Aksel and I used to comment on how easy Anna was as a baby and toddler. At the time, with nothing much to compare it to, we didn't fully appreciate the lack of tantrums. But we were rather smug and self-congratulatory about our great parenting skills.
This was until our son turned up and reminded us that nature might just play a bigger part than nurture and it's all just half-chance anyway.
Samuel really is a buddle of intense loving fury. He is at that stage where he literally thinks the world revolves around him. Right now everything in the universe is Mine! But I know that this is just "that phase" and it will pass. And besides being loving and consistent and trying to pre-empt obvious battles, there is really not much you can do to help your toddler acquire the life skills to function in the world. Or rather, you know the things you want them to learn (take turns, share, don't hit, say please, say thank you, say sorry, play nicely, don't throw that etc etc) and you can teach these things at appropriate intervals and hope for the best. It is not easy – but it is fairly uncomplicated.
The world of the nearly 8-year-old, on the other hand, I am finding much more complex. Right now with Anna we are navigating through topics such as racism, bullying, sex, war, poverty, death, disease and religion. And we are also trying to teach her about the ebb and flow of friendships, about taking responsibility, and about tidying up.
And as we find our way through these things, her shift in mood from elated to hysterical in 0.2 seconds has me floored.
I am finding this all so much more complicated than teaching an ego-centric toddler to share. The parenting “stuff” that worked wonderfully a couple of years ago just doesn’t seem to fit. So my once “easy” daughter is not so much these days and my “difficult” son is somehow much more straightforward. The things Samuel needs are easy and obvious to provide: Nappies, food, love.
Of course, food and love are just as important to Anna. And she’s really easy to love. But meeting her other needs – her need for independence and to make her own mistakes and for privacy or attention – these are harder to work out. Finding the right moment to offer a hug or a compliment and working out when to be stricter and which rules I’m going to insist on and where I’m going to draw the line can leave me spinning. And if I’m confused – imagine how she must be feeling.
We’d better hurry up and get it sorted out. It’s lucky we have a good few years before she is a teenager, because then, so I am told, you’d better know exactly what your boundaries and perspectives are.