As most of you know, I adore my daughter. She is a wonderful, sweet and creative little person. She can be serious and earnest and anxious to please; she can be bossy and emotional - just like her mother was at the same age. Because Laura's personality is quite similar to mine, I get her. I understand her. I can explain to Fatty why she is wailing and being irrational; I can ease her worries because I know what concerns her even before she tells me.
When Benjamin came along, I was excited but a little wary, too. Boys are not a known commodity. I have not grown up as a boy, I don't have personal experience to help me comprehend the world of males. I had no doubt I would love this fat little boy baby, but would I be able to relate to him? Would we ever bond as well Laura and I would?
I guess I can answer that, after 4 1/2 years spent with my funny fiercely-loving fascinating son. Yes, and absolutely yes.
I should explain that while females and males are not exactly different species (or are they?), I am a very girly female. I am interested in people, relationships. I like flowers and satin and lace. I enjoy languages and writing. I nurture, I nag. I love children and babies. I cry easily. (Of course, there is also my penchant for karate. But who says 'feminine' women can't kick some butt occasionally?!)
And yet, as part of establishing a relationship with my son, I am developing new interests and skills, and swags of knowledge I never expected to possess.
We read 'Amazing Facts about Australian Frogs and Reptiles'. (Did you know that the knob-tailed gecko does 'push-ups' when it's scared? Or that legless lizards may rear up, snake-like, and will even strike at their enemies, despite the fact that they have no fangs or venom?)
We look for cars with 2 exhaust pipes.
We know that a Blackbird is the fastest aircraft.
We discuss the peregrine falcon, which can swoop at speeds up to 390km/hr.
We have met the ladybirds, worms, grubs, grasshoppers, katydids, stick insects and a whole multitude of other insects which inhabit our backyard. I never even noticed them before. How-do-you-do, neighbourhood bugs?
Having a daughter is brilliant, and I love spending time with my Louey-girl. We talk about her friends, she asks me why some people stop being married, I listen to her read for me, she draws elaborate, detailed pictures and gives them to her admiring mother. I sense a kindred spirit in Laura, and I hope we will have this connection throughout our lives.
With Benjamin, I am aware that the way he and I think, and the way we approach situations, and our natural interests are all quite different. And yet because of that difference, I find myself being drawn into a whole new realm of ideas. I find that once I actually sit and peruse 'Australian Dinosaurs' (which, pre-children, I would not have done unless you paid me), I find it intriguing. Who would have thought?
Once when Ben was a toddler and obsessed with earth-moving equipment, I was driving somewhere with just my friend Belly. As we passed a construction site, I began to exclaim 'Look! A digger!', but had to quickly change to 'Look what a beautiful day it is!'. That was when I knew I had changed - all because of my son and his entirely new perspective.
The gender divide will always exist, but I like to think we can build bridges and cross over to visit each other. I have to thank Ben for being patient and welcoming, and for allowing me to wander across whenever I please.
If you'll excuse me now, there's a whale stamp Ben and I need to soak off an envelope.