Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

For the black sheep

Have I mentioned here how different my kids are from each other? Yeah? Like, too many times? You want me to shut up and change the subject? You want me to stop asking questions? Who crowned you blog police? Oprah? Jesus? Zuckerberg? In that order?

Yesterday I took both girls on a trip to the library because Leta keeps running out of reading material. Her homework requires her to read only 20 minutes a night, but I let her read until she falls asleep so she’s been hitting the 45-minute mark. That’s hundreds of pages a week. Marlo? Marlo sings the alphabet like this: “… Q, R, S, A, B, C, W, X, A, B, C.”

marlolibrarysmall

When we arrived at the kids’ section Leta took off and Marlo headed straight for the amazing little side rooms they’ve designed for children to explore. One room looks like a cabin, another like a faraway planet. I sat down on a nearby kid-sized couch so that she could examine each room with the lead of her own imagination. In other words, I’m lazy.

I was flipping through a children’s book that was sitting on the cushion next to me when I heard my child scream, “HI!”

I turned to see her cornering a much smaller child, and before I could get up to tell her to lower her voice she continued, “WHAT YOUR NAME BE?”

What your name be.

Apparently, you can take the woman out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of her children.

(SMALL TANGENT: When you’re sitting on a kid-sized couch and forget you’re sitting on a kid-sized couch, the thing that happens when you try to stand up? THAT is what it feels like to be eight and a half months pregnant.)

After he answered her I told her to keep her voice down which is a really dumb thing to say to a kid her age. They think whispering means to yell in a really raspy voice. It’s what would happen if Don Corleone was only allowed to communicate through a megaphone.

And that’s what she continued to do, scream-whisper, dragging the boy by the hand through the planet room, up and down an installation that looked like an iceberg. And can I just say, WHOA, my kid is big. The boy’s father told me he had just turned two, so, yeah, of course she was bigger. But she looked like a bumbling giant about to swallow a whole meal. I wouldn’t have blinked an eye if she had tried to put his torso in her mouth.

I apologized in advance to the boy’s father if Marlo suddenly mutated into The Hulk and explained, “It’s so weird to have a kid who experiences no stranger danger. She’ll talk to anyone.”

“He will, too,” and he pointed to his son. “I’m glad they’re getting along. He’s usually the one initiating things.”

“My almost nine-year-old is somewhere browsing books,” I said. “When she was this age she’d have been clinging to my leg, desperately trying not to make eye contact with anyone.”

“Yeah? Just different personalities?” he asked.

I nodded and remembered the months leading up to Marlo’s birth, wondering aloud here if this baby would be exactly like her sister. And so many of you who have multiple children were like, LISTEN. WORRY YOURSELF NOT. And good god, were you right. Which is why I think I should share these differences here for those of you wondering the same thing. Every kid is wildly, beautifully, hysterically different from the one who came before and any who come after. Witnessing those differences emerge is one of the very best things about the years I have spent as a parent, says the youngest of three children who is the only one who votes Democrat and thinks marijuana should be legal HI MOM HI DAD SURE GLAD YOU LOVE ME.

  • meg

    I don’t have kids, but I still find your posts about your children so fascinating, Heather. And I was TOTALLY a “Leta” as a kid 😉 Bookworms unite!

  • I keep singing Marlo’s alphabet in my head and it keeps making sense.

  • Mariel

    I take all these posts to heart and love reading them. We have a Leta now. 3 years old. I’m pregnant with #2 and I keep bracing myself for the unknown, a Marlo. My husband thinks our next child will be exactly the same as the first. I thinks I’ll be right, as usual.

  • issascrazyworld

    I always wondered what my third would be like. I have two complete opposites so how in the world could he be different. Yeah, he found ways. Ha.

  • Tina Beveridge

    My brother and I have a significant age difference, but even if we had been born closer together I still don’t think we’d have been more likely to have things in common (I’m a musician, he’s a rocket scientist, and no I am not exaggerating).

  • Anna B.

    Thank you. I needed this. Potty training an almost 3 year old who is taking WAY longer than her older sister. It is amazing how they can be so different…

  • Keri

    My kids are also complete opposites. I am fascinated by birth order, since for most of my friends/family, the second kid is the wild, independent one. I wonder what it’s like in larger families, some of the kids must have traits in common, right?

  • nic

    🙂 heh.

  • Heather

    I find this fascinating as well…. especially when it comes to parenting “techniques.” I have friends who swore by the books “On becoming Babywise,” or “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby” or a million other various ones. I, too, became THAT mom, dishing out advice that I thought was golden and believed that my perfect first born was all a product of these techniques. Then I had twins who are polar opposite from each other and from their older brother. What worked for my oldest, doesn’t begin to work for either of them. Good thing we are all beautifully different… otherwise I might be a sane, relaxed mom with all kinds of time on her hands and who wants that?

  • My two are total opposite, too.
    That IS how it is to be 8 months pregnant.

  • Lisa

    It’s as if they are two different people!

  • I also do not have kids and yet, your posts about your kids just draw me in. Sometimes I wish that I could have kids just so I could pass on my love of reading but then I remember that small children scare me and cannot be trained to use a litter box. Or, you know, if they could, I’m pretty sure CPS would frown on it.

  • Crystin

    Amen, sister!

  • Crystin

    Yes, there is a special place in life for those know-it-all “first time” moms — behind their books where they can’t hurt anyone. I know, because like you, I was one, too. The first child is always the perfect, angelic, well-behaved. My dad calls my second child our normalization factor.

  • cbg

    Ah yes, I like to call the first child – “the trick baby” as in he or she tricks you into thinking you’re the perfect parent.

  • boga dhami

    this is simply fantastic post

  • Sheila

    “What your name be” sounds like Middle English to me. Sophisticated. However, I can’t spin Marlo’s alphabet. That just sounds like being three.

  • .ivy

    “Apparently, you can take the woman out of the South, but you can’t take the South out of her children.” thanks. reading that just made my day!

  • Jen Wilson

    My middle child is a five-year-old Marlo. My youngest cries any time someone talks to him. I think if every one of our children were the same, we’d be bored. (Although sometimes I LONG FOR BOREDOM.)

  • Bookworm9798

    Wait, I’m not the perfect parent? (yes, you may guffaw)

  • acm

    and/or can survive having more….

  • kk158462

    Can “What Your Name Be?” be in the masthead next month? I spit Diet Coke all over my keyboard.

  • IowaMama

    OMG! I’m 8 1/2 months pregnant and was just at our library. I tried to get up to chase after my 3 1/2 year old and almost fell over. And I can’t stop wondering what baby boy no. 2 will be like? Such a fitting post. 🙂