Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Like mother, like daughter

At what age does separation anxiety start to ease? When do you start to look forward to time apart, rather than worrying about what will happen? Start reveling in 'metime' instead of fearing it? Please tell me it's soon. Please tell me it's 36...
OK, so it's not only me. But it is my clone. To the outside world, T is the outgoing one. She's the twin who takes the lead, who introduces her shy sister around, who rolls up her sleeves and gets the games started. But I know my middle daughter. I know her because she's me. Although it was nothing more than chance that meant G took prime spot inside Mummy and became my firstborn, since they arrived, she's acted like the eldest. She's bossy and opinionated and generally believes she's in charge (although in reality,we all know little M is the boss around here...). Just like my big sister - just like everyone's big sister, I guess. I'm the second of three girls, and the fate that decided G would fulfill her firstborn destiny, also decided T would  match her mum's family position. Seems like it was fate, because she's just like me. She's cheeky and extrovert and loves to be centre of the action. And beneath that, she's hiding the fact that she's scared and insecure.
Do her nursery teachers get to see the cheeky T I do?

I had a catch-up today with G's nursery key worker. Nothing they said surprised me. She's a bit shy and quiet, and doesn't tend to speak up, but she's well-behaved and intelligent. Although 'quiet' is not a word that can remotely be associated with G in the house (my poor old ears and rapidly growing crop of grey hairs are testament to that), I know she's always been shy in social situations, clinging to me if I'm around or her twin sister if I'm not. But I also know that once she's familiar with somewhere, she's fine. She's a dreamer, who can be perfectly happy constructing a jigsaw or pouring water or looking at books by herself. I do think it's such a shame that they don't get to see the real G quite yet. That they don't know that she can sing and dance and spell and add. But she'll show them in time. She's not the one I worry about.

Under that shy exterior, G is a bundle of personality

I have T's one-to-one in a few days' time, and I honestly don't know what I'm going to be told. Which T do they get to see? 
The past few times I've taken the girls to nursery, I've noticed something. T gets very quiet. There's a look in her eye. Tears lurking somewhere deep down. When I ask if she's OK, she always smiles and says she's fine. But I know her. I am her.
As my mother will delightedly tell you, I was the queen of the tantrum. I could scream and shout and rage and wail with the best of them. But that just meant I was tired or grumpy. The real problems came when I went quiet. My silence was never a good sign. And T is her mummy's girl. Once she's at nursery and I've completed the abandonment she's feared, I'm pretty sure she manages to have fun. She always has tales to tell of what she's been up to, and I know she throws herself into looking after G, into making sure her shy sister's OK. Just like I used to do with my sisters. But does she really want to be there. I just don't know.
And I just don't know when she's going to outgrow it.
I'm a married thirtysomething, who's had a great career, a social life I loved, and now loves taking the girls to new and exciting places where we can have little adventures together and meet new people. But deep down, I'm still fearful. I'm still hiding the fears about what will happen, the worries that maybe no one really likes me. On days where I don't have M to concentrate on, when she goes off to have fun with Granny while the twins are at nursery, I never quite relax. After my meeting today, there wasn't really any time to get home and get stuck into any gardening or housework before I'd have to be heading back. So I went for a coffee. A latte, a biscotti and a copy of The Guardian. That's pretty much my idea of heaven. People watching, relaxing, time all to myself... But the whole time, I felt sick. Physically sick. I couldn't concentrate on anything more than headline, and barely tasted my coffee.
What if G doesn't feel confident enough to go to the loo when she needs? What if her clumsy genes (also inherited from me, I'm sorry to say) show themselves and she gets hurt? And what if T is sad? What if she is really sad? 
Those last two are the thoughts that really kill me. I'm so proud of that brave little face she puts on, of how she always looks out for her sister, but the thought of how hard it is for her underneath is like a knife to the gut. Of course, on my return, everyone was uninjured and unsoiled and perfectly happy, but I know as long as T goes quiet, I'll feel just the same tomorrow. I guess all I can do is encourage and smile and reassure her that I'll always come back. That herds or wildebeest and flocks of dragons could not stop me getting to her. And hope that in time she will relax. That she will begin to love the nursery that she could so easily love. That is a perfect place for her to learn to be herself without me there. Like her sister, when she's with someone she knows, she's bubbly and feisty and cheeky and bright, and all I can hope is that, with time, the whole world will get to see that. That the whole world will get to see both my girls in all their glory. Until them, I will just have to enjoy every minute I have with them, and learn to live with the times we are apart.

Photos copyright SS Kelman (http://pkperspective.co.uk/)

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