Robyn Margulis Vernon Ogrodnek

Someone please explain to me how two children born to the same parents can be so different. I challenge any geneticist to provide me with an explanation.

A friend once told me that a team of Geneva scientists could never figure me out, because, he said, I am so complicated. Could the same be said about the differences in my offspring?

Despite sharing the genes of the same mother and father, the dissimilarities were evident from the time my youngest was born. My daughter was 2 1/2 at the time and my husband and I were confident that we could handle a second child, mainly because my daughter had been one of those perfect babies - the kind who spoils her parents into thinking that raising babies is as easy as pie. Naivete is bliss.

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Our first born started sleeping through the night for a good six hours at 6 weeks. By 9 weeks, she was sleeping eight hours. When my son was born, I foolishly expected that he would have similar sleeping habits. Little did I know that I would soon become hooked on late-night television because it would take my son 18 months before he decided to sleep through the night. I wonder how many folks realize that daytime soap operas were, at one time, replayed at 4 a.m.

As a toddler, we could plop my daughter down surrounded by toys and she would be in the same spot an hour later perfectly content and entertained. My son, on the other hand, was constantly on the move and could not stay focused on one thing for more than 30 seconds. We had to amp up the kidproofing just for him.

Fast forward to age 11. My first born stunned when she confessed to me that she was stressed because she had not yet picked a college major. Unlike my overachieving daughter, when my son was 11, he asked me if attending high school was mandatory.

My daughter has always been an impressive student. Recently, she was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. We counseled my son on what he has to do to achieve the same. He clearly had no interest and was content to congratulate his sister on her accomplishments. My daughter sets goals and maps out what has to be done to achieve them. My son's only goal seems to be getting done with the task at hand as quickly as possible so he can get to playing.

When it comes to chores around the house, my daughter does them well and without having to be reminded; my son does a mediocre job and has to be nagged to get them done. Same with homework and school projects. My daughter is done well in advance of deadlines; her brother procrastinates.

My son is a free spirit. That is one of the things that I love about him. Unlike his sister who is generally an anxious child, he has no worries. While I'd like to see him be a little more responsible and see the urgency and importance in things, I accept that he is just a different soul. He is a sweet boy who shows affection and compassion for those around him. My son possesses a uniqueness that makes him the great kid that he is.

When it comes to the differences in siblings, I know I am not alone. I see it in other families, including those with twins. I have a good friend whose twin daughters could not have more different personalities. Likewise, my twin nieces have diverse dispositions and likes. I have also talked to other moms who have reported major personality differences in their children. Many have told me, though, that they found themselves setting unrealistic expectations for their children because they found themselves comparing them.

How is it that parents could supply their kids with the same genes, the same amount and type of discipline, and the same guidance, yet they turn out so differently? Indeed, I find it truly fascinating. At the same time, I recognize the importance of appreciating each child's uniqueness. I appreciate that my daughter is driven and responsible. And, likewise, I appreciate that my son is sweet and down-to-earth. No matter their differences, I consider myself a lucky mom.


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