Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Little Heartbreak

On Sunday after church, we had a potluck lunch. While I staked out a table with MayDay, CPod wrangled the twins, keeping our place in line. G-Dog and ConMan held his hands, but after sitting through three hours of meetings (and truly being on their best behavior), they were more than a little rambunctious. They held on tightly to CPod's hands while swinging to and fro across the front of Daddy, the human jungle gym. They played peek-a-boo behind his back and laughed and carried on while they waited for their spaghetti. None of this behavior was abnormal, and it certainly wasn't inappropriate for the setting.

A couple stood behind them. CPod overheard the wife say to her husband, glancing significantly at my two wonderful boys, "ConMan is the good twin," as though trying to explain away their behavior by casting one child as the bad influence.

We're not sure if the boys heard her, but regardless, CPod turned around and said, "Actually, Sister So-and-so, these are two very good boys." He gave her a very pointed look that made it clear to her that her comparison of the twins, and her subsequent judgment based on limited knowledge, was absolutely inappropriate and could be damaging to the tender psyche of a young and sensitive boy were he to hear her say it.

Here's the thing. G-Dog is an enigma. Though he and ConMan are twins, he takes his 97 minute headstart seriously -- never have I met a more assertive child. He is the oldest. I'm convinced that if it hadn't been for the extraordinary measures required for us to conceive in the first place, G-Dog would have been born not just first, but alone. He is opinionated and headstrong and persistent, extremely logical and inquisitive. But he is also very energetic and BOSSY and is constantly seeking for new ways to control his environment. (Don't say it, Mom. I already know he's just like me.) Add to that a very delicate and sensitive emotional side and a deep and sincere love for all things little and helpless, and you get a kid that to many, is too much work to handle and not worth the required effort.

I'll be honest here -- I have moments with all of my children that require way more effort than I have to give sometimes. Eighteen months ago, the child that required the most effort was almost always G-Dog. Because we have worked hard at developing communication skills with him, and begun a continuous dialogue about his feelings and how they relate to his behavior, his temperament has stabilized immeasurably and life in our house has been a lot easier. We have learned how to take each child's individual characteristics and use them to our advantage when tailoring consequences and rewards. We delight in their differences, even though, sometimes, those unique things that make them tick also make our parenting lives more difficult.

I am afraid that I can almost guarantee that the people G-Dog meets through his life, especially those who teach him in school, will not all be willing to see his "difficult" behaviors from a different perspective. This will be further complicated by his twin-ness: ConMan's unique characteristics are simply easier to take for many, and the comparison is, I fear, inevitable. Inevitable -- and unfair to both kids.

Sigh. I don't know how to protect them from labels, from people who don't realize how much their words can be prophecies. I hope G-Dog and ConMan will be able to hear my voice above all the other ones, reinforcing them, holding them up, helping them know who they really are and how much potential they each have by divine right. I see God in both of them. Please, may He help me help them to see it in themselves.

23 comments:

  1. I liked what you had to say about label full-filling prophecies. I have a "difficult" child myself. He's starting kindergarted this year. We had a hard time in pre-school and I have a lot of anxiety about him starting kindergarten.

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  2. That makes me so sad.

    I also have a difficult child--and he's only one. I'm going to try so hard to do what you guys did and encourage him to communicate and talk to us instead of throw screaming fits for an hour.

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  3. It won't be just your voice that they hear. It will be mine, and the many other family members that love them exactly the way they are.

    I am SO glad that CPod spoke up.

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  4. Dang, it's hard to be the oldest child. The same qualities that will make him such a successful adult will be misunderstood by people for whom it is easier to control than to understand.

    And that lady had some nerve.

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  5. Why would she even say that? How Christlike of her. :P

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  6. I just stumbled upon your blog, but I wanted to comment. I love your writing and I love how you described your boys. I have a "difficult" child, too, and though he is loved dearly (as yours are), there have been times I've wanted to not be his mother, just for a few hours. HOWEVER, he finally had a teacher, unfortunately not until 6th grade, who saw the potential in him and used his charming characteristics in ways that benefitted her AND him. She could see past the 'difficulty' and whatever she did turned him into a completely different child. He is an excellent student, socially well-established, and actually FUN to be around instead of exhausting.

    Just hang in there. It sounds like you're doing an excellent job. You're right, the most important thing is for him to always feel loved. He will hold tight to that and it will go a long way towards helping him adjust to/deal with the things that are hard. He will also hear God's voice above all the others.

    Thanks for the inspiring words.

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  7. Unfortunately this will continue to happen simply because they are twins.

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  8. Well Said =)
    I`m so in love with Gdog for all the kindness words he says to me, every SINGLE time i watch them!

    and im so in love with Conman and his way to tell me that i MUST play mario with him!

    And oh....MayDay, lets just say his is my little boyfriend ahhahaha

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  9. I think this is a fitting analogy for what Heavenly Father must feel when any of us begin to dislike ourselves because of comparison with others. His voice tells all of us how good we are. And like you wish for your children, he hopes we'll listen.

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  10. I have to say how impressed I am with the wisdom of the mothers, friends and family who have commented here. Heavenly Father was my best parenting coach...it was my job to ask for help and listen for the answers...channel my spirit, channel my children too.
    Those difficult personality traits that show up in toddlers become independence, self reliance and the ability to stand in Holy places even in the face of great evil. Comments like that just make me all the more determined to raise righteous children and grand children. Hurray for mothers who know. Snarkinkmom

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  11. Thank goodness for CPod! If the boys did hear it they at least know automatically that they aren't judged in their family! I am so mad at the MEAN women!!! That is all I can say about her...I hope she learned her lesson and thinks twice next time she decides to speak that way about anyone especially a child! I also have a feeling that your children are going to always hear your voice (and those of other loved ones)above others because you are teaching them that you love them for their differences! I sometimes think people forget that kids are kids and that they are supposed to be rambunctious and excited! The world would be much more fun if we all lightened up and enjoyed things like children do! I agree 100% with Snarkinkmom. Those same traits will be seen as assets when they are grown up. Pat CPod on the back for me. I am totally impressed and I hope I am always ready to be my child's best advocate! You are awesome and I have no doubt that your children are too! They sure are absolutely adorable!!! :)

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  12. I think all your kids seem well rounded and fun. If there is a perfect formula to success in life, I've never heard of it. Cpod did the right thing, and did it very well it sounds like. I think as they get older they will probably not put up with being compared...I've seen twins do that before!

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  13. It amazes me that some grown folk still don't think before they open their mouths. Good ole Southern passive-aggressiveness at its finest.

    Even though it may take a while, G-Dog will eventually, inevitably know and treasure just how much you see in him and value him.

    And I think Steph of D-D made a great point.

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  14. My girls are compared in this way all the time and it's alternately painful and worrying. Emma is getting old enough that she senses the difference between how people react to her and how they react to her milder, sweeter tempered sister. It hurts my heart to see it. I wish people were kinder.

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  15. Beautiful concluding paragraph.

    I hated being compared to my 2-years-younger-than-me sister....the "good" one. I can only imagine How much harder that would have been if we were twins!

    What a blessing to have a mother who recognizes their individual strengths and sees God in both their hearts. (I especially love your description of G-dog's inherent love for things that are small and helpless and fragile. He sounds so much like my Jeremiah, including the "difficult" behaviors.)

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  16. Well written. We have difficulties too but although the comparisons are difficult twins have an added level of protection--the brother (twin). A constant non-judgemental counterpart. So being a twin is both helpful and hindering at the same time.

    Our boys don't tend to notice comparisons as much as I do. At this point we are really glad that we have neither tried to make them the same or take them apart. We have just let them develop on their own. They are genuinely happy for each other when one succeeds--that always surprises me.

    We too have been through ICU parenting with different kids at different times. Good luck!

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  17. That is awesome that C-pod said something. That is something I would have fumed about and wouldn't have a response for until hours later, like the middle of the night.
    I love the last sentences so much.

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  18. Comparisons - I know a little about twin comparisons. Except being asked them: "Who's smarter?, Who's stronger? Who has the prettiest girlfriends? Who gets better grades? Who's taller, fatter, well behaved . . . etc." It won't stop, never. Not even at 31 years old.

    One reason it keeps going for me and Brian is because we are so much alike, and people were looking to find differences - even in personality.

    I think it is LUCKY that they are so polar opposite. G-dog is a Powerful-perfect (Red/Blue) like you, and Conman is a Playful-peaceful (Yellow/white) like CPod.

    They are yin and yang, like you and CPod in your last post. That means (hopefully) they will always get along because they don't have to compete in the same way Brian and I did. They are motivated by completely different things and they don't have to be the best at anything. And where one lacks, the other should be there to help him out. When someone pushes Conman around because he is so easygoing, G-Dog will have his back. When G-Dog gets in over his head, Conman will show him how to take it easy and look at the bright side.

    One great thing about being twins is ESP. Not because of anything supernatural, but because you have gone through so much with the twin, that you understand them completely. How many people have had the opportunity to know and understand their polar opposite (personality) so profoundly as these two will?

    You are such a great mom, and I can't believe CPod did that! I think you have changed him some too, or maybe it was G-Dog. CPod is a peaceful, nonconfrontational person. Craig is a really good dad too. I envy you both in so many ways, but I guess you understand that. Just wish we could visit with you more often. See ya this weekend.

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  19. This almost made me cry. Life is hard enough for rambunctious people without others labeling them/us. I was always the messy/loud/artistic/naughty kid. But that's not all who I was and I'm glad I had parents who realized that there was so much more to me than what other adults saw. I only know you from your blog, but I think G-Dog will have all the support he needs to help him thrive. I'm so glad your husband stuck up for your son.

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  20. I totally agree with all the comments. What is viewed right now as being "difficult" or "a handful" will be viewed when he's an adult as superior leadership skills. He will make a most excellent Business man someday!! He has his personality for a reason... and we should embrace it. That's how I have dealt with my "high maintenance" child, anyway.

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  21. What a great post. Having a child that challenges me as well has taught me so much.

    I just want to say that as long as you and CPod speak up, your boys will hear you!

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  22. I don't have children so I can't speak from a parenting perspective, but I can speak from a child's perspective and I think with you speak, they hear. Whether they lsiten or not right then is another story, but it will sink in at some point. You are doing a great job!

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  23. Yay for daddy and how he spoke up calmly and without being ugly but very precisely!!!

    People is always going to comment and stick their nose where it doesn't belong. It's the world we live in and yes we have to do our very best to reassure our little ones about their unique capabilities and gifts God has given them (us) ...

    I hear you, there are so many things I'm not sure on how to communicate properly to my child but I pray I hear the wisdom from HIM to do my best!

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Sock it to me!