Thursday, December 12, 2013

temperament and development

Having two kids is naturally a breeding ground for comparison.  I can only imagine what it must be like to have twins or to be a twin, where the comparison is even more intense.  But I think that it's a natural human thing to use past experience to find your way through the present, so I've found myself comparing a lot of what Todd and Vicki do, and thinking about what circumstances may have brought about the divergences between them.

The conclusion I've pretty much come to?  Parenting doesn't make all that much difference!

Vicki Jo came into the world in a surprising, sudden way, and everything about her has been intense and sensitive ever since.  She is a natural actress and can turn on the tear faucet as fast as anyone I've ever seen (and turn it off just as quickly).  I like to joke that she still cries more than Todd, at 2 1/2 years old (it's not really a joke, because it's true).  Before she became so verbal, there were many times as her parent that I simply could not figure out what to do to make her happy.  We spent many evenings crying together.  And yes, that is as depressing as it sounds.

She was slow to develop in every way except one:  talking.  She is remarkably verbal, has a huge vocabulary, and is on a fast track to reading early.  I know, this kind of parental bragging is nauseating.  But let me counterbalance that by saying that she was painfully slow to roll, sit up, crawl, pull up, and walk.  I often wondered whether she might need some therapy.  She didn't get her first tooth until she was nearly 12 months old.

Looking back, the single biggest hurdle to her development in all of this had to have been her temperament.  She would not be put down.  If you did put her down, and ignored her screaming, she refused to do any kind of active work to further her physical development.  She wanted to be held and talked to.  Even still, she does not like working or playing by herself.  She does not "entertain herself."  She needs interpersonal stimulation.

Todd, on the other hand, took his very sweet time in being born, and I had to semi-evict him even when it was past time.  He was born much larger (8 lb 12 oz to Vicki's 7 lb 1 oz), and 16 days later than she was, in terms of the length of the pregnancy.  He has been content to wait and observe ever since.  Other than necessarily having to leave him on the floor more often, just because I have another child to tend to, I do very little differently than I did with Vicki.  And yet, he has wanted to be on his own.  He has wanted for me to stop interacting with him sometimes.

This has led to a stark difference in his development.  He began inching around in his fourth month, was easily crawling by six, and now, at seven months on Monday, has begun to pull up to a stand on my legs and the walls.  He cut his first tooth last week, with very little fanfare.  He loves nothing more than to be set free to crawl around the house and explore it by himself.

Like I said, I followed no kind of program to get Todd to meet milestones so much earlier than Vicki did.  The only difference in me is that I have had an infant before.  Perhaps my lack of anxiety about his development contributed to his easy personality.  But I think he may have just been this way, regardless.

So the moral of the story?  Don't give yourself so much credit as a parent.  These kids pretty much figure things out themselves!

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