There are just two years between my children in age and I was as besotted as any new mum when Andy was born.
I was also tired and overwhelmed but my own mum was a great help and I felt quite experienced when Laura was born. By the time she was three my husband Ken and I were almost amused at how different they were.
Andy preferred to stick to two or three friends and was fairly quiet, while Laura was Miss Sociable, collecting friends, batting her eyelashes to charm everyone and always ready to party.
She was 13 when I realised that she wasn’t just part of the in-crowd at school but one of the really popular girls and I was half admiring, half envious.
My mum – even now at 70 – is attractive and elegant, and Laura is the same, while my teenage years were hard going.
Andy’s teenage grumpiness annoyed me even more when I compared him to Laura
I was bright but not pretty, rubbish at sport and socialising, and my mum couldn’t understand it. She was always encouraging me to invite the popular girls round, or suggesting I had parties, but I stopped that after one disastrous night when I realised my house was just being used to let teenagers drink and have sex, and no-one wanted to know me apart from that.
Ken was the first person I went out with and university didn’t change things much for me. I made some new friends but, as ever, there was an in-crowd I wasn’t part of. I wanted my children’s experience to be different but Andy has never had any interest in that and simply did what he liked, which was mainly rugby and Scouts.
I watched with interest as Laura started living the teenage life I’d dreamed of, with sleepovers, parties, shopping trips, and endless social media chat. It sounds shallow but I was thrilled that she was so pretty and I was happy to buy clothes and make-up for her and pay for expensive hair-cuts.
He was shouting and swearing at me that I preferred her and hated him
Ken got annoyed a couple of times when she was the first of her group to get earrings and then highlights in her hair, but she was always so sweet to him and thanked him so much that I didn’t even have to talk him down.
Andy’s teenage grumpiness annoyed me even more when I compared him to Laura. They probably both studied at school to the same extent, but Andy did absolutely nothing extra apart from sport.
We tried to talk him into music, but he wasn’t interested and that frustrated me. Ken kept telling me to leave him to get on with it but neither of them seemed to grasp how important it was to be a good all-rounder, or that social skills were almost as vital as passing exams.
Meanwhile, Laura was playing guitar and singing at all the school concerts, and when the drama department started putting on yearly shows she was nearly always the lead. The teachers loved her because she threw herself into everything, volunteering for mentoring younger children and always part of any school outings.
I made a big effort after that to treat them the same but it was like banging my head against a brick wall with Andy
All Andy wanted to do was rugby. That was fine, because it meant we could afford for Laura to go on all the other trips, even really expensive skiing.
Andy and I had a big fall-out when he was 16. I was sick to death of his smelly bedroom and sulky manner, but I made the mistake of saying “Why can’t you be more like Laura?”. He went mad.
He was shouting and swearing at me that I preferred her and hated him, that all I worried about was keeping her happy and he could live or die for all I cared.
He wasn’t being horrible about Laura because despite being so different they’ve always been very close and enjoyed each other’s company. She’d go and cheer him on at rugby and he did the same at her concerts – he even went to a ballet show once.
So he was shouting at me that it wasn’t Laura but me that he hated because it wasn’t normal to love one child more than the other and it didn’t matter what he did because it was never enough for me.
Everyone was crying and upset and Laura and Andy shut themselves in his room for hours. Eventually they let me in and I apologised and tried to explain how I felt – that he wasn’t taking all the opportunities open to him and that being polite and helpful made life easier. He just shrugged and said everything was fine but I knew it wasn’t really.
I love both my children but Laura is simply a nicer character
I made a big effort after that to treat them the same but it was like banging my head against a brick wall with Andy.
He never showed any appreciation if I went to his rugby matches or bought him a little treat and I eventually realised that probably wouldn’t change.
What bothers me is that I think his reserve is all to do with me. He’s much more chatty with Ken and actually lively with Laura. They watch films together and I hear them laughing and teasing each other. They hug each other and link arms but Andy never touches me and if I hug him or try to kiss him he shrugs me off.
It’s really starting to annoy me now because there’s no need for it and I actually don’t feel guilty about it anymore.
I love both my children but Laura is simply a nicer character – kind and friendly and good fun.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels like this about their children
Andy is awkward and surly with me and it was almost a relief when he left to go to university. I no longer had to watch everything I did and could enjoy Laura without looking over my shoulder to see if it bothered Andy or made Laura protective of him.
I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels like this about their children but it’s the one thing you can never say out loud.
When Laura said she’d been accepted at St Andrews University I was so excited – since Prince William was there it’s been so popular – and Ken and Laura teased me and said I wanted a prince for her. I just joked back and said Harry was snapped up now.
But who knows what’s ahead and I’m so proud of her – she’s had the childhood and teenage years I always craved and that’s set her up for life.
All names have been changed.