Sunday, May 30, 2010

Setting a higher bar

I liked children before I had kids. During my teenage years I spent a lot of time babysitting. At family functions, I was the one often playing with the little tykes. I continued to babysit one child for several years into my twenties and was quite close to her.

So it’s surprising to me that I find myself not bonding with some of my friends’ children. Friends who I care for dearly, who I like and respect and want the best for both them and their children. But playing with or interacting with their kids feels more like a chore than a joy, something to do because I feel obligated to.

I wondered whether this was an effect of becoming a mother, if no other child could quite match the affection I have for my own. But I was able to think of several children of River’s age who I do really like and who I’m happy to spend time with, as well as have River spend time with. These kids can all be labeled sweet, as well as quite kind, generous, curious and aware. Those are characteristics I see in River, so am I more drawn to kids who resemble River’s personality? Or was I just lucky to get a child with the characteristics that I tend to bond with?

What keeps me from bonding with the others? Usually a temperament that is not warm or social. Cranky, whiny, demanding, oppositional or spoiled doesn’t help. Breaking toys or damaging property does not endear me. I’m a lot less willing to endure a spit-up or a poopy pant if it’s not from my own child, especially if I don’t have a change of clothes available.

Looking back on the kids I babysat, most, at least those I cared for regularly, were well-behaved. Did I perhaps gravitate then towards caring for children I got along with? Or have current parenting styles perhaps changed how the average kid behaves?

It does make me worry how I will handle number two if it doesn’t have a warm or social personality. Will my maternal instinct kick in and find the positives in the child’s nature, or will I also fail to bond with a child who brings stress and demands without the copious amounts of sunshine?

How do your relations with other children compare with how you relate to your own? Has the way you have related to other kids changed since you had your own? If you have children with different personalities, how have you adapted?

1 comment:

LazyBones said...

In my infant-toddler trainings they talk about something called "goodness of fit," which is about how well the temperament of the baby and the temperament of the parent mesh. My son is very easy for me to get along with (he's also a lot like me, temperamentally), and I worry a little about my next one too, if she could possibly be as easy as him. But I think you love your own children almost no matter what. And if you have to fight to understand, or manage them day to day, but are observant and aware of this, I think it can create an even fiercer love, borne of the very work it takes to bond with them.