All my children have the same parents and have lived in basically the same environment. Yet each child inherited not only different physical genes but different character traits as well. This gene pool is larger than I ever dreamed it could be.The differences between my offspring are mind-boggling. Actually the truth is that every person is completely different. My two oldest children are dramatic examples.
My first child, Mark, was and still is serious and contemplative. At eleven or twelve months, he would sit and slowly place household objects in a plastic jug after observing each object carefully. He would then dump them out and start all over again, all in silence.When Mark was only four, Michael taught him how to play checkers. Both men would sit in silence, contemplating each move.
When my second child, Jean, was born everything we thought we knew about child development exploded. Where Mark was cautious, she was daring. She was only nine or ten months old, when I walked into the kitchen and found her sitting on the fridge! I froze in shock and yelled for her father to come witness this event.
Michael, my husband, had decided that by four, a child was ready to play checkers. Since Mark picked the game up so quickly, he figured all kids would follow suit. After only ten minutes of playing with his daughter, he was becoming frustrated; Jean was standing up, hopping from foot to foot and jumping checkers backwards and forwards, skipping two, three, four squares at a time.
Finally, I intervened and said, “Honey, I don’t think Jean will ever play checkers like Mark; you’re just going to have to let go and go with the flow.” Although he managed to survive that first checker game with his daughter, Michael didn’t play checkers with Jean for another few years.
Jean? She was happy doing her own thing and glad to leave that particular boring activity to the men in the family.
Every child is unique. I originally believed that everything could be explained in my dog-eared book on child development. My children soon shattered that myth. Of course, general guidelines hold true but ultimately it is up to the parents to intuitively and tentatively discover which approach clicks with each little person.
I just remembered another story. Jean was about fifteen or sixteen months old gleefully picking up worms as we dug up the garden. Mark at three and a half, acting on some deep macho instinct, forced himself to pick up worms too.
Jean had a peaceful sleep that night.
Mark? He woke up screaming with visions of worms dancing in his head.