When our son was born, my scrawny butt was quickly kicked by Motherhood. Breastfeeding for the first time caught me off guard long enough to land the one, two punch. Attempt to implement a schedule? Uppercut. Colic was the roundhouse kick to the face, just for good measure. I waved my white flag of surrender a few long weeks in, gave up all the baby books and vowed to learn as I go.
When the second child came around I thought “surely my experience over the past two years has left me with some shred of useful information.” A practical, if not hard earned “What to Expect.”
“WRONG AGAIN” taunted Motherhood.
Obvious gender differences aside, my two kids are different in every way. Their sleeping habits, their eating habits, their playing preferences, their dispositions, their methods of communicating – complete opposites.
Different kids call for different parenting techniques, right? Absolutely. Or maybe not?
My son has learned that everything has the potential to cause hurt. When taking his first wobbly steps his forehead was always black and blue, his hands perpetually scraped. At two, he got stitches in his lip after slipping on his own pants. The simple act of walking or jumping up and down in the wrong pants = pain.
My daughter has no idea of the dangers the world holds. She gets herself into a precarious situation no less than eighteen times a day, but I am always there to dive onto the concrete in an effort to cushion her fall. She has never even heard the word boo-boo. Blissfully oblivious.
I silently push my son. I stand far away while he plays. If he shows interest in something new, I offer tons of support and instruction. He still refuses to step out of his comfort zone.
I am my daughter’s shadow. I constantly remind her that slides are not for running up, or for licking, or for diving down face first. I discourage her from doing most of what she wants to do. Her comfort zone is everything she’s never tried before.
So by pushing my son, letting him fall in an effort to show him life goes on, am I only reinforcing his caution and concern that he is never safe? If so, I am getting the opposite of my desired result: to foster confidence and autonomy. Should I hold his hand every step of the way instead? Wait until he is decidedly ready to move away?
Or by protecting my daughter from the tornado that she is, leaving her with only a warning, am I reinforcing her oblivion and wild child antics? If so, I am getting the opposite of my desired result: to foster awareness and caution. Should I let her try things I know she can’t do? Even if that means injury?
Some traits are present from birth (nature) while some traits are learned from our childhood environments (nurture). It seems I am trying to nurture what goes against their nature. It also seems that my efforts are only reinforcing their DNA.
Am I fighting the current, swimming upstream, and getting nowhere? Or should I stay the course, confident they will learn the lessons I hope to impart by getting involved?