Same DNA, Different People: The Struggle Not to Compare My Children

Hey y’all! I know I’ve been kinda quiet on the blog lately. I’ve been active on Instagram and in my stories, but I’ve had a busy month or so with student teaching and finishing grad school, plus I’ve taken my fitness goals to borderline-crazy levels so I’ve been hyper-focused on my diet and exercise regimen. (That’s a whole different blog post…coming soonish.)

The twins are two now and their personalities are more developed than ever. And the older Alex and Nathan get, the more evident it becomes that they’re not the same kid. Not even close. And intellectually, sure, I know that they’re individuals with different likes, dislikes, wants, needs. But they’re twins. They’re the same age; they came into my life at the same time, they’re the center of my world and the two people on earth that I know best. And I find myself comparing them all the time. I really, really need to stop doing that.

It started a long time ago, honestly, and it was natural. From their first check-ups, when the doctors would ask me about developmental milestones, I’d just tell the doctor what one was doing and whether or not the other one was doing it too. I remember saying things like “Nathan says mommy, Alex doesn’t yet.” “Alex is walking, but Nathan’s only taking a few steps.” It was true at the time, and their doctor just nodded and went along with it. And I’ve kind of kept up that mentality throughout the months, but it does them a major disservice. Just because Alex was walking more steadily than Nathan didn’t mean Nathan wasn’t walking – he was actually doing quite well and his gross motor skills were, and are, developing beautifully. It’s unfair of me to always diminish their achievements by placing them alongside their brother’s. If this is a habit I get into when they’re babies, what am I going to do when they’re older? Getting grades? Playing sports? Will I always let one be overshadowed by the other in some regard? When they’re older, and more cognizant of how they’re perceived by others, will I constantly put pressure on one to be more like the other in some way?

This constant comparison has been glaring most recently now that we’re in the age of tantrums. We’re nestled very much into the “terrible twos” phase and good Lord, the tantrums. Alex, king of personality, can throw down with the best of them when he doesn’t get what he wants. He screams, falls out on the floor, throws things, hits things. He’s loud, he’s boisterous. Nathan hardly ever throws tantrums. He’s soft-spoken, he’s sweet. They are the true yin and yang. And it bothers me that when I find myself getting frustrated with Alex, I catch myself thinking¬† – “I wish he’d act more like Nathan.” Or when Nathan doesn’t get his way and just kind of moves on about it instead of throwing a fit, I find myself asking, “Why won’t Alex do this?” And that’s so unfair. They’re not the same person and I can’t expect them to behave the same. The fact is, I just want Alex to not throw tantrums. That’s a totally reasonable thing to want. What’s not reasonable is having to insert Nathan into that thought. The fact that Nathan doesn’t throw tantrums has nothing to do with the fact that Alex is throwing a tantrum.

I think about myself and my brother. Yes, we have our similarities, and we had the exact same upbringing, but we’re different. We value different things, we handle things differently, we have different reactions when things don’t go our way. I’m hyper-sensitive and riddled with anxiety; he’s more laid-back. I shut down to avoid confrontation; he’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. And if someone were to juxtapose every single thing I did with what my brother did (or hypothetically would do), I’d be furious. That literally has nothing to do with me. So why do it to my own children?

One thing I’ve learned in this past year or so is that my thinking won’t change until I make it change. So I’m actively trying to rewire how I consider the twins and especially how I think of them when one is not doing what I like and the other is. I ask myself these five questions:

  1. “Would I say this out loud to them?”
  2. “Would I be upset if a teacher or other adult said this to/about them?”
  3. “Would this idea potentially make one twin feel lesser than the other?”
  4. “Would it bother me if someone thought this about me and my sibling?”
  5. “How can I rephrase this thought to not include his brother?”

The fact is that I don’t need to compare my twins because the world will do it for me. Have you seen the Buzzfeed articles about “Celebrities You Didn’t Know Had Twins”? Have you read the comments? There are always comments about which twin is better-looking, which twin is more talented, which one is wealthier. I hate knowing that that’s something that my boys have in their future, but it is. Teachers will have a favorite between the two of them or think one does better work or behaves better. Their classmates will think one is funnier or nicer or cooler than the other. And they’ll know. And one day, it’s going to hurt their feelings, and I won’t be able to protect them from it. But what I can do is make sure that it doesn’t come from me.

Parents of more than one child, do you ever struggle with not comparing your kids to one another?