Thinking about probability vs. determinism (see yesterday's comments) also makes me think about the conditions of the experiment, and the responses to each child and how my responses differ, and how each child differs.
We don't parent the same for each child, even at the same age. This may seem an obvious statement, but it's one I've seen many parents (myself included) resist. Fair means exactly the same, yes? And I want to be fair. We suffer great guilt as parents when we add a child to the mix because it changes the conditions such that we cannot parent the second child the same as the first. I think maybe we believe that because the first is working out well (presumably, if we are having a second by choice, anyway), that we should replicate that condition set. Exactly, please.
Even worse, we've changed the conditions of the first child's life, too. Guilt, guilt! Not only are we not being fair (evensies-fair) to the second child--who isn't going to get all that lovely one-on-one time with us--we're not even being fair to the first child anymore!
But there's one thing that listening to a couple dozen moms of multiples will teach you (if you aren't one yourself): even with identical twins, it is nearly impossible to parent exactly the same for each, and trying too hard to make things 'the same' for each will make you crazy. For the most part, even identical twins have somewhat different dispositions - they're only genetically identical (and even then, there are genetic differences even with identicals). Fraternals, and you have a potentially much bigger range of needs, responses, and function.
Parenting is a lot about trying to make life work, day to day. If something isn't working, we may try it harder or louder or more often (which is also different parenting than the previous time), or we may try different tactics if the old ones don't work. Certainly if we had siblings ourselves, we can see how our own parents responded differently at some time or other to one of our sibs, leading to cries of 'NO FAIR' from any that felt they got the short end of the stick. Even the kids expect things to be the same for each ('How come she gets that and I don't?' and 'Why don't you make HIM eat his peas, you made US eat our peas when we were little!'). We may even model that expectation of fair-is-equal-is-the-same by trying to make things the same for each, scrambling, editing, revising, and grumping, pouring out just that little smidge more orange juice so the glasses are exactly the same amount ('See? There, I fixed it, now are you happy?').
It really isn't a rational thing, that knee-jerk 'if for A, then for B' thing. We're all different, yes? Sometimes there are situations in which the same for each is just right. But if we couch it in those terms, then it becomes a rule that isn't really useful. And yes, I do it, anyway. Silly, since it just makes for more fights rather than fewer. We end up with both 'it must be perfectly equal' fights, and 'but I need that more than she does' fights. Goodie? And I can point right to the source of that problem (me, here, over here, that's my fault).
We experience trying to work the more flexible and adaptable rule (what is truly right for you?) daily with the diet stuff. Mr G can eat pretty much whatever he wants provided he doesn't go totally nuts on either dairy (mild lactose intolerance) or wheat (he's not a fructose malabsorber officially, but his tolerance for fructans has limits). Miss M can't have chocolate solids/mass/liquor (cocoa powder is moderately well tolerated, but anything in the solid chocolate world is not). That has got to be one of the most sad - even if not at all life-threatening - allergies out there. But there it is. No chocolate. And no dairy, at least until she finishes outgrowing the eczema-level allergy there. Miss R can have anything low FODMAP, and Mr B can, too, but can only do lactose-free because his lactose intolerance is much more severe than anyone else's. If I handed them each the same plate of food, there would be real problems.
And that's just the physical/digestive stuff. Their personalities are different, too. That's probably obvious, but it's something that I have to always keep in mind as a parent.
I really like the non-violent communication techniques, because I can apply them as needed, for the duration needed, under the conditions needed, with the words that resonate for each child. It feels 'fair' to me - same tools applied. But it is totally different for each experience, in some ways. When I need to, why they need me to, and how it plays out is their own.
Yeah, it can get mind-bending if I think about it too much. There are four different people here that I'm parenting, and that's a lot of data to store. Still, one of the advantages of having many (-ish) kids is that it is nearly impossible to get stuck in thinking there are only a few different kinds of kids, or that I can think of them as 'just kids like all kids' - they teach me to not treat them as cookie-cutter people, and to recognize that kids beyond mine are also not the same as mine. There are probably kids who are even the opposite of mine in some way or another. But there's also every other degree of difference, in every possible dimension.
Different planets, all of them. None the opposite of the other, but all different in many ways. Their characteristics, trajectories, and circuits are different. Even speed differs. I sometimes call our family a constellation, other times it is more like a solar system (though I'm not sure who is the sun, since it sure isn't either myself or epeepunk. Maybe the cats... I think they think so, anyway!). They're ... well, themselves:
- Mr G is on a track to his goals. Interfere with those goals at your peril. He will put all his many skills and talents to bear on the problem if you get in his way for long. He's fully able to assess the things available in life, his desires and wishes, even the distractions and temptations, and compare those to his goals, and discard anything that doesn't move him along his path. That makes him sound unemotional, but he's really just self contained. He can certainly get his feelings in a twist if something gets in his way. Strong on logic, and on problem-solving (including social problem-solving), and on self-assurance. He'll lead, but doesn't care if anyone follows - in fact would mostly prefer that people not follow, or at least not too many, and not too closely. Being his own person is core and essence.
- Mr B is driven by passion and interrelationship. He loves being part of, with, belonging to. It feeds him to know that others are participating with him, or allow him to participate with them. At the same time, he bristles at the idea that he should change his strongly held position on anything in order to fit in. Kindness counts, for him, and he will discard friends without more than a sorrowful backward glance if they're unkind. At the same time, he's glad to pick up new interests if they're interests his friends share - he's suddenly become interested in the Phillies, because a friend of his is a baseball fan. He's quite clear about this, for a seven-year old - he said to me, 'I want to watch the game because my friend loves it, and I'll be able to talk with him about it.' Strategic thinking in order to establish and maintain membership in the group. Being with others and relating to others, while maintaining his sense of self and his personal moral compass is core and essence.
- Miss M is a further separate and unique individual. She is a study in opposites, intense and delicate, fierce and anxious, science-minded serious thinker and goofy merry mischeif maker. She changes directions quickly, and transitions on the smallest point with minimum warning. She wants, demands, insists, thinks, ponders, considers, acts sly, experiments on others, and observes carefully while trying not to let anyone look in her direction. I never know what side of her will show at any given second, and there are many facets that turn and click into place. She chimes, clear and bright, then is silent, then sounds another note, and another, sometimes too fast a series for me to capture more than the echo of what just happened. What just happened? Miss M went by. Her name means light on the water, and it fits - she's a dazzling pattern of flashes too bright to look at for long enough to get more than the impression of movement and fluidity and power.
- Miss R is another model entirely. She holds and holds, takes her time with her feelings, takes her time with her thoughts, and is hard to move in any direction unless she already is going that way. She's a temple bell, so deep a note that I don't realize the power of her note until my chest is reverberating with the thrum of it. If she gets angry, she stays angry. If she's feeling something, you'd better wait for her to be finished with it before pressing her for anything else. Everything is at her own pace, and that's way slower than my pace. But it is clearly and truly her own pace. She's also my hardest child to define, and that is also just another aspect of her personality. She refuses to even show enough of what is going on inside her head to allow me to categorize what planet she's on. She keeps her council on what makes her tick, and seems to prefer it that way - she'll tell me loud and clear and, er, loud, when she needs me to know. She knows how to play the social manipulation games, and pulls them out just often enough to remind me that she knows how to use them - and that she declines, thanks, she'll just bulldoze her way to her destination, that other stuff is just not worth bothering with. Until she decides to let me know she's coming through, her destination and course is held close and tucked away, her own and not for anyone else to know.
All their own. All different, and different kinds of different.
And yet they are also the same in many ways - they all have a passion for history, they love the idea of the passage of time and the changes that come over time. They love archealogy, biography, and mythology - the archealogy part being helped along mightily by participating in an actual dig (second go at the Power House dig is coming up fast!). They're all into imagination and expression and mystery, and like their world to be enchanted - they see fairies in the garden, and expect to encounter elves in the woods, and see magic in places like Longwood Gardens and Winterthur. They all love creation, through craft and art, and have an appreciation for handmade items, sculpture, painting, glass blowing, sewing, weaving, embroidery, architecture/construction, and cooking. They also all love nature, and animals, and growing things, though their degrees and flavors of passion differ--they each have a garden, and take particular pleasure in some aspect of it, either design (Mr G), or development (Mr B), or seasonal change (Miss R), or harvest (Miss M).
Their Halloween costumes this year are definitely expressions of their character and personalities, too. Frankly, rather scarily accurate reflections:
- Mr G is a wild woodsman, a man who has spent years in the woods apart from all humanity, being self-sufficient and making his way without any assistance from anyone.
- Mr B is the Taijitu symbol, the black-and-white union of Yin and Yang, shirt half black and half white, with his hands gloved in the opposite color so he can place them as the dots on his shirt. Balance, completion, and transition, always in motion, the proof that even the farthest extreme in one direction contains the seed of the opposite.
- Miss M is a velvet shark with two layers of fleece teeth. Fierce and deadly and soft and fuzzy. Dangerous and cuddly at once. She can hide her face inside the jaws of death, being outwardly fierce while inwardly shy.
- Miss R has no costume. She's trick-or-treating as a ballerina wearing regular clothes. It's a pink dress, yes it is my regular school clothes, what's your problem? Get over it. Trick-or-treat, here's my treat bag, thanks, bye! (I shake my head, but what can you say - she chose ballerina, but doesn't want a costume. She's a ballerina because she says she's one, duh! Just try arguing that point with her.)
They're definitely interesting, different kinds of different people. If I tried to parent them all the same, it would be catastrophic.
I have to work the probabilities for each, and know that I don't even have a way to be sure I'm aiming for where they actually are, right this moment. I have my theory and my best guess and sometimes even pretty good odds. But without a crystal ball, I'm never going to be able to determine for sure.