So you’ve had a baby – you’ve got through a mountain of nappies; prepared and pureed more dinners than were ever needed; stumbled through teething and scrapped through the tantrums – now you have something resembling a small, (most of the time) reasonable person living in your house so what do you do? Do you kick back and enjoy watching your son or daughter take on the world? Do you go on that much deserved family holiday or treat yourself to a new (albeit sensible) car? No, you decide to go through it all again and have another little darling! Well, you’ve done it once before, it can’t be as hard the second time round can it? You’ve made all the mistakes before surely? Sadly not.
Forget everything you thought you’d learnt about having a baby – the one thing no one ever fully explains is ALL CHILDREN ARE DIFFERENT! I don’t mean some have dark hair and some are fair – I mean every single little thing about them is different. Having the same parents who follow the same self-imposed rules and routines makes no difference – when you have child number 2 (or 3 or 4) you are starting again from scratch with a blank slate and you will soon realise you have as little clue what to do this time as last!
Here are a few examples from my own experiences:
- My daughter (5) who came along first had her first full night’s sleep at six weeks; my son (2) waited until he was two years old before letting us sleep more than a few hours at a time! They had the same bedtime routine and even the same cot but the boy just wouldn’t sleep.
- My daughter was (and still is) glued to my side in most social situations; my son constantly wanders off and would strike up a conversation with anyone at anytime. Hence I have never had that heart stopping moment of ‘losing’ my daughter whereas last week I spent a frantic few minutes (felt like hours) looking for my son in the park while he played hide and seek in a nearby bush!
- My daughter, at five, has just jumped into the swimming pool on her own for the first time. My son divebombed me at six months
- My son was the first in our family to think of erecting a tower of cushions to try to climb onto the mantelpiece
- My son came out of the womb wanting to play fight, my daughter has never wrestled me to the ground!
- I can count on one hand the times my daughter has been on the naughty step, my son is slowly taking up residency!
And it’s not just the difference between boys and girls, I have many friends with children of the same sex, who can not fathom why their children have such different temperaments and ideas (it’s almost like they have their own minds???!) One eats everything in sight, the other picks at food despite both being led through the same lengthy weaning process; some are potty trained in two weeks, the next takes six months…As adults we appreciate that everyone is different but someone forget to make it clear that this applies to babies and young children too! Of course you want your children to be individual and you want to embrace their differences. I just wish someone had warned me how different they would be from day one so I could have thrown the old rule book out of the window and not started the journey with my son with any preconceptions about how it was going to be! I now realise In the nature v nurture debate, nature has an unfair advantage – it gets to work before we even get to meet our new arrivals and it’s up to us to adapt/rewrite the rules to suit!