Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unlike Ebony and Ivory, they do not live together in perfect harmony

I had a weird dream. It was about my 9 year old daughter, Fiona. I dreamed she kissed a boy.

This dream woke me up and I sat straight up in my bed. It was vivid and in color and looked as if I were watching it on TV. And it freaked me out.

The kiss was just a simple little peck, and she looked to be a teenager in this dream, but still I was not prepared to see this. She is 9. She should still be 9 in my dreams. And she should not be pecking anybody. Even this very cute, tall, blond boy in the dream. She should be running through a field in a long, white sundress, carrying a basket and picking daisies to bring home to her mama. She should be a little girl. She is growing up too fast.

This dream got me thinking. About both of my older daughters, and how different they are.

Why was the dream that involved kissing a boy about Fiona? Why not Choppy? Do I stereotype and compare my daughters even in my dreams? I'm sure I don't. I'm sure it was completely random, a dream, for pete's sakes.

But this strange dream of mine has called to mind all of the differences in my girls. Two girls who have been raised in the same home, with the same parents, with the same discipline, the same rules and privileges. Yet they are so very different. It amazes me how different two girls, just one year apart in age, who share the same DNA, can be.

Choppy is generous and giving and thoughtful. Fiona is selfish and always looking out for herself. She will always decide if and how something will benefit her, before agreeing to do it.

Choppy is slow and deliberate. Fiona flies by the seat of her pants.

Choppy spends time in the bathroom in the evening and the morning. She cares how she looks, and she spends time taking care of herself. Fiona has to still be reminded to brush her teeth and her hair before she walks out the door.

Choppy studies and reads and is a responsible student. She gets good grades, because she works hard for them. Fiona gets good grades, straight A's, and I have no idea how. She hates homework, rushes through everything just to get done and has a backpack loaded with crinkled up paper, late library books, an iPod and crumbs. Lots and lots of crumbs. Choppy's pristine backpack looks like it did the day we bought it and no paper is out of place.

Choppy will plan ahead, bringing home a book that she may or may not need to work on a study guide and she faithfully practices her spelling words every night in preparation for the weekly test on Friday. Fiona has a book report due this Friday, that she has known about for a month, on a book she has not even finished reading yet, and she informed me this morning that she is not even sure where the book is. She is going to check the library at school to see if she already returned it. Because that would make a lot of sense since she ISN'T EVEN FINISHED READING IT YET.

Choppy picks out her own clothes, and dresses everyday. She matches from the headband all the way down to the shoes. She is always all dressed up to go nowhere. I am still picking out Fiona's clothes for her. When I ask her what she would like to wear, she always says "I don't care. Whatever you want." And on the weekends in the winter, if we are not going anywhere, Fiona will put her pajamas on Friday night, and they will not come off until Monday morning. This drives Choppy crazy. She is dressed and accessorized as soon as she is up. Fiona takes the term 'jammy day' to a whole new level.

Choppy makes her bed every single day. Without fail. Her room is always perfect. Fiona's room? The term war zone comes to mind. Things that go in there, never come out again. Like library books.

Fiona has loads of friends. She knows everybody and everybody knows her. She gets phone calls, goes to sleepovers and gets invited to all the parties. She has notes and silly doodles galore in her backpack. She is outgoing and funny. Choppy is quiet and reserved. She is funny in a different way. She has a harder time in the friend department. She has two good friends that she just made this year, and I hope they will be around for a while. Last year, she never really found that one friend that she clicked with, and I hurt for her. While Fiona's social calendar is often full, Choppy is usually home.

Fiona will tell me anything I ask about school, boys, friends, troubles. Trying to get Choppy to share her thoughts is a little more difficult.

Choppy internalizes everything. Fiona deals with things by screaming at anyone and everyone.

Choppy will admit when she is wrong and apologize. Fiona will blame others . For everything. Nothing is ever her fault.

Choppy has her coat on with her matching hat, mittens and scarf and is ready to go 10 minutes early every morning. Fiona is still loading her backpack, can't find her gloves, doesn't remember where she took her shoes off and still has to brush her teeth as the bus is coming down our street.

Fiona can stay up late and get up early. She is very easy going and up for new adventures. She travels well as she is very adaptable and can still function on little sleep. Choppy does not do so well when her schedule is broken. She needs her 11 hours every night. Choppy likes to know ahead of time who, what, where, when and why.

Fiona is a bossy, take charge, first born, who demands no real extra attention from us. Choppy is a soft spoken follower, she is needy and can be clingy and when this happens, we know she is needing a little extra attention.

Choppy eats healthy, fruits and vegetables. She counts soup and green beans as her favorite foods. If we have McDonald's for dinner, she will make herself a turkey sandwich. Fiona could live on oreos and coke. She eats too much junk food, no fruits or vegetables and hates to try anything new. Unless it's a new type of cookie.

Night and day these two girls of mine. I don't even think I've scratched the surface on their differences. And yet when I see these differences in print, it makes me a sad.

They fight, they argue, they bicker. They play together, but enjoy doing their own thing as well. They would not have a lot in common had they been born into different families and had a random meeting. I don't even think they would be friends. One puts more effort into their relationship than the other does. The other takes the one for granted.

As much as Fiona is selfish, disorganized, a scatterbrain and an all around mess, things come so much easier for her. She always lands on her feet. Nothing ever bothers her, she is so good at just letting things roll of her back.

Things are not as easy for my Choppy. And that hurts. She is so good, so honest and so genuine. She is one of those people you meet in life who you think is a truly good person. She is kind to people with disabilities, understanding of peoples differences and takes the time to get on her knees to talk to a three year old. She has never said an unkind word about anyone. She is a good friend, when she makes a friend. But she can be very judgemental, people do not always measure up to her high standards, so making friends is a little harder for her.

And so back to the dream, why would I dream that it was Fiona kissing the boy? Why not, Choppy? Is it because I think Fiona will be interested in boys and have a boyfriend first? is it because I view Fiona as the more popular of the two and therefore think she would be the first to be out with a boy and possibly kiss him? Is it because I picture Choppy home on the weekends, reading in her room? Do I have her labeled as the 'good girl' to Fiona's 'bad girl'? I don't know. And I feel bad. As an only child, this whole sibling thing is new to me. It confuses me and has me constantly second guessing how I parent the kids. Do I parent them all the same, across the board? Or do I tailor my parenting to their individuality? I try to do that, but is that destining them to be come what I shape them to be, rather than who they truly are?

Am I the same kind of mom to both of these girls? Am I giving each of them what they truly need, or what I think they need? Have I categorized and labeled them prematurely and worse yet, incorrectly? Am I parenting them according to how I see them, rather than how they actually are?

It was, after all, just a dream. But it really got me thinking.


Pedaling said...

it's interesting isn't it, these family dynamics? My kids are all very different - my 1st 3 in particular - so different - but they learn, as they see you love the individually, to love and accept these differences in each other- sure they may not have been "friends" under different circumstances - but because they are family - they will learn to love, get along, and even call each other friends. you'll see.

chrissy said...

Your thinking too much! Just love them and raise them as you have, they will continue to be different and need differently and you are the mom "chosen" for these children you are what they need! Just a dream.

Family Adventure said...

This post is just beautiful, Lisa. I don't know your girls, but I feel like I do now. (And Fiona = Christopher. It's almost spooky).

Isn't it amazing how girls so close in age can be so different? It boggles the mind :)

I sometimes feel like I've labelled my children to a certain degree and now they are paying for it a little bit.

I see B boy as more generous, kinder and more sensitive than C, and sometimes I know he gets away with things I would never let C do. Just because he is more sensitive and needs more support. At least in my mind - but who really knows...?

It's all part of the joys of parenting. I do like having kids that are so different - and I can't wait to see how they grow up. I am sure you feel the same way. Except for that kiss, maybe?!

Heidi :)

kari said...

Very interesting post. We have our three boys and one girl; it is amazing how different their personalities can be. I really regret the fact that our daughter will never know what it's like to have a sister. Your girls may be total opposites and bicker at times right now, but, I'm sure as they get older they will become great friends.

SnapHappyInkyMomma said...

WOW. What an interesting, thought-provoking post!

My two are very different as well. I recently had the feeling (and major guilt) that I wasn't giving my daughter enough credit academically, when we went in for her conference and heard that she is one of the top in her class -- given the struggles we have with homework, I thought she was having problems at school. I always think of my son as the "smart" one -- but they both are. He's just "outwardly" bright, but they are both smart in their own way -- and that's why I felt terrible about the whole school thing and not giving her enough credit for her intelligence. I think also, because he is so much "easier" personality wise (seriously, he is the happiest child ever), and she is moody and emotional, that it's harder to understand her sometimes, and she certainly frustrates me!

Ok, now I've written my own novel, really without a point, but you made me think about this more . . . thanks. :)

Don't worry about your dream. You'll have many, many more dreams about your girls that will have you puzzled in the morning -- but they are just dreams.

Melanie said...

Love this post. Your girls will look back at this one some day and laugh and say "that is totally me!". You're their mother you know them well, you may think you're labeling them, but it doesn't sound like you are, you are just adpating yourself and your way of thinking to their idividual personalities. How fun it will be to watch them grow into teenagers and adults!!

ValleyGirl said...

Sounds like my two. I try not to over-think their differences or compare them too much because I don't want to worry about how I'm parenting! I do enough of that without seeing the differences in my girls and wondering if they're because of me. Our kids will grow up in spite of their upbringing and all we can really do is what we think is best for each of them. We'll surely find out that some things we did were the wrong things, but they can still both grow up to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted despite those parental errors.

Queen B said...

Your post is beautiful. I am on only child and parent of an only child so you kind of just blew my mind!! I have a wonderful friend who has 3 daughters ages 20-25. Growing up her girls were all so different. I remember her having the same fears about their relationships. Now they are very close. She recently said sometimes she feels left out of their group!! Perhaps their differences will be just the thing that brings them together many first borns can handle a good friend that is just like them!?

Jul said...

My RaRa was Hannah Montana on tour in my dream a few nights ago! It got me thinking too - she'll be nine soon and that means 10 next year and Jr high is on the horizon!

Lis- You have done a great job so far! They are all unique and different in their owns ways. I grew up with 3 brothers and the things that we did not agree on or like about each other when were younger were the exact things we had in common or appreciated in each other as teens and adults. As siblings you eventually find commom ground with all your siblings- and I know my parents have a different relationship with each of us kids. It all works out!

Becky @ Boys Rule My Life said...

I grew up in a family with 3 kids. I was the good one; actually, I am the "White Sheep" in my family. I don't know where or how I came from my household.

I always knew I was loved and I always knew I was a little different. I've always been ok with that because I've always been ok with me.

Love your girls. Teach them to be proud of themselves and to love themselves. You are doing a FINE FINE job! Just by reading your beautiful post, it is so obvious that you are already doing the things you need to do to raise loving children. They will learn by your example and they will learn that it is ok to be who they are inside.

I, too, have wondered if we are labeling are boys. Will - smart, but picky; Nathan - wild child, but accepting; Witt - the verdict's still out...

Just remember that everyone IS different - if we were all the same this here thing we call life would be boring! :)

You're doing great - go kiss the kids, tell them you love them and tell Fiona she's too young for boys! :)

Jenny from Chicago said...

Oh, I know this post so well..not just the specifics but the guilt and anxiety that comes through in your words. My two oldest are also very different...but the fact that we worry about it means we are trying to do...what? The best that we can do.

Christy said...

My mom definitely labeled my sister and I early on, and I think we both suffered from it, so even though it was just a dream, I think it is great that you are really thinking about the differences between your daughters and what kind of mom you are to them!

chickadee said...

my girls are the same way, though my oldest is the choppy. fiona would be my younger daughter. i always thought it was a birth order thing. i guess not.