Bright orange, soft yellow

When we were planning the move here to Virginia, we made floor plans, chose which furniture to buy and which to sell, and picked paint colors from the alarming array of choices in the THREE (!) Benjamin Moore paint fan decks. (I'd do much better with a palette of, say, 50 colors to chose from.) All of this was based on CG's trips here, my feverish study of the many photos he took and our combined sense of what colors match our stuff and are pleasing to live in.

Zoe, of course, insisted on having her room done in her two favorite colors- orange and "lello"- and we managed to get her to concede to 3 white walls, 1 bright orange wall and a bright yellow closet (CG's stroke of brilliance). It looks crisp and bright and fabulous, just right for our big girl, and she's so at home in it already. (Plus, if and when she decides she hates orange, we have only one wall to repaint.)

Unfortunately, Eliza's much smaller room was mistakenly painted exactly like Zoe's, despite our instructions to the painters to leave it its original off-white color. When CG found this out, we were still in Vermont. We could have insisted that they repaint it but I couldn't picture the room, couldn't decide on another color, couldn't DEAL. So we just told the painters that it's fine, leave it as it is.

When we arrived here last week, I felt a little ill every time I walked into Eliza's room. It's a small room and the bright orange wall was just too much. I tried to like it, telling myself that it was perfectly painted, in pristine condition really, and I would get used to it. Most of all, we had signed off on it. It made no sense to pay to have it repainted or add one more major project to our three page to-do list.

Until it made even less sense to leave it as it was because it was making me so sad.

You see, Zoe is bright orange. Her voice is clear and loud. She often walks right up to strangers and asks them their name and if they have a penis or a vagina. She makes her presence known and has since the day that she was born.

But Eliza is soft yellow. She is such a grub of a baby still, so much about who she will be is unknown, still forming. But the differences between her and her big sister have been blatantly obvious since day one. Zoe hated baths, loud noises, her nightly massage and was very opinionated about when and how she would sleep, eat, and be held. Eliza loves the bath and her weekly massage (ah yes weekly, she is the second baby), doesn't mind loud noises or being held/put down/carried in whatever way we feel like. She is easy-going, sunshine-y, placid.

I lay awake at night wondering if this is who they are genetically, determined from the moment CG's seed met my egg (which, by the way, is our answer to Zoe's question about how babies are made. Our answer to her follow-up "but HOW??!!": "Hey, wanna cookie!?!?"). It also seems possible, though frightening in the inevitable self-recriminations, that Zoe gained some of her hard-charging, bright orange ways because of our parenting, specifically my mothering. She is, after all, the first born child of a mother who often feels really, truly clueless and struggles to chose hope over fear. Did she absorb all my anxiety as a new mother? Is her psyche forever shaped by the maternal inexperience and naivete that she struggles against every. single. day? Does Zoe never shut up because of who she innately is or because I was so lonely that I talked to her ALL DAY, EVERY DAY as an infant? Am I really seeing who these children are, their essential and true selves, or do I only see what I want to see, what I expect of them, what I project onto them because of my own baggage?

Do your kids have a color, one that they chose or one that you see in them?

(Where was I? Oh, right, Eliza.)

At this moment in time, in my eyes, Eliza is soft yellow. The bright orange not only didn't fit her room, it didn't fit her. That's what did it for me.

Luckily CG agreed, even though he had every right to say "but you said it was fine!" and "that's another expense that we just can't justify".

Now it has been repainted a warm, soft yellow.

And all is right with this little corner of the world.


Good Enough Mom said...

I have all the same questions about the differences between my 2 kids... My older son, it turns out, has some minor problems related to low muscle tone. Was he born this way, or did I inadvertently cause this problem through my overanxious, harm-avoidant parenting? ("Charlie, watch out! Charlie, be careful! Charlie, don't go too high!") ...I think it's both, but his OT says he was born this way...at least he's getting much better now!...

Anyhow, it's the fact that you ask the question that makes you awesome. And clearly you have the most important ingredient for successful parenting: empathic attunement. Your kids are already benefiting from your recognition of who's orange and who's yellow!

Sarah said...

I only have one child, but I totally believe in the personality being present at birth. Little Man has always been just like Eliza. I could tell he would be an easy-going baby even two days after he was born.

I think it's so amazing that you repainted Eliza's room!

Hillary said...

I think some of babies' personalities are present at birth. Some of them want to be snuggled and loved; others want to test their limits from the first. The Boy is somewhere in between, a happy and independent little guy with a streak of cautiousness. I wonder about The Lad and who he'll be.

And, incidentally, The Boy's room is orange, too. We're thinking yellow, a very bright, sunshiney yellow, for The Lad's room.

Whimsy said...

I just don't know... I don't know if Alice is who she is because I see her that way, or because I've parented her that way--- or if it comes from some other place, from deep inside her. But I do love that you're wondering.

As for Alice's color? She isn't able to tell me yet - so her room is painted a really soft gray-green, and decorated in subdued versions of primary colors: amber, warm red, slate blue, chartreuse. I love it. I hope she will as well.

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