I was one of those parents who tried so hard to pretend that they’re not that fussed about the new baby being a girl when they already have a son.
I tried to look breezy about it in the hope that anyone with any other combination that wasn’t as perfectly perfect as mine would not feel jealous of my magnificent ability to produce the ‘Pigeon Pair’.
In truth, I was the winner of the greatest Roll-Over ever. I was desperate for her to be a girl. I knew that I would only have two children and I wanted the experience of having both a son and a daughter. I consulted the Chinese Calendar and made that my truth. My then-husband must have been mightily confused about my switch from complete sex avoidance to behaviour akin to one of Madonna’s dancers on her Girlie Show World Tour depending on the boy or girl symbol in the crazy nonsense on-line month of conception chart.
I ate oranges from dawn until dusk to create the perfect PH balance, I only bought boy things and I only chose a boy name to trick fate into giving me what I really wanted. I felt frozen when my two baby group closest friends announced the arrival of sisters for their sons – if they both had girls, my odds were going to fall.
I kept it all a secret. I didn’t even talk to my husband about it.
And then she arrived, and I was ecstatic. But I faked a cool face. And my friend with two sons told me that her GP had oddly said to her that couples with same sex children tend to stay together more than the boy / girl families. Because they do the same activities and don’t split on Saturdays for ‘Dad to do football with Archie while Mum takes Isabella to her party’.
Ha. One of those ‘It’s good luck when it rains on your wedding day’ kind of tales methinks. I’m just too lucky, I got what money cannot bring you.
But here I am now, divorced, and living with my perfect Pigeon Pair – who seem to absolutely HATE each other.
There are 3 years and 3 weeks between them. He arrived first. I had dreams of them having a relationship like Charlie and Lola, where they share a tasteful Scandinavian style bedroom and are mutually supportive and kind. Helping, teaching and laughing together. In reality, they can’t be together at all. He can’t stand her eating, or breathing even. If either of them speaks while the other is speaking, they will escalate to shouting within a nano second. There is very rarely mutual support. They mock each other, they find ways to point out mistakes, they tell on each other.
There is a reliability about them though – I can guarantee that if one of them likes something, the other will not. Everything from broccoli to CBBC; pizza, ice-cream, cinema and swimming in the sea – you can’t easily find an activity or thing that both want to be involved with.
I know that they are wonderful and delightful children in their own right. I know that they are fantastic at their Dad’s house, for him and his new partner. I know that their schools send me reports of kind and decent children who are both supportive and gracious. But, at home with me, they display a venom towards each other the acidity of which I cannot begin to fathom.
It is so wearing. So draining. To live with people who are constantly feuding is an exhausting state. I know that the single most positive change to my entire life right now would not be my dream partner proposing, winning the Premium Bonds or getting a day a week off work – it would be having my children being kind to each other.
Recently I was bowling with a neighbour and her similarly set up family; older boy, younger girl. The girl wobbled the heavy ball down the run – “Great bowl!” her brother said, “You did so well!” I couldn’t believe it. I almost cried. That would never happen in our little unit. How have I created such a poisonous culture? How have I set this up? What could I have done to have helped them to be more accepting, loving and supportive? I feel almost desperate about this issue at the moment. It’s a horrible thing to name your children’s negatives and to wonder why they are there. It’s horrible to have your own father ask if he can write them a letter imploring them to be more kind to each other for your sake.
I do feel that this phase will pass, as long as it seems, it will pass. One day they will be kinder – they will see that the other is the only other person on this planet who will truly understand all that they have been through with their father’s stroke and our divorce. They will need that. But, my God this is gruelling.
I do have what I wanted and I am blessed beyond measure. I know that. But in my darker moments, I think that some Divine Creator is teaching me not to have been so damn smug and to be careful what I make secret bargains over.