in our home. He thinks way ahead. Sense of urgency is very real. I secretly want to be like him when I am in situations where I need more courage to express my opinions or explain my thinking aloud, or better yet, *gasp ARGUE. He listens and remembers key points and he reminds the immediate family members of these key points at a consistent rate. He is neat and organized and has an amazing sense of humor.
Between their age and personality differences and various activities that we can now get back to after the reopening of life, summer has been busy.
I have had to relearn the routine of things like planning and packing for beginning level swim lessons. All in the same beat, I am coordinating plans to send off the tween with friends for pool parties and sleepovers and classes for kids on a real college campus without me by her side.
When I hang out with my son in his room, I realize that his toy collection is growing exponentially, along with daily demands that include, “Play with me!”, and “Make the toys talk!”. Meanwhile, next door in his sister’s room, it is spacious and airy because the long awaited day that she decided to donate a large chunk of her stuffed animal and toy collection finally happened this summer.
Time hopping between the preschool era and one more year left before middle school is a trip. One minute it’s a meltdown regarding bread crusts. The next it is a deep conversation about crushes on boys and how sometimes people take advantage of being in a positions of power. Potty seats. Roblox. Security blankets. TikTok accounts and requests to go to the mall.
Opportunities to meet up at the same time and place to actually play and hang out together (not the older one babysitting the younger one) is narrowing everyday. But when they do find common ground and interact with each other in this way, I savor the moment and try my best to not waste too many of the minutes taking photos.
Sometimes I wonder if it would have been “easier” to have the kids closer in age so that they could go through milestones closer in proximity, and be at the same school at the same time. Then I realize that nothing would be easier. Parenting is hard and realizing that your children are two completely different people is hard too.
When I get caught up in the comparison game and overwhelmed with parental stress, I remember and realize that I never had the chance to experience the sibling dynamic at all since I am an only child. They teach me so much every day. I am thankful for them.
Do you have siblings and how many years apart are you? If you have kids what are their age differences and challenges and fun things about those differences?
■ Elementary Educator for Equity & Cultural Responsibility
■ Collector of Small Moments & Thrifty Finds
■ Wife & Mother
■ Bay Area, CA