Parenting: Developing Personalities

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As a single mother since 1997, I have had to do a balancing act with my two children. And many an act has to be balanced: discipline, loving and playing fair amongst the two. Often I have wondered to myself if there has not been any favouritism from my side. I wouldn’t be able to honestly say, as I could not be objective. Having one child of each gender is a blessing, it evens things out, but I have to admit that I treated my children differently from each other. With my daughter I was hard, tough, and expectant. I knew she is strong, smart and could “do it”. Is it because I saw myself in her that she turned out to be like me? Perhaps I recognised the strong characteristics in her, and treated her accordingly. When he lost his father, my son was not even three. Being a sickly boy until his major operation at eight months, I did not only feel sorry for him, but molly-coddled and pampered his every need and whim. He grew up in a house surrounded by females (including the pets) and at some stage, angry at him (and myself) for his lack of responsibility, a small voice inside me started niggling that I am bringing him up to be a mommy’s boy. Visiting a shrink (me, not him), taught me how to teach him responsibility. I saw the errors of my ways: always doing things for him and making his decisions for him taught him to leave it all to mom. Now, as a teenager, he gets irritable when I call him up to check on him when he is ill, or to remind him what or how to do something. I get upset at the irritation in his voice, and then I realise that it’s actually my own fault. He still irks me sometimes: suffering from asthma, he has to take chronic medication, and after years of putting the tablets in little containers beside the pump, I still have to remind him daily to take his meds! Is it my own fault? I suppose it is, but I can’t take the risk of him going without. My daughter could read before she went to school. And we are talking proper novels here. Without any help from me. Is it because she was keen and smart and self-driven, all along? Or is it because the loss of a loving father before the age of 5 which made her such an achiever? Or was it because of me, simply expecting her to achieve? Did I drive her to such focus because of our situation: we are girls and we will survive, was it because I pampered her brother and she just had to make it on her own, or was it in her genes all along? I don’t think that I really want to know the answer. I will give her credit for her drive and ambition, her hard work and diligence, lest I can be accused of being a “mean” mother. Is my son the soft-hearted, kind and gentle person he is because he grew up surrounded by women? Where did he get his incredible charm and amazing wisdom from? Certainly not from me! Mesmerised by the individuals my children have become, I am astounded to see the resemblance in parental traits they possess (even in the absence of a deceased father, from whom they could not possibly have picked up any habits). Even more dumb-founding are the characteristics and talents they have without my input or assistance. I have to wonder: apart from genes, environment and influence: where did these marvellous creatures whom I love so much and understand so little come from? Blessings, you bet! To my credit, I doubt. Miracles? – for sure!