I’m thirty-four years older than Dylan, but he’s the far better bike rider. He rides in a naturally athletic standing position most of the time, and at the nearby dirt track he looks like a miniature version of the big boys in their BMX suits, his legs easily adjusting to take the hills and jumps like a jockey on a galloping horse. Dylan can spend hours by himself on his bike, popping wheelies off the end of the driveway and practicing his ability to lay down a strip of black from his tire when he comes to a screeching, nerve-wracking, perfectly-timed halt millimeters in front of some immovable object.

In comparison, Riley rides with his butt glued to the seat, his entire body held rigid. He does not quite give off an air of grim concentration, but it’s close — he enjoys riding, but he never loses himself in the sheer joy of it like Dylan does. You can see the effort it takes him to steel up his nerves before the first little jump at the track, as though he’s flinching his way into it. “Oh crap, here it comes again,” Riley’s brain seems to be saying. Meanwhile, Dylan’s brain is clearly replaying every Red Bull video he’s ever begged to watch on YouTube.

Riley is more cautious where Dylan tends to barrel forward with total abandonment. But Dylan is enormously shy, so much so that he can’t respond if a stranger says hello to him. Riley chatters to anyone who’ll listen, to the point where he sometimes reminds me of that character on Kids in the Hall: “Onions is all I eat!”

Dylan likes jigsaw puzzles, while Riley’s never lost his Lego obsession. Riley would sit saucer-eyed in front of the television all day if you’d let him, Dylan gets bored and wanders away after fifteen minutes or so. Riley loves to draw, Dylan has exactly zero use for crayons and pens.

I sometimes worry about how Dylan will do in kindergarten next fall. His ridiculously short attention span, his utter disinterest in making friends … what will it be like for him to sit in a classroom for hours at a time? Then again, I sometimes worry about sensitive, inflexible Riley, and whether he’ll be bullied or picked on.

I remember when I first learned we were having another boy, and how I felt a helpless pang of sorrow over the fact that I would never have a daughter. Part of me thought, stupidly, But I DID this already! I wanted a *different* experience!

How foolish, right? And yet five years later, I’m still somehow amazed on a daily basis that two boys raised in the same house who are only two and a half years apart can be so wildly, magnificently different from each other.


26 Responses to “Riding styles”

  1. Mariya on April 4th, 2013 2:23 pm

    I have a 2 1/2 year old son right now and we’re expecting #2 (hopefully another boy) in October…your blog is so refreshing to read :-) Thank you!

  2. Pete on April 4th, 2013 2:29 pm

    We have two boys separated by 3 years and they are just a different as your boys.

  3. Kerilyn on April 4th, 2013 2:55 pm

    I just love the way you wrote about your kids. So real and lovely.

  4. Kerilyn on April 4th, 2013 2:55 pm


  5. Janet on April 4th, 2013 3:07 pm

    I have two daughters. My girls are 5 years apart and are like night and day in every single way possible. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw.

  6. JB on April 4th, 2013 3:09 pm

    Beautiful, Linda. I have a boy and a girl and the incredible difference in their personalities amazes me.

  7. Angella on April 4th, 2013 4:32 pm

    We do have a girl — as you know — but Graham and Nathan are only twenty months apart, and about a million miles apart in everything from temperament to sportiness.

    Hooray for being unique human beings.

  8. Emily on April 4th, 2013 4:54 pm

    I cried when I found out we were having a girl. I had wanted another boy because I already “knew” boys. And I’m so glad it ended up this way for so many reasons, but one of the chief reasons is I’m much less likely to compare them. Physically (brown hair/brown eyes vs blond hair/hazel eyes) and personality-wise, they are completely different.

  9. Katie on April 4th, 2013 7:41 pm

    My boys are 7 & 6, only 18 months apart in age, yet so different in personalities it’s shocking some days. My oldest is much like Riley and my youngest is like your Dylan, so I understand your situation. There are days when I look at them and wonder how I got so lucky to be their mom!

  10. Nix on April 4th, 2013 8:53 pm

    I have three sons, 19, 17 and 16 and they are all three COMPLETELY different. Your Riley reminds me of my oldest son Brandon when he was that age and my youngest son Ryan is very similar in some ways to your Dylan. Bran, to this days, approaches Life more cautiously than the other two, with more reserve and thought. Ryan, to put it bluntly, takes Life by the balls and runs with it. When he was small, he was disinterested in making friends, because he said he had more fun on his own and they didn’t play what he wanted to play. Today, he’s perpetually surrounded by his pals and I always seem to have extra teenagers due to him. My middle son, by contrast, is an odd mix of his two siblings: shy AND outgoing in the same breath. He also has Asperger’s Syndrome so Life for Trevor has been a tremendously different experience. Parenting…the greatest joy and biggest pain we’ll ever endure :) Thanks for sharing these little views into your life!!

  11. Lena on April 4th, 2013 8:56 pm

    I have identical twin girls, and they couldnt be more different from one another. I’m constantly surprised by this fact, and keep thinking, ”but they have the same DNA”. Children are amazing.

  12. Jennifer on April 4th, 2013 9:17 pm

    all three of my kids are completely opposite/different from one another and so unique in their own way it is utterly amazing and blows my mind…

  13. Maggie on April 5th, 2013 5:56 am

    I think the same thing, I have 2 daughters, and they are complete and total opposites. My youngest is also extremely shy while her sis is very outgoing. My shy and very active daughter is in 2nd grade and has done well in school when she has had the right teachers, she doesn’t have a ton of friends, but has a few and she is definitely less shy now than a few years ago. She would rarely speak to anyone who wasn’t family, but now she will say hi or thank you in a very quiet voice :)

  14. Melissa on April 5th, 2013 6:33 am

    Me too. I have two daughters, nearly 5 years apart, completely opposite. The 10yo never gives me any problems, she’s obedient and polite and friendly yet still funny and sweet. The 5yo put chaptstick on her eyelids because she wanted to be fancy. Total opposites.

  15. Nicole Klein on April 5th, 2013 9:05 am

    Thank you for writing all you do. you are so honest and raw – i felt the same emotion when we found out #2 was another boy… they are only 1 and 3 now and i’m “in the thick of it!!” loved your blog about car trips and how they have changed – i can look forward to that… we also make the big drive (that you used to make) to coos bay from Seattle. Also emailed the life coach you mentioned – i think your experience sounds like what i am looking for.
    thank you thank you thank you.
    Please keep writing!

  16. Christie on April 5th, 2013 10:44 am

    I think Dylan will be awesome in kindergarten. I worried about what “academic skills” my kids would need going into that first giant year of school, especially my son who was a wild man! When I fretted about it to the teacher, she said she just wanted the kids in her classroom to be happy, and to treat others with kindness. She would teach them everything else. Although she did say that using the bathroom independently was a bonus. So we were all good! My daughter rocked kindergarten. My son, not so much. Barely printing his three-letter name by the end of the year. So I fretted some more (because it’s what I do best) and then halfway through grade one he became a reading machine. His printing didn’t really improve until grade three, but now he’s known as one of the best students in his class. They all get there in their own time, and in their own way. Your boys both seem awesome! I’m sure they’ll do well in life!

  17. sooboo on April 5th, 2013 1:55 pm

    I read a study recently that found a person has just as much of a chance as being like their siblings as they do any other child. Interesting that biological connection has not too much to do with personality formation, interests, talents etc. Also, I wouldn’t worry about Dylan making friends. He doesn’t have to make friends because he has Riley but once they aren’t around each other so much, he most likely will find some no talking, puzzle doing, bike riding peeps.

  18. Erin@MommyontheSpot on April 5th, 2013 3:31 pm

    I totally get this post. My kids are very similar, and I worry how they will get along in school, too.

  19. Fidi on April 5th, 2013 10:53 pm

    Your boys are so much like mine – similar characters, almost the same age. I sometimes wonder if some of these traits are determined by birth order. I also have the chatty careful odler and shy, adventurous younger one. And they do have different issues in school. But they both are fine in their way. Older one had best friends after a few days, but surprisingly the younger one is more popular. Though he does not have the same close friendships as the older one. Whatever works for them.

  20. Belle on April 6th, 2013 7:54 am

    We have a son and daughter, 33 and 37. They are very very different but are each other’s best friend. Over the years, I always thought as you did, that good grief, raised by the same two parents in the same household so how could they be so different? But they are, always have been, always will be. It sure did (and does) call into play every parenting skill possible. I guess I’d never want them to be exactly alike because it wouldn’t have been so much fun, or work, or joy.

  21. lisa on April 6th, 2013 2:42 pm

    I have two daughters, two years apart, and it is the same story. In many ways, in fact, this post could have been written about them.

    I joke with people that they have been different since they were in the womb. My youngest started kicking me at 16 weeks, and hasn’t stopped since :)

  22. Leah on April 7th, 2013 6:24 am

    Linda, reading this post was like…reading something I wrote! I had an awesome boy (who is so similar to Riley) and then had another boy (who is so similar to Dylan) two and a half years later. I also thought I wanted a girl so I could “try something different.”. I never realized that two boys raised by the same parents could be so different! And that, among many other reasons, is why I love your blog so much!!

  23. Andrea on April 7th, 2013 8:09 am

    Continue to celebrate those differences. My two boys are so different and have always been. Toss my girlie into the mix for even more fun and games….Not foolish at all!

  24. Alison on April 8th, 2013 5:39 am

    I love this!! I have 2 little boys, also 2.5 years apart. My youngest is 2.5, so we are still getting to know this new little personality that is forming. I love how different they are. We are working on #3 and much to everyone’s dismay, I will be overjoyed if it’s another boy.

  25. jonniker on April 9th, 2013 4:54 am

    My two girls are already so different. I had the same feeling you did, in a way — I assumed I would get to do it all again in the same way. And, uh, I don’t. At all. I have individuals, who are COMPLETELY different already. Very cool.

  26. Robyn on April 10th, 2013 1:11 am

    I have two boys, four personalities. They are both Gemini’s. I relate!!!

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