When my mom had two young girls, much like myself, she was given this advice: Celebrate Who They Are. She has passed down this info to each of us and I have taken it right to heart when it comes to my parenting style.
Each of my girls are such special little spirits. They have wonderful personalities and sincere hearts. They are far from being exactly alike, and they each fit into our family like the perfect pieces to our puzzle. I think this is often where parents get frustrated with kids, and why they tell you not to compare. From day one, my girls had different eating habits, sleeping habits, different things they liked and didn’t like. The toddler years looked different for each of them. Harlo was the type that cried and threw tantrums all the time when she couldn’t communicate what she wanted. Stella never did much of that, but she would get into EVERYTHING like Harlo never did. As soon as I’d tell Harlo not to touch something, she never thought about it. If I told Stella to not touch something, that was the first thing she’d go for when I turned my head.
I have learned I need to be two completely different moms to each of my girls. Their love languages are different, so I need to show them each love in their own unique ways. (Harlo’s is quality time and acts of service, Stella’s is physical touch and words of affirmation.) I have also learned that the same discipline doesn’t work equally for both of them. Of course we all have the same rules and expectations in our home that apply to everyone, but the way we build our relationships is on a case by case basis. All day every day, I ask myself “am I celebrating who she is?” Not who I want her to be, but who she naturally is. Who she came to this life to be. Am I aiding her in becoming her authentic self?
I try to allow my kids freedom to be who they are. This sometimes means picking out their own clothes, or changing 10x a day to fit their mood. This means waiting outside the car 5 extra minutes when I’m in a hurry because she insists on buckling herself without help. This means letting her sit in my lap and cry and cry when I feel like I have no patients left because that’s what she needs to do to feel better. This means giving her a safe place to explore and express her emotions and feelings, free of judgement and ridicule.
My Harlo loves a project. She enjoys making a room clean, creating a work of art or craft, helping me with dishes or cooking just for the satisfaction of helping. She has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met and serves selflessly. I love this about Harlo. She loves feeling in charge of things and is a great leader when given the opportunity and trust from me to be so. I compliment her about these things often and watch her little face light up. She loves to hear things like she’s a great big sister, or how she helped me so much by doing this for me, or how she’s turning into such a responsible young lady. She thrives off of these comments. When I was pregnant with Harlo, right at my 20 week ultrasound she was head-down and stayed that way for the rest of my pregnancy, exactly as she was supposed to. My labor started early that pregnancy, but Harlo likes to be the one to decide what she’s going to do. She would come early, but she made her statement by keeping me in labor for 26 hours. That is Harlo though. She is a rule follower, but as stubborn as they come. I know both of these aspects of her personality will serve her well in her life.
(recent picture Harlo drew of her shaking a rattle at her new baby sister in the crib, while I wait by the door smiling) :)
Stella is not that way in the least. She could care less if her room is clean or if I think she’s responsible or not. Stella’s strength is the little light she carries wherever she goes. She loves ferociously! She loves being silly and care free. She thrives when we don’t have a strict schedule to adhere to and can adventure to our heart’s content. She is so easy going and keeps the mood light always. She doesn’t let anything get under her skin or bother her. I love that about her. She is very independent and loves to do things herself. That sometimes means WAY more patience on my part that I would like to give, but the look of accomplishment on her face when she gets her shoe buckled or her own seatbelt on is priceless. All I have to say is, “You big girl! You did that all by yourself?” and she’ll get a little extra pep in her step. When I was pregnant with Stella, she would not stay in the head-down position. I was over 30 weeks before she got into position and then she flipped back and forth a few more times before delivery day, keeping me on my toes all the while. (If you know Stella, you know she CANNOT hold still to save her life.) Since I had gone into labor early with Harlo, I easily assumed I would have Stella early as well, but Stella had a different plan. She stayed nice and cozy inside my womb, not getting the memo to make her way down the birth canal at all. Days after my due date, my water FINALLY broke and Stella gave me the easiest and most enjoyable birth possible. My labor started after lunch and I delivered before dinner and we tease that Stella would never allow anyone to skip a meal if she could help it. Now that I know Stella so well, this is so fitting to her personality. She literally lets nothing get to her – not even 2 weeks of consistent contractions can cramp her style.
I think the most detrimental aspect of letting our children be who they are is the comparison game. Our expectations can be crippling to the little spirits we care for. Brady and I often have to remind each other that just because Harlo never did this, doesn’t mean Stella wont. Or just because one was good at this thing, doesn’t mean the other one will be too. I think this is especially hard to remember with behavioral issues. When you had one baby sleep perfectly through the night from 8 weeks on, and the next one is still waking 4 times a night at 6 months, that can feel so frustrating! When you had one child potty train herself at 20 months, but maybe your other one was 3 and a half and showing no interest at all, that can make you feel like something is wrong with the late child when in reality, that just might be his easy-going personality. There have been many times in my life as a mother that felt so frustrating at the time, like we were never going to get on top of it. I look back at each of those situations now and realize, “Oh my word, that was so her! Of course she took longer to do that.” I try to keep their own special spirits in mind when I’m going through a rough stage with each of my children. I pray for guidance in how I can lead them in the way they need from me, not in the way I need from them.
My favorite part of celebrating who they are is that it reminds me to thoroughly enjoy them. My heart bursts all day long with watching them grow and learn and love. I feel my happiest when they feel their happiest. It makes my life when Stella wants to snuggle me on the couch for an entire hour out of her day without ever once wiggling free. It fills my heart when Harlo knocks on my door and runs away trying to hide her giggles, leaving a thoughtful note under my door that reads “I (heart) mom”. I have been so blessed with these sweet spirits in my life. I have no idea what I ever did to deserve them, but I will spend the rest of my life celebrating exactly who they came here to be.