Dear New Shrink,
I have two children and I love them both. But they are as different as different can be. One is in the business world — financial banking — and the other is a therapist, like you, but her credentials are somewhat different. In any event, both are smart, accomplished and have always been thoughtful.
Since my husband died, I have found myself slowing down and while I am still in good health and relatively active, I no longer have the social life I once had and I am not as quick to get around. I can’t drive anymore so I rely on others. My son comes by on a regular basis to help with my banking and to check up on me. He occasionally takes me to dinner. He is always a big help but he is so impatient with me, it makes me anxious and uncomfortable.
My daughter, the therapist, calls on a regular basis, and takes time to come and spend a day taking me to get groceries, a hair cut, medicines and sometimes we take a drive somewhere nice and we always have dinner. She is incredibly patient with me.
They also are very different in how they live their lives. My son is much more structured and organized than my daughter. She is more emotional.
I guess my question is why are they so different when they were raised in the same home by the same parents? Also, why is my son so impatient with me?
Dear Confused Mom,
First off, you sound like you might be a little bit more than just confused. Are your feelings hurt a bit by your son’s impatience? If so, it is completely understandable but before you get too hurt, read the rest of my answer.
Children may be born into the same family and raised by the same parents but that doesn’t mean they will be exactly alike. They can have a very different genetic makeup and their social and emotional experiences can be very different.
We are not born with a personality. We are, however, born with temperaments and based upon how our parents respond to these, our personalities begin to form. Any parent with more than one child can attest to the fact that we have what has been referred to as difficult babies, easy babies, some that are more social, some kind of shy, some are easy to soothe while others are next to impossible to calm down. How a parent or caretaker responds to this helps shape personality. If you are thinking that this sounds like personality to you, it is not. Personality is “an enduring set of traits and behaviors that set one person apart from another.” Temperaments are just basic inborn traits.
While parents may agree on certain parenting techniques and create a similar family environment for all their children, the chances are that if your children are different, you will be somewhat different with them as well.
There is a famous saying in psychology that “to be the same with everyone, is to be with no one.”
Also, our children have different experiences outside of the home. We cannot control what happens with peers or at school.
Your son sounds like his socialization process made him a lot more controlled if not a bit uptight. What was he like as a baby or as a child?
Your daughter sounds more sensitive but perhaps she was a sensitive baby or her childhood years exposed her to things that made her more sensitive and emotional as an adult.
It also occurs to me that your son is used to being in control and may be having a very difficult time dealing with the slowing down you describe. He probably does not like feeling helpless especially when there are certain things he can do nothing about when it comes to his own mother.
Being a therapist myself, I can tell you that we (hopefully) learn early on, that there is much about life and others that we cannot control. We also have to learn to deal with our own feelings. Your daughter probably feels all the same sadness and helplessness but processes her feelings and just does the best that she can to be loving and helpful.
In sounds like your son does his best too but is really not dealing well with his feelings. He probably needs some help with his feelings but he is not likely to get help unless he thinks he needs it or unless you tell him that you love him, appreciate all of his help but also feel hurt by his impatience with you.
Hope this helps. Sounds like they both love you very much.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Thank you for sending your anonymous confidential questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.