It was a beautiful sunny morning and we decided to take advantage of our CSA membership at Honeybrook Organic Farm and go strawberry picking. As we drove over, we went through the rules with our two kids: “Don’t stomp on the plants, pick only the berries that are all red, no fighting or yelling.” Keep it simple, right?
The kids wake up pretty early, so we were the first people there. We signed in and received 8 quarts to fill with delicious ripe berries. I had also brought along a laundry basket to keep them in, to make carrying back to the car easier. The farm worker showed us the area that was cleared by the head farmer to pick – in between the orange cones. We gave each kid a quart to fill and let them go.
But what happened next blew my mind.
It was quiet and the sun was warm. Picking berries was meditative and I was in the moment. My 9 year old very independent daughter went off – pretty much to the edge of the picking zone and got to it. She was back pretty quickly for another quart to fill. My 8 year old son stayed close, pretty much waiting for me to approve each berry before he picked it.
It was in that moment I realized: We have to parent each of our children very differently.
I had never really thought about that before. I grew up the oldest of six, my husband the youngest of five. We both had many funny stories of childhood, us and our siblings getting in trouble. But I had always thought everyone was treated the same – it was the only fair thing to do.
I watched my kids, both of them shining in the sun, both so different. I realized that she will always go to the edge, scaring the crap out of me. There seems to be no fear with her. She needs to be heard and requires that extra space to feel her independence and individuality. She reads so much, all the time, and acts out her wild imagination in play. She always needs a quiet hug each day, comforting and grounding her. For her, it is is important that she feel heard, even when I want to turn the tables and be the one to roll my eyes and slam a door. He is a rule follower. He likes boundaries. He makes sure that everyone around him is following the rules and playing fair. He is the police officer of the family. The enforcer. He can get lost in hours of video games. His comfort is Legos and building with the directions. He likes to stay within the lines. He likes to snuggle later at night, when he is tired and wants to wind down for bed. There is no eye rolling here. Yet when spoken to sternly he takes it to heart, very personally and deeply, with tears in his eyes.
I realized that treating them same would not help them grow individually, but separate them even more.
This whole parenting thing is harder than I thought. But, it is also the most rewarding and amazing thing Hubby and I have ever done. At the end of the day, when we sat and enjoyed our delicious strawberries, I looked around the table and saw more than happy strawberry juice covered faces. I saw possibility for amazing things – and I saw how these two little people were not only here to learn from me, but I know that they are here to teach me a little something too.
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by Gina Wieboldt, a lifelong Jersey Girl and Health Coach who can also be found at www.jerseygirlorganic.com dishing about healthy and happy living.