They say every child is different, and how right they are.
First time around, I was blessed with what, on reflection, I appreciate was something of a miracle baby. At six weeks old, Bee was sleeping 12 hours through the night. Throughout her early years she could be left with anybody, was happy to go anywhere in the car, would eat most things, and was generally a pretty chilled out child. It was all down to me of course. Me and my ‘relaxed parenting style’.
Oh, how we laugh.
Friends and family will know what I mean when I say Belle was a teensy bit higher maintenance than this. Picture me, lying next to an 18 month old on a mattress on the floor, being woken hourly through the night, unable to leave a room without a toddler attached to me in some way, and you’ll have an idea of what I’m getting at.
Even now, at nine years old, there is a streak to Belle that makes her hard to predict, somehow more difficult to really know than Bee. Don’t get me wrong, we have a normal, close relationship, but still, there are times when I just have no clue as to what’s going on inside her head.
I’d not really thought about it properly until yesterday morning, when we were sat in the car, dividing up the breakfast of toasted crumpets (yes we took them to the car on a plate), cartons of drink and squeezy yogurts, that we’d be running too late to eat in the house.
“Here you go Bee,” I said, handing her the cherry flavour Frube I’d chosen for her. “Belle, would you like strawberry or apricot?”
“Um… ” Belle gave it some serious thought while I started the car and tried not to act impatient. “Strawberry please!”
“Smoothie or orange juice?” Again, the same agonisingly long thought process.
I passed a carton of smoothie – my nod towards the five a day – into the back of the car, and then handed Bee the smoothie I’d brought for her.
Bee looked at me suspiciously. “How do you know me so much better than Belle?” she asked. I thought for a moment, back over the last few minutes. It was true. Grabbing things from the fridge, I just knew that Bee would want a smoothie, and that her favourite flavour is cherry. Belle though – who knew? I had bought one of everything, with no idea of which she would choose or what the reaction might be should I get it wrong.
“Well, you know,” I mumbled, beginning to worry if this made me a Bad Parent, “Belle’s always been a bit of a wildcard hasn’t she?”
Bee lolled* “I guess,” she said, “but I might not have thought to even pick these for myself, even though they’re what I want – it’s like you know me better than I know myself.”
“Well,” I answered, momentarily smug, “that what mothers are for isn’t it?”
“So why didn’t you know what Belle wanted?”
“Like I said,” I muttered, pulling out onto the main road and switching on the radio, keen to change the subject, “wildcard.”
I’ve been thinking about it a lot since, and wondering what difference, if any, this all makes to my relationships with them as individuals. Does the fact than I can predict Bee’s behaviour better than Belle’s even mean anything?
How well do you know your children? Is there a difference between how easily you are able to read them, and does this effect the way you parent? Let me know…
*This is something teenagers apparently do when they CBA** to actually physically laugh
**Can’t be arsed