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A.A. Milne might have been on to something here.
“There were Two Little Bears who lived in a Wood,
And one of them was Bad and the other was Good.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times One –
But Bad Bear left all his buttons undone.”
I’ve never thought of my children as “bad” and “good” – of course not! – but I’ve always worried more about Ruby. She was my high-risk pregnancy, the one with all the bleeding and the low thyroid levels and the four Down syndrome markers and the two-vessel cord and the breech presentation and the early labor scare.
“They lived in a Tree when the weather was hot,
And one of them was Good, and the other was Not.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Two –
But Bad Bear's thingummies were worn right through.”
Then came her early babyhood, with reflux and screaming and no sleep and so much puke. She cried all the time. I cried all the time. She was early to crawl and late to talk, and she got kicked out of daycare before she was even a year old.
“They lived in a Cave when the weather was cold,
And they Did, and they Didn't Do, what they were told.
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Three –
But Bad Bear never had his hand-ker-chee.”
Her toddlerhood was rough. She didn’t listen, like, at all. She threw huge tantrums. She was sassy and strong-willed and never stayed in time-out when I put her there. Once when I calmly asked her to “use her listening ears,” she shrugged and said, “Sorry, Mama, these are the only ones I have.”
At the first parent meeting at her old school, the principal said, “I’m sure I’ll be seeing a lot of you, Eve,” and I got extremely defensive. “What? You haven’t even met her yet!”
“I just meant,” she said, looking obviously taken aback, “that we have a lot of opportunities for parent involvement here.”
“Oh,” I said.
“They lived in the Wood with a Kind Old Aunt,
And one said ‘Yes'm,’ and the other said ‘Shan't!’
Good Bear learnt his Twice Times Four –
But Bad Bear's knicketies were terrible tore.”
Georgia, meanwhile, was easy-peasy from the moment the pee was dry on the pregnancy test. I had bad morning sickness, but otherwise, the pregnancy was a dream. She got head-down like a good baby. I went into labor four days after my due date, and by the time we went home from the hospital, she was nursing and sleeping and pooping in a predictable pattern. There was no reflux. There wasn’t even much crying. She was a happy baby who became a happy toddler. She crawled and talked exactly when she was supposed to, saying her first word – “splash!” – while laughing and slapping her bathwater with chubby hands. She loved to eat, and she asked to nap, and she sometimes put herself in time-out if she knew she’d done something wrong. When we had her first preschool conference, her teachers actually said, “We think she’s perfect,” and we laughed and said, “So do we!”
“And then quite suddenly (just like Us)
One got Better and the other got Wuss.
Good Bear muddled his Twice Times Three –
But Bad Bear coughed in his hand-ker-chee!”
Now, though, Georgia is taking her natural good humor and exuberance and channeling it into being the class clown. We get notes home that she sang “Feliz Navidad” at the top of her lungs during silent reading because she thought it was hilarious (and it probably actually was, in her defense). We get notes that she tried to juggle Jell-O at lunch (again, almost certainly very funny). She is doing well academically, but she doesn’t feel like doing her work when it would be far more amusing to pretend her pencil is a mustache.
“Good Bear muddled his Twice Times Two –
But Bad Bear's thingummies looked like new.
Good Bear muddled his Twice Times One –
But Bad Bear never left his buttons undone.”
Ruby now has straight A’s and never gets in trouble at school. She is a cheerleader, has a speaking part in the school play and is a member of the French Club and the Kindness Club. She isn’t a “popular girl,” but she has several very close girlfriends, and they all text each other words of praise and heart-eyed emojis. After years and years of homework nightmares, she is now checking her homework assignments, doing them with minimal assistance, and packing them back in her backpack before putting her phone and computer up to charge and going to take a shower and lay out her clothes for the next day.
“There may be a Moral, though some say not;
I think there's a moral, though I don't know what.
But if one gets better, as the other gets wuss,
These Two Little Bears are just like Us.
For Christopher remembers up to Twice Times Ten …
But I keep forgetting where I put my pen.*
* So I have had to write this one in pencil.”
Ultimately, I’m not really worried about Georgia, nor am I taking anything for granted about Ruby. Soon enough, it will all switch again, and I will be losing sleep over Ruby’s defiant behavior while Georgia does her homework in flawless cursive, and then not long after that, I will be worried about Georgia’s antics while Ruby is off feeding the homeless – and then I will be stressed about Ruby applying for college while Georgia is making friends and influencing people. They’re both smart, funny, driven girls with good heads on their shoulders and – most important of all – kind, caring hearts.
“It’s all a phase,” my mom told me once. “The bad stuff doesn’t last. But the good stuff doesn’t last either. Take it as it comes.”
I’m trying. It’s not easy – I’m always worrying about someone, it seems – but I’m trying.
I love my two sweet bears – and they’re definitely both good.