Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Mister Gaa Gaa

Comparison, as I may have said before, is an inevitable part of parenthood. We wonder why child A doesn't do what child B does. We ask ourselves whether child C is particularly outgoing or child D is just especially shy. We notice that child E is already engaging in complex arithmetic (5+3=9 and suchlike) but comfort ourselves with the thought that child F can already dress themselves without help. And if we have more than one child of our own we automatically begin to draw parallels between them.

Yet how seldom do we make positive comparisons! Instead it is as though we have a worry mechanism inserted into our brain which automatically identifies the negative aspects of any comparison and condemns us to dejection. We note in our diaries that at 18 months child A was already eating two veg and potatoes for lunch while child B still exists solely on cheesy crisps and fruit pots. And should the positions be reversed and child A be the one who was lagging behind we reproach ourselves for our own failings as a parent and worry that child A will be permanently scarred as a result.

Why can't we look at the positives? Alas, for someone such as myself who is a pessimist most of the time and an optimist only when it is absolutely unavoidable, looking on the bright side is not always easy. Nor do we find it easy to accept the simple fact that every child is different. In our household, for example, we worry because Graham was (and is) a book lover content to sit and listen to stories for hours upon end whereas Isaac might manage ten minutes before he throws the book aside and runs off to play. What we tend to forget is that Isaac has consequently spent a lot more time playing with Duplo so his hand-eye coordination is that much better than Graham's was at a similar age. Two brothers - in so many ways the same - in so many ways so different. But different in a postive way.

And often taking this upbeat view of difference can help us in other ways. I have been considering this recently with regard to our childrens' speech. Graham, I suspect largely through being read books non-stop as a toddler, has always been quite good at talking. Before he was two years old he was already saying words such as 'Tactor' (tractor), 'Fwy' (fly) and 'Meel' (mill) with quite a bit of confidence. At a similar age Isaac's version of 'Tactor' is 'Gaa gaa'. I could be worried - and sometimes I am - about why Graham's speech was so much clearer than Isaac's. I worry that Isaac hasn't spent enough time looking at books. I worry that I haven't read to him enough, talked to him enough or taken time to point things out to him. But then I remember that Isaac is different. Unlike many children he is not a toddler dictaphone, able and willing to hear a word and repeat it on demand. We know a little girl about Isaac's age who if told to say 'Thank you' will immediately try her best to do so. Isaac's response to being told to say 'Thank you' would either be to ignore you completely or to look at you with a blank "Why would I do that?" expression.

And yet, because he is the second child, I am more ready to accept that. With the first child, however much you may try to be patient, there is always an anxious longing for them to take 'the next step' - whatever that might be. It could be the first smile, the first word, the first step or the first time they take solid food. Perhaps a second child offers an opportunity to be more relaxed about these things and enjoy the 'here and now' a bit more, realising that the 'here and now' doesn't last for very long. After all, there is an engaging innocence about a small child sitting in a high chair pointing to the cupboard and saying, 'Ooh, ooh!' which is entirely lacking in a slightly older child doing exactly the same thing but shouting demandingly, 'I want cake, Daddy!'

So, for now, I am doing my best to curb my natural impatience and relax into the present. Isaac's toddler days will soon be behind him. Let's make the most of the mumbles before he actually learns to talk and the baby disappears for ever.
"Er..yeah. Well said."     

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