Why I hope it's another boy for Kate

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Front Page - An­gela Ep­stein

The other week, I loi­tered with my 21-year-old son, Sam, in a chilly lounge at Manch­ester air­port, wait­ing for his younger brother, Max, to land after a gap year away. I was touched Sam had of­fered to join me on the pick-up, es­pe­cially since the flight wasn’t due in un­til after mid­night.

How­ever, as we idled in the Ar­rivals hall, my son pass­ing the time draft­ing a hu­mor­ous wel­come home mes­sage for Max, 19, on his iPad (it read: “I’ve got your room now”), it be­came clear Sam wasn’t just there to keep me company. He wanted to see his brother, too. And in­deed when the doors in Ar­rivals peeled back and my younger son ap­peared, the warmth be­tween my two boys was pal­pa­ble as they shook hands, landed each other a play­ful slap and be­gan bab­bling away about mu­tual friends.

“Erm, what am I, chopped liver?” I even­tu­ally ca­joled, after forc­ing my wan­der­ing son into giv­ing his mother a hug. But inside I was thrilled. Quite sim­ply, the plea­sure of see­ing your two sons greet each other like long lost friends is an in­tensely warm and grat­i­fy­ing feel­ing.

That’s why I do hope that Kate Mid­dle­ton, now preg­nant with her sec­ond child, is car­ry­ing a boy. And un­like sea­soned com­men­ta­tors with one eye on per­pet­u­at­ing the Royal lin­eage, I’m not think­ing about the use­ful­ness of the Duchess of Cam­bridge de­liv­er­ing a “spare heir”. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s noth­ing more de­light­ful than fol­low­ing a first born son with the close ar­rival of a lit­tle brother. (Sam and Max were born just over a cou­ple of years apart, while Prince George will be un­der two when the royal baby ar­rives.)

I hope this not only for the prag­matic pay-off of bulk-buy­ing navy blue T-shirts and hard work­ing ele­phant cords – lit­tle boys rarely be­have like crit­i­cal fash­ion­istas or pint-size di­vas when it comes to clothes – but more sig­nif­i­cantly for the pro­found bonds of kin­ship and friend­ship that bind to­gether a lit­tle boy and his baby brother.

Yet when it comes to a sec­ond preg­nancy, there’s a pre­vail­ing as­sump­tion that par­ents will want the op­po­site gen­der to what they al­ready have. It’s the laboured no­tion of hav­ing “one of each”, though in re­al­ity, the gen­der of an un­born child ob­vi­ously isn’t some­thing you can or­der with the panache of a sea­soned diner. How­ever, when I be­came preg­nant with my sec­ond and was al­ready mother to Sam, then 20 months old, I dearly wished the new baby would be a boy.

Un­like Kate, of course, there was no pres­sure to pre­serve the fam­ily name. Rather, I took the view that Sam would have a lit­tle friend and play­mate on tap: some­one who would be by his side, through noisy, messy boy­ish in­fancy, scuffed knees and soc­cer games and on­wards to­wards ado­les­cence and adult­hood.

In­deed, I still re­mem­ber the de­li­ciously warm feel­ing when my hus­band, Martin, brought our older boy to the hos­pi­tal a few hours after Max was born. When Sam, a spec­tac­u­larly in­quis­i­tive tod­dler, leant over the crib to peer at his golden haired lit­tle brother, and mag­nan­i­mously in­quired whether the baby wanted to play with his Thomas the Tank en­gine, my heart con­tracted with ab­so­lute joy.

Of course, just be­cause you have two chil­dren who are both close in age and the same gen­der, there’s no guar­an­tee they will be the great­est of friends. From the Miliband brothers to the Everly brothers, his­tory is lit­tered with spec­tac­u­lar rifts and shat­tered re­la­tion­ships.

Per­haps in such cases, un­apolo­getic am­bi­tion or the pres­sure of be­ing high pro­file were the touch­pa­per to sib­ling re­sent­ment. But that hardly squares with the Duke of Cam­bridge and Prince Harry, shin­ing ex­am­ples of a warm, mu­tu­ally de­pen­dent broth­erly re­la­tion­ship.

Their ev­i­dent fa­mil­iar­ity, easy teas­ing and gen­uine ca­ma­raderie sug­gests a close­ness hith­erto un­prece­dented in the Queen’s own chil­dren.

In my own home I’ve watched as Sam, a much nois­ier and more bois­ter­ous character than his younger brother, has ful­filled the role of both peer and play­mate over the years.

In­deed, from a so­cial per­spec­tive, hav­ing two boys to­gether just made life so much eas­ier.

Fam­ily out­ings on a Sun­day af­ter­noon didn’t re­quire other friends to come along for company, since the boys had each other. I still re­mem­ber tak­ing the two of them to an ex­hi­bi­tion and fair at the Leeds Ar­moury mu­seum when Max was two and Sam just over four, both boys dressed in match­ing red T-shirts with a car­toon cow on the front (we’d just been to Geneva). To­gether, the boys raced around after each other, en­joy­ing the rough and tum­ble of the games on of­fer. A lit­tle sis­ter may have been un­will­ing to con­cede an in­ner tomboy, leav­ing Sam to play alone.

That’s not to say that some in­ter­ven­tional parenting hasn’t been in­volved – but this is the case with any sib­ling com­bi­na­tion, as you fight to en­sure you don’t give any of your chil­dren rea­son to feel jeal­ous or over­looked. A younger child is al­ways the po­ten­tial usurper – newer, more vul­ner­a­ble, the fa­bled baby in word, deed and birth cer­tifi­cate.

When Andy Mur­ray, 27, thrashed Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut to reach the last 16 of the men’s sin­gles at Wim­ble­don this year, the dour Scots­man cast him­self as “num­ber two son” when he dis­cov­ered his mother, Judy, had been watch­ing her older son Jamie, 28, and his Aussie play­ing part­ner John Peers win in the men’s dou­bles in­stead.

But away from the in­ter­na­tional ten­nis cir­cuit, there’s so much scope to pre­vent that re­sent­ment. With two boys, the fuss at the ar­rival of your sec­ond child is in­evitably muted (I wish I’d banked a ten­ner for ev­ery time I heard the ex­pres­sion “another boy”). When Max was born, there were cards, gifts and con­grat­u­la­tions. But noth­ing like the kind of re­cep­tion which would have marked the ar­rival of a baby girl. So any scope for jeal­ousy was im­me­di­ately di­min­ished.

There’s some­thing else for Kate to con­sider, too. What cer­tainly helps with hav­ing two sons to­gether is the fact that boys are, well, just so much eas­ier. Un­like lit­tle girls, who can be steely-minded despots (as proven by my 10-year-old daugh­ter), their de­fault po­si­tion isn’t to be peren­ni­ally ar­gu­men­ta­tive. The dy­namic be­tween brother and sis­ter can be ex­plo­sive.

Lit­tle won­der a poll by Net Mums re­vealed that 55 per cent of moth­ers found it eas­ier to bond with their sons.

Terri Apter, a psy­chol­o­gist at Cam­bridge Univer­sity, has ob­served that brothers are more prone to fist fights, but sis­ters wound each other psy­cho­log­i­cally, and much more deeply. Boys, she feels, are more ob­jec­tive, less sen­si­tive and more goal ori­en­tated.

Cer­tainly any blowouts be­tween my boys have been like short bursts of thun­der, nec­es­sary for break­ing the ten­sion when hot heads swell the pres­sure but im­me­di­ately re­placed by bright sun­shine and clear blue skies.

As my boys have grown older, so the age gap has nar­rowed fur­ther. With each pass­ing mile­stone – from start­ing ju­nior school to choos­ing A-level op­tions – Sam has been there to give Max the ben­e­fit of his ex­pe­ri­ence while, at the same time, his brother has blos­somed into his peer and equal. When they are both at a loose end, they’ll go off to the cin­ema to­gether or knock around with a foot­ball.

By sheer fluke they have ended up at the same univer­sity, and though Sam is a third year and Max a mere fresher, my older boy is al­ready of­fer­ing to show his brother the ropes. I sus­pect part of him will rather like be­ing in loco par­en­tis, but Sam flavours his ad­vice with enough caus­tic hu­mour to make it easy for Max to ac­cept his guid­ance.

Judg­ing by the friendly sib­ling re­la­tion­ships be­tween Kate and her own brother and sis­ter, this sec­ond baby will no doubt be wel­comed and adored re­gard­less of its gen­der. But if it’s a boy, George will gain more than just a brother. He’ll gain a life-long friend.

Broth­erly love: Diana, Princess of Wales de­lighted in the fra­ter­nal bond be­tween Wil­liam and Harry, which may be repli­cated if Kate has a sec­ond son after George, in­set

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.