Kids mature differently. Who knew?

As a parent, I’ve been floored over the last few years because…

Illustration by J. Schuh,

When my daughters were little (both in their early 20s now), my oldest, Erica was mine, the youngest Taylor (Tay), was my ex-wife’s. When I say “mine” I mean that Erica and I had a tighter relationship than I had with Tay. Erica was harshly jealous when Tay was born and still is. The competition between the two has been palpable over 20+ years and Tay would almost always win out. Throughout their school years, their need to one-up the other in grades, activities, boys, and overall life performance came to small episodes of boiling over where their mom and I had to intervene. Both got scholarships to college, Erica a tuition ride, Tay a full ride. However, I think a big turning point was when Erica was booted out of college and Tay graduated. Tay’s disappointment with her sister probably started here. They still communicate but grow further apart with age.

NOTE: Their mom and I have been divorced for 11 years. I’ve since remarried, 9 years in July, and have a stepdaughter, Kadidja, who stole my heart. She calls me “Pops” and I love her very much. She and her mom are obviously closer than my relationship with her. Kadidja isn’t involved with the competition with my 2 at all so I’ll leave her out of the discussion. I will say her dad is a piece of shit that abandoned them when she was very young. Pops isn’t going anywhere and will continue being as positive of a male role model that I can be for her. I will also say my loyalties, first and foremost, will be to my two before anyone else. My wife understands it and mirrors that with Kadidja. All that being said, my wife and I are fiercely loyal to all the kids and co-parent where/when necessary.

Over time Erica’s and Tay’s personalities and loyalties have reversed and it’s amazed me. Erica started taking on a lot of her mom’s traits (financial irresponsibility and poor decision making skills), Tay has almost all of sister’s traits from when they were younger and damn near all of mine (headstrong, hardworking, and a “take no shit” attitude). Their loyalties have also changed. Tay and I have a stronger bond now whereas Erica has the same with her mom. I was certain that things would still be the same from when they were little but it’s not even close. Kids mature differently, who knew? I sure as hell didn’t.

Yes, no matter what, I will always love them both equally and enjoy our almost constant communication. When my phone rings and it’s either one of them everything in my life (including when I’m at work) stops, it turns into the best part of my day. I’ve spent hours on the phone or Skype with one or the other just to hear their voices and share what’s going on in their lives. I live for it. But…I expected Erica to be the corporate big wig, a politician or lawyer because of her strong personality and competitiveness. I expected Tay to be in a comfortable job where there’s little to no competition. Instead, once again, the opposite happened. Tay is one step away from being a corporate raider, Erica can’t hold a job. I just don’t get it.

Neither of them make life easy for the other. Plenty of rude comments on social media, phone conversations, and in person. Much of it now comes from Tay’s instigation and arrogant attitude (which she refuses to acknowledge) and Erica’s very stereotypical millennial attitude (narcissism, entitlement, and lack of accountability). Tay once told me that she shares the happenings in her life with me first which threw me a bit. I was happy to hear it but I wasn’t sure how to take it because it might come across as disrespect for their mom if I even reveled in it in my mind but I took it nonetheless with a smile. Erica always calls her mom first where it used to be me. Maybe it’s because her mom can relate better to what Erica does with her life? Maybe it’s because it’s simply easier to talk with her mom than it is with me? I don’t know. I’ve tried to keep the same tone with both kids, maybe it’s just the vibe I’m projecting.

They’re adults and make their own decisions. Each of them make mistakes and triumphs because they’re human. I want to scoop them both up and bring them home so I could provide and protect them like I did when they were growing up but I know I can’t (for the record I’d like to have all 3 of them here). The college reference I mentioned above (one graduated, one didn’t) isn’t the true beginning of all this but it has become a reference point for me when they entered their adult lives of the stark differences in maturity and loyalty they’ve grown in to.

My wife and I worry more about Erica because of erratic, yet predictable, behavior than we do with Tay. One night after a long discussion with Tay and her mom about Erica’s issues, Tay and I spoke separately. She was distraught, in tears, and very worried about her sister. However, she said something poignant, “I’ve never had a big sister, I’ve become that to her”. This still makes me emotional because of how true it is.