Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Am Not the Same

It's interesting to me what jumps out at you at particular times in your life. Lately, as I've been reading anything about parenting, I've noticed a lot of comments along the lines of "kids are just different from each other. I've been the same with both (or all three, or whatever) of my kids, but they handled things (potty training, sleep, school, etc) differently, and different approaches work with different children."
Now, I am not about to dispute that kids show up with their own personalities. My kids were  radically different from the first hour of their lives (beginning with Peyton sleeping through his entire first day of life including his shots and medical procedures, while Sam opened her eyes, lifted her head, and from that moment forward, declared sleeping optional), and that has carried through their personalities to this day. A huge amount of what works or doesn't work for kids depends on the actual kid involved and their reaction to it.
What I find unlikely is the assertion that "I was the same for all my kids." I flat out do not believe that's possible. You may very well have used the same basic method for all your children, you may have used sleep training with all your kids, started potty training at the same time, what have you, but I simply do not believe the nuances of how we implement these procedures does not change from child to child. Pretty much whenever a significant person comes into your life, they leave you changed in ways large or small. When you a personally responsible for all of that persons wants and needs, and your decisions center around their well-being, you can not remain unchanged by the experience. People change over time. People are changed by environment. People are changed by available resources. It is strange to assume that having encountered at least two of those factors from child to child (other people and time, assuming we aren't discussing multiple births), and usually all four (people, time, environment, and resources), you remain utterly unchanged.
What I find even stranger about this assertion is that there seems to be a certain pride taken in that fact by the people who state it. Why? What is right or wrong about admitting that the passage of time, acquisition of knowledge, variance of experience, alteration of resources, and even a natural response to the way we react to different personalities has changed who you are and how you approach life, and consequently, each child in your home? It's a natural process to change, and everyone goes through it, why bother taking pride in a perceived, or at least proclaimed, lack of change in yourself?

I, for one, readily admit that parenthood has changed me. The fundamentals may not of have changed, I didn't change religions or core beliefs or my career in the time between Sam and Peyton, Peyton and present, but I am different. I learned how to preform the basics of parenting like diapers and feedings, with ease and confidence. Learning I could love another person completely and unconditionally, even when that person is very capable of being frustrating beyond reason, had softened a lot of my hard edges before Peyton even came along to continue the process. Other edges have become razor sharp, like the mama grizzly protective instinct in me.
I don't care what other people think if I know I'm doing what's right for my family and child--but that came after learning not everyone will like or agree with your parenting decisions through first-time mom bumps and bruises.
Since Sam was born, we went from a two income household with disposable income (ah, I remember that!), to a one income house that has seen ups and downs in this economy and had some very stressful times. After Peyton was born, we relocated, and that was hard for me emotionally, and was a major change in our environment.
I've made mistakes I didn't want to repeat, so I potentially went too far the other way. I've reacted to and in many ways balanced out the changes in my spouse brought on by these same factors that altered me.
In recent years, I've developed frequent and severe migraines, that I wish didn't have an effect on our day to day life, but they do, and have had a major impact throughout this pregnancy. Physical changes definitely have an impact.
I have made new friends, had old ones move or even pass away, and dealing with those losses definitely colors the lens through which I see and interact with my kids.
From a practical standpoint, Peyton's schedule has had to revolve around Sam's schedule in ways Sam's schedule never had to revolve around anyone but herself! She never had her naptime interrupted by a preschool pick up, but with Peyton, well he got used to sleeping in the car early in the game. He had to. Our world was more complicated and busy for him than it was for Sam. Even if I still wanted to hold him through all his naps and be his constant and only playmate (which I no longer think is a great idea anyway), I simply could not have done so. External factors had sprung up to make such a thing impossible.
I feel things more deeply.  I am hurt on a personal level with a perspective I didn't know I had been lacking, when I see other children suffering.  I'm more physically tired, but spiritually, I feel I've grown stronger. I have had experiences that have driven me to my knees in prayer and brought my relationship to God closer, and that effects every aspect of my life, but especially my relationship with my family. I know I'm different in other ways I don't even realize, and possibly never will. I don't have time for the kind of self-awareness that would require, I've got nearly three kids!

I've changed. In many many ways for the better, in some ways for the worse. Looking at these potentially thousands of changes in my life over the past few years, of varying sizes and degrees, even if I do the same process and same day to day things, can I say I did them exactly the same? Have I had the same attitude, confidence, or skill? Can I even say the same woman will be raising Sam and Peyton's baby sister as the one who raised Sam and many ways yes, but in some ways, perhaps not. All I really know is, just as my children are not the same person in a far more obvious way, I am not the same person with each of them.  In my mind, not only is that okay, but it encapsulates the entire reason we are here on earth--to learn, to grow, and to change. I really do believe, that for whatever reason, Samantha needed to be raised as an infant by the mom I was in 2008, but Peyton's babyhood needed the mom I was in 2011, and Presley will need the mom I will be in 2013...and if I'm not the mom they need, again I will change to become so. I've become tremendously sure that staying exactly the same is the only option we don't possess.

Parenthood is one of the most transformative experiences this life has to offer. Embrace the changes.

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