They need to follow their own path

01.29.22 08:51 PM Comment(s) By Adrienne Towsen

When we have multiple children, especially of the same sex, I think the natural tendency is to assume they will have similar interests, and hopefully to you as well. Of course we often try to foster this by introducing them to things we like, be it sports, hobbies or other activities. We also hope they will be friends as they grow up and in their adult lives as well. If we have just two there can be a different dynamic than 3, 4 or more, but no matter how many children we have, it is important to always remember they are all individuals.

As the mom of two girls who are close in age, I definitely hoped they would be friends. I grew up with one younger brother, so I was really excited to see how two sisters would interact. I am so happy to report that my daughters became the best of friends as toddlers and continue to be now as young adults. This may not always be the case.  I think as a parent, you must be prepared for the possibility that your children may not get along. You will ask yourself why and might have a hard time understanding it. Perhaps it's due to a bigger age difference, or unique personalities that do not mesh, or the infamous...sibling rivalry. Whatever the reason is, you need to accept it and find ways to come together as a family but also support their differences. 

If all is harmonious and the kids get along, the next thing to consider will be how they are similar and how they are different. It is amazing how different kids can be even though they are raised in the same household. It is so important to recognize this and figure out ways to help them express who they are. Growing up, I was involved in sports including lacrosse and horseback riding. Of course, I introduced both to my daughters, and I really hoped they would like one or the other. Lacrosse was not a fit for either of them, but my younger daughter very much enjoyed riding and horses so this became her sport. My older daughter went in another direction and found her fun and passion in books. It was so interesting to me, and I loved seeing how much she enjoyed things like book signings and other related events.  I enjoyed going to Book Con with Danielle just as much as I enjoyed being "horse show mom" with Kayla.

What if they both ended up playing the same sport? Since they are only 2 years apart, chances are they would be on the same team. Even if they were not, there would still probably be some comparison made about their abilities, either by a coach, you or perhaps them. If one is a better player than the other it can be tough. It is talent? Is it work ethic? Is it different opportunities based on age or other factors? No matter what the reason, it is so important to be sure the less successful one really wants to be there. If yes, and he or she doesn't feel they just need to keep playing because it's what you want, then you need to support, encourage and explain that they are individuals. What comes "easy" for one may not for the other. That scenario may reverse itself with a different sport or in another setting. The younger they are, it may be difficult for them to understand this, so you need to try and keep the focus on having fun which should be the main goal anyway. This should not dampen the excitement for the successes either, which can make for a very tough but attainable balance. 

We can see examples of celebrity siblings in the sports world and the entertainment world who can illustrate some of the issues we might face. The Jonas brothers became famous over 10 years ago as musical artists. They are fairly close in age and obviously all have talent. However they are all different, and oh by the way, they have another brother! He is several years younger, so not a part of the group or famous. So how does he cope?  Not really sure the answer to this question, but I would think it might be difficult. Even within the band, there were likely struggles due to the differences among the 3 brothers. There is Joe, the lead singer and "front man". He doesn't routinely play an instrument but sings the majority of the time and is the favorite of many of their young female fans. Kevin is the oldest and tends to fade into the background more since he doesn't sing much and "only" plays guitar. Lastly Nick, the "jack of all trades" who sings, writes and plays multiple instruments. He has done more away from the band as well. I have no idea what the "behind the scenes" is like for these brothers, but I'm sure there have been challenges to overcome and the need for acceptance of the differences which make them individuals. Yet the sibling bond brings them together, not to mention their huge success over the years as a band.

Day to day activities and habits can be vastly different as well. I have found it very interesting to watch my daughters both achieve amazing results in school from day one with very different methods.  What works for one would never work for the other. I tend to share more traits in this regard with my more organized and regimented daughter, but I applaud the other who can still achieve the same results with less structure. I applaud them both in everything they do, and that is what's most important. It is critical to be your child's biggest cheerleader no matter what path they choose. You must show equal support when you have multiple children, even if you identify more with the interests of one. You must try to provide the same opportunities relative to the situation. There may be times when one child needs more from you than another, but hopefully the sibling(s) will understand that if they have felt supported all along. It can be tricky with just two, and I can only imagine the additional struggles which may arise with more than two, but my best advice is to always remember they are unique, and one of the most exciting parts of being a parent is seeing the path they choose to follow.

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