20 August 2011


There are certain things I'd worry about a lot more if I had only one kid. To put a finer point on it, there are certain things I'd blame myself for more if I had only one kid, or if I had two kids who were more alike.

Take food, for example. Tonight's dinner was smoked salmon (served cold), steamed white rice, nori wrappers, corn on the cob, and sliced watermelon. Upon seeing the dinner, Maddie exclaimed, "Oh! I LOVE seaweed!" She proceeded to eat a good number (four or five?) of salmon and rice wraps, most of her corn, and two slices of melon. Riley ate at least ten slices of melon, two servings of white rice, and, when asked to choose some kind of protein, a SmartDog. He's a vegetarian by choice, and his go-to proteins are any and all dairy, SmartDogs, hummus, raw almonds, eggs, and peanut butter.

My point here is that Maddie is an adventurous eater and a combiner. She'll try almost anything and likes all kinds of somewhat unexpected things. She has an especially keen taste for sour and bitter things. She loves to mix things together. When we go out to eat, my best strategy is to just order a meal for myself and share it with her.

My best strategy with Riley is to ask for a refill on the bread basket. He loves carbs, which Maddie could totally live without. He won't eat meat, Maddie's favorite food group. Grapefruit is his least favorite fruit, Maddie's top choice. He's a pretty healthy eater, Riley, but he's adverse to trying new things and he has a fairly limited repertoire.

If I had just Maddie, I'd be all about taking credit for having fed her a variety of foods from the very beginning and for not having catered to her whims when mealtime comes around. If I only had Riley, I'd wonder what I'd done wrong to create someone who is so limited in his preferences and so generally nervous about eating anything new.

As it is, I have them both and they've been presented with the same offerings. My only catering has been to accommodate Riley's preference not to eat meat. Otherwise, what's served is served, like it or lump it. And yet, two totally different palettes, one adventurous eater and one who falls somewhere on the spectrum of "picky."

I choose to draw the conclusion that I didn't have much to do with this outcome. I think Riley could be pickier if I let him dictate his meals and Maddie would try even more things if I were willing to take the time to broaden my quick meals repertoire. But in the end, I deserve no credit nor do I feel any failing.

Sleep is the same. Oh, how I wish Riley would sleep more, or at least later in the morning! But I've tried everything, and in the end, Maddie has always tended to need more sleep and sleep later and Riley has an internal clock like mine, which means he thrives on predictable to-bed and wake-up times.

It's easy as a parent, at least for this parent, to feel guilty about every little perceived negative or problem with one's kid. And it's sometimes equally easy to feel pride for every little positive and success. I certainly think that how kids are parented has some influence on their behavior and certainly on their world view, but having two rather temperamentally different children who have been parented in largely the same way at the same times in their lives has taken off some of the heat for me.

People often say that I'm lucky to have twins, and in many ways, I agree. This is one of the more selfishly practical ways in which I find having twins to be a boon.

And on that note, I shall now go assemble two desks from that pinnacle of consumerism: IKEA. I would make a lame joke that double the furniture assembly is a negative about having twins, but the truth is that I am one of those nutters who actually enjoys putting together IKEA's wares. So I guess it's just another reason to be happy about the twin situation.

Now just don't ask me about the first two years of the kids' lives. Those stories, at least the ones that were not already documented on this blog, are for another, perhaps less positive, day.


Goddess in Progress said...

I couldn't agree more. Seeing such differences in my kids' behavior/preferences/patterns, and seeing them develop side-by-side at the same time, helps me be a little more mellow as a parent. While I take less credit for the good stuff, I take less blame for the rest.

Both my mom and her sister had the easy, well-behaved girl as a first child, and got mighty confident in their spectacular parenting abilities. Then both were slammed with a hellion of a younger son and struggled to temper the credit/blame thing. Having twins first makes you realize a lot earlier that all kids are different, somewhat regardless of how "well" you parent them.

Lizard said...

most people only learn this once they have the second child, the first either being a puzzle and lots of frustration at not being able to get your kid to do whatever it is you want. Or, they congratulate themselves for being such Excellent Parents when they only have one kid (while looking askance at you, with your substandard kid who isn't as perfect as theirs) and they get brought down to earth when they have the second and the slowly learn that their parenting has nothing do do with the kid's easy bedtimes or non-picky eating.

I think every new parent should have to read what you have written. We can file off the rough edges on our kids, but we have no control over their basic personalities and ways of being. The sooner a pre ant realizes that, the happier everyone is.

Tamara said...

So it gets easier after 2? Before my guys were born, everyone said twins get easier after 1. For me, it just hasn't been the case. If anything, the months since they turned 1 (5 months ago) have actually been harder. I like this new carrot you've dangled.

As for the food, it's so interesting how palates develop. Right now I have one who throws just about everything, and one who -- although he enjoys the throwing too -- generally seems to like food of all kinds. I'm curious to see their preferences as they get older.

Megan said...

I whole heartedly agree with this post. I think parents certainly have sway in their child's behavior/likes/tendencies, but only within a certain range from their natural state.

I'm a parent of an only child, but have the unique perspective of watching her older, full biological sibling being parented by her birth parents. In some ways they are similar parents to us; in others, we are vastly different. It's absolutely amazing to me how much alike my daughter and her brother are, despite growing up with different parents and in a different environment. And where they are really different, it's a good reminder that my daughter is her own person, who will be who she is regardless of what I do.

Before becoming a parent, I thought parenting was about shaping your child into the person you wanted him/her to be in society. Now I view it much more as providing the best guidance I can given who my daughter just IS, as well as recognizing that it's her natural personality/tendencies that determine the areas I have to focus on to give her the guidance and lessons she needs. I don't get to determine who she is - I get to do my best to provide the tools and support for her to make the most of who she is anyway.

twingles said...

I have twins and I agree, one of my boys will eat anything or at least try it. His twin eats - literally - 5 things (and loves carbs). I just love when people tell me all the things I did wrong to make him picky....I always say "then how do you explain his brother?" I don't take credit OR blame, and having twins is always a reminder how little we can interfere with the nature they are born with.

Vanessa said...

My daughter (an only child) has a very reserved personality, which manifested as extreme fearfulness and clinging when she was a toddler and preschooler. I would have loved if she'd had a more adventurous sibling, both to prove that I didn't make her that way, and to show her by example that escalators, merry-go-rounds, movie theaters, unfamiliar houses, her own relatives, and any number of other things weren't out to get her!