That's been my life.
Eldest Daughter was my seventies kid. I was young - just twenty, in college, still a bit of a hippie and joyfully idealistic. Young parents, driven partly by inexperience and partly by all the vagaries of youth, lean towards unrealistic expectations and insensitivity masquerading as cleverness. Poor ED was the victim of all that, as are most first children to varying degrees. Nevertheless, she was a sunny, cooperative, happy child, and I was confident her sweet disposition was due to me and my impressive mothering skills.
Middle Kid was a child of the eighties. I was almost thirty when he was born - a yuppie living in SoCal, working as a software engineer for a major aerospace company, and a bit smug. Having a second child would be easy, I figured. Look at my first - she was a great kid! I had this down cold.
I reckoned without an eight-month-long bout of colic followed by asthma set off by practically everything. Yikes. This wasn't as easy as I remembered. MK was nothing like ED.
Youngest Daughter was my nineties baby. She was as complete a surprise as a package can be, a change-of-life, medically complicated, other-worldly blast who exploded into my life just as I was turning forty-two. By that time I was sick of workplace politics, sick of the rat-race, sick of being tired, and definitely not up to another decade or so of arranging childcare. What's more, I finally knew that I didn't know what I was doing, motherhood-wise. I retired from my job and became a stay-at-home mom.
ED was a typical 'first,' eager to please, concerned with being correct, extroverted, a good student and a social butterfly. Her early years were sometimes chaotic: she had to deal with my divorce from her father, with having a single mother for a year and a half, and then with being a stepchild. She went to four different elementary schools in three states before we got settled in our new hometown.
MK was an introvert, uncommonly bright, and not nearly as anxious about pleasing me as he was about pleasing himself. His early childhood was spent in daycare and then in a private elementary school with after-school-care because both his parents worked. We moved once when he was an infant and again when he was a toddler, but otherwise his early years were remarkably stable compared to ED's.
YD is also an introvert, has a stay-at-home mom, displays amazing talent in both graphic arts and in creative writing, and is so far out of the box that her father says if we could just get her to see it off in the distance, he'd be satisfied. She still lives in the house we lived in when she was born, has never changed school districts, and has never attended a school where I wasn't a volunteer.
I didn't mother any two of these children in the same way. They were different, I was different, the circumstances were different for each of my kids. It was a gift to have had them spaced so far apart. They each had the luxury of being only children, at least for a while, and I had the luxury of getting to know them as individuals.
And you know what? It makes our family gatherings lively - nobody remembers anything the same way, because nobody had the same childhood.