Katie Brodkin and Rachel Dilsaver are partners in a new parent education program called The Parenting Village. They run mommy & me class for moms with babies ages 0-12 months and parenting classes for moms with kids under the age of 5 out of FitOn Studios in Manhattan Beach. Their programs focus on support, education, and connection. We asked Katie and Rachel how to deal with differences and comparison among siblings and they had priceless advice. Read on to get their personal experiences and perspective.
Every child is unique and different – you hear it, and you know it. Yet when we find ourselves in a group of moms sharing milestones, schedules, successes and challenges, it is easily forgotten. Sleep, preschool, developmental milestones – so many topics that can leave moms, especially with their first child, comparing and wondering if what they are doing is best.
Even between our own children there can be big differences. In personality, in temperament, in interests. My older daughter was a great sleeper from birth, but woke up once a night for a feeding until she was six months old. When we decided to wean her off that feeding, it only took three nights and she did not wake in the night again until she was three years old. My younger daughter slept through the night without a feeding by 11 weeks, but had an extremely hard transition from the bassinet by our bed to her crib (where I wasn’t there to put the pacifier back in her mouth all night). She had weeks of waking up in the night sporadically and I thought it would never end. I just kept insisting to my husband that she should be adjusting faster, because my point of comparison was my first child. Two years later, we are all sleeping through the night (it didn’t actually take the entire 2 years…). The important takeaway here is not “why isn’t my child sleeping through the night at 11 weeks old?!?!” or “I can’t believe they let their baby cry!” but that even though my girls had a really similar schedule, similar nutrition, similar sleep environment, same mother and father – they weren’t (and aren’t) exactly the same! There are certainly things you can do to help everyone get a good night of sleep (and we cover this in all of our newborn Mommy & Me class at the Parenting Village) but it’s not going to happen at the same time for every baby.
If something is working for you and your baby, by all means, keep on keepin’ on! It’s only once something becomes an issue for you that it can be time to look for other solutions. We encourage moms to chat with friends, take a Mommy & Me class, do some research, gather all of the facts and some opinions. Then you can make a decision based on what works for you and your family. To keep going with our sleep example, my kids sleep in separate rooms with white noise and blackout shades and my two year old only naps in her crib. I rarely have her nap in the car or stroller. I often get asked if that makes it tough when we travel, etc. At this point she can have a good day with no nap or a much shorter than normal stroller nap, but even when she couldn’t, it worked for me. Did it make it harder when we were on the go? Certainly. I chose the controlled sleep environment and long naps at home over flexibility. But that’s just me! I am only one mom, and I thrive on a routine. Does that mean that if your child takes a nap in the stroller everyday while you walk on The Strand that you need to do something differently? Absolutely not!
Another important note – if something stops working, you can always reevaluate and change it! We are human, our kids are human, and things change over time. No one is stuck doing something one way (although your child might like you to believe otherwise!) just because that’s how they are doing it currently.
Most importantly, the idea that all children are different can help us to enjoy our children for who they are and do a little less comparing. My oldest daughter is a lot like me – outgoing, loud, talkative. I get her and find her funny and entertaining – but sometimes she’s a lot (she will literally talk to me all day, everyday, about everything)! My younger daughter is very verbal but chooses her words more carefully, is not looking for an audience, and is more likely to observe until she really wants to say something. Neither personality is better, and both of their personalities are changing! Some days, one wears on me more than the other, but at the end of the day, they are very different and that makes our family more interesting.
If you want to read more on celebrating and honoring your child’s individuality, check out one of our favorite parenting books The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel.