Raising Two Opposite Personalities

Marlowe Mae Martino getting ticked by her mother, Eva Amurri Martino, wearing a leather jacket and a halo braid in her hair.

The first year of Motherhood can be the most intense one of all– at least it was for me.  Besides getting a hang of the whole keeping a child alive thing, it can be really disorienting to be dealing with a changing sense of identity– and all the drama that a shift in priorities can bring in a family.  Plus you’re just SO exhausted– amirite?  While the exhaustion never goes away (hehe), I think what ends up emerging at the end of that hectic first year is an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.  You finally think to yourself, “I know this kid! I know what works with them! I can do this!” That little personality is just thriving and lighting you up like a sunbeam, and it’s a really special time.  You look at your child and realize, “We’ve got each other, and we figured this out together”. 

Marlowe Mae Martino looks out the window of her Connecticut home wearing a halo braid.

And then your NEXT kid comes…and you’re like “Huh? What? Am I missing something?” Because, more often than not, that next child is NOTHING like the first. Their likes and dislikes, their soothing techniques, their sleep patterns, their appetites, and most of all their personalities.  Recently, as Major becomes more and more of a toddler (He’s also the size of a three year old. LOL), I’ve been thinking so much about this dynamic.  Because my kids are OPPOSITE personalities.  They get along well, and they each have their own role in our family dynamic, but boy are they as different as can be.  It’s been so interesting to witness it, and to watch myself in my parenting journey having to “forget” everything I thought I knew about children the first time around, and adjust to a new child with their own needs and proclivities re-challenging me in a totally different way. 

Major James Martino wearing a holding a navy blue suit with a gingham shirt and holding a red ball in his Connecticut home

Marlowe came out of the womb babbling (yes, actually) and basically hasn’t stopped since! LOL.  She’s my little Leo, my fire sign– born under a Super Moon in the darkest part of the night.  She has always been my little crusader– outgoing, bright, creative, loud, mercurial with her moods.  She can get a flash of bad temper, and then recover just as easily.  If she is disappointed, hurt, scared, sick, or anxious, she always bounces back in record time as soon as the problem itself is removed– I honestly envy her resilience.  She is the most kind-hearted little soul, but not at all cuddly– which is such a funny combination!

Eva Amurri Martino laughs with her daughter Marlowe and son Major at the foot of her bed in her house in Connecticut.

Eva Amurri Martino laughs with her daughter Marlowe and son Major at the foot of her bed in her house in Connecticut.

Eva Amurri Martino laughs with her daughter Marlowe and son Major at the foot of her bed in her house in Connecticut.

Marlowe is very thoughtful and really takes in others’ emotional states, wondering how people are doing, how they may be feeling, and wanting the people around her to be happy.  This also leads to her loving to perform and be a little clown! She’s just so expressive and enjoys trying on personalities and characters, she has us laughing so hard every single day.  She loves when other people are enjoying her company, especially grown ups! I think it makes her feel proud when they tell her she’s funny or smart– and because of that she really gravitates towards “winning over” strangers. 

Marlowe Mae Martino pouting with a teddy bear, wearing an ivory tunic dress, leather jacket, and a halo braid in her parents bedroom in their Connecticut home.

Marlowe Mae Martino makes a pouty face wearing a leather jacket with a halo braid in her hair while lying on the rug in her parents bedroom in Connecticut.

Marlowe Mae Martino makes funny faces at the foot of her parents bed, while mom Eva Amurri Martino watches on with brother Major.

Because she’s so caring, I always knew Marlowe would be an incredible Big Sister, but I could never have known HOW incredible.  My friends refer to her as “Little Mama”, because from the day Major was born, she has been his greatest supporter and caretaker.  She is always wanting to make sure he’s comfortable, safe, and happy.  As Major got older, I had been waiting to see how his very different personality would fit in with hers…because from day one he has been Marlowe’s polar opposite.

Eva Amurri Martino and her daughter Marlowe Mae Martino kissing son Major James Martino on the bed in their Connecticut home.

Eva Amurri Martino and her daughter Marlowe Mae Martino kissing son Major James Martino on the bed in their Connecticut home.

Major’s entry in to the world was so light, and cuddly, and calm.  Born easily and quickly on a sunny, warm afternoon. He was my little zen buddha baby from the beginning– and my little Libra, with those balanced scales.  Major is cuddly enough for AT LEAST two children.  From day one he would just burrow in to me like he could actually get to the other side. LOL.  His energy has always been in direct contrast to his sister: calm, steady, receptive rather than directive, an open book of emotion.  He’s much more of a gentle and delicate soul than his sister, which makes me instantly more protective of him.  Even before his accident, I found myself more attune to my protective side than I had been with his firebrand sister.  As he’s gotten older, what’s surprised me is his strength.  He’s so “soft” and loving and gentle, but he’s also SO strong and sure of himself! He remains calm even when sick or hurt, and can stand up to his sister when she’s getting testy with him by growling right in to her face! LOL.  But if he gets emotionally upset, it is a different ball game. 

Major James Martino sits on his parents bed in a navy blue blazer and gingham shirt with his sister Marlow Mae Martino who is wearing an ivory smock dress at their house in Connecticut.

When Major experiences a painful emotion, it stays with him for a really long time.  Being used to Marlowe’s “dust myself off” approach, as a parent I was so disoriented by this difference at first! If he had a toy taken away, when we were sleep training him, when we had to leave someplace he was enjoying, or when he went through his separation anxiety phase around 10-12 months, the emotional impact would stick.  He would cry, and then once he stopped crying, he would look to us minutes later as if he was remembering the particular offense and start crying again! Kyle and I used to joke that it was him saying “And another thing!”. His emotional process is just more drawn out.

In many ways, this is actually so like me! I think parenting Major has made me realize how similar we are, and how deeply I feel emotion just as he does.  Sometimes it’s easy to Judge oneself for this, to pressure oneself to “get over it”, but the gift of parenting Major has been to tap back in to this personality trait in myself, and to honor it and embrace it.  I’ve realized it’s ok to take a while to process emotions, and learned to find ways to help me move through them more easily (thanks, blogging!). 

Major James Martino walking on the rug in his parents bedroom wearing a navy blue blazer and gingham shirt with a tie and jeans while his mother, Eva Amurri Martino, watches on from behind.

Now as Major has gotten older, and his language has started emerging, it’s been really sweet to see a totally new side of his personality emerge: the sweet little goofball! He’s so FUNNY! He has such hilarious physical comedy and great timing, and always cracks up the whole family with his ability to land a joke with only a few words in his vocabulary.  When I look at my two children together, I see this as their great connector: the lightness and sense of humor they both possess.  I think (and hope) that it will keep them close through many different stages of life. 

Eva Amurri Martino and her son Major James Martino and daughter Marlowe Mae Martino goofing around in bed in their Connecticut home.

Parenting two opposite personalities has thus far been the most humbling part of my parenting journey.  Realizing how much I still didn’t know as a parent when my second little stranger entered our lives was exactly what I needed at that moment.  For me, Motherhood is a constant state of education– about my children and myself.  For me it was lucky that my children were immediately so different, because it forced me to treat them as individuals so early on.  It forced me to recognize right off the bat that I was still figuring out who I am as a Mother– to them individually, and together.

Eva Amurri Martino plays on the rug in her bedroom with son Major James Martino, who is wearing a navy blue blazer, gingham shirt, blue tie and jeans.

At times, different aspects of their personalities have challenged me to the edges of what I’m capable of– and still do.  They each have certain personality traits that don’t mesh as easily with my own and require me to push myself to learn and grow.  I have found myself clashing with Marlowe, for example, when certain sides of her personality come through– and it’s made me really have to look long and hard at myself to figure out why they trigger me.  I think that my personality originally is more like Major’s, but that I have changed over time and become an adult with a personality more like Marlowe’s.  This dichotomy in myself is something so delicate that I try to always consider when I come up against road blocks with my kids– I don’t want to ever parent either one of them in a way that makes them feel as though acquiring different personality traits would be “better” or would keep them safer.  I want them each to stay just as they are, and to grow and change only as they see fit. 

Eva Amurri Martino plays with a doll on the floor with her daughter Marlow Mae Martino who is wearing an ivory tunic dress, leather jacket, and halo braid.

Eva Amurri Martino and daughter Marlowe Mae play on the floor of their Connecticut home

I feel so relieved to have such a strong-willed, fierce little girl who knows exactly who she is even at the tender age of three! And I feel just as lucky that my son is emotional, kind, quiet and gentle in his approach to life–  I hope that I have what it takes to make him understand that these characteristics are just as masculine as ones that we might see more traditionally.  I can’t wait to see the amazing people my kids grow in to– and I feel insanely blessed to have a front row seat to the ride!

Eva Amurri Martino and daughter Marlowe Mae play on the floor of their Connecticut home

Eva Amurri Martino gets a kiss from her daughter Marlowe Mae, who is wearing an ivory tunic, leather jacket and a halo braid.

Eva Amurri Martino plays in bed with her son Major James and daughter Marlowe Mae in their Connecticut home.

Marlow Mae Martino giggles with a toy elephant on her head, while mother Eva Amurri Martino watches on from behind her.

Marlow Mae Martino giggles with a toy elephant on her head, while mother Eva Amurri Martino watches on from behind her.

Eva Amurri Martino gives her daughter Marlowe Mae a big kiss on the forehead in their Connecticut home.

Eva Amurri Martino plays on the floor of her bedroom with her son Major James in a black dress.

Do you have kids with totally different personalities? And has it pushed you as a parent? I’d love to hear in the Comments section below!


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Photographs by Carter Fish

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  1. Irina Visan says:

    Oh Eva, I said this before but you totally lucked out with these too (and they with you!). You have some amazing kids and I am always in awe with your parentig skills. If I’m half as good when I have kids, they will be just fine 🙂 sending lots of love to the cutest family ever!

    03.01.18 Reply
  2. Courtney says:

    My twins are almost 4 now. Boy and girl- since day one they’ve had different personalities. It has been really interesting to see what kind of little people they’re turning into as well as how to work with their personalities and myself now on how to communicate and make things work with their personal needs, it’s a whole new chapter. Our daughter is very ‘type A’ like my husband and our son is more the chill introvert like myself. Never a dull moment.

    03.01.18 Reply
    • I’m sure twins adds a whole other level to this!!

      03.02.18 Reply
  3. Jessica Hulse Dillon says:

    My oldest sounds a lot like Marlowe, such a sweet, smart little lady. Now that little lady number two is here I am excited to see how her personality develops and if my big girl continues to be her little sisters biggest fan!

    03.01.18 Reply
    • awww cute! Watching siblings bond is the sweetest thing ever!

      03.02.18 Reply
  4. Julia says:

    These photos are too cute!!! xoxo

    03.01.18 Reply
  5. Danielle says:

    💕So I’m curious- how do they mirror kyles personality? I love how you shared about aspects relating to yours- but I’m curious if they have similarities or differences to your husbands! Loved this post!

    Also curious as to how you help them in their personalities?

    03.01.18 Reply
    • Interesting question! I think that Marlowe has more similarities to Kyle than Major does. Marlowe’s cut-and-dry disposition is very Kyle! Major is all emotion, which is totally opposite from Kyle, he’s much more analytical.

      03.02.18 Reply
  6. CJ says:

    Eva! This is one of my favorite posts that you’ve done. You are so instinctual as a mama and it’s a joy to watch you in all the twists and turns. You’re right we can’t parent two kids the same way. What a rich and wonderful ride, even in the hard times.

    03.01.18 Reply
  7. Kassie gray says:

    Seriously this was amazing timing for me to read! After a rough week I loved the quote, “– I don’t want to ever parent either one of them in a way that makes them feel as though acquiring different personality traits would be “better” or would keep them safer.” what a wonderful reminder that I struggle with all the time as I too have total opposites. Thanks so much!

    03.01.18 Reply
    • hang in there Mama– You have an opposite trifecta! LOL. I can’t even imagine how challenging that would be!

      miss you guys! xo

      03.02.18 Reply
  8. Michelle Paquin says:

    As a mom to a very energetic, smart 3 year old and sweet, cuddly 6month old i have been shocked by there personality differences and how much I assumed they would be the same. I find that i keep being suprised by how different they are and a part of me is starting to feel bad for assuming that they would be the same. Reading your story made me realize a few things that i will need to keep in mind. I remember paying so much attention to my oldest’s personality cues as a baby to figure out sleep training for example and what might work for him. I feel like I havent been doing this as much with the baby since I assumed I had it all figured out. Being a mom is a very humbling experience! Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    03.02.18 Reply
    • Isn’t it so interesting how we automatically assume once we already have one child? I’ve thought so much about that as well! I always say if we are worried about parenting the wrong way, that is already doing something right! LOL.

      03.02.18 Reply
  9. That kissing photo of Major cracks me up!

    03.02.18 Reply
  10. Joelle says:

    Beautifully written and very insightful.

    03.02.18 Reply
  11. Andrea says:

    That was so beautiful, Marlowe and Major will love reading about themselves when they’re older! My little one tries me every day with his- sometimes- misplaced self assurance (he’s 5 going on 25). But his determination and confidence are some of the things I’m most proud of. Everyone is a new friend and he speaks to them like they’re in the middle of a great game! He bravely tries difficult new things and doesn’t give up when it’s hard. He stands up for what is right. He has a soft heart and when he’s tired he’ll let me rock him in my lap. Love my little boy!

    03.02.18 Reply
  12. Martina MacKenzie says:

    I love this post…I think I might say this every time I read one of your posts and comment :).

    This post is bang on how I feel about my two littles. My son is soft and sensitive and my daughter is strong willed, determined and definitely more of a mama to my son (even though she is the younger one!). Your comment about seeing yourself in your kids is exactly how I feel about seeing my and my husbands personality in our kids. It also reminds me when I worry about them and how they will manage situations in the future, that things will be okay just like they have been for us.

    As always, I LOVE your perspective. I can always relate so well with your experiences.

    03.02.18 Reply
  13. Julie Hopkins says:

    Hi Eva,
    Does it matter that my boys are 27 and 32. Yes, They are much much older, but it brings me back to when they were little up until now. My older son was always the star of the show, the actor, outgoing personality and loving an audience. My younger son, always shy, hard to look into the person who’s talking to him in the eyes., but yet, loving, cuddly and gentle. He still hugs me every day and tells me he loves me everyday. I can never say I have a favorite because they both are, I love both of their personalities and have to deal with them each differently. Yes, I am much older than you, but I love watching your beautiful family grow!! Thank you!

    03.05.18 Reply
  14. Glenda says:

    Oh yes! I can so relate. Both of my kids are/were so different. My first (son) was/is so easy going. Can self entertain as a baby, toddler and growing up. Now an adult will just go with the flow and never holds a grudge. My daughter was and is very fierce. Very outspoken. Very giving. Both my babies loved to cuddled, but my daughter more so. Both still love on us. Hug and kiss with no problem. My son is more mellow like my husband. My daughter is all me. Great blog post!

    03.07.18 Reply
  15. Kelly Kompf says:

    I have 2 boys with verrry different personalities. My firstborn (6) is a rules-follower, loves praise and reassurance, loves all sports, never stops moving, has been critically thinking since his first minute on this earth and never accepts “I don’t know” as a valid answer. My secondborn (5) is cuddly and silly and will do annnnything to make himself laugh. He marches to the beat of his own drum, has zero interest in sports or group play and would gladly spend 24 hours a day in his pajamas playing Legos or Star Wars. They couldn’t be more different, and it keeps us on our toes!!

    P.S. Marlowe has 8x more hair than I do, and I’m insanely jealous. She has gorgeous hair!!

    03.16.18 Reply
  16. Areth Tsouprake says:

    I love this post so much! You are so blessed

    01.30.19 Reply