Last weekend we went to London. We saw these beautiful giant tortoises at London Zoo. Near the enclosure was a shell that you could climb into and pretend to be a tortoise. Sister-Auntie duly climbed in and committed to the role with a wide mouth and big eyes. Us grown ups were rolling around laughing. Girly no1, now two and a half, was not. She stood and watched her Auntie with a very serious look on her face. Then said “Auntie, what are you doing? Get up!” I laughed so hard a little bit of wee came out. Oh my serious little girl (and the gift of childbirth).
I knew very early on that Girly no1 had that serious streak, as I have it myself. Personality wise, she’s very similar to me. It’s a very strange thing having your quirks reflected back at you in a small person, you see them how other people see them. It can be disconcerting at times, but hugely reassuring in others. You learn that others can adore your weirdness. Laughter can be fond. And when you don’t react exactly as people expect, it’s other people’s’ discomfort that makes things awkward, not you. Since she was a baby, we have really had to work hard for smiles and laughs. I never minded, I found it quite endearing, but other people would become almost embarrassed that their last 5 minutes of pulling stupid faces and making weird noises failed to make “this funny little soul” smile. She would look at them with the most deadpan face. It was hilarious! A laugh from her was nigh on impossible, unless you were Husband or I. I once let on what I had done to make her laugh for the first time. For the next two months whenever she was left alone with one of her Nana’s or her Auntie, I could hear them singing the magic song (not Sir Mix a Lot in case you’re wondering) and assuming “the position” on the floor. The Nana’s were always caught out by their dodgy knees – can’t move so quickly in your fifties! Consequently the trick lost its’ charm and I had to find a new one. When I found one I didn’t tell anyone else, if I had to spend all day with the smaller, angrier me then I deserved the laughs. To this day she’ll only really laugh with her inner circle. She’s the ice princess to my Ice Queen! Reassuringly, Girly no2 is a different story – I can make a giggly baby and am not inflicting just my seriousness on the world. At 5 months old you only have to look at her to make her laugh. She laughs when she sneezes. She laughs if you wobble your head from side to side. She coos and gurgles and blows raspberries. She permanently has a smile on her face. It’s lovely! Different lovely. The ones that remember no1’s seriousness approach with trepidation, and are delighted to be met with smiles. Their needs met, they’re not left feeling silly and are therefore much happier.
Girly no1 has also inherited some of my other “quirks”. My morning grumpiness is renowned amongst my friends, family and colleagues. My diary at work was generally kept free until 11am. My family didn’t speak to me before midday for all of my teenage years. My friends bring food and tea if they have to talk to me before lunch. Girly no1 is the same. Woe betide the fool that wakes her from a nap. I would recommend you go stick your head in a croc’s open mouth first. Or at least change pooey nappies and whatever else needs doing before you absolutely have to wake her. I’m just about there on a new technique for waking Girly no1 but human trials are not yet complete, and it needs tweaking before we’ll get approval. Her sense of humour is different to other toddlers. I’ve lost count of the number of times an adult has tried to make her laugh and she has blank-faced them. I find it hilarious, partly because of said adult’s slightly huffy and embarrassed face, but also because I often find myself in a room full of laughing people not getting the joke. Correction – I do get it, I just don’t find it funny. I always notice at comedy shows that I laugh at different times to everyone else…the only other person laughing is Husband, though more often than not at me. I’d love nothing more than to find the whole world funny, I feel like life would be so much sunnier. But I’m more like the English weather, not a completely miserable fucker but not always sunny either. I find specific people funny, like Girly no1 does. Sister and Husband can make me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt. And I have a small handful of friends who do the same – Northerner, Jet Set, Princess Jasmine to name a couple – though even then my mood that day can determine whether I laugh and smile or am focused and serious. I want to make sure Girly no1 grows up feeling OK with this aspect of herself. It’s taken me a long time and great periods of self-doubt to reach this feeling, something that I really would like her to avoid. Girly no1 gets angry if she can’t do something, too. Flying jigsaw pieces are the norm in our house. Our neighbours probably hear “we don’t get cross, we just take our time” in their sleep. She has also inherited my ‘did-something-die-in-there?’ morning breath, but less said about that the better.
I have made my first born sound like a complete weirdo, she’s not. She’s a loving little girl who, a lot of the time, is just busy being two. She has inherited some positive traits from me; I praise her because I want her to be proud of her amazing determination; her incredible empathy; and her drive to master all things. I tell her she’s amazing and funny and loving, because they’re the things she’ll think she’s not if she starts to believe the serious ice-queen references that will be thrown her way in the years to come.
I often wonder at what point we drift into narcissism and whether our reason for producing is that we’re all so fascinated by ourselves that we try and make replicas…I’ll stop there as I’m sure someone more qualified than me has written on the subject and I’m certainly no philosopher! Having this particular little person like me, means learning to love all of myself – and Husband, she’s not all me. That frown is definitely his. In her inevitable periods of self doubt in the future, I’ll tell her that people just need to get to know her. There is nothing wrong with only giving away the fun, giggly side of yourself to the ones you love the most. Just ask Husband and Auntie!
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