One of the biggest challenges about having two kids (aside from, you know, taking care of two small people as opposed to one) is not comparing them.
As you live through it the second time around, you are inevitably pulled back to the first time. Then you (and by you, I mean me) start trying to analyze the differences. What do they mean? What do they say about this child’s temperament compared to the other’s? What changes do I need to make as a parent?
It started even in utero. Hmm. I’m not really sick this time around. I wonder if that means we’re having a girl. Because obviously, any differences must be due to the baby’s sex, right? Yeah, not so much.
Yes, there have been similarities. But overall, they are two distinctly different people.
I was reminded of this yet again last weekend when we took them both to get their hair cut.
It was Theo’s first one, which means it should get its own blog post and celebration just like Sebastian’s did. Alas, he is the second child and must therefore have his story told along with his brother’s.
Especially because really? It wasn’t much of a story. He sat down in the chair and looked confused but not upset. His big blue eyes looked around as his lovely red hair got trimmed into a more manageable state. He wouldn’t talk to the stylist at all, but he did smile shyly a couple of times.
When she brought out the trimmer, I began to tell her that she should skip it or else the world would end or something, but I bit my tongue and thought Theo might prove once again to be his own person. Sure enough, he sat still while she trimmed around his tiny ears and the back of his neck.
We, of course, turned into those parents, who will use any occasion and even another child in order to influence our kid’s behavior. “Look!” we practically shouted to Sebastian. “See how Theo doesn’t mind the trimmer? It’s not very loud and look how fast his hair cut is going!” Since Sebastian is obsessed with copying Theo these days, we thought this might be the game-changer. He reluctantly came over and saw that yes, his brother was unscathed by the buzzing object.
Did it convince him?
Not in the least.
When his turn came, he pulled at the cape and looked around like a caged animal. He whined at the water being spritzed on his head. He wiggled and refused to hold still when she brought out the scissors. He had to be bribed with a game on my phone, and all was well for approximately 2 and a half minutes. When she brought out the trimmer, he began to cry. “NO, THANK YOU!” he shouted through tears.
He wouldn’t hold still, and he is far more likely to be cut by scissors than by a trimmer, so I picked him up, put him on my lap, and held his head while she trimmed around his ears. He sobbed like we were cutting the ear off instead of his hair.
I counted to ten for each side, probably forcing the stylist to be finished before she would’ve been, but it was enough.
And once again, I tried to figure out which battles are worth fighting, just as I do at the doctor, the dentist, at school, and nearly everywhere else.
We cannot always give in because they need their shots and their teeth cleaned. But where is the line? In the past, I’ve been able to skip the trimmers and have them use scissors. Last time, when that was impossible, we skipped both and he had hair growing down over his ears. But something in me snapped this time, and I wanted him to just have as nice a haircut as his brother’s for heaven’s sake and so I sat there holding him through it for 20 seconds.
And afterward, as moms are prone to do, I second-guessed my decision, my motives, my parenting.
Because we cannot force our children to be the ones we imagined we’d have, the ones we wish we had in those moments. We cannot make them more like each other. They are either bothered by the trimmer, or they are not.
(And let me tell you that parenting the ones who are not? Is SO much easier. And leads to better haircuts.)
All we can do as parents is to respond to who they are. What I can’t always figure out is how to do this without comparing them, without labeling them (the sensitive one, the outgoing one, etc.), without praising the one who just happens to be easier for me at the moment. I’m working on it.
Meanwhile? It’ll be whoever draws the short stick that has to take Sebastian next time. Yikes.
The end of the story – which is, after all, supposed to be about little boys and haircuts and not about my parenting woes – is that they both ended up with cute haircuts and delicious lollipops.