Saturday, November 28, 2009

the organizational man

I know I'm not supposed to compare my children (as if) and if I do, I certainly shouldn't go on about it (but people with blogs always go on about things), and I definitely shouldn't be applying over-simplied cliches to them (me bad sociology major) but I find the similarities and differences between Smootch and Birdie continuously fascinating. Why are they similar in some ways? It it genetic or they way they are being raised, or it because they are growing together and, like anyone who spends a lot of time with someone else, they tend to develop similar interests and characteristics? What about their differences? And how much is it got to do with them wanting to individualize themselves or stages in their lives or social programming or vaginas vs. penises?

(Okay, maybe me good sociology major... there's a reason why I was able to stand four years of the stuff.)

Even more so, I find children to be interesting to watch all in themselves. People watching in general is absorbing, and people watching on the level of observation from conception and onwards is the greatest journey. What a blessing it is to have a front row seat.

Both kids have, of course, secret inner lives that I can only glimpse from time to time. I try not to intrude too much there. They are vulnerable, particularly to me, Mama: giver of food and hugs, and I have this feeling like I'd be like a rhino in a restaurant, banging into the furniture and knocking over all their careful constructs. I am content to sit outside and guess what's inside.

With two kids there is an added bonus of different manifestations of their stages of development. Smootch, as brilliant as she is, still only made, say, half the list of what your baby/toddler/preschooler may be doing put out by the What to Expect type popular literature. For instance, Smootch never did wild tantrums as a toddler, or were so rare as to not even register. She always, even as an infant, would sit down and listen to as many stories as you had the breath to read. She did 24 piece puzzles at 18 months. She can't throw a ball to save her life. She follows instructions and works on pleasing people (for the mixed blessing that is). I had no idea that kids could be different. I thought it was my wise parenting that was producing such a smart and focused kid.


Birdie is the other part of the list. He is so the tantrum drama. He'd rather throw a book than read it. He does not listen. If he doesn't physically experience something (read: grab, shake, poke, taste and eventually smack his sister with), he will not be able to learn about it. There is no still, only action. Even his little feet are always roving around, kicking, and scratching with his impossible to cut toe nails. He frequently tosses puzzle pieces a good 6 feet.

None of this is terribly surprising, given our ideas about girls vs. boys or birth order.

But these kids are full of curve balls. As soon as we think we have them pegged, "THIS is what this kid is about," they show us that they are, after all their own persons. Theory says, Smootch is the fussy, tidy first born girl. Not so, on any level. Smootch is an incredible slob. She thinks it's funny to see how long she can go with ketchup on her face before someone holds her down and washes it off. She keeps nothing organized. She is a girl who lives in her ideas and inspirations and can not be bothered with the mundane details of actually knowing where stuff is. (hmmmmm... sounds familiar.......)

It probably works out well that she is a genius of improv and able to create almost any prop needed with a bit of glue, paper, and felt pens. She thinks, "I can't find my magic wand. Guess I'll just make another one!" And is happy doing just that.

Birdie Boy, Mr. baby jock, is, in huge contrast, rather neat with his things. He's loves to clean up. He tidies with glee. He lines up, organizes, sorts according to colour and shape. (Smootch never did that. The shape sorting toy was her arch nemesis as a toddler.) Birdie can actually be a bit anal about some things, like having his hands cleaned after dinner.

And he holds a pencil properly, something that Smootch, in all her brainy and artsy gloriousness, did not learn to do until she was three.

I'd like to say that I will stop comparing the kids, but I know I won't. It just provides too much intellectual fodder, not to mention all sorts of entertainment. Everything I do with each one of them is new. I never really know how they're going to react, despite all my observation and note taking. I'm excited to see how their interests and passions will unfold as they grow, and, hopefully, be able to lay all sorts of helpful ideas and projects down in their paths so they can experience all that they want to. In the end, it really doesn't matter what I may think of them or if my guesses about who they are are correct. It only matters what they think of themselves and their place in the world.

Damn, I really hope I'm not screwing this up.


Rianna and Eli s Mommy said...

Hi! I've been following your blogs for a while, not really sure if I've ever commented much... but I had to after reading this! My 2 are SO very much like yours that sometimes I think I'm reading something I would (or maybe I should say 'should') have written!

My daughter is the same as yours, wildly imaginative who is so socially smart that you'd think she was twice her age... can't catch a ball to save her life, and is the messiest little girl ever! We usually have to clear a path to her bed :)

My son is the same as Birdie boy too! Organizes and counts everything, is a tantrum disaster and very picky about being cleaned up :)

I find myself comparing the two of them as well... not because one is better than the other, but because their differences are so fascinating!

Anyway, I really really enjoy your blogs, and your tutorials on your other blog! I really need to make more of an effort to comment though, sorta feel stalker-ish if I don't :)


Anonymous said...

I too have been reading your blogs for a while and had to comment on this. My first, Pip, has Asperger's so the whole thing has been one curve all after another. My second, Hopper, doesn't have the same issues as her brother, but she is a fascinating little conundrum - loves pretty sparkly things, loves dirt, loves to jump off of things (or from one thing to another), but is SO sensitive. The thing I've enjoyed SO much about watching them grow as siblings is watching Hopper's imagination and watching HER teach Pip how to roll with it, how to be imaginative, how to pretend, be flexible. Today they were vacillating between having a grand time and tearing each others eyes out and I remember distinctly being so fascinated at how they are individually and how they react to one another and how that can all change in any given moment. Kids are SO interesting!

Thanks for posting. I don't really see it as comparing, more as observing intricacies and differences, watching how it all plays out.

Vegbee said...

Thanks guys for sharing!

Jen, I'm sort of stalkerish on quite a few blogs. I'm actually a terrible commenter, so no worries here.

danipoppins, I agree that's its more observing and appreciating the complexity of their beings, all the better for there being two of them. The social dynamics... too much fun.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it fascinating? We have a four year old and an 8 month old, they are so similar and so different. The experiences of their births couldn't be more different, the feeling of being a parent for a second time, the way you react to each stage 'knowing' that things won't last forever good or bad. I am endlessly fascinated by my guys and what they are thinking. I'm loving the 4 year stage of really hearing his thoughts, mad as they are. But also a lovely snuggly baby hits the mark too!
Love your blogs by the way, you are very talented!