My Boyfriend and I couldn’t be any more different if we tried. In fact, it’s one of his biggest arguments with me. Apparently we have nothing in common, and (according to him, which is his opinion of what my opinion is) the only thing keeping us together is the fact that we have a child, as well as the fact that we love each other. There’s no denying that we love each other – that much is a given. He’s slowly starting to realise that I’m with him because I choose to be. I’m with him because my life is better with him in it, and he helps make it all worthwhile.
He is right about one thing though. We are completely dissimilar. But, as I like to think (and I’m sure I’ve expressed this sentiment before somewhere) we’re like opposing puzzle pieces. It’s our differences that make it possible for us to be together. And it’s these little differences I see in our son. It’s all the bits of me, and all the bits of him that have formed together to form another little personality. An ever-growing personality, but an entirely individual individual.
He gets his refusal to listen from me. There’s the nodding and the seeming to pay attention, and then there’s the doing-whatever-the-hell-I-please-anyway look. And he gets it so right. It’s the exact same look I get on my face. It’s that look that pretty much tells you: I plan on making my own mistakes and there’s absolutely nothing you can do, short of tying me up with stockings and stuffing me in the tumble-dryer, that you can do to stop me. It’s the look that says: I know what you’re telling me is true, and I know what you’re saying is probably right, and that I should listen to you and take your advice, but I just can’t help myself. I can’t do it.
There’s also the selective hearing. I claim that one too. This one works with a blank face and a complete pretension that my ears have just miraculously ceased to work. Sometimes it goes along with pretending that the other person doesn’t even exist. That you just completely cannot acknowledge their presence because they simply have ceased to exist. There’s the deaf ears that don’t hear “pick up your toys” and “don’t touch that” and “for the hundredth time, don’t bloody touch that” and “go brush your teeth” and “get your motorbike out the house” and “don’t touch the couch with your sucker”. And then there are those same ears that clearly hear “would you like some chocolate milk?” and “can I peel an orange for you?” and “would you like some popcorn?” and “do you want to come with me to the shops?”. Just like his mommy, that Kid.
Then there’s the memory like an elephant bit. That bit is entirely his father. That’s the bit that will say “mommy, I want to play with the hosepipe now” when he wakes up from a three-hour nap that he was bribed into having with the promise of being able to go out in the garden with the hosepipe, if he slept. If it were me, I’d have forgotten entirely, and been easily distracted by something else. That’s the bit that remembers where he left his toys, that’s the bit that remembers that mommy promised smarties two days ago and has yet to deliver, despite numerous requests. It’s the bit that reminds him that his mother needs reminding that administration of vitamins is supposed to happen daily. It’s in the way he tells his father that he’s doing the bedtime routine wrong, when his mother is out for the evening.
There’s also the temper. That’s both of us. Equal blame for this trait. There’s the foot-stomping (rare) and sulking (fairly regularly) and shouting (fairly rare) and impatience (prevalent) that is both of us. There’s the getting angry because I’m not getting my own way that seems, at times, very clearly me. But then there’s days that I can see that it’s totally his father. The holding of grudges (albeit that his are rather shortlived) are all me, while the fleeting outrage and tendency to be shouty, are all his fathers. And like his fathers’, the outbursts are over quickly and love and hugs soon follow.
There’s the emotional manipulation and knowing how to press all the right buttons. I’m pretty sure that’s me, too. That’s The Kid that quivers his bottom lip and says “I’m sorry, mommy. I love you”, with a big fat crocodile tear running down his cheek. That’s The Kid that says “I’m all better now, mommy” when you pick him up to give him a kiss and tell him it’s okay, because his big performance melted your cold heart. It’s The Kid that says “what did you bring for me?” when you come home empty-handed, knowing that it will make you feel like a bad person for not having brought him anything, and tomorrow you’ll stop at the shop on the way home and buy him a toy or a box of smarties. It’s the little terrorist that wakes up at 4 in the morning and refuses to go back to his bedroom and tells you “I just want to come sleep by you, mommy” and The Kid that, not a mere 5 minutes later says “I just want to get you something, mommy” and comes back with an armful of noisy toys and now wants you to play with him. It’s the part of him that thinks saying “please” louder and louder, incessantly, will eventually get you what you want.
There’s the spontaneous affection. That, I am a little sad to say, is pretty much all his father. It was, not so long ago, all me in that The Kid was not at all an affectionate child – hating to be picked up, kissed or hugged. But thankfully The Boyfriend’s instinctual and all-encompassing affection soon wiped out any traces of my reservations. The Kid gives big loves and hugs, big snotty-spitty kisses. I love it.
And there’s a whole lot of stuff that’s entirely his own. All completely unique to our son. The fearlessness, the sense of humour, a carefree existence and that which only a child can own: innocence. Curiosity. Intensity. The ability to easily forgive.
I see me in him. I see is father in him, too. But most importantly, I see a gorgeous, well-adjusted little boy. And despite all our differences, all our arguments and everything else suddenly seems rather inconsequential. When I look at our son I see proof of something far more important: we must be doing something right together.