"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold) Apparently, I cannot.

Multiple Personality Parenting

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Each of my kids has a different mom. Sort of. No we didn’t adopt. No we didn’t use surrogates. I definitely grew and birthed all three of them. Believe me, I remember. But I have a mommy confession: I parent each of my kids differently. I suppose you could call it multiple personality parenting. But I like to call it doing what’s best for my kids. Each one of them. Individually.

Before having kids, I knew exactly the type of parent I wanted to be. My hubby and I talked through everything. I was going to breastfeed. We weren’t going to use binkies. We weren’t going to introduce tv for the first two years. We’d make all of our own baby food. We wouldn’t eat fast food. We weren’t going to co-sleep. We weren’t going to use spanking as a form of discipline. In other words, we had it all worked out. We were so pleased with the kick-ass parents we were going to be.

And then we actually had a kid.

And you know what? Aside from a few circumstances beyond our control (our first was born 11 weeks early and couldn’t breastfeed, for example), we were pretty much able to be those kick-ass parents we dreamed of being. Belle was such an easy baby. She slept well wherever–in her crib, the swing, the pack ‘n play. She ate well. She naturally fell into a sleeping and feeding schedule very early on. She travelled well. She hardly ever fussed. Looking back, it’s no wonder we were able to be those ideal parents we had set out to be. We didn’t have any resistance, and Belle’s personality meshed so well with how we wanted to parent.

And so we had a second kid.

And boy did this throw a monkey wrench into things. Enter Saurus. I am not exaggerating when I say that he was the complete opposite of his sister in every single way as a baby. He was the king of fussy babies. He didn’t sleep well. He cried all the time. We could never seem to get him on a consistent sleeping or feeding schedule. And god forbid we try to take him out of town. Or out to a restaurant for that matter. Any time we’d start to make progress with him, something would happen to land us right back where we started.

I was in shock. I was depressed. I was confused. I felt like a failure. And I was left analyzing every parenting philosophy that my husband and I swore to abide by and that worked with our first child. I felt like I was a first time mom all over again. I had done all of this before. What the hell was the problem? What was I doing wrong?

I started getting angry. And frustrated. I blamed my child. What was wrong with this kid? Why couldn’t he just sleep like his sister? Why couldn’t he eat like his sister? Why couldn’t he be easy-going like his sister? Why was he making it so hard for me to parent him like I did with his sister?

Because he wasn’t his sister. BECAUSE HE WASN’T HIS SISTER!! This realization hit me like a ton of bricks. What the hell was I doing? Why was I trying to parent my children the same exact way when they clearly had very different needs?

This was another “aww hell” moment for me. I realized that the perfect, kick-ass parent I was able to be with Belle was because that was the type of parent she needed. Saurus, on the other hand, needed me to be an entirely different parent. In many ways, the type of parent I had never intended on being. Where Belle was content to be put to bed awake and drift herself off to sleep without a peep, Saurus needed to be rocked, and swayed, and cuddled until he fell into a deep sleep and could finally be put into bed. Where Belle could sit in her swing and be content for 30 minutes to watch her little birdies fly ’round and ’round, Saurus couldn’t stand to be in one place for more than 5 minutes at a time. Where Belle was independent, Saurus was clingy and needy.

This was a difficult realization for me. One that was not apparent in the baby books I read or in the advice I was given from family and friends. Sure, the “do what’s best for you and your kids” mantra was thrown around a lot–heck, I’ve even shared that advice with people–but the missing piece for me was that this mantra applies to each child. Individually.  “Do what’s best for this kid. But also do what’s best for that kid.”

And then we had a third kid. And although at 8 months he’s just now coming into is own, we’ll be parenting him the same way as we parent our older two. By whatever methods work best for him.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids are not running around willy nilly doing whatever the hell they want. We have rules and we have consequences for breaking the rules. We have expectations for our kids to behave in certain ways in certain circumstances, and we have consequences when this doesn’t happen. But our approaches for fostering these behaviors are not the same for each of our kids.

With Belle, for example, the mere mention that she might have to go to timeout is usually enough to get her behavior in check. With Saurus, we usually need to not only put him in timeout but also take away a toy or privilege before he understands we mean business. With Belle, a hug and a quick kiss is usually all it takes to help her feel better when she is upset. With Saurus, we often have to hold him in a tight embrace until he is calm.

And we’ll do whatever works best for the baby. Once we have some more time under our belts and learn what this is.

What about consistency? What about being fair? How can you possibly parent your children so differently? Well, we’re consistent when something works. And then when it doesn’t, we find something else that does. Our consistency is always doing what is best for our children. And this seems pretty fair to me.

I’m learning that as my kids get older, my parenting needs to evolve every day, every second for each of my kids. Sometimes what’s best for one kid is best for all. But sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes what’s best for one kid on one day, isn’t what’s best for that kid on another day. And that’s ok. At least for me. Because I know that “I am exactly the kind of mother my children need.” Each one of them.

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Thanks to Leslie over at The Bearded Iris (http://www.thebeardediris.com) for letting me quote her here. When I saw this image on her page it really resonated with me and boiled down everything I wanted to say in one sentence. I just knew it would fit perfectly here.

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Author: Mamma Wild Thing

I'm a mamma to four little wild things and can't imagine life any other way. (Well, most days.)

35 thoughts on “Multiple Personality Parenting

  1. This is so true. It’s funny, I never realized that I parented each of my children different. I just do what I know what works with what kid. I really liked this post!

  2. I relate to this so much! I definitely have a different parenting style with each of my three kids…and sometimes I fear I’m being inconsistent, but other times I know I need to be firmer with one and more patient with another, etc. Thank you for including my quote. I’m so pleased that it would resonate with you enough to share! You have a beautiful blog by the way. So pretty! XO

  3. Perfection. Every single one of mine are different too. That quote is genius! Maybe if more moms read it and actually listen they can stop being assholes to each other and stop comparing their kids and parenting skills to each other.
    I think it may be a second child thing, mine was a horrific baby- but she turned out to be a pretty good kid after about 7 and is handling the pre-teen thing like a boss. The older “perfect baby”.. well….not.so.perfect

    • Thank you. And I agree, we need way more support among moms, less competition. And I am most definitely worried about the kids as they get older. I’m sure we’ll have some role reversals on our hands, lol.

    • It is funny that you say that because it sounds like my life, my son was simple, he was an amazing baby, toddler and small child, my daughter who is my second child was downright awful and I say that in a loving way but I mean it, she just turned five and we are not out of the water yet but she is definitely improving where as my son turns 12 on July 19th and he has done a complete 360 and became the more difficult child….I thought I might be alone on that so glad to hear I am not!

  4. Awesome!! Very very very well put!! Love it!!

  5. My first daughter sounds exactly like Saurus. I was petrified when I was pregnant with my second that I would have two needy, high maintenance kids and I would LOSE MY FRICKEN MIND. Thankfully, my second was a mellow, easy baby. And, yes. They both need different styles of parenting. My oldest will calm down with threat of taking away her favorite toy. My youngest says “Me don’t care” if I try that tactic with her. I live by a “Whatever It Takes” philosophy of parenting!

  6. I’ve pretty much felt inept since the first one arrived, and definitely after the second one. But you really made me think, and if I give myself a teeny bit of credit, I am being the right parent for each one. I’ve noticed they (2 years & 10 months) tend to rub off on each other now, so some good and some bad are emerging, but they are starting to acknowledge all the rules apply to both of them.

  7. This struck a chord with me as well. Thank you for writing this!

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  9. Damn straight! I love your style. It’s the kind of thing that only on-the-job training teaches. Well said.

    Bonus points for quoting my favorite hairy flower.

    Came by from Honest Voices on Honest Mom’s blog.

    • Ha, ha, I almost thought you were spam when I saw the hairy flower comment but then realized what you were referring to. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi. I’ve been following you for a few weeks now (I’m so new to blogging, just more than a month at this point) and love your stuff.

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  11. Thanks for posting this, I too have to parent both of my munchkins differently because they are so very different, Sharing your post on twitter

  12. This is so terrific and so true! While I only have one son so far, I do remember how I would always say to this my parents growing up. I was the oldest and my parents had a very different lifestyle and style of parenting with me than with my younger siblings. I frequently would complain about it, and my mom would always say, “Well, all three of you were very different people too!”

    • It’s funny how you have this whole parenting notion down in your head before you have kids and then, well, you have kids and things need to shift accordingly. It’s the biggest piece of advice I give soon-to-be first-time parents.

  13. I love this perspective. My kids totally need different moms, and usually that’s exactly what they get. Thankfully, they are both pretty easy to parent, but their motivations and strengths are vastly different.

    • Thanks, Amy. I think my favorite part of this post has been all of the positive feedback I’ve gotten from other parents saying this is true for them as well. Makes me feel a lot less like I have no idea what I’m doing. 🙂

  14. I love this post!! I too have found that I am a different mom with each of my kids because as you said, each child needs something different. Thanks for a great post!!

  15. I really appreciate what you said about getting to be the parent you envisioned you would be with your first, mostly because she just happened to need that kind of parent. Reading this makes me think not only about how I parent my four and one and a half year old differently but how I parent my girls differently than my good friend and neighbor parents her children. I sometimes find myself wanting to emulate her style. But I can see now how some of what she does that I wish I could do wouldn’t work with my kids…because they are different kids. Very helpful!

  16. Love everything about this post! Thanks for sharing. Mine are quite opposite as well–4yo has always been emotional/spirited/independent, where 2yo is easy going/cuddly/mischievous–some interesting combos. 🙂 We’ve had to adjust our parenting constantly, it seems. Sometimes it seems easier to enjoy my 2yo, simply because he is easier to deal with. I find myself making conscious efforts to not give him more attention than his sister, and to make sure I’m using my daughter’s specific love languages.

    • Oh man, I hear ya on that one . . . and it makes me feel bad that I enjoy our oldest sometimes — ok, a lot of times — more than our 3 yo, but hey, parenting a child that is not always easy to deal with is quite exhausting. Also, I like your terminology — “love languages”!

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