I know that my kids aren't little cookie cutters of each other. I know they have different ways of viewing the world, of dealing with conflict, that they have different talents and interests.
Sometimes, we have experiences that make the differences a little more clear.
Zach just finished up a 4 week preschool basketball clinic at our local YMCA. A parent participates with their child and each 45 minute session focuses on different basic skills. There aren't any games and nothing is competitive- it focuses on the basics and on having fun.
But it wasn't fun for Zach.
Where Teagan has always loved to have rules and structure and wants to know exactly what the expectations are so she can seek out approval from adults and peers, Zach wants to just have fun and not be in the spotlight. Teagan wants to shine. Zach just wants to try it out.
The first 2 weeks were hard. A challenge. We arrived at the gym 15 minutes early and Zach and Jeff would free play for 15 minutes with other kids and dads before the class started. Class would start with stretching and then move into some basic dribbling or defense drills and then the class would divide up into groups to practice some shooting at hoops that had been lowered to 3 year old heights.
Zach wouldn't stretch or dribble or shoot. He had just been doing all of that but now it was an expectation and I think he was concerned about being watched. He would shut down and refuse to participate.
Week 3, we asked the coach if it would be ok to have Teagan join them because Zach loves to do anything Teagan does. In fact, having Teagan play with him was his idea. And it made all the difference in the world. He participated for the majority of the time and by the last week, he was actually having fun.
We've seen it at school, too. Teagan responds very positively and strongly to reward systems and to the "Wows and Reminders" system where you earn a green card for good choices or a red card if you've needed a reminder about your choices.
Zach is not motivated by these cards in the slightest. In fact, I think red cards make it worse because he isn't motivated to earn green cards instead. So if he's got red cards, it doesn't matter if he keeps on having a bad day because he sees that he's already gotten the red card.
Teagan is very motivated by praise, by being the star, by excelling, by striving for perfection. Teagan likes to practice and practice until she feels strong in whatever she's doing. We've seen this with handwriting and reading and soccer and gymnastics. She likes one on one help from an adult because she feels like a star- especially in front of others.
Zach isn't motivated by praise. Zach responds at home to love but in a way that is hard to pinpoint. He doesn't want to necessarily be called out for good choices or doing something well. He wants to be left alone to figure it out and when he feels comfortable, he'll share it with you. He doesn't mind you helping him but if others are watching you help him, it's not ok with him.
But one of the biggest lessons we learned during basketball was just how much Zach and Teagan love each other. And just how much Zach depends on Teagan. And just how hard the school year transition will be when Zach doesn't have the security blanket of his Big Sister being around.
At the end of the last session, each kid received a medal from the coaches. The families were lined up at one end of the gym and each child was called forward, one at a time, to the center of the practice space (the practice gym is half a basketball court) to give the coaches a high five and receive their medal. Zach wouldn't even set foot towards them on his own- Teagan had to take his hand and walk him out to the center. He wouldn't come close enough to the coaches for them to touch him. He stayed behind Teagan. Thankfully, the coaches understood and didn't try to force the high five thing. They handed him his medal and he raced back to Daddy.
He is proud of his medal. He enjoyed basketball. But the experience of it was overwhelming while he was in it. He loved to talk about basketball and he loves to talk now about having played it and he liked going to watch Teagan start gymnastics last night. He just doesn't want that spotlight for himself. Right now, he wants to operate the spotlight and let Teagan shine while he just has fun pushing buttons and figuring out how things work behind the scenes while the attention stays focused on Teagan.
If our kids would just have personalities like our own, this parenting thing would be so much easier. Both of our kids have pieces of us but also have these weird mash ups of me and Jeff. If we pay careful attention, we can learn about ourselves and each other as we parent these two little people.
If we pay attention, we can learn the most about our kids by observation of things like basketball.