Don’t compare your children. That’s what we are told, we read about it, we know we shouldn’t, but I think most of us–if not all of us–do it. I don’t compare my two kids in the way that I think one is better than the other or should be more like the other, though. On most days, I don’t have a favorite child, but due to the fact that I am a human being who naturally looks for similarities and differences between things, I’d have to be completely disengaged not to notice that my two kids are ridiculously different. In fact, it wasn’t until giving them baths one night that I realized how different they are and also how severe Cameron’s SPD is.
First up in the tub was Amelia, who was about three at the time. I was all set to wash her hair when she asked to do it herself. I squirted the shampoo in her hand, she rubbed her hands together, and she washed her hair independently, only needing some help to wash the longer hair at her shoulders. Then, I was about to wash her body, when she asked for the soap so she could do it herself. Again, I squirted soap into her hands and watched as she stood up in the slippery bathtub, with her mom holding her breath and telling her to be careful, threw her leg up onto the side of the tub, and scrubbed her legs and the rest of her body like she had been watching Zest commercials since birth and was waiting to finally emulate what she had been aspiring to do.
Next was Cameron’s turn. Cameron was about seven years old, and prior to watching Amelia, I don’t think I realized how much he could probably do on his own. I’d always encouraged him, but now I knew that if someone that much younger than him could scrub up like Mr. Bubble, then he should have at least been able to do most of it on his own, even if it wasn’t perfect. He got in and I asked him to hold out his hand so I could squirt the shampoo. He was lying flat with only his little head and monkey ears sticking out of the water. He slowly lifted his flimsy hand out of the water while keeping his body submerged. I squirted the shampoo. He turned his hand so it started to pour out. I told him to be careful not to spill it. He continued lying in the water, now with his ears covered too. “You’ll need to sit up,” I said. “What?” he asked, not considering the fact that he couldn’t hear me because his ears were covered with water. I repeated myself. “What?” I started to help him sit up, which was met with whining. “Nooo… I’m cold.” He slowly began to sit up anyway, only after trying to finagle his body in a way that he could stay in the water while washing his hair. Clearly he had troubles with that, since he had one shampoo-filled hand still held in the air—until he forgot that it had shampoo, and put his hand down into the bottom of the bathtub to help support himself, washing away what little shampoo was left on his limp hand. Taking a deep breath, I squirted shampoo into his hand again, and asked him to rub his hands together. With slow, flimsy hands, he rubbed his hands together like he was rolling a hummingbird’s egg- gently and carefully- with most of the friction happening between his fingers. “Wash your hair,” I encouraged. He took his somewhat shampoo-filled hands and he scrubbed his hair like you’d scrub a sunburn—not at all. But he totally tickled his hair lightly with his fingertips, all while wearing a grossed out look on his face comparable to someone who stuck his hand in a bucket of worms. There have been many moments in my parenting career when I’ve seen Mr. SPD staring at me in the face– this was one of them.
Not long after that little eye-opener, Amelia started to make me wait downstairs during her baths so she could surprise me by doing everything herself, down to cleaning up the bath toys and getting dressed and ready for bed. Cameron did take notice of this, and attempted more independence, as well, although to this day there is still a remarkable difference between the two.
What parent wouldn’t take notice of the huge difference between their children in this situation? As you may expect, the differences don’t stop at the ways in which they bathe; they are different in nearly every way, as well, to the point that when one of them says they like a new food, the other pretty much decides not to like it before it enters their mouth. Cameron likes Tom Petty, Bob Marley, and Dave Matthews. Amelia likes those too, with a generous dose of Katy Perry and Pink on the side (which naturally, Cameron detests). Cameron loves sports, Amelia likes them but prefers arts and crafts (which Cameron doesn’t). The more I think about it, it’s pretty obvious that Amelia wants to be like Cameron and Cameron just isn’t like Amelia, nor does he wish to be. Which is good because I don’t think it would be healthy for him to aspire to be like his kindergartener sister.
Now may be a good time for me to admit that my husband and I were not too sure that we wanted another baby after we had Cameron. Cameron was hard and we’d put in lots of work. The idea of putting in all of that work again while parenting an older child at the same time as a newborn, then toddler, was not appealing. However, as Cameron grew, we decided he needed to be brought down a notch. He (and his grandparents) thought the world revolved around him, and we knew he needed some healthy competition. Also, as he got a bit older he got a bit easier to parent and we decided to see what would happen if we threw our hats in the ring for one more go of this parenting thing. Nine months later, Amelia entered Stage Left as if literally, the world was and is her stage.
Sometimes on Cameron’s really tough nights, Amelia watches his tantrums quietly, or goes to her room on her own, or plays independently, or simply says, “I feel sorry for Cameron.” On those nights, we all work to help him be happier or less emotional or more independent. When the tough nights are over, we are thankful to Amelia because she is so good for him in so many ways. She forces him to not be as rigid—well kind of, because most of the time he’s trying to control her actions, her mannerisms, her chewing, her singing, her breathing (seriously) to be what he wants and expects it to be- but she rarely changes who she is to appease him. She adores him, she plays with him, she makes him feel important and smart, and she loves him unconditionally. The one thing that they don’t differ in opinions about is their love of each other and of our family.
So while I admittedly have times of guilt that I sometimes prefer to be around one child more than the other, I definitely do not love them any differently, and I definitely wouldn’t change who they are. I would not even change the fact that Cameron has SPD because it’s made him who he is- compassionate, tolerant, kind, and caring- and I think it’s done the exact same thing for his sister, as well. So while they may be different in so many ways, they actually do have the same amazing characteristics that make them the incredible people they are.