As the boys continue to grow I am constantly amazed over the fact that they are so different, both from each other and from Tony and I. I remember before becoming a parent, I thought of a child as an extension of the parent.
That was the only way I could comprehend this insatiable desire couples had for children. It was also the only way I was able to understand the cultural view of posterity.
After our wedding, Tony and I took time before getting children and along the way he became seriously ill. I remember my mom and my best maid prevailing on me to reconsider our decision to wait before having children.
“What if something happened to him?” they asked. “At least this way you would have a child to remind you of him.” At the time their arguments made a lot of sense and we went about the business of getting a progeny as soon as possible.
However, in retrospect, I now realise that a child is so much more than a stamp of authenticity on a marriage (as some of our aunties seemed to suggest) or an extension of us. Rather children are unique with their individual tastes, likes and dislikes, and even looks. Because no matter how much a child resembles a parent or another child, there is something unique about them once you get to know them.
I should know: my sister has identical twins. At first I thought they looked completely alike (as the name suggests) but in the four years they have been around and spending so much time in their presence, I now can tell them apart easily.
The difference is so minute, almost indiscernible, but it is there nonetheless. Perhaps it is my imagination, I don’t know, all I do know however is that I can easily tell them apart.
When my sister and I were much younger, people claimed we looked alike and we always wished we were twins so we could attend each other’s classes, switch dates, and more importantly fool our parents when one of us went awol.
It seemed so easy, just switch outfits and pretend to be the other person. Perhaps it would have worked, I don’t know, but I highly doubt it. A parent somehow always knows their child. They are as different as fingerprints.
This difference is becoming more evident in my sons as they continue to grow. One energises through people and is more extroverted while the other enjoys his own company and can entertain himself for hours. One loves indoor games like me and is always game to play while the other would rather play outdoors.
As a parent I have to be careful to take these differences as I deal with them. I need to realise that what works for one child does not necessarily work for the other; more so when it comes to punishment. I must be careful to treat each child as an individual.
Sometimes this is not always convenient but it is very important. I learnt this lesson the hard way some years back. I had punished both Toriah and TJ to stay in separate rooms for ten minutes (a really long time for little children) - at the time they were about six and four. For TJ the punishment was unbearable, he loves the company of people and when the time was up he was really remorseful.
I could tell the punishment had taken effect. Toriah was a different story. I found him sitting happily on the bed in my room covered in lipstick and playing with my stuff.
He was quite happy and did not seem to realise that he was under punishment. I realised quickly that what was effective for one was totally ineffective for the other. I have never tried that again.
My encouragement to all parents is simply this. Take time to know your child as an individual and treat them as such. This way, you will be able to influence them and build a meaningful relationship that will survive the test of time.