Love Them Differently: Loving My Kids Equally but Not the Same


I have 3 kids, two of which were born pretty close together. I called their infancies and toddlerdom my “baby years.” My baby years that were full of the same. The same cup. The same plate. The same toy at Chick Fil A. You get a new outfit so you get a new outfit. But somewhere along the way I started seeing them differently…because…well…they are so different. It goes far beyond the first born boy- second born girl dynamic. These two little people entrusted to me are like fire and ice. And even though I love them both so equally and completely- I am learning that I need to love them differently.

Their personalities, I like to say, can be summed up by their bulletin boards in their rooms. Not only by the content of what they have found worthy to be hung, but also the way it’s hung. My son, my first born. Wild and free and full of energy. He fights wars, he wins battles, he rescues the wounded while climbing Mount Everest to get away from whatever fictional bad guy is chasing him. He loves to run and be cheered on. Messy bulletin board.His bulletin board is bananas. Half-finished drawings. Ripped pieces of paper. Hung without a second to spare and honestly, even a glance. But they’re his. He made them. He’s proud of them.  I’m learning that what he requires of me as a mother is far different from what my oldest daughter requires. He wants my eyes. He waits patiently for me to meet his gaze as he tells the punchline to a joke so he can see me laugh. He wants my claps, my encouragement, and my raise-the-roof hands. He tells me his triumphs with anticipation that I’ll cheer loudly and tells me his failings knowing I will lament with him. He wants me to validate him: who you are is who I want you to be.

My oldest daughter. My firecracker of a girl. “A girl who knows what she’s about” is often how I describe her. She doesn’t need my validation, even though I am careful to give it to her frequently. She couldn’t care less about my opinions when they differ from hers. She makes up her own mind apart from any outside input. She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t and isn’t really interested in being talked into or out of anything. Her bulletin board is organized. It’s neat and tidy and displayed in a way she can see each precious memory. It’s not her own things she’s hung, it’s things she’s been given: notes that have been written to her, art that has been made for her, accolades from her teacher. This girl wants my time. She wants me to sit with her while she reads. She wants to make things in the kitchen alongside me. She wants me to sit, quietly and without interruption, as she pulls out each worksheet she completed at school to show me exactly what she did, and describe what it was like doing it. She wants me to lay in her bed a few extra minutes at night to talk about fears, anxieties, and whether or not unicorns really live in rainbows. She wants me to love her by giving my greatest commodity: my time.

Early on I thought that loving equally meant loving the same. I spent time with one, so I need to do the same with the other. I bought this one a treat while they were with me at the store, so I better grab one for the other. I can’t let one feel left out, feel bad for not coming to the store with us, or feel like an outsider. Often, I felt guilt. Needless guilt, but it was still there. I felt guilty if one got more of me than the other.

But what about making the other feel special when they need it? Why not grab a hot chocolate at Starbucks while we run an errand with one and pop into the arcade after an appointment with the other?

A wise friend several steps ahead of us in the parenting game recently told us he calls it “loving the one you’re with.” I found such freedom in that statement. It’s ok to pick up a shirt you know your son will love without feeling the need to make sure you grab one for your daughter. It’s ok to spend a little extra time with your daughter on a night that it’s hard to go to bed. Love the one you’re with, for me, is about meeting each child where they’re at and loving them the way they need to be loved.

I want to stress, again, that I love my children equally. Which means I l love them so wholly and without reservation. An all the way love. But as they grow and I learn more as a parent, I’m finding freedom in loving them differently.

Do they both need me to sit and listen while they read? Of course. But is it ok for me to do the dishes while my son reads because what he really wants is the cheers along the way as opposed to validation over every single completed sentence? Absolutely. Do they both need my snuggles at night? Trust me. The snuggles are a-flowin’. But he needs to hear that I think he is good and smart and that I’m proud to be his mom. She needs to hear that I like her and I love her, I’m impressed by her, and that’s she’s lovely.

I certainly have some wild ones in this house. But wild in different ways. Some good. Some hard. But all important. I don’t want to waste their years or my own trying to force them to feel loved the same way. I want to embrace their differences, see them as individuals, and love them where they are. I want them to know I don’t want them to be anyone else and that I’m happy being their mom. Just the way they are.

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Kalie Vidales
Kalie Vidales is a lover of Jesus, her husband, their two children, and all things floral. She has been following her Active Duty Soldier around the country for the last 8 years to 5 different duty stations. She spends her days leaving half-finished cups of coffee around the house as she chases her kids, reads C.S. Lewis when she has 5 minutes alone, and desperately tries to keep her black lab, Skip, off the couch. She loves to write about her faith, family, and the grief of losing her mother way too early. She has an M.A. in Linguistics which has aided her very little in convincing her kids they have to wear pants every day. As an Army Brat who grew up and became an Army Wife, she enjoys plugging into church, building deep relationships, and making a home wherever the next PCS sends her.


  1. I love this, Kalie! Showing up for each of our kid’s own love language is such a vital aspect of connecting with them. Thanks for the timely reminder <3

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