I grew up the middle child of three and I was known as “the communicator.” My brother was four years older than me. My sister was five years younger. My brother passed away more than a decade ago and my sister vanished into a world of drugs.
We three were the children of the same parents, but not really. Matt and I had a lot of similarities, but our personalities could hardly have been more different.
We do not create the children we dream of, if indeed we dream of children — and not all of us do. They are not those little chips off our personal blocks. We learn to understand them, eventually — or at least mostly — but it’s remarkable how different we are from our kids.
My mother was a hands on person. She painted, sewed. She was athletic. She loved books, but she loved the outdoors more. Horses and ice skates and bob-sledding. All I wanted to do was read. I could not hook a rug or knit to save my life.
The single thing my siblings and I all shared was a basic failure to understand numbers. We made them work, somehow, but we weren’t kids who had that “instant grasp” of numbers as a language. We suffered through arithmetic and were nearly undone by geometry … only to be buried under trigonometry and algebra. It’s a pity. I actually loved science … until it got to the numbers part. Then I sank like a stone.
So we were three kids from the same two parents with personalities entirely different from each other. My sister seemed like a kid who dropped into the cabbage patch by the stork. My brother was merely different.
We always say “Oh, we all had the same parents,” but we didn’t. Our parents were different. The oldest sibling had the youngest “what are we doing with this kid?” parents. The youngest kid had the most mature parents. By the time they made it to the littlest kid, they had parenting basics down. They had eased up a lot on restrictions. I always thought if my mother had given me the freedom my sister automatically got and didn’t appreciate, life would have been grand.
I told her that, shortly before she died.
“Well,” she said. “Parents have to grow up too.”
That isn’t something we get until we have our own children or have other experience with children in “parenting” ways. That’s when you look back and say “Oh. I see. Now it makes sense.”