Night and Day

As I spent the week fretting over my son, my daughter was thriving without my assistance. And by “thriving” I mean taking the world by the balls and enjoying every minute.

Roll over!

New camp? No problem.
New friends? Easy.
Transition from the casual and unstructured days to total structure? Zero issues.

They are so different, my two kids. While they can play together without argument for hours on end and enjoy a lot of the same activities, they could not be more opposite socially and personality wise.

Take this family’s very first foray into the world of summer camp this week: my son had his bumps and adjustments-very typical for him regardless of how awesome the counselors or kids. My daughter had her counselor skipping back to the minivan with her, both grinning ear to ear and a handful of phone numbers in her hand for all her new friends for playdates.

And of course she was unable to stop talking 400 miles per hour for the entire drive home.

and then we did this game with these hula hoops

and then I played this other game with these other girls

and they all want to sit by me and be my friend

and then the counselor said she would be my partner so nobody fought over who could be mine

and then we got in the pool and I sang the motorboat song the loudest

and did you know we did these cheers too today?

Finally she takes a breath long enough for me to ask her brother how his day went, and I get a smile and a shrug.

it was good I had fun.

I catch his eye in the rear view mirror as his sister then launches, again, into every detail of her very social day and how popular she was and how great she did everything and how her entire day was larger than life filled with excitement and adventure and fun! fun! fun!

My son just shakes his heads and smiles.

Later, he confided in me that he thinks his sister has more fun than he does at everything.

Even when she had lunch there was something special mom.

He can’t put his finger on it, but he can feel it. They are like night and day.

But instead of it bothering him, or creating competition…he seems to gain strength from her. She might be younger, but even with something as simple as the kids going to a new summer camp, she seemed to lead the way.

I don’t worry about her like I worry about him, and it’s probably very unfair. My stomach lurches at the slightest issue with my son, but if anything pops up with our little girl I don’t hesitate to assume she’s fine.

She is fearless. Everything comes easy.

She doesn’t need my help.

Nothing showed this to me more than the events of this past week. The ease of which she transitioned to new situations. The ease making friends. The…just plain ease.

They say a Father will be tough on his sons and a Mother will coddle. I can’t argue this point. But what about how a Mother treats her daughters? I find myself tougher on my daughter. Expecting things I realize I don’t from my son.

It’s not fair. And I need to stop.

Where was my worry for her first week of camp? Where was my concern over making sure she dressed right and packed her bag right and had chapstick, just in case, or just the right fitting bathing suit…just in case.

No. With her I knew it didn’t matter, and I ignored the minor details I never would let slip with my son. Granted he has his quirks that do need attending to…but that’s no reason to simply ignore hers.

I’ve made her much more self sufficient. My own expectations of making sure this girl could take care of herself and be tough while dazzling a crowd with her charm…this is my doing.

I need to start concentrating some of that attitude into my son, who would prefer to stay in his comfort zone with Mom nearby.

Yes a lot of these traits are just their personalities, I do realize I have had a major hand in shaping them. I mean, of course I have…I’m their mother… it’s my job.

But when I see the stark differences in just this one little childhood experience, I realize I can do better. I can try harder, or…try to notice when I coddle one and not the other.

And in the meantime I will celebrate their differences and be thankful they are both good-natured and smart and strong…even if their Mom is a bit neurotic.


  1. Caroline says:

    We’ve got the same situation here and I think that while a good chunk of the difference is personality, another good sized chunk is a first born vs. second. You’re so careful with your first child, feeling out how to do things, and when you have your second you realize that you didn’t need to freak out every time the first one bumped his/her head, so you don’t with the second, and the second one learns that it’s not a big deal exactly in the same way that the first one learned that it *was* a big deal – based on how you react(ed). Our Miss F. is soooooooo cautious, and I. is just a pistol, barging into every situation, cheerfully taking names and carrying on. Yet I. had the friend troubles at the beginning of the school year. I never expected them, even though she had significant changes in her class, so I felt pretty crappy realizing I had just expected her to be totally fine through everything. Sigh. Oh well, we’re always learning, right? :o)

  2. habanerogal says:

    Wow it seems as though you are writing what I am thinking and feeling and the funny thing is that they are 18 and 19 in my case. I so wish I had a do-over at this point. My son seems so unsure of his path and goals while my daughter bursts forth with exuberance and confidence over everything. Sigh

  3. I don’t think it is a son vs daughter thing, it’s totally personality. I have 3 boys, well until baby girl arrives in a few months, and my youngest is like your daughter. Nothing bothers him, he thrives in any situation, and loves everything. While my oldest draws strength from him, my middle son let’s it eat at him. These kids are complex creatures.

  4. Oh, my girls are night and day–my 12 yr old is sailing through things that gave my older one agony. She is just more resilient–bounces through the small stuff.
    They each need you in different ways and it’s never equal. Only trick I have is knowing who’s going to need me for what, and trying to be ready when they do need me. And the hardest part is letting them go sometimes and watching what they do, knowing that they may fail but that I have to let them try.

    Wait till she’s 16 and you have to discuss your sex life with her in terms of HER boyfriend(!) When that time comes, it’s likely your son you’ll be having the easy time with!

  5. My two kids, son and daughter, are completely different too. They’re are both wicked smart and funny, but my daughter is the ultimate overachiever and extrovert. If my son were any more laid back, he’d be asleep. It takes him a while to make friends, but once you’re in, he’d give you his last dollar.

    It’s funny how kids from the same family, same parents, can be such different personalities.

  6. francine hardaway says:

    So my daughter, when I sent her to camp for the first time, wrote to my mother: Dear Grandma Sybil, How could you ever have sent mommy to camp. Do not send my birthday present here, because I will not be here…
    And she returned the next year. She was 8 at the time, and the money I spent to send her to camp represented my last dollars in my first year in business.

    Chill, Erin. They do better than you think. Stop flogging yourself. You love them? They know.

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