As the mother of a sixteen-year-old daughter and an eleven-month-old son, I inhabit a world of two extremes. I have one learning to talk, the other talking back.
Both require daily doses of love, but what works for one, definitely doesn’t work for the other. I kiss, hug and cuddle Christian multiple times a day. A quick hug or two is all Ashley wants, or a startled “Mom, what are you doing?” escapes her mouth.
Both have many of the same needs, but want them delivered differently. Ashley wants her food whole. Christian wants his cut into pea-sized pieces. At bedtime, one wants to be rocked and cuddled. The other hopes to go to bed whenever she wants with an “I love you; sleep tight,” casually thrown her way.
What one child desires, the other abhors. I’ve been singing a song, “He’s a little boy, Momma, he’s a little boy.” It isn’t grand, but it quiets Christian down and produces a smile, especially after the sixth time, and then a giggle. It wasn’t long before Ashley asked me why I had to sing that boring song so often, did I want him calling me Momma, didn’t I know any other songs, and did I think he didn’t know he was a little boy when I had told him nine zillion times?
Different responses are given for the same action. Christian breaks into a smile and reaches out for an extended hug when I enter his bedroom in the morning. Ashley grunts, frowns, and asks what I am doing.
Both want my time according to their attention span. Christian likes a short book or wants to wrestle. Ashley likes to watch a movie together, go out for a snack, then come home and discuss the finer points of the movie and which character I thought was cutest.
When their expectations are not met, both throw tantrums. The smallest one arches his body backwards, tightens every muscle to the consistency of concrete, then opens his mouth to allow an angry scream escape his now blue lips. The other stomps upstairs, slams her bedroom door and locks it, practicing vows of silence with varying degrees of success.
I am challenged by all these extremes. One’s in a car seat, the other in the driver’s seat. One prefers no clothes, the other wants new clothes. One loves a sing-song voice and peek-a-boo, the other prefers seriousness and no surprises. One loves bouncing on a horsy knee, the other takes horseback riding lessons. One plays with a pea pod. The other is attached to an iPod.
I feel like I am trying to play football and ice skate at the same time. One is on the right, the other on the left. One is black, the other white. And me, I’m naturally bluish-green.
It’s a juggling routine to interact with my two opposite spectrum children age according to their ages, personalities, and wishes and not interchange the two.
I’m talking to Christian in a sing-song voice and in walks Ashley. “Have you fed the dog?” I accidentally baby talk. Ashley rolls her eyes, leans into one hip, places her palm on her now jutting hip. “There’s only one baby here.” If only my memory was so good.
While life proves interesting with my multi-aged children, I have no desire to change it. Both infuse my life with innumerable joy and pride. I watch Christian in the tub, concentration on his round face, placing a washcloth in and out of a cup and sadly realize my days of extreme mothering are limited. Only yesterday I was totting Ashley on my left hip and vacuuming at the same time. Christian will soon be a teenager and Ashley will have her own family.
Today we are heading for the zoo. Now if I can just remember which one loves their picture taken.
By Theresa E. Nelson