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Cockiness is the biggest hazard of parenting.

You start to pick up a swagger with your first kid. For me, my sweet spot was when the Diva hit 18 months. I thought I could handle all kids, based on how well it was going with her at that point. There were challenges, sure, and moments when I thought about running away to join the circus. Largely, though, I thought I could suddenly handle any child based on my experiences with this one. I have two words for you Ė "pride" is the second word. You can guess the first.

The details of how baby number two is different from baby number one really arenít that important. Whatís remarkable is my response, which is always complete surprise that two kids could be different from each other.

Youíd think Iíd learn. By now, I should know that one is not going to be a carbon copy of the other Ė and yet each and every time the Boy insists on acting like an independent person, I am flabbergasted. Take haircuts. The Diva is of the opinion that they are the most fun activity in the known universe. She loves them. There was a brief period when Iíd take her for a haircut every other week, simply because her hair grows remarkably quickly and she found getting it cut to be such a thrill.

Weíve had to stop, sadly. Now that sheís decided that a) she is a princess and b) princesses have hair down to their toes, she doesnít want to lose a precious centimeter of her coiffure. Still, she sighs wistfully when we pass ďthe haircut store.Ē

The Boy is her polar opposite. Soon he will have hair down to his toes simply because it is too traumatic to have it cut. There is wailing. There are recriminations. And thatís just from the stylist. What amazes me isnít that theyíre different but the fact that I forget that they are different. I canít quite tell if it is because I have achieved a perfect Zen mind, where I approach each experience with childlike wonder, or if I have simply grown so addled that I canít remember anything for more than a few seconds. Smart money should be wagered on the latter, I suspect.

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This forgetfulness doesnít just apply to my own children. I continuously assume that all children on the planet are just like my firstborn. An example, picked from a sadly abundant supply of examples: I was meeting two fellow writers at a restaurant. Due to a childcare gap, one of my lunch dates had to bring her kid, who is about the same age as the Diva. Due to a confluence of bad directions and full parking spaces, I was late enough that I got there after everyone had ordered. When I sat down, I noticed that all of those single-serve bricks of jelly on the table were in front of me. I also noticed that the kid was starting to get antsy, as so many kids do during the gap between ordering and eating. So I did what I would do for the Diva. I handed him the jelly packets with the assumption that he was going to build extravagant towers and then knock them down, which is what she does. Instead, his eyes grew to the size of CDs. He immediately ripped the foil off of one of them and slurped down the contents. And did the same with the second one. And the third.

His momís expression would have turned lesser folk to stone, had it been able to cut through the shield of my remarkable surprise. What Iíd missed while I was circling the block for the sixth time was the argument the two had had over the jelly, which the kid loves but that mom hates for him to have because it makes him more hyper than a well-rested weasel.

Enter me. I had no idea that he would eat them, forgetting that my kid doesnít actually eat much of anything and that other kids do, especially when those things consist mostly of high-fructose corn syrup. Iíd also completely forgotten the cardinal rule of kids: always ask a parent before you hand them anything, no matter how benign the anything may seem.

Iíd never make the same assumption about adults. Just because I have a fondness for Americaís Next Top Model doesnít mean that every single person on the planet does. And vice versa Ė I still donít understand the appeal of professional wrestling or Dan Brown books or coconut desserts. Yet Iím content to live and let live with others who may not share my tastes.

My assumptions about anyone under four-feet tall arenít unshakeable, thankfully. But the Diva seems to have set my brainís default setting for all kid behavior. The first step to solving the problem is admitting that you have one, right?
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About the Author:

Adrienne Martini  has been a theatre technician, apprentice massage therapist, bookstore bookkeeper and pizza joint waitress. Eventually, someone started paying her for her words and an editorial mercenary was  born. She has written theatre reviews and features for the Austin Chronicle, blurbs about tofurkey and bottled water for Cooking Light and a piece about  knitting summer camp for Interweave Knits. She is a former editor for Knoxville, Tennessee's Metro Pulse and recently picked up an AAN award for feature writing. In July 2006, her first book Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood will be published.  During the day, she fields freelance gigs and crams knowledge into the heads of college students in Upstate New York. At all hours, she is mom to Maddy and Cory, and wife to Scott. 

 

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