Let's admit it, as much as we'd like our children to be treated equally, to have equal access to experiences, and to have the same opportunities for fun, learning, and growth, the lives of two siblings will be vastly different. It's not because we love one more the other or discipline unevenly, but because one was born first and the other was born second. It's as simple as that.
Clara was only seventeen months old when Kate was born, and, fairly or unfairly, almost immediately we began to treat her as older than she was. After all, there would be a baby in the house and Clara would have to be more careful and learn how to touch more gently and so forth. Around her sister, Clara didn't get to be a normal toddler. She had to be more responsible. And when in a moment of jealousy or just toddler roughhousing Clara bloodied Kate's face, I came down probably too hard on Clara, who didn't know what she was doing but couldn't be allowed to do that again. And so I forced her to be even more responsible, and overprotected the baby. In doing so, I probably affected Clara's development as a person.
Last Sunday Kate turned two and I was struck by how much younger she seemed on her second birthday than Clara did. The difference is that Kate has been allowed to act her age, having no one younger to be responsible for. Already I've seen her try to use her age to her advantage, initiating a quarrel with her sister but then looking to me when Clara fights back.
I know their differences will lessen the older they get, and though Clara will always get to experience first things such as sports, a grade in school, or an art or music class of some sort, their experiences will start to approach equality and there will come a time that they face new things hand in hand. But as a parent I find it hard and I know I will continue to find it hard to treat them equally, to expect the same kind of maturity from both of them, to not blame Clara only for the mistakes they make together, to allow Clara to be a little kid the way I allow Kate to be. It's something I know I have to continue to improve on - there's too much at stake not to.
Happy birthday, big brother.