Kids, eh? We shouldn’t be surprised that they are as different from one another as they are alike – and yet so often we are.
I’ve been laid up in bed with flu this week, which has given me time to think about what makes each of our three children – Isaac (aged eight), Toby (six) and Kara (nearly four) – unique. For while there is an unmistakable family resemblance between them, they are all individuals in their own right.
Isaac: The engineer
Isaac is our resident engineer geek. If he were a Mr Men character, he would be a combination of Mr Clever and Mr Chatterbox.
Isaac is the child we never worry about at parents’ evening because he always receives a glowing report from his teacher. He’s the one who actively enjoys school and showing off his knowledge.
He has his mother’s near-photographic memory and his father’s love of technology. He learned how to unlock and operate my iPhone the same week he learned to walk. He wants to have his own YouTube channel. He will probably go to jail for hacking the Ministry of Defence one day.
Actually, no he won’t. Isaac is a stickler for rules and doing things right. He likes to have clear instructions to follow and he is logical and process-driven in everything he does.
And, boy, does he like to talk. Isaac has always been a social beast at heart. He used to wake up at 4am and come into our bedroom and talk at us non-stop – it’s just how he thinks. Even now, he never stops. He’s as extroverted as I am introverted – which is to say a lot.
Of course, he talks in his sleep too.
Toby: The creative
Toby is our ideas man. If he were a Mr Men character, he would be a combination of Mr Daydream and Mr Lazy.
In many ways, the easiest way to define Toby is by the ways he is different to Isaac. He is the yin to his elder sibling’s yang.
The difference between the two is most obvious when they are playing Minecraft or Lego. Isaac is all about structure and planning but Toby is a free-form thinker who will build whatever pops into his head without either a plan or instructions.
Or when they are role-playing together, Isaac will draw on things he has seen or experienced, adding a level of authenticity that is drawn from his memory. Toby will add the random creative flourishes that spring from his imagination.
As a combination, they work brilliantly together. Or they fight. Often both.
But where Isaac has a work ethic to die for, Toby is lazy. In many respects he’s Isaac’s equal intellectually but he only applies himself when he feels like it. Looking at his school workbooks, you can always spot the point in an exercise when he has lost interest because his handwriting transforms instantly from neat to illegible scrawl. (Isaac’s handwriting is unfailingly pristine.)
Ask him if he wants to go out and he will ask to stay in. And yet once he is out, he invariably loves whatever we do. We’ve learned to ignore the complaints and the stubborn heel-dragging and power on through. It’s just how he is.
I get Toby – because Toby is basically a six-year-old version of me. Where the extroverted Isaac thinks through talking, Toby is the classic introvert. He sits in a corner quietly, apparently lost in his own daydreams, and then suddenly lays out big picture concepts to show he has been absorbing information, processing it and crafting his own little world in his head.
I love the way Isaac’s thought process takes you logically from A to B to C. It’s how Heather thinks – I wish I could be more like that sometimes. But it’s Toby’s propensity to jump straight to Z and then fill in the blanks that mirrors the way I think. He is my little Mini-Me.
Kara: The lion queen
Kara is our little lion queen. If she was a Little Miss character, she would be a combination of Little Miss Bossy and Little Miss Fun.
Confident and fierce, Kara is an unmistakable presence in any room – not least because she has to be the boss of any situation she is in. It doesn’t matter whether it is her brothers, her parents or a room full of other kids – she wants to be in charge and she demands to be at the centre of things. Still not yet four, she commands attention in a way most grown-ups never master.
She can be a right Little Miss Trouble as well. She’s not above using any means, fair or foul, to get what she wants. One day she’ll make a great UFC fighter. (I’m more KFC myself.)
But when she’s on song she lights up a room with her presence. Like Isaac, she is a non-stop talker. She’s expressive and earnest and wears her emotions on her sleeve, she is one of life’s natural entertainers and she regularly has us in stitches. She’s a tomboy and a princess, an angel and a devil, sugar and spice. And, as anyone who knows me or this blog will already be aware, I’m utterly besotted with her.
I see elements of my personality in both of the boys. I see very little of myself in Kara. And in a way that makes her the most fascinating of our children to me.
I look at our three kids and I see their strengths and I see their imperfections But, like snowflakes, they are all different.
Sometimes that works in their favour when they are together and they get on like a house on fire. And sometimes it seems they’re more likely to just set the house on fire. But it’s the differences between them that interest me more than their similarities. The engineer, the creative and the lion queen. Three children, each unique in their own way. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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