They’re kids. Not clones.

Parents seem to be endlessly amazed by the fact there are profound differences between their children. I mean, they are truly astonished, right?

It’s a frequent topic of discussion among them, and I am including myself in this circle of inanity.

When one pauses to consider: given the innumerable DNA coupling, all the random genetic match-ups, do you really think each little human being you push out of your body will be an exact duplicate of the one before? If not in appearance than in attitude, interests and propensity to like Elmo better than Dora? It defies logic.

Yet. We seem to be continually astounded by the fact our children are all not carbon copies. Shock that the oldest is quiet and obedient while the middle child is loud and outrageous. Surprise that the middle child will party all night long if not forcibly put to bed while the youngest brushes his teeth, looks at books quietly and then comes to kiss you goodnight all on his own.

So, what is it about the difference between siblings that is endlessly entertaining to us as parents? You got me.

I, by all means, am not immune. I too find silly entertainment by the personality differences between Prima and Secondo.

Of course, there’s a “for example” that comes to mind.

Prima has always loved school. Since the days when we guiltily used the working-parent lexicon, calling daycare as “school,” until now, well into the elementary school years, Prima goes to school smiling, happily. She’s the kid in the class the teacher always loves. The go-to gal in the classroom, the nice kid every parent compliments. (I know this factually because: Her birthday is over the summer. This past summer, the phone rang on her special day. My mouth hung open as I heard two years worth of teachers on the line, wishing my first born a happy birthday. She was over the moon excited to get the call, but not too surprised. It’s clearly a love-love situation.)

Along came Secondo. She has more or less enjoyed school, except when she threw raging fits for six months every morning while getting dropped off for nursery school. Oh, and, ummm, preschool, too.

Whereas at drop she would cling to me, fussing, at pick-up, she would take another tack. Secondo would primly walk passed me when I came to pick her up, all her friends dashing to give her hugs on her way out the door. I apologized and cajoled, but she was decidedly aloof. Her Pre-K buddies would call out to her, voices thick with a futile desire to gain her approval and love, “Bye, Secondo! See you tomorrow! You’re my best friend!” with nary a response from her. To be fair, sometimes she would respond with sighs, and eye rolls and perfunctory embraces. She didn’t want me to believe for one second she was backing off of her earlier position, that preschool was something she was fundamentally uninterested in, all evidence to the contrary.

Now Secondo is in kindergarten, and I am enthused. They are both at the same school, on the same schedule. The girls look so sappily adorable walking in and out of school together, my heart races with mom-adoration to see them go and when I pull up to pick them up. Happy Mommy wants for kiddos now to be happy. Please.

The first day of school, playing happy Supermom, I had their after schools snacks ready and waiting when they walked in. We unloaded backpacks and washed lunchboxes as we chatted and they munched.

I asked a million questions. Prima provided her usual ample information, in a rush, sharing everything she could think of. Getting relatively little from Secondo, I tried a more nuanced approach.

Me: Secondo, was there anything interesting about kindergarten?

Her: Well. [Fixing her gaze on me steadily. Pause.] There’s no toys in kindergarten. That’s interesting. [Pause] And, HORRIBLE!

Not making this up.

It’s early in the school year and as Mr. Bailey always likes to remind me, transition times are the hardest.

“She’ll get into it,” he reassured me. Fast forward to a very recent Sunday night meal.

Me: So, Secondo, are you excited to go back to school tomorrow?

Her: [Looking at me dully, she cocks her head to the right.] Sitting around? Writing Cs ALL DAY? Does that sound like fun to you?

She’s five years old. As she says this to me, she’s sitting there in pigtails, sipping milk.

As I often do, I admonish – “Secondo!” then hide my face behind my napkin and dissolve into eye-watering silent laughter. Mr. Bailey does the same.

But, here’s the trickiest part of it – she’s right. Writing Cs all day sounds like a stage of hell even as a writer, I would rather not journey. This child makes one heck of a powerful argument. Who could resist being amazed by that?


The band scar

When I was a younger woman, I used to relish the time in a relationship when I collected my paramour’s scar stories. I would lightly trace the scars on hands, feet, arms, legs and coyly inquire where they had come from, how they were acquired.

Those physical scars always seemed to lead to a discussion ripe with the knowledge I was really after – what their emotional scars were and where they hid. As a naïve, infatuated young adult, these were scars I mistakenly thought I could help heal.

Of course, I know all of Mr. Bailey’s scars now. Being a bit clumsy, he’s got a number of them. When we were first married, they all represented adventures or amusing stories he had before me. Now, a good number of the scars represent shared memories – a gash on his wrist a week before our second Christmas together, slightly raised bumps across his broad knuckles from accidentally punching a hole in our ceiling, celebrating our team winning a trip to the Super Bowl.

After so much in-utero anxiety about their health, the first time they laid my pink and perfect babies in my arms, I cried over their unblemished skin, tears I hoped would bless and protect them from any harm.

I remember the moment Prima received the cut that is now a straight, slim two-inch scar on the front of her left hand. I think of that moment every time I catch sight of the scar.

But what really keeps me up at night is the mental gymnastics I do pondering where and how Prima’s and Secondo’s emotional scars will bloom. As any good parent does, I contemplate my role in creating them, which, let’s be honest, always pertains.

Prima and Secondo have already experienced the death of two grandparents, before the

Photo by Kelly Hampton, from the blog, Enjoying the Small Things,

age of 10. A grandfather before Secondo was born, so the scars carried there belong to Mr. Bailey and I; a grandmother just a year ago. For a year, they only rarely spoke of her keen love for her granddaughters, her sparkling smile, the way she made them feel better when they were sick and handwrote thank you notes praising them for small kindnesses they had offered her. But since that year has slipped by in a confusing fog, they’ve begun to ask me to tell them stories, and to explain again why they lost her.

They’ve also lost a teacher, two great-grandparents, and two great uncles, in some cases, quite suddenly.

So I am aware of those scars and try my mother-bear best to prevent smaller losses – friends or routines or cherished playthings – from causing further damage.

Recently, Prima came home from school in an absolute fervor. The band teacher had visited the classroom and she was now on fire to join the band and play the trumpet. Having paid for guitar lessons over the summer that seemed to go well but resulted in a distain for practicing and an interest in a thousand other activities, we were less than enthusiastic. Then we took a look at the costs, and the other activities she was already committed to, we decided to postpone the band for another day.

Prima was completely devastated. There were tears, gnashing of teeth, casting of stones, spasmodic jumping up and down and sad faces for days. Her big brown eyes became orbs of betrayal when she expertly cast them upon us, welling.

I calculated how deep this cut would be. I worried it would result in a lifelong scar. I hoped the band scar might be treated with the happy moments we were also providing: birthday parties! Soccer games! Specialized tutoring! A study hall with her teacher while the other kids were at band! Not so much.

But then, the tide of tears seemed to stem and Prima once again found her happy place. She’s a pleasant child by nature, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Several days later, I was tucking her and Secondo into their bunk beds. We said our nightly prayer and then I asked each child to tell me who they wanted to pray for. Prima mentioned family and friends, then paused.

“I also want to pray for all of the children who want to do band but their parents won’t let them,” she intoned, reverently.

The dim night light shielded my shocked face as I managed to choke out, “OK. Secondo! Who do you want to pray for?”

So, chalk up another scar. It’s clearly not the first, and certainly not the last.

But maybe, (I can dream) it might be the worst for a little awhile.

You won’t find this scene in the Bailey household these days, much to Prima’s chagrin.