Almost 5 years ago when I found out I was having a second daughter I thought, How perfect! At least I know what to expect. How very wrong I was... As one of eight children myself, it's a wonder that I was naive enough to imagine that my two girls would be the same, considering that each and every one of my siblings has a distinct personality. My girls, even at the ages of 4 and almost 6, also have personalities that are completely unique. As I wonder about what this third child I am expecting will be like, I spend a lot of time thinking about nature versus nurture. I without a doubt (now six years into parenting) realize that both play a huge role in the people we become.
While I have parented my girls similarly from the start, one of my girls walks this world with her heart pinned to the cuff of her peter pan-collared shirt. She feels great empathy -- often crying when she sees someone else in tears. My other little lady? Well, like water off a duck's back, she charges headfirst into every moment, never taking anything personally. A push on the playground or a mean word from a friend is deflected by her thick outer skin. One gravitates towards fruits and vegetables and the other could survive on chips and candy alone. Both love to play sports, yet one's brows are always knit together in consternation as she focuses on the directions a coach or parent has given. The other is off and running before the directions have been completed.
When my second daughter Sophie entered the world, I worried that she would spend her life peering out from under the edge of her "larger than life" sister Emma's shadow. And then thankfully, somewhere along the way in their first year of sisterhood, I realized the beauty and blessing of these two very different girls being side by side in this world. Emma's courage means that she serves as the perfect role model for Sophie, who at times is downright shy. And Sophie's thoughtfulness often encourages Emma to slow down and look at the bigger picture before jumping into a situation without thought or hesitation. Emma's levity diffuses Sophie's more pensive moods, and Emma feels so happy and validated when she is the only one who can really make her sister laugh with reckless abandon. They are each other's ying and yang.
At this point, I feel I have somewhat figured out what I am up against with each girl and yet, their reactions to even the most mundane of daily occurrences sometimes knocks me off my pedestal of prediction. I think I know them and yet, I have full confidence that in the years to come, their wants and needs will change and I will feel like I am getting to know them again and again as entirely knew beings. I have doubts and fears about the choices I make in parenting -- wondering often if I am doing it correctly. I now realize the great challenge is in figuring out the best way to parent each one of them. One reacts well to the countdown of "I am leaving you in 3 seconds!" -- running to the door just in time. The other panics she will be left behind and is reduced to a puddle on the floor by the time I reach "3." I have learned to apply pressure to them in different ways -- attempting to be fair and consistent when I reprimand them, but also knowing that they need the tone to be slightly different if it is to really make an impact.
Some days I get it right and others often I get it wrong. These days I am pretty good at being gentle with myself when I feel I have done it wrong for either one of them. I have more faith that around the next corner is the opportunity for me to get it right or do it better the next time around. The main goal is to help them feel lovable, happy and strong. I want them to feel confident embracing their own personalities and peculiarities. And I always try to make them feel firmly embedded in a strong sisterly relationship. The one thing I know for sure is that in their relationship there will be laughter, tears, shouting and frustration along the way. And without a doubt there will be love and appreciation. Always love.