For all the truth there is to the notion that every child is different, the flipside is that when you have your second child there are a lot more things you are reasonably well-prepared for than things which truly catch you by surprise. And as far as our daughter goes, most of the surprises she has given to my wife and myself have been of the pleasant variety, mostly centering around her overall mellowness and affability (in comparison to her brother, of course).
Still, there are always going to be little things that pop up as the little girl’s formative years unfold along their own path, distinct from the little guy’s. Gender issues leap immediately to mind, although considering the little guy loves baby dolls and was enchanted by an episode of My Little Pony just this morning, and his sister is remarkably strong and fast and making every effort to catch up physically to her car-collecting, monkey-dancing older sibling, presumably to participate fully in tomboyish horseplay, maybe that’s not such a biggie.
More unexpected, somehow, was how the kids’ different birthdays end up impacting Christmas. Because the fact is, even as semi-veteran parents at this point, my wife and I have never before lived with a (formerly) live Christmas tree and an eight-and-a-half-month-old simultaneously. Christmas 2008, we had a three-and-a-half-month-old, beloved for his reliability in staying right where you put him down every time. Christmas 2009, we had a fifteen-month-old who could walk and talk a bit, but we also had just moved days prior and ended up getting an uncharacteristically small tree for the new house. Now for the first time we have a full-sized tannenbaum and an army-crawling little one who likes nothing better than grabbing and pulling brightly colored objects, who also likes second-best putting stray plant matter in her mouth. (Seriously, the dogs have never tracked in a fragment of a dead leaf that the little girl didn’t immediately try to ingest, and she’s recently developed the fine motor control for a pincer grasp that allows her to pluck individual fir needles off the floor.)
For that matter this is the first Christmas my wife and I have shared with not one but two kittens, who also love knocking around bright sparkly dangly objects when they’re not wrestling each other in the dramatic environment of the low-hanging boughs and Christmas light wires. I have little to no doubt that the 2011 Yuletide will go down in family history as simply “The Year We Tied The Dang Christmas Tree To The Wall.” Because, honestly, we had no choice unless we wanted to pick up a toppled tree at least once a day for most of December.
The best thing about the past few days is that enough presents and packages have been delivered to the house that we have been able to erect a barrier wall of boxes around the base of the Christmas tree. But soon enough it will be Christmas Day and instead of an impediment to approaching the tree, we’ll have a whole new wave of unwrapped toys with which to distract the children (and the pets) from messing with it. Which, granted, may only work for an hour or so, but I’ll try to enjoy it while it lasts.