Much to my chagrin, I found a smiley face drawn on the wall in our play room. And, after denying it, but realizing its unmistakeable similarity to the thousands of wide eyed faces she draws daily, Hazel grinned admission.
The first thing I said? “Hazel, why would you do that?”, promptly followed by the ridiculous thought, “your sister never did.”
It’s not fair, I know, but she wouldn’t have, or didn’t, and I wonder how two children, raised by the same parents, can be so incredibly different.
We’ve had many conversations with fellow parents of two, or more, children about the dun…dun…dun second child. And, invariably, we relate similar tales about their personalities, concluding it’s due, in part, to the way we parent on the second go round.
We’re far more relaxed (permissive) with Hazel, than we were with Amelia. Hazel was introduced to television, sweets, and forward-facing car seats earlier than her sister. Mom and dad don’t pour over every milestone. Sure, we gave her plenty of attention when she learned to walk, four months later than sister, but the cameras weren’t rolling around the clock to catch the cute way drool fell from her mouth, into the dogs, and onto the floor.
I get caught up wondering why Hazel, seemingly, acts out more, cowers at strangers, and is a budding graffiti artist, rather than the way she stacks blocks, draws the curve of a mouth, and speaks softly to imaginary animals.
Amelia and Hazel aren’t the same person! As I once thought they’d be, before she was born I could only conceive of one type of child.
Amelia is concrete, Hazel is abstract, Amelia’s afraid of bugs, Hazel sleeps with them, and where Amelia needs control, well, Hazel likes that too.
That, and there, is the beauty of it all. They balance one another in much the same way that…hmmm…Robin and I do. A little Andy and Robin keeping one another safe, entertained, disgruntled, and sane as they navigate the world side-by-side. Pushing against and embracing their differing views of the world.
It’s not the results of their differing behavior and indiscretions that we should be concerned with, it’s focusing on which of us can hone the skills that we share, to elevate them over our shoulders and through the ceilings of social constructs.
So what? She drew on the wall. I’m glad that face was smiling, and I’m guessing her sister, who’s not the risk taker, happily watched her do something she was too chicken to do herself. It’s still there, a reminder to not take life too seriously, something her mom’s been trying to teach me for years.
Andrew Meyer is a Special Education teacher from Madison, Wisconsin, whose wife’s job relocation changed their family roles and physical location. He's now a stay-at-home dad in Madison, Alabama, to two awesomely creative, sometimes challenging, and mostly sweet five and two-year-old girls who fill his days, nights, and in-between spaces. When with or without them, he writes, works-out, wonders, wishes he wouldn’t worry, wrestles with his wife’s commitment to her job, and listens to music. You can also find him at www.papasense.wordpress.com, on Twitter @papasense, and Facebook.