On the last day of being a two-year-old, my daughter Erinn was the first one awake out of all five kids. She stumbled into the living room, blonde tresses looking more super-model windblown than like bedhead. She looked me in the eye and said “Juice Cup.” It’s an interesting time for me to start thinking, “this kid is not like you, Katie.”
“Good morning to you too Erinn,” I laughed, pushing her hair out of her eyes and back behind her ear.
“Juice Cup,” she repeated, eyes half open.
I pulled her in for a hug and she obliged me for a few seconds.
“Mom. Juice Cup.”
I stood up and walked with her to the kitchen, holding her hand as she started humming her ABCs.
Most nearly-three-year-olds would be required to say “please” before a parent obliged, but Erinn is still a little behind on her speech and language development. Her therapist has encouraged positive reinforcement when she uses words correctly and in the right context. In other words, withholding things in exchange for the “right” word is detrimental to her development. We model “please” in our own language but don’t require it from her. So simple (reasonable) requests are met with a response.
“Juice cup, please,” I said.
She looked me in the eye again.
Once she had the water with a splash of “juice cup,” she disappeared into her brother’s room where he was just waking up.
“Coke-e-mon,” I heard Erinn request.
“You want to look at my Pokémon cards?” he asked in a raspy, just-waking-up voice.
“Yes. Coke-e-mon. Pik-a-CHOOO!”
For the next 10 minutes, I could overhear the shuffling of cards and my son patiently letting her hold the ones she asked for and repeating correctly, but without correction, the names that she was saying wrong. It’s a rare tender moment for my son, who at 8 years old has recently decided that the entire world is out to get him. Erinn acts like that too, sometimes, and as I listen to them interact I am reminded once again how very much alike my oldest and second-youngest truly are.
Neither is anything like me.
When You Find Out Your Kid is Not Like You
In my oldest’s sake, it makes sense. He’s not of my genetic pool. He probably looks the most like me when it comes to hair and eye color of all the kids — but he’s my stepson. When he does things that I don’t understand from a personal standpoint, it’s not very far-fetched. He’s not biologically mine. I had made peace with that fact long before Erinn was born three years ago.
But then Erinn was born. Three years ago. And suddenly not understanding one of my kids hit incredibly close to home. That first year it bothered me a lot. Not because I needed her to be like me, but because I wanted to be more like her — to understand her better.
What I’ve come to realize in the two birthdays since is that when your kid is not like you it’s really pretty cool. Since our thought patterns are different, I really don’t know what she is going to say or do, or how she will react, in any instance. She has her routines and patterns, for sure. But on a daily basis I see her solve problems in a different way than I would, or care about something I never would, or NOT care about something that would bother me and it is interesting and enlightening.
Now… to say this kid is not like you is a bit of a stretch. She goes through her day singing a song about everything (that’s me, especially as a kid). She is obsessed with candy (me). She enjoys being hugged, cuddled, snuggled and paid attention to for small things (definitely my love languages too!). Our baby pictures could be the same kid.
I’m a people pleaser though, and Erinn doesn’t do anything that she isn’t 100 percent invested in from a personal standpoint. It can be frustrating, especially since she is so young, but I can see the potential leadership traits within her seemingly selfish nature. My job isn’t to make her attitude more acceptable to everyone else; my job is to find a way for her to channel those strengths into positives.
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg once said: “I want every little girl who is told that she is bossy to be told that she has leadership skills.” Nailed it. That’s my Erinn.
A few days ago a classmate of my first-grader thought it would be funny to pet the top of Erinn’s head and pretend she was a dog. Erinn waited until he touched the top of her head, grabbed his wrist, shoved him backwards and yelled “NO!!!” He nearly tripped over his feet as he launched backward. The rest of the classroom broke into a chorus of giggles. The teacher said, “Good for you Erinn. Our little CEO in the making.” That teacher gets it. And I appreciate her.
I’m learning a lot from my two kids who aren’t much like me most days, and I’d like to think they are learning from me too. I admire their problem solving, their abandon of what other people think of them, and their compassion that shows itself in big ways when it shines through.
Having two kids who act and think so differently than me has humbled me, made me think outside the box, helped me embrace others in my life whose personalities don’t necessarily mesh with mine, and has expanded my own ability to love immensely. I look forward to getting to know this stranger child of mine even better in the coming year, and in the many years to follow.
Happy Third Birthday Err-Bear!
Have you found out your kid is not like you? What do you do to bond?
Tags: 3rd birthday