It’s time to talk about Lucy’s little brother. At age three years and eight months, Ben is very nearly Lucy’s exact complement. This is to say that, with the exception of the fact that they share the same fundamentally loving nature (and, of course, much of their genomes), he is everything she is not and vice versa.
Witness as exhibit A their respective entrances into the world. Where Lucy was literally dragged into the world by a gaggle of eight or ten medical professionals (I lost count) after 26 hours of labor, Ben arrived less than an hour after we walked in the door to the hospital. His birth was very nearly attended by zero medical professionals, as the extremely alarmed nurse had run out to fetch the doctor and they returned barely in time for the whole catching routine. From there, you can extrapolate to find pretty accurately the kind of children they are today.
While this is no doubt fascinating from a child development standpoint, it is somewhat unnerving from a parenting standpoint. It means, among other things, that the time we’ve invested in learning to parent Lucy is more or less worthless when it comes to Ben. When Lucy misbehaved, we learned to speak firmly but gently to her, without raising our voices, because if she suspected that we were in any way displeased she would burst into tears. To Ben, on the other hand, firm, gentle reprimands are tantamount to permission to continue. He’s more the 1-2-3-Time Out type, if you know what I mean. To say that Lucy is easier to discipline than Ben would be like saying that arithmetic is easier than differential calculus.
On the flip side, here are Ben and Lucy after I got their bikes out yesterday for the first time this spring:
Ben: My bike! My bike! Thanks, Mommy!
[Hops on and pedals/scoots across the grass, topples over, laughs, hauls bike upright, climbs back on, scoots away]
Lucy: Oh. Um. I’m not sure I remember how to ride my bike. Can you help me?
Me: Well, sure. What do you want me to do?
Lucy: Make sure I don’t fall.
Me: OK. You want me to hold it for you?
Lucy: Yeah. And hold me, too.
[I hold the bike steady with one hand and let her lean on my other hand as she laboriously climbs on.]
Lucy: No!! Don’t let go!!!
Me: OK, calm down! But how are you going to ride with me holding on?
Lucy: You can walk with me.
Lucy: OK, go.
[I start to walk forward, pushing her along while she clings to me with one hand and the bike with the other]
Lucy: That’s too fast! I’m gonna fall!
Me: No, you’re not, I’m holding on, see? You can’t fall.
[We inch forward a little farther]
Me: How about if I give you a push?
And so on. Eventually, of course, she rides the bike and has fun, but I think you see my point. Some things are easier with him, and some things are easier with her. I’m sure there’s a lesson in that, but I’m too tired to figure out what it is. What I really want to know is this: when do we get to the part that’s easy with both of them?