I have two children, as many of you will no doubt know if you drop by here regularly. I love them both equally, of course, and am so very proud of them. They get along really well together, and have many things in common. Their sense of fun, exploration and adventure, which they both have in spades. They are both by nature very happy children, with a ready smile and giggle often lurking. They both have the same big beautiful eyes and both are tall for their ages. They’re both creative and arty, the Husband’s genes at work, they both like their books, my input. They love running free outside, visiting playgrounds, helping with the gardening, making up their own little worlds together. You’d expect them to have things in common, as they’re both from the Husband and I. They’ve had the same mix of genes thrown into the pot and both have had a similar upbringing, with me at home with them and a happy stable home-life, albeit Little Man’s always had a sibling in his life, of course. So what about the other things, the things that set them apart?
At a very basic level, they have very different tastes in food. Little Man wants gravy with everything and will try any sauces and condiments. Boo shuns them all! Boo will eat piles of fruit, Little Man will go for a select few, mood-dependent. Oh, but then they both love pizza and chocolate. Standard, right?! Oh, and Boo likes Leonardo, whilst Little Man prefers Michelangelo, and no, I don’t mean the artists!
Nothing that my daughter does is a passive affair. If she’s watching TV, she’s still jumping about, dancing, wriggling or just walking. She cannot be still. When she’s at home, I know it. There’s high volumes of noise, she shrieks, shouts, laughs and sings, all loudly! Little Man is quiet. It’s harder to spot if he’s up to mischief, as with Boo as a toddler, I always knew to worry when things went quiet! With Little Man, he is frequently quiet, just happily absorbed in what he’s doing.
If we encounter a friend of mine, or someone pops to the house, Boo will rush over and want to chat to them and find out who they are. Little Man runs in the opposite direction, usually into my arms, and snuggles in there until he feels more comfortable with them.
Olaf arrived at playgroup the other day. Unexpectedly, but totally to Little Man’s delight…
He ran to him, hugged him and then happily held his hand posing for a photo. I’ve several other shots like this of my son, with various other characters. He adores them. And Boo? She runs the other way, even now at 5. I know that at Little Man’s age, she’d have been cowering behind me at the snowman’s arrival. Yet, she’d have been the child that would have run off to play on arrival, barely glancing over at me up until this point, unlike her brother, who held onto my hand as we settled in and kept popping back to see me every few minutes or so between playing. So different.
I love spotting their similarities and differences. I wouldn’t want them to both be the same, as how dull would that be, and they are individuals, on their own paths. But it does often make me wonder whether I’m doing something with them that is making them different, or if it’s simply the way that they are. How much does being an only child as a toddler change things, compared to always having a big sister around you growing up? How much does having a mum’s undivided attention compare to having a more relaxed mum, going with the flow more?
I don’t want my son to be the same as his sister. I love their different temperaments and attitudes. There’s just a bit of her, that I’d like him to be able to embrace and harness. This is because I do want him to settle happily into nursery when the time comes in a few months, and I then want him to enjoy his school life and learning, as his sister has and does. So that’s the bit that I ponder. Did I do something with Boo in her early years that made her the happy, sociable, confident soul that she is? The kind of child who will give anything a go and readily befriend any and all around her. It’s helped her, as she’s doing well, no crippling doubts holding her back. Is it down to something I’ve done? I’d like to say yes, I did such and such with her, but I really don’t know. Ah well, I guess he’ll be starting soon enough so we will see how it all goes. I’ll no doubt let you know.
People say you shouldn’t compare your children, I know. I think there’s a negative undertone to the word, implying you’re looking for one to be better than the other in some way. That’s not it at all. They’re both equals in my heart and mind, but that doesn’t stop me seeing their differences and thinking about them. It doesn’t stop me spotting the things that they both love to do.
My two, peas in a pod in some ways, and so, so close to one another, and then chalk and cheese in other situations. I love them both to bits and I’m enjoying seeing their personalities develop before me.
Nature or nurture? Do you ever wonder about this with your children?