The... theory has a slightly confusing name; it's called the non-shared environment theory, and it essentially argues that though from the outside it appears that we are growing up in the same family as our siblings, in very important ways we really aren't. We are not experiencing the same thing.
"Children grow up in different families because most siblings differ in age, and so the timing with which you go through your family's [major events] is different," says Susan McHale, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University. "You know, a parent loses a job, parents get divorced. If you are three or five years behind your sibling, the experience of a 5-year-old whose parents get divorced is very different from the experience of a 9-year-old or a 10-year-old."
Also, McHale says, children in the same family are rarely treated the same by their parents, even if parents want to treat them the same.
"Children have different needs," McHale says. "They have different interests. They have different personalities that are eliciting different treatment from parents."This is very true in my household. When Teddy was 2, Rich was working in a lab and I was working at night. He had pretty close to our undivided attention. I was 34 and pregnant with Peter. We had both Lemon and Tai in our home. We lived in a single floor apartment. Teddy spent a lot of time on Daddy's lap, watching the computer. He wasn't getting out among other kids his age much... unless I got together with some of my friends from MOMS club. But we read to him every night. He was still in his crib, though we were talking about converting his bed to a toddler bed.
Now, looking at Peter at 2, Rich is working a (basically) 9 to 5 job. He also tutors several nights a week and teaches one night a week. I'm the one that is with the boys a majority of the time. Peter has to share attention with Teddy because he's not an only child. I'm not pregnant, so there is no one new in the household. We had to put Tai to sleep last year, so the only pet is Lemon. We're in a new apartment, a townhome. He gets to run up and down stairs all day. Because of the hecticness of our lives, he doesn't have the same amount of computer time that Teddy did. He's been interacting with kids his own age since he was a baby - first at Story Time at our local library, then at PDO two days a week from the time he was 1. He still gets read to every night, but he has to share picking books with his brother. And sometimes, his brother reads to him so he's got another voice to learn reading from. He's been in his toddler bed since right before his 2nd birthday.
And their personalities are completely different. Teddy is my little thinker. He is content to sit and read, work on the computer, play his GBA. He has two modes - quiet and loud. Nothing in between. He's interested in the spoken word and wants to know why and how things work. He'll run around with his brother or his friends, playing pretend and being silly. But more often, he wants to just read or play on his GBA. He doesn't care for crafts much. He never tries to color inside the lines, and he never colors for long. A couple swipes of the crayon across the paper and he's done. But he loves to read any words that are on that paper. He constantly gives hugs and kisses. Very lovable. I don't think he's been shy a day in his life. When he gets sick, he gets whiny. And he loves to eat a wide variety of food.
Whereas Peter is a ball of constant energy. He's always running, climbing, jumping. He doesn't have a volume button. Everything is always loud. He has no interest in learning his alphabet or how to count, figuring out his colors (first guess for everything is blue) or anything else "intellectual". He'd rather run or create. Unlike his brother, he loves to color. My walls are a variety of colors thanks to his crayons. When we go out to eat, his little place mat has scribbles all over it. He loves to get messy and be doing something. He will sit down with a book and "read", but usually only at bedtime or nap time. He only gives hugs and kisses on his terms. When he's sick or tired, he'll climb onto my lap or Rich's and snuggle, his plo (pillow) clutched in his hand between us and him. When we're in public, he'll give shy smiles, but he won't say much. Even with people that he knows, like the teachers at his PDO, he will be quieter at first. Of course, once he feels comfortable with someone, he doesn't shut up. But it takes time that it never has with Teddy. And he never wants to eat much. We'll give him plates of food - not a lot, but serving sizes for his age - and he'll take a bite or two. He's pickier than Teddy, though I wouldn't call him a picky eater.
And Peter is the one I've often scratched my head with thinking, "Now how do I handle THIS?" He does go through a lot of the things Teddy did, but there are some things that I never had to worry about with Teddy. Like coloring on walls. Like hitting and biting. And I don't know how to deal with them effectively. (Ok, there's a lot that I STILL don't know how to deal with effectively, but that's another story for another time.) I haven't found a good resource on how to deal with it when your younger son bites and hits your older son.
They'll never be the same boys. I won't always deal with the same problems in life. And, being boys and me growing up with a younger sister, it's all new territory for me. I'm still trying to figure out how to treat each of my boys so they can be who they are meant to be. I'm not always successful. I get frustrated and paint everything with the same brush because I'm frustrated. I need to stop doing so and I'm working on that. But sometimes, I wish I had someone to help guide me through this path, someone who's been there and faced a lot of the same issues. Because, second child or not, I'm still making it up as I go along. And somehow, I don't expect that will ever change.