Saturday, May 5, 2012

About Differences

Being a mother is not easy.  Let me say that again.  Being a mother.  Is. Not. Easy. But I get better at it as I go along.  Some of the things which troubled me as a young mother have become easier.  There are an awful lot of things I wish I'd known when I started.  I can't count the number of times I've kicked myself and shouted, "Why did it take me five (or six, or seven, or even eight) babies to figure this out?"  But I do wish I'd known then some of the things I know now.  Here is another post in a What I Wish I'd Known (or WIWIK) series.

Years ago, we purchased an ugly little house.  It had four-foot weeds for a front yard;  rocks and tumbleweeds for a backyard.  The garage looked like an abandoned barn (with no door), and the house itself looked like a boring warehouse.  We put a lot of time and energy into that house, and got it downright presentable.  There were lots of scuffs and dings on the walls inside, but I didn't want to repaint everything, so I took a chip of the paint to the store and got myself a gallon of perfectly matched paint.  I wasted no time in painting every one of those marks - it was a wonderfully productive day.  As the sun set, and the slanting light came through a different window, however, I did the V-8 forehead handslap.  The colors were exactly the same, but I could clearly see every patch I had just painted.  The old paint was a satin finish; the new paint was flat.

Our walls were cream, not red, but this shot shows how the same color can can look totally different in the light.

I wish I had known that no two things are ever exactly the same - especially children.  

I bet you hear some of the same complaints I do:
     "It's not fair!"
     "His cookie is bigger than mine!"
     "But you let him _________!"
     "But he didn't have to _________!"
     "I have to do more than him?"

And it's ok.  No two kids are ever going to be exactly the same - not even my "identical" twins are really carbon copies.  And I wouldn't want them to be.  I cherish the unique traits that make each of my children special.  And because they have different strengths and different weaknesses, different interests and different challenges, it's ok if I parent them differently.

As a kid, I didn't mind a spanking, but I hated being grounded.  David withers with a scolding.  Chris would rather die than have his computer privileges suspended.  Ben wants to drive so badly he can taste it.  Alec craves independence.  David thrives on approval.  So my rewards and punishments don't have to be the same.  In fact, our consequences are more effective if they are custom-tailored to each child.

And when they complain (because they will), I can tell them that I know it's not the same, but different can still be fair.  And I can tell them that I am able to parent each of them differently because I know them individually, and because I love them completely.  I can tailor their consequences - and rewards - to what they need to become stronger individuals.  I think that's kind of how God parents us, isn't it?  And we complain, too.  Maybe I ought to do less of the griping.

That's all.

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