Chloe and Sophie are almost five years apart. This was not an intentional spread, but I don’t regret it. Between the difference in their ages and the differences in their personalities, there’s never a dull moment, which is by turns often amusing and occasionally appalling.
I’ve recently started to pay more attention to how they react to the same events because I’m having trouble keeping up with their complete lack of agreement on just about everything (except their shared love for pancakes and chocolate). To wit:
Scenario #1: Papa Attempts a Joke
While we’re eating dinner, my husband often makes off-color jokes in his thick French accent.
Chloe rolls her eyes and says, “Papa, that’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said.” She then smiles in spite of herself because she and her Papa tend to bond over stupid stuff and deep down, she thinks his comment was funny.
Sophie attempts to roll her eyes, but can’t quite do it with the same gusto as her older sister. She then betrays her youth by saying, “Wait. Papa, I don’t get it.” When he tries to explain his humor to her and fails, she frowns and huffs and puffs in frustration until we’ve moved on to another subject.
Scenario #2: Conniving to Cuddle
Chloe and Sophie are both relaxing in their respective beds before lights out. I sometimes crawl in to join them for cuddles.
Chloe has a look of horror on her face as soon as she realizes I’m invading her space. That look of horror transforms into one of pure adolescent disdain as soon as I try to wrap one of my arms around her. “Mommmmm!” she spits out as she rolls her eyes and turns back to her book, making a show of ignoring me. She doesn’t tell me to leave. I tell myself that she tolerates my presence because in her heart of hearts she likes it when I hug her.
Sophie, on the other hand, starts to grin when I climb in next to her. It’s a discreet smile, not unlike Mona Lisa’s. My little one purrs with delight when I join her. She grabs my hands and wraps them around her belly. She continues to hold on tight when I try to leave and doesn’t hide her disappointment when she hears my footsteps on the floor as I sneak out of her room.
Scenario #3: Radio Riots
We’re in the car and the girls ask me to put on the radio. I moan because I know what comes next.
Chloe tunes in to a station that’s playing a song she doesn’t hate. In the microseconds it takes for Sophie to realize Chloe isn’t going to change the station again, my contrarian 9-year yells, “Chloe, that song sucks!” Never mind that she’s only heard about two notes of the song. Never mind that she liked it yesterday when she was the only one in the car with me. If it’s a song Chloe tolerates, Sophie hates it. It’s the principle of the thing.
If, on the other hand, Sophie finds a song she likes, Chloe rolls her eyes, throws her head back in exasperation (à la Beezus reacting to Ramona) and groans loudly.
I then take matters into my own hands and turn the radio off, with an emphatic punch to the power button to remind them that I’m in charge.
Scenario #4: In a New York State of Mind
It’s the weekend. It’s a beautiful day. My husband and I decide it would be nice to spend the afternoon in Manhattan.
Chloe reacts to the news of the day’s activities by throwing her arms up in the air in a victory pose. “Yes!” she cheers with a level of enthusiasm rarely heard from the mouth of a teenager. “We really need to go into New York more often,” she repeats for the trillionth time because saying it one trillion times is apparently not enough.
Sophie reacts to the news of the day’s activities with contempt. “I hate New York! It’s noisy and it smells! This is the worst day ever!” She stomps out of the room and slams the door behind her. If she weren’t nine years old and able to walk on her own two feet, we’d need to physically drag her out of the house to the car. Once in New York, she switches on the infinite loop of complaints, which spew out of her mouth ALL DAY LONG.
Scenario #5: Hating on Mom
Chloe, Sophie and I are hanging out after school. I ask Chloe a reasonable question (my questions are always reasonable) or make an insightful comment (my comments are always insightful).
Because Chloe is a normal teenager, she reacts to just about anything I say with barely disguised scorn. An innocuous question like “Chloe, how was school today?” is met with “It was fine” on a good day and “Ugh!” on a bad day. A comment like “You should start your geometry homework today so you’re not scrambling to do it all on Sunday” is, more often than not, met with “Jeez Mom, I think I know how to manage my time!” News flash: she does not know how to manage her time.
When Sophie witnesses these kinds of exchanges between her older sister and her cherished mother, she immediately comes to my defense. “Chloe, you’re so mean! Mom’s just trying to help!” Sophie, you see, knows which side her bread is buttered on. Except when I say something to annoy her and, call me crazy, I start to see shades of the 14-year old in the 9-year old.
And I realize, shit, they’re not so different after all.