Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sibling comparison difficulties

An interesting little discussion followed my post about parsing out my sons' natural abilities. One commenter said that her two sons follow a similar pattern of the older one having the long attention span and the younger one being a more of a wildman (or at least a wildcard). (If that's not what you were saying, L, my apologies; assuming that's what you meant sets up this post nicely.)

The thing about comparing my two children who are four years apart i
s that they are four years apart. When we were expecting the child who turned out to be Teddy, we heard folk wisdom that whatever the first child was like, the second would be the opposite. In some ways, that feels true, but in others, they're actually very similar. But the age difference makes it pretty difficult to actually compare them. When I look at 3-year-old Teddy, I can't conjure 3-year-old Charlie very easily because I'm looking at and experiencing 7-year-old Charlie.

Sometimes, I actually get out the photo albums or videos we have of Charlie at Teddy's current age and try to jog my memory. When I looked at this picture of Charlie from the spring he was three and three quarters, I was struck by how chubby his little cheeks are. Obviously, he didn't always have zero body fat like he does now.

Why does it matter? Why do we compare siblings to each other? For one thing, our own children present the most accessible developmental milestones - "Now when exactly did Charlie learn his alphabet?" Because our boys are exactly four years apart (plus three weeks), they hit the holidays and seasons in a useful sync. For another thing, the older child's behavior gets to feel more predictable, and I think it makes us (me?) more impatient with a younger sibling who may be acting perfectly age appropriate (even if the behavior bears no resemblance to appropriate behavior). Finally, on the flipside of the first reason, I attempt to extrapolate from Teddy's personality now to how he'll act when he's Charlie's age. It lacks much predictive accuracy, but that doesn't stop me from doing it.

Mostly, the comparison game remains just a game. As a competent parent, I work hard to value each one as his own person with a unique set of likes and dislikes, tendencies and quirks. Of course, little brothers relating to big brothers as they do, kind of invite it. When Charlie puts on his Penguins jersey, guess what Teddy wants to wear? I'm just saying.

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