One of my favorite things about having two boys is watching how they grow into completely different people despite the fact that they are physically very similar. I think it’s the researcher in me that finds comfort in the beautifully controlled study. Two boys, born to the same parents, who look very similar at birth are actually nothing alike. Take that nurture!
My babies came into the world each with their own unique agenda and personality. My first son had the perfect birth. I went into labor naturally and delivered his plump 9 pound body naturally with a midwife. My labor was quick (although not so much painless!) and I was released from the hospital 6 hours postpartum (that’s the UK for you). However, twelve hours after arriving home my little dream baby turned into a nightmare. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep, he didn’t want to be cuddled, but he certainly wouldn’t let you put him down. All he wanted to do was cry. Or scream. Or cry and scream simultaneously, which I’m still not sure how he managed. This went on for MONTHS. It was not what I’d imagined when I brought my little bundle of joy home from the hospital.
My second son was a different story entirely. At 37 weeks I was diagnosed with mild preeclampsia and immediately induced. Once at the hospital, I was hooked up to three IV bags (saline, pitosin, and antibiotics for strep b), fetal heart monitors, and a heart rate monitor for me. Although they said I was free to move around during labor, the word “free” was a bit of an overstatement. I had about two feet of slack in my many cords and tubes on either side of the bed where I could stand, crouch, squat, and bounce on my birthing ball. It was certainly not my ideal scenario and it was anything but natural. But my beautiful little boy finally arrived, healthy and perfect. He was smaller than his brother at only 7 pounds 13 ounces, but he was a pleaser right from the start. The first thing he did when I held him was reach up to my face and grab my nose. He was saying hello. He never cried. He just gently suggested that perhaps he would like some food or a nap. But only if it wasn’t too much trouble. It was very British of him, even though he was the one born in the US.
As they grew, both boys’ personalities became clearer. My first son was head strong, passionate, extremely intelligent, but very introverted. He has always hated loud noises, busy rooms, strangers, and changes in his routine. When he was a few months old, I used to take him to baby music classes at out local children’s center and he used to cry when I would sing. This went on until he was a toddler. If I ever sang he would yell at me to stop. He still tells me to stop singing sometimes in the car if I’m getting a little too into singing along. My youngest son, on the other hand has loved music since the day he was born. When he would get fussy, we used to turn on the radio or sing loudly to him and he would be asleep in minutes. When he was very ill recently with bronchitis and had to be on a nebulizer, he would stop fighting and relax if I sang to him. The moment I stopped, he would cry again.
My oldest son loves order and structure. Every night before he goes to bed he recites the planets in order starting at the sun and moving out. He sometimes does this 50 times before finally falling asleep. He has always been careful and thoughtful. He didn’t crawl or walk until he was able to do it without fail. So he rarely fell. He never got hurt. The younger one is a child of chaos. I can tell already. His greatest joy in life is chasing his brother through the kitchen in his walker, opening cabinets, pulling things off shelves, and shrieking like a banshee. He jumps without looking, trusting completely that someone will be there to catch him. He is a risk taker, driven by impulse rather than intellect, and if he’s not careful he is going to have a gambling addiction when he gets older!
Both boys are wonderful in their own unique ways. The older boy is highly sensitive, and is capable of such sweetness that it brings tears to your eyes. He seems to feel and experience everything to the highest degree, both highs and lows, and he copes with his feelings by balancing them out with extreme logic. He’s only three and he already wins debates with some adults. He has to work hard every day to control the part of his personality that caused him to cry continuously for the first 4 months of his life, but he does it with a grace and determination that are far beyond his years. He is also very big and very coordinated, so I see a youth filled with sports in his future.
The baby, on the other hand, is blissfully unaffected by the barrage of stimuli flying past him at one hundred miles an hour most days. The dogs bark, his brother crashes into him, the tv is on, the music is loud. He revels in the noise. He craves attention and will happily entertain anyone who will look in his direction, but will happily play by himself as long as he has a toy to play with. He’s a snuggler and a Mommy’s Boy. He’s far happier to adapt to a changing routine or new activity. As long as it looks like fun he’s happy to join in. Especially if it involves his brother’s toys!
It amazes me every day to see my first son’s face in a completely different child. How can they be so similar and yet so completely different? Before I had my youngest son I thought that parenting for the second time would be easier. I’d already know what to expect. But, of course, that turned out not to be true. Each child comes with their own unique set of needs, desires, and eccentricities. Just when you think you have a handle on them, they change completely. While this can sometimes leave me feeling disoriented, it is also one of my favorite things about being a mom. No two days are ever the same, just like no two boys are ever the same. I get to experience all the wonder and amazement I felt watching my first son grow into the person he is today all over again with the second. And it will be completely different, but every bit as life-changing.
And now they are growing together. The younger boy’s life will always be different from his brother’s because there are two of them. They will have permanent effects on each other’s lives and personalities, and it is fascinating to watch as they learn to navigate the world together. That is something they will always have in common. They will always be brothers.