One of my girls is a night owl. The other’s an early bird.
One likes sweet. The other prefers salty.
One is blonde and on the quiet side. She likes calm and order and daily planners with highlighters. She’s tidy and organized and meticulously neat. She’s on the cautious side, painstakingly weighing consequences before making decisions. She’s early to everything. Forgetting to floss gives her anxiety.
My other daughter has brown, crazy curls and likes the volume all the way up. She’s fun and feisty. She loves spontaneity. I bought her a planner once, but she lost it. She’s carefree and confident. Adventure is her middle name. Being punctual is optional. And her bedroom closely resembles the aftermath of a cyclone.
Like all parents of extremely different children, I’ve asked myself a thousand times, How can two kids, raised in the same house, with the same rules, by the same parents, be such completely opposite people in practically every way?
It’s not that my girls don’t have anything in common. They both have blue eyes. They both love mashed potatoes, the ocean and Disney movies. Neither can stand fish for dinner. Most importantly (and this was not always the case), they share a fierce and protective love for one another.
Now that they’re grown (and besties), our family can laugh about the struggles of the past. The arguments, the envy, the insecurities. And as a mom, I can cite the things that helped me navigate the rough waters of raising siblings who are polar opposites.
- I stopped being shocked. God creates individually, not in sets. Whether we share family genetics or not, whether we have the same parents or not, whether we live in the same house or not, we are each completely unique physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically. Our kids’ attributes, characteristics, and quirks are carefully chosen for His greater plan. Things improved with my very different kids once I finally accepted the fact that God doesn’t make carbon copies. You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13, NIV)
- I gave up comparing. Okay, this is a hard one; it’s only natural to notice the things that are strikingly different about our children. But comparing our kids and wondering why one is not more like the other is like asking a banana why it doesn’t taste more like an orange. Or being disappointed in a camel for not being able to fly. Having both strengths and weaknesses is what makes us human. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14, NIV)
- I protected their relationship. I knew that one day the petty arguments about t.v. shows, chores, and sharing clothes would be long forgotten, but hurt feelings can last a lifetime. I deeply desired for my kids to support, encourage, and love one another. To that end, I started watching for long-term divisions. I discouraged competition. I fostered cheerleading. I celebrated differences. I modeled acceptance. And they eventually followed. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together. Psalm 139:15, NIV
- I gave them time. As a mom, my roughest season was the middle school years. Only a few grades apart, my girls fought about everything. One was accused of being too bossy. The other was blamed for missing make-up. Early adolescence wasn’t my favorite. But the days passed, the years went by, and with time, patience and maturity came growing appreciation, admiration and respect for one another’s differences. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:16, NIV)
If you, too, are facing the challenge of raising kids from different planets, have no fear. It’s the differences that make them truly special. It’s their unique qualities that prepare them for God’s mighty plans. And suddenly you realize that Mars and Venus shine equally bright.