I SPEAK KID
By ELAINE DONG
I have a sister and a brother. We grew up on chicken soup, rice and petty fights. Whenever my mother took sides, we would accuse her of loving the other more than us. Even today, despite being mature and confident adults, favouritism is still wielded as a weapon when we fight. It’s just more fun that way.
I have two daughters, who may one day grow up to think I love one more over the other. And they would be wrong. Because it is impossible to do. Usually, this is where I wax lyrical about how much I love them, blah blah. But this is not THAT kind of column. They do have different mothers, depending on the time of day and subject matter.
Angelica gets the strict mother when she’s practising the piano, and Lauren gets the indulgent, playful mother who stacks blocks with her.
Lauren gets the mother who feeds her dinner, because if I don’t, I spend hours later scouring for rice in the crevices of my sofa. Angelica gets the mother who insists she eat her meals on her own. Not because I love one more and the other less; Angelica can eat her meals on her own, so she should, and I don’t want her spoonfed in life, literally and figuratively. Lauren will start eating her own meals when she’s ready.
Angelica, the firstborn, gets the mother who read Dr Seuss to her every night from the time she could hold her head upright. By age two, she could memorise the words and rattle them back to me whilst I turned the pages.
Lauren, however, has been read to sporadically, because being a mother of one was way easier than being a mother of two. I simply did not have the time and energy.
Depending on my mood, they also have a choice of a grumpy, funny, moody, yelling-at-the-top-of-her-lungs, happy or fun mother.
Think of our house as a weather channel, if you will. Most of the time, it’s sunny, with a side of grump.
I also have very different daughters. When I get home from work, Angelica would give me a hug if I ask for it, and promptly turn back to the TV. Lauren would launch herself into my arms, and follow me around like a limpet stuck to a stone.
Angelica is the thoughtful one, and attempts everything seriously. When she’s painting, she makes sure everything is in place before she starts – her brushes, paints and palette. Lauren just grabs everything by the horn and starts doing. She gets paint all over her, mixes up all the colours, and even takes over her sister’s paints. I have learnt to get each one a palette of her own.
Lauren is more laidback about things; recently for her birthday, she said she didn’t want anything.
Angelica has already thought about her gifts for the next three birthdays, AND Christmases. She says if Lauren doesn’t want anything, could she have her share please?
I treat my daughters differently, because they’re different. Or could it be they are different because I treat them differently? It doesn’t matter, really. My role is to nurture their individuality, and have them grow up confident in who they are.
My girls are at different critical ages now, each requiring different skill sets on my part to deal with. There isn’t going to be a cookie-cutter parenting manual that I can refer to for both of them. It’s all about playing by ear, with a huge dose of common sense. And what works for one may not work for the other, and vice versa.
Though I may lead each of them down different paths now, the goal is just one: That when they’re old enough to fly the coop, they will have the skills to live their life well and make a difference.
And if they ever ask whether I love one more than the other, I’ll say I love them both differently and the same.
I suppose I should tell my mother to say the same thing the next time we ask her which one of us she loves the most. Wink.
Elaine Dong has a favourite food, a favourite movie and a favourite book. That’s enough favourites for anyone. She blogs at www.angelolli.com.