My new book, You'd Be So Pretty If...: Teaching Our Daughters to Love Their Bodies -- Even When We Don't Love Our Own, is now officially out and one of the first people to read it was my older brother. The book, which is about mothers and how they influence the body image of their daughters, includes not only interviews with moms and their girls, but also much of my own experience with my 13-year-old daughter, along with reflections on my own mother.
My brother called me last night to tell me I did a good job (believe me, that's effusive praise from my reserved sibling), but we ended up having the most interesting conversation about our childhoods -- specifically, was our experience of our mother the same?
It was -- and it wasn't.
Sure, we both agreed that our mom did things a certain way or had particular personality traits. But my experience of her as a mother was different from his. We were both close to her, but had unique relationships. Was that because of our birth order? He's the oldest child and one of two boys. I'm the youngest child and the only daughter. Was it because of our individual personalities?
I can't stop thinking about that conversation as I look at my own kids. Any parent knows that it's virtually impossible to treat two children exactly "the same;" in fact, part of being a good parent is recognizing what each individual child needs. But are my expectations of my daughter different from those I have of my son?
If I've learned anything from writing this book -- and from talking to other mothers during my research -- it's that our expectations of our kids and our perceptions of what's going on in their lives are deeply influenced by our memories of our own childhood. Whether it's wanting to spare our child from hurts we experienced or to erase in them a "flaw" we always saw in ourselves, the way we parent is always affected by the child that lives within us. I have no first-hand experience of the challenges and issues that boys face (I only have my perception of what I saw my brothers go through), so I bring a different mindset to parenting my son than I do to parenting my daughter. I'm the same mother to both of them -- and yet, I'm different. It's something I try to keep in mind as I'm making decisions and evaluating circumstances.
What do you think? Are you the same parent to all of your children?