Parenting upstream

When Gavin was born, my ass was quickly kicked by Motherhood.  Breastfeeding gave me the one, two punch.  Attempt to implement a schedule?  Uppercut.  Colic was the roundhouse kick to the face, just for good measure.  I waved my white flag of surrender a few long weeks in, gave up all the baby books and vowed to learn as I go.

When the second child came around I thought “surely my experience over the past two years has left me with some shred of useful information.”  A practical, if not hard-earned “What to Expect.”

“WRONG AGAIN” taunted Motherhood.  Bitch.

Obvious gender differences aside, Gavin and Chloe are different in every way.  Their sleeping habits, their eating habits, their playing preferences, their dispositions, their methods of communicating – complete opposites.

Different kids call for different parenting techniques, right?  Absolutely.  Or maybe not?

Gavin has learned that everything has the potential to cause hurt.  When first learning to walk his forehead was always black and blue, his hands perpetually scraped.  At two, he got stitches in his lip after slipping on his own pants.  The simple act of walking or jumping up and down in the wrong pants = pain.

He's too young to think this now, but I'd be surprised if this poster isn't on his teenage walls

Chloe has no idea of the dangers the world holds.   She gets herself into a dangerous situation no less than eighteen times a day, but I am always there to dive on to the concrete  to cushion her fall or juggle the glassware she topples before she cuts herself.  She has never even heard the word boo-boo.  Blissfully oblivious.

No problem, I'll get that. You just keep on walking.


I silently push Gavin.  I stand far away while he plays.  If he shows interest in something new, I offer tons of support and instruction.  He still refuses to step out of his comfort zone.

I am Chloe’s shadow.   I constantly remind her that slides are not for running up, or for licking, or for diving down face first.  I discourage her from doing most of what she wants to do.  Her comfort zone is everything she’s never tried before.

So by pushing Gavin, letting him fall in an effort to show him life goes on, am I only reinforcing his caution and concern that he is never safe?  If so, I am getting the opposite of my desired result: to foster confidence and autonomy.  Should I hold his hand every step of the way instead?  Wait until he is decidedly ready to move away?

Or by protecting Chloe from the tornado that she is, leaving her with only a warning, am I reinforcing her oblivion and wild child antics?  If so, I am getting the opposite of my desired result: to foster awareness and caution.   Should I let her try things I know she can’t do?  Even if that means injury?

Some traits are present from birth (nature) while some traits are learned from our childhood environments (nurture).  It seems I am trying to nurture what goes against their nature.  It also seems that my efforts are only reinforcing their DNA.

What do you think?  Am I fighting the current, swimming upstream, and getting nowhere?  Or should I stay the course, confident they will get there with time?

About Carinn Jade

Mother, lawyer, yogi, writer, non-sleeper. Published @NYTMotherlode. Contributor @Mommyish @Moonfrye @HuffPostLive. I like beer (not wine) & tea (not coffee) & being a contrarian.
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5 Responses to Parenting upstream

  1. Lauren says:

    My co-blogger just wrote a funny post about the differences in temperament between her oldest and second daughters. And, they are just like my kids, so I wonder if this is an oldest child/second child dynamic?

    I am always encouraging Robin to be BRAVE ROBIN — to feel the fear and do it anyway. I really don’t want her hesitance to hinder her ability to risk take. I want her to fight that urge. I was way too wussy. Scratch that, I AM way too wussy, still! I want Robin to try things. And with Holly? I feel the fear and let HER do it anyway :).

    • Others have mentioned this theory to me. And it works in my situation where the boy is older. But I honestly lean toward gender as opposed to birth order. I am the crazy one and my younger brother is the “thinker” (he would never speak to me again if I used a word like soft or comfort zone dweller). Outlaw Mama said the same for her kids. The older girl is the wild child and the younger boy the gentle giant.

      Then again, maybe it’s just that every family has one of each (and then some?)???

      PS – post the link for your co-bloggers post – I’d love to read it!

  2. Lisa says:

    First of all to not answer your question, but when you figure it out can you let me know? I am going through the exact same thing. It’s funny because I, myself, have become a dichotomy between motherhood theory and practice. Thank you. You just inspired a post :O)

  3. muddledmom says:

    I nicknamed my kids Cautious and Curious long ago. Cautious is my oldest and Curious my youngest. I’ve always wondered if it’s a boy/girl thing, an oldest/youngest thing or simply who they are. I’ve learned that kids need different types of parenting even if they have the same parents. And that has been a challenge.

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