One Size Doesn’t Fit All

Who knew that grabbing a quick lunch on my travels across the state would turn into a grand case of eavesdropping? As I snuggled between hungry patrons at the only available table, I cracked open my laptop and tried to focus. Before sitting, I caught a glimpse of a young man – maybe early twenties – with his elderly grandmother enjoying lunch.

While doing my best to focus on my laptop while awaiting my lunch, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the manner in which this young man conversed with his grandma. Despite the fact that they were done eating, neither showed any urgency to leave.

Over the next twenty minutes I found myself shamelessly hanging on this wise woman’s every word as she imparted her wisdom on the young man who graciously encouraged her stories. She made bold statements about the difference between the young man and his siblings. While nonjudgemental in nature, it was obvious that all of her grandchildren in this particular family took on a different role: the “good boy,” the “rebel,” and the “quiet, compliant” one. Oddly enough, it was hard to pinpoint which role this young man filled.Lessons in Evedropping-------

While discussing one of his siblings, the young man professed that he had to figure out a way to reconnect with his brother. He acknowledged that despite the fact that they were all grown up, he and his brother had a contentious relationship.

“Well,” she responded, “your view of how you were raised is dramatically different than his. That’s how it should be. You all experience your childhood differently. Have you ever considered that? Maybe he doesn’t see the way your parents handled situations with you was what worked for him.”

WHAT?!?! I wanted to close my laptop and rudely interrupt their conversation. What did she mean each child experiences their childhood differently? Did my brother have a dramatically different recollection of how we were raised? I made a mental note to have this discussion with him at a later date.

Even without the discussion with my brother, I knew at least part of what she said was true. How is it that I have never considered this before? He was the adventurous spirit while I was the homebody whose separation anxiety made even sleepovers a challenge.

In looking at my own three children, it is no doubt that they are distinctly different human beings. There is no way that my tendency towards “one size fits all” parenting works for each of them, even in a very similar situation. How often have I made sweeping generalizations on how to deal with situations, yet am quickly reminded that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another?

As the wise-woman professed, each child perceives their own environment differently. I now realize how true that is for my own children. Their view of their world couldn’t be more different.

My eldest has a fierce sense of right vs. wrong. It’s no wonder that what cuts him deepest is when something takes place that he perceives as unfair. While his big-hearted, symathetic ways at times make him passive, when he truly believes in something, he will clearly articulate what he believes is right.

My middle daughter is unbelievably logical, yet worries like me. She is the peace-keeper who often forfeits what she wants for the benefit of her brothers. While this seems loving and kind, I do like to see when she shows resiliency in getting what she wants.

The baby of our family is the hilarious spirit who, so far, seems to believe that life is one party after the next. He loves big and gets big love in return which often means he gets what he wants from all of us.

It is important to for me to consider their reality and what they need from me as their mom. It isn’t universal. I can’t raise them the same.

It’s with that same spirit that this wise woman who professed her wisdom to her grandson recalled the moment that her eldest son left home. “Every child leaves home differently. They make their break in separate ways.” She went on to explain that parents must allow their children to determine how this departure will take place.

My initial thought is: I am never allowing my kids to leave home! It kills me to consider it, but I know the day will come. Paul and I will have to sit back and let them make the break when they are ready. I know I will secretly be dying inside when that time comes.

Despite the fact that I was not brave enough to thank the young man and the wise woman as I left the restaurant, (who wants to admit they were eavesdropping?!) their conversation taught me a lot that day.

The love we give our children isn’t based on anything. It is unconditional. Unique and special only to them. But the fact that we love them with all we have, one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to parenting them. Being mindful of this will help as long as I find the patience to customize their experiences while still expecting them to be somewhat flexible as they learn to navigate their own childhood experiences.


Lessons in Evedropping-------



  1. Bonnie verhagen on February 2, 2016 at 4:04 am

    It truly is hard and easily described as painful to watch your children leave the nest. But once it happens and you accept is as part of the growing pains of parenthood, there is unbelievable joy and pride in watching them spread their wings and become the adult you’ve dreamed of them becoming!

    • Erin on February 2, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Bonnie, While your words are echoed by so many moms who gracefully embraced the transition, I know for a fact I will be a blubbering idiot for months.

  2. Molly on February 2, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Thanks again for making me think. My three are as different as can be and I find myself saying ‘Why didn’t that work? It worked with Jackson.’
    My problem is that I gave birth to the easy-to-parent child first. I have to really work in a different way raising each girl, and that took me a long time to really understand…and sometimes I STILL forget.

    • Erin on February 2, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Molly, Just remember you are not in this alone. I believe parenting teaches us as much about OURSELVES as we teach our kids. You’re an incredible mom. Don’t forget that.

  3. Amy Rabas on February 2, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    Your writing amazes me me each time! Incredible inisght.

    • Erin on February 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Amy!

  4. Dawn Moore on February 2, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I enjoy the elderly. They impart so much wisdom. Hope I have that wisdom some day.
    Once again Erin, beautifully written!

    • Erin on February 3, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      You are so right, Dawn. Truly makes me miss both of my Grandmas. I wish I would have asked more questions and been as patient as this young man was. Thanks, Dawn.

  5. Marta on February 2, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    Erin….thank you! This couldn’t have come at a better time. Trying to navigate through the teen years while at the same time raising a spirited toddler can be so overwhelming and rewarding at the same time! I so appreciate your amazing into this whole parenting thing. Toughest but best job ever! Miss you my friend.

    • Erin on February 3, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Marta, You have phenomenal children! I may need some support as we get closer to the teenage years. Yikes!!

  6. Kori on February 2, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    This is so good to reflect on. I often wonder if my sister and I were even raised in the same house! lol. But I don’t often apply that understanding to my parenting situation. And FYI. Our thirds should get together. They sound quite similar! ?

    • Erin on February 3, 2016 at 1:37 pm

      Something about the baby of the family. They sure keep us all laughing! We must get them together!

  7. Michelle on February 3, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    That was great…. I have 2 daughters and they are completely opposite. The oldest is introverted and creative, likes more of the arts. The youngest is very social and loves sports. I did one day Thank them…I said “I just wanted to let you know how blessed I am to have two totally different daughters!” Just wanted them to know that I appreciate both of their interest. I don’t want them to compete with each other for attention.

    • Erin on February 8, 2016 at 12:16 am

      You have me thinking, Michelle. All three of mine are so different and none of them really seem to fit the mold of their peers. I want to be sure to celebrate that with each of them. I think it starts with thanking them. Thanks for reading and sharing. Looks like you had a great showing of your oldest’s talents this weekend!

  8. Stephanie on February 3, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Well said Erin. As educators we should realize this better than anyone else that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another! Why would it be any different with how our own children are parented! My two children are also uniquely different and each have their special qualities. It was not easy for me when they left home. I missed them terribly, however I am so blessed that eventually they both made their way back to the valley after trying other states. ?

    • Erin on February 8, 2016 at 12:15 am

      I so admire the relationship you have with Crysta! You are so close and I think you must have don a LOT right while raising her. She is so lucky to have you!

  9. Donna Franczek on February 5, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Ha Erin – this is too funny that your eavesdropping sparked your writing idea for this post. It’s amazing where our writing ideas pop up. Isn’t it? I hope you continue to carry your writing notebook with you! Your post was spot-on. Very insightful as a mother of 4. My husband and I reflect on our children many times about how each “saw” the situation through a different lens. As they spread their wings we get a feeling of accomplishment each time. A part of us will always be with them. Our real parenting role changes with each one and each circumstance. Flexibility at it’s greatest. Thanks for the reminder Erin!

    • Erin on February 8, 2016 at 12:14 am

      Thanks for reading, Donna. I am sure you have some great advice to share as your 4 grow and become amazing people…like their mama!