Parenting Siblings Differently

I consider myself to be relatively evolved, or “woke” as the cool kids say these days. (Don’t they? Maybe not. I’m still all side part and skinny jeans over here.) We have two daughters who are nearly three years apart. We had no idea what we were doing when our first daughter was born. We knocked some things out of the park and are still dealing with other things we screwed up. Pretty typical of first-time parents, I think. So when we got pregnant with our second child, I was feeling relatively confident with this parenting thing.

My husband and I are big surprise people, so we didn’t find out what we were having. I was for sure it was a boy, so of course it was another girl. With that “It’s a girl!” announcement, I felt a tiny wave of relief. I knew what to do. We’d have all the hand-me-downs, and I wouldn’t have to buy a ton of new things. But lo and behold, parenting was different with this second kid from the get-go.

My first one loved breastfeeding, second one despised it. Our first started talking early and walked late. Second one walked way too early and didn’t get too concerned about talking until WE got concerned about her talking. First kid had her shy years but quickly blossomed into a social butterfly. Second one cried every day at daycare drop-off for eight months straight after returning from a family vacation to Colorado because she decided she didn’t want me to work anymore. First one is very go with the flow. Second one is stubborn as an ox. I could go on.

Having two kids who are so different has taught me so much as a mom. I execute two separate battle plans with them as we start our day. I often refer to my oldest as the most responsible person in the house. She needs some prodding along the way, but she generally knows what she needs to do and does it.

My second one needs a whole framework of structure that is so unlike anything I’ve ever had to do. We have a whiteboard where we write her list of tasks like brushing her teeth and getting dressed. As she completes each task, she gets to check it off. We also lay out her clothes the night before so she doesn’t have to deal with that decision in the morning. We even draw a heart on each other’s wrist in the school drop-off line, kind of like in “The Kissing Hand” to help ease jitters. Every night, we go over the schedule for the next day. Is it a home day, a daycare day, or a school day? What should we pack for her lunch?

It’s all very foreign to me. I am a very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person, and this all feels way too structured and boxed in for me personally. But this is the zone where my second one has the most success, so that is what we do and we do it with enthusiasm, dang it!

pic of sisters

The pandemic has made these differences and our parenting approach to them even more pronounced. While many people were going stir crazy, my second daughter was happy as a lark to be home the whole time with her family. We had to make some last minute changes regarding preschool and, quite frankly, her schedule is very confusing. She goes to a preschool three days a week and our beloved home daycare two days a week. She once told me while dropping off her older sister at elementary school that she wants to either be like her older sister so she can go to school every day or be a baby so she can stay home all day.

That’s when it really hit me.

Our whole world is in flux and literally nothing is consistent. She doesn’t have the vocabulary quite yet to fully express what she’s feeling, so that statement really resonated with me. That night, we had a long talk about change and consistency and this weird world we’re living in right now. It made me realize I need to be checking in with both girls about this more, but definitely with my second one.

I am looking forward to the fall, when my youngest daughter will join her big sister at elementary school. I am selfishly beyond excited at the thought of one drop-off and pickup, but also very interested to see if the consistency in schedule helps my younger one feel more in control.

It should not seem like a newsflash to me that kids are different. Of course they are. They are two separate human beings with their own personalities. If having two has taught me anything, it’s how evident those differences are from the start. It’s extremely interesting to watch them develop into these people who are slowly going out into the world on their own.

I want to hear from you all. If you have kids who are completely different, please pass along your parenting tips and tricks!

Julie Breithaupt
Hey! My name is Julie and I use too many exclamation points! My husband Grady and I are attempting to raise two wild women, Mia and Reese. We live in Shawnee where our faux bulldog Marge rules the roost. My hobbies include driveway drinking, going to parks and desperately trying to have date nights. My likes include the Jayhawks, coffee, craft beer and ChapStick. My dislikes include samesiders (people who sit on the same side of the booth when no one is on the other side), jerks and grocery shopping.

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