I was raised as the oldest child of three, the perfect type A oldest daughter of divorce. I guess you could say that my personality pigeonhole has worked well for me because I’m organized and punctual and always work hard. But on the other side of the coin, I get anxious and stressed and sometimes struggle with low self-esteem if I don’t do everything perfectly.
I have two boys, and I am guilty of labeling them myself. But as I talk to other parents and family members, I am realizing more and more how harmful it is to label one kid the “good” or “easy” one and the other the “spirited” child.
On the one hand, I do like to use these labels whenever I’m talking with my husband. We had both of our boys close together, only 16 months apart. Sometimes it’s fun and interesting to compare how our first son was way more difficult to handle when it came to sleeping, eating, and independent play, compared to our second son who has a much calmer demeanor.
At the same time, though, how much of that had to do with how stressed we were as first-time parents?
We probably made my first son feel totally on edge because we had no idea how or when to use a bottle, if we were over feeding or under feeding him, how long he should breast-feed for, and if we were even allowed to use formula and breast milk 50/50. It was all so confusing and overwhelming, and I know he picked up on that.
So does that necessarily make him the “challenging” one?
Yes, children have much different personalities, but I’m going to do my best to refrain from the labels whenever I talk about my kids. I know many parenting conversations fall into the trap of saying, “Oh, my first son was hardheaded and independent, and my second baby was so much easier.” I’ve been guilty of saying that myself.
But as I see both of my sons’ personalities develop, I don’t want to do anything to stand in their way. My oldest son is already outgoing and is the “goofy one” at his daycare. As an extroverted personality, I couldn’t be prouder. But I’m never going to call him the “class clown” or “funny one.” That’s a decision he has to make for himself.
(photo: Getty Images)