These kids of mine…sigh… so alike, yet so different. Just when I think I know what I’m doing with Hannah, because after all, this is my second time around and I’m supposed to be a pro by now, she throws a curveball that leaves me Googling, guessing and grappling my way through this minefield called parenting. And just when I think I have Liam and his complexities and idiosyncrasies down pat, he grows and the rules of engagement change all over again. But what really surprises me, is how different these two little bods are, and of course they should be, that’s what makes us all unique and special, but I didn’t think I needed a handbook for raising girl babies, as compared to raising boy babies… aren’t they supposed to be the same, in everything but anatomy, until they get to that age when they, themselves, realize they are different? Anyway, here a just a few ways that Liam and Hannah are same-same, but different. I don’t know if it’s a girl/boy thing, or if it’s just their personalities…
Although they are both rough-and-tumble and very adventurous and not afraid to try new things, Hannah is definitely more reserved than Liam is. Liam is the kind of child who will fling himself into the sandpit gung-ho, without a care in the world for who or what he will land on, but Hannah will first assess the situation – who’s in the sandpit, do the toys look any fun in the sandpit, and is it worth her while. Once she has made this assessment, she will abandon all caution and have just as much fun kicking up sand as her brother OR she will politely walk away and find something or someone else to play with. Liam will jump into the bath without first testing the water – perhaps he trusts us enough to know we would never burn him on purpose! Whereas Hannah will first let her little toes in, again assess and then enjoy. I think this is a girl/boy thing. Girls are just careful planners like that!
When it comes to eating, Liam prefers me to mix everything together on his plate – except for a chicken drumstick which he likes to hold in his hand and munch on. Hannah likes her food to be separated on her plate. She seems to like order and prefers to pick at her food with her little fingers, than shovel it down her throat like her brother does. Liam likes to drink while he eats, whereas Hannah will generally finish everything on her plate, and THEN have a drink. In terms of their food choices, Liam will generally eat anything you put in front of him, and the few food items he doesn’t like can be camouflaged with tomato sauce and he’ll nom-nom it. Hannah tends to be a picky eater. And it’s not that she doesn’t like certain things, she just has days for certain things… like today she will LOVE lasagne, and tomorrow she will run away from it like I’ve laced it with Ratex. Hannah is also a slow eater and I have to follow her all over the house in order to finish up a meal, whereas Liam is more like a starved vulture who eats with gusto and asks for seconds.
The one way in which they have been different from birth, is their sleeping habits. Liam didn’t like to sleep, ever. Hannah loves her sleep, she looks forward to her naps and to bedtime. I remember how scared we would be around baby Liam, lest we woke him up. I would never move him in his sleep, whereas Hannah could sleep through a Highveld storm without stirring. Hannah likes to be held and cuddled before bedtime, she positions MY body alongside her and places MY arm where she needs it to be so that she can fall asleep securely and comfortably. Liam also likes cuddles, but is happy for you to be there and not smother him. I like to smother so this offends me slightly. But again, I think this is a boy/girl thing. Boys seem to enjoy their independence and they seem to “grow up” much faster than little girls do. Girls are tender and loving, they love to be loved from close range, as compared to boys who like to be loved from a distance!
Talking about growing up. Even as little as they are, I notice a difference in their maturity levels, and I don’t mean their IQ maturity or even their physical maturity in terms of reaching milestones. I mean their emotional maturity. I am also not referring to emotions in terms of mood swings and tantrums and the “normal” things that every kid will endure at some stage or the other. I’m talking about how Hannah deals with everyday things, as compared to Liam. How Hannah relates to us, as compared to how Liam does. Hannah is more emotional and in touch with her feelings (just like a grown woman), than Liam who (like a grown man!) battles to express his emotions and thinks everything is either a big joke or a reason to slam doors and sulk off into a corner. Let me articulate myself correctly so that you understand what I mean.. Hannah is tender and loving, if you hurt yourself, she coos and clucks over you and if you are sad she will be sad too. If she is upset or hurt, it really breaks her heart, and she will sob this very gut wrenching, very pitiful cry. My heart hurts, when Hannah experiences this emotion because I know her HEART is sore. If she is naughty and we discipline her, she listens and understands and although she gets upset and cries, she sort of accepts her punishment. Liam, on the other hand, smart talkative Liam who has no problem expressing himself generally, goes into freak-out-scream-jump-up-and-down mode when things don’t go his way. When he is frustrated or annoyed, it’s as if his emotions go into overdrive and he can’t express himself and would rather slam a door and yell (sounds like a real man hey?!) than try to articulate what the problem is. Although he is tender and loving too, I can already see that his “tender and loving” is turning into back slapping, high fiving and giving me his cheek, rather than the full blown slobber that I love. Although Liam is very kind and caring when someone gets hurt, he gets over it very quickly and expects you to as well, with Liam there’s no need to be sad for too long, there’s things to do and places to go! And if HE gets hurt, even a small booboo is like the end of his world and EVERYONE must pay him some attention (boy-man!), before he bounces off like nothing happened. When it comes to discipline, Liam either thinks it’s a big joke (highly annoying for me) or he sulks because he thinks he was punished undeservedly. These are male/female traits which are so evident even from such a young age!
In my humble opinion, raising girls will be tougher in the long run. They pour their emotions into everything they do, even simple tasks are done with HEART. Which isn’t a bad thing at all. Being a girl myself, I know how little things affect me, I know how I want to be perfect at everything I do, I know how a good cry makes me feel better and I know that I need affirmation and confirmation to make me feel good about myself. Perhaps a generalisation, but I think most females can identify. In this sense, I know that Hannah will be hard work for me, there will be no water off a duck’s back here! But I know that Hannah will always have time for me, Hannah will consider my feelings as much as I consider hers, and in this way I think raising girls is easier. On the other side of the spectrum, raising boys is easier because they seem to have two emotions only: happy and sad. Ha! Boys don’t take everything so seriously, they live in a very black and white world – it’s either fun or its not, it’s either good or it’s bad. There’s no grey areas with boys. However, I do think that boys, with all their macho-ness, will bottle a lot up, and will be lead to believe (because society says so) that talking things over and crying and getting emotional is not cool. So I know that raising Liam will also be tough in that I will need to mould him into a man who is in touch with his emotions – not easy for any mother!
I think each child – boy or girl – comes with their own set of rules. I think each day of parenting is like trying to find your way through a complicated maze filled with booby traps and special surprises. I think that we as parents have to lead by example because this is the easiest way to teach, but more than that, I think we need to accept our kids for who they are, we have to adjust our way of thinking and doing things to accommodate their desire to be who they are. I need to be a different parent to Hannah, than I am to Liam ,because they need me in different ways. And, of course, I have to love them the same and discipline should be metered out fairly to both of them, I can’t expect them to respond the same way because they are not the same person. You see, same-same but different.