Poor Susan Messing…she’s getting a bum rap in the titles of my posts for humor’s sake no good reason.
I need to take a moment to process and be a mom for a moment.
Pregnancy disputes that golden chestnut There’s No Such Thing as A Stupid Question (“Did you get pregnant with both at the same time?”) Motherhood continues to beat the crap out of that statement and gets Incredulous, Loaded, Intrusive, Invasive, and Keep-Me-Up-Until-The-Wee-Hours-Thinking-Of-Good-Comebacks as a Gift-With-Purchase of Stupid Question.
“Do they have the same personality?”
I have no idea where this question comes from. Even if you are under some I-Drew-Doodles-In-My-Trapper-Instead-Of-Paying-Attention-in Science-Class Misimpression that identical twins Are 100% alike in every way, my boys aren’t even close to being identical. More often than not, people think Monkey L. is older than Monkey J.
Do you have the same personality as your siblings?
In many ways, the Monkeys have split their ancestry right down the middle. Monkey L. looks like his mama did at his age (insert “poor kid” joke here). Monkey J. is the miniature image of his father (his father doesn’t see it, perhaps too blinded by the light coloring that comes from my side of the family.) Monkey L has the best of my personality. Monkey J has the best of Huzzy’s. Monkey J. seeks (and usually gets) a lot of external validation — he “performs” for people. L is more subdued, worried, taking longer to warm up to people. Monkey J. is an early talker and quite the mimic. Monkey L. has been more reluctant to talk and doesn’t articulate as well, but understands perfectly. They both love music.
Monkey J. is quirky and marches to the wonderful beat of his own awesome drummer. The kid dances and does what seems some form of Tai Chi buried somewhere in his DNA. He can sit and play with one toy or read one book for long periods of time. We often say he’s (happily) on his own planet. He has charisma and wit. He’s sly and has more than a bit of wanderlust in him. He is the quintessential big brother. He’s impatient and his brain wants him to do more than he is physically capable of at this time. He seems capable of rewiring the entire house. He has his mama’s sweet tooth. He’s slight, small, super-flexible, and fast, and breaks into an easy grin when he’s been caught doing something he shouldn’t. Then he stops doing it and will give you a sloppy kiss. He gets very excited anytime we leave the house for an adventure. His face splits into a handsome grin when we finally discipher what he’s trying to say. He will amuse himself for long minutes by standing in a corner, or by spinning around until he gets dizzy and then trying to walk.
L. is the toddler next door, a flirt. He reads people’s faces like a master and will charm the pants off of people, once he’s warmed up to them. He is a little summer storm, always moving fast and spread out wide. He lives life large — he has a big appetite and a big heart. No finesse. He tunes into the room and the “vibe” — but it doesn’t stop him from tuning out when he gets overwhelmed. He is desire and immediate gratification. He feels everything. He likes broccoli and berries. He clings to me in social situations, but is a juggernaut when he wants to try something new. He’s impatient when he wants something, which is usually tied to getting some love. He loves singing to himself. His face telegraphs naughty intentions moments before he heads for trouble. He’s a button-pusher (literally, not figuratively). He has a silly, sophisticated sense of humor that relies on doing the unexpected. He loves silly words. He will amuse himself for long minutes by watching the dog chase his tail or playing with stuffed animals.
They both have huge hearts and ridiculous amounts of energy. They both light up when Huzzy or I walk in the front door. They love their grandparents and will shout, “Gampa!” with abandon when our fathers are mentioned. They both have tremendous silly streaks. They are happy. Ridiculously happy. They almost always run.
Whoa! Mama! Stop pigeonholing your kid!
Whoa, pretend interrupter who may or may not be some part of my subconscious, at some point personalities begin to shine. No one is saying these are permanent traits, only things that have begun to display themselves like peacock feathers, proudly tried and adopted (at least for the time being) by the boys.
These days, people seem more drawn to J. He is, as Huzzy correctly if not clumsily, describes as “more accessible.” He’s fun to watch, even if his back is to you. He’s always moving and squirming and saying something hilarious. L., while a flirt, is withdrawn and quiet at first. Eventually, he will show you he can climb and will jabber in his toddler talk while J. will take you on an adventure and ask you to read him a book or listen to him say his entire vocabulary…clearly.
It’s easy to assume J. is smarter, gifted. Advanced. So I worry about L. and I bite my tongue from telling everyone we meet that yes, L. can do these things, that his humor is a sign of higher intelligence. Cuz really, I don’t want to be that mom. I know they will go back and forth — after all, L. actually talked first, then stopped for a few months. J. used to be shy, then blossomed.
Most days I can relax about them and most days I just need an in-flight adjustment to quickly remind myself that what other people think about them (especially how smart they are at the ripe age of 22 months) is asinine. Some days (admittedly rarer and rarer as I bake more and more and work on theater projects, including The Project) I give in to the urge to unnecessarily protect and defend wee L. from the ravages of my perceived slights on his abilities.
Translation: Sometimes I’m that mom. Usually only to family though, and they already think I’m nuttier than a movie theater-sized package of Goobers, so it’s all good.
It’s all good? Did you just use your second-most detested phrase?
Yeah, my bad.
Aaaand, that’s number one.
The other day we had a few relatives visiting. L. ran straight to my arms, worried that Huzzy and I were leaving them for a fun night on the town while they had to stay (aka the Anyone Who Walks in the House is a Babysitter Response). He didn’t want to engage. Conversely, J went straight into Broadway show tunes and reciting the entire periodic table of elements while modern dancing and showing how to pilot a dirigible. Ok, singing, dancing, and showing off his toys. Same thing.
After a few minutes of L. burying his head in my shoulder, only occasionally emerging to give a winning smile to the women in the room and J. dancing to Bingo and demonstrating Elmo’s ability to stop at a stop sign. (We work on S*T*O*P* meaning Stop. For no reason, of course.), a male relative pointed to J. and said, “That one’s a winner.”
I could feel the blood draining from my face and my stomach migrating to my ankles.
Was the implication that L. was a loser? Possibly.
We don’t function in terms of winners and losers here. However, and this is important, I’m not one who believes all kids should get participation winners. Eventually it’s ok to keep score. It’s ok for you to be good at something I’m bad at and vice versa.
But in the game of Being, …yeah, we’re all winners, especially at age 22 months.
Will this particular family member favor J? Will others? How can we compliment one without hurting or slighting the other? It will, of course, eventually happen as they develop different interests beyond pooping and running amok in the backyard.
I had a brief flash about ten years in the future…L., calm, friendly, affable, having an easier time socially in school than higher-strung, quirkier, fringier J. Drying J’s tears.
It won’t stop. I will worry. I will have to let them get hurt and learn.
I didn’t say anything to this relative. Not this time.
Yeah, I’m still the asshole, Susan Messing.