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How Different Can Two Siblings Be?

Columnist Kellyanne Koemp investigates the importance of individuality.

I can’t speak for all children, but I can say my children are totally different.

True, I have a five-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter, so there are obvious differences, but it goes far beyond this. It is a stark difference that, as a Mom, I hadn’t heard about and wasn’t quite prepared for. Not that knowing about the possibility of having kids with different habits and dispositions would have changed anything, but it wouldn’t have bewildered me as much if I had known. 

To illustrate, let’s start with my son: Chris was born a week late, and two weeks later we moved to Guam. He slept the entire 24 hour flight, only waking to eat.

When we got to Guam and my husband deployed for three months on the submarine, well, that was a different story. Chris was crying 24 hours, seven days a week, and wanted to be held constantly. He was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease. The medication didn’t stop this behavior.

However, at three months (just in time for his Dad to come back), Chris started sleeping through the night. I would put him to bed at 4:30 in the afternoon and he would sleep soundly until 4:30 or 5 the next morning. It was remarkable, I was the envy of all my friends – except that ALL day he would cry and want to be held. Very, very clingy during his waking hours. At six months he completely gave up naps in order to get attention, but I didn’t mind this too much, since I had peace all evening and night. To this day, he will not take naps and sleeps like a rock throughout the night. 

My daughter Paloma, on the other hand, was born by c-section onemonth early and napped ALL the time – at least three naps during the day until she turned one, and down to one long nap afterward.

Completely independent as an infant, she liked to be held but also liked being alone in her bassinette just as well. However, Paloma never slept through the night until she was two.  Even now this is an occasional issue.  

Chris tends to be less headstrong than his sister, and is somewhat of whiner compared to Paloma. As a baby and toddler, Chris was never sick (except for pneumonia when he was two … which I forgot to tell my husband about – but before you think I’m a horrible wife, he was deployed on the submarine for three months and without means of communication, by the time he came home Chris was better so I forgot to tell him). He had no food allergies that limited what he could eat, although during his pneumonia bout we discovered the hard way that he’s allergic to penicillin. 

My daughter, on the other hand, has food sensitivities that I still haven’t worked through. I’m pretty sure that she is lactose intolerant, and I’m on the fence as far as wheat. She has had chronic ear infections in the past, unlike Chris. I’m happy to report she’s been ear infection free since March, but if she gets another she may need tubes.

She is definitely more stubborn than her brother, and won’t whine like him: she will let you know outright and decisively what she wants. She will scream at the top of her lungs! She is by far more verbal than he was (which is something I hear often from moms of girls: the incessant chattering!), and is now at least a year ahead of her brother with respect to rudimentary communication.  

However, they are similar in some ways too. Both are extremely picky eaters. Chris has passed on his recent annoying love of everything “bathroom humor” to his sister; they laugh about weird noises for hours, and it never gets old to them.  But from a mom’s point of view, they are quite different in temperament and demands upon my time. 

It’s truly amazing to me how two children from the same parents can be so completely different. The moral of the story is never expect that your following children will be like the first. All children are individuals, and that’s what makes them wonderful and unpredictable!

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