There are lots of things I would change if I could, like being on this island. I’m not cut out for paradise, I learned that early on, yet here I am 3 years later; 3 years next month. In many ways, this is inconceivable to me. We’ve tried everything to get off this island. Everything. Yet here we are. I was sure, with all my being, we would be moving by September. But we’re not, and I have to make peace with that. Half of me can’t even fathom it, and the other half demands I accept it. I guess the problem is I’m thinking too far ahead, fixating on how soon we can possibly leave– 4 months? Another year? It’s not helpful, I need to stop it. I am where I am, and in so many ways I’m lucky to be where I am. I need to shut my big mouth and little brain when it comes to words and thoughts to the contrary. I’m here. I won’t always be here, but I’m here now. And despite the isolation I feel, I look around and think— wow, it’s beautiful here. It really is beautiful. And it’s a privilege to watch my children grow under tropical skies.
Archive for July, 2010
I’ve always poopooed the idea that twins can have a negative effect on each other, or at least, no more than any other sibling. I’ve always shook my head at the idea of splitting them up, and thought it was nothing less than wonderful for my girls to have a playmate and companion their own age to lean on and have fun with–someone who understands, better than anyone. But there is a downside, and it was in my blind spot until very recently.
I contacted EI a few months ago due to the girls’ speech delays. In the time between contacting the agency, the evaluation, scheduling, etc., Mumu’s language has exploded and she no longer needs much help. But Lulu does. Lulu is way behind, and in some ways, it’s her sister’s fault, and in most ways, it’s mine.
I’ve read, and do read, to the girls about a million books a day, and chatter to them all the time, and had began to wonder when it was all going to all click in place, and they would hold up their ends of the conversation. Then it did happen for Mumu, but Lulu continued to show little improvement, and now I know why. Lulu has been letting her sister answer for her. When we read books, when we talk, Mumu jumps in with the answers, even when I specifically ask Lulu. Lulu’s been coasting. It’s not that she is shy, or meek; in fact, she is the opposite. In terms of independence, friendliness, and constant mischief, Lulu’s off the chart. But somehow, she fell into a pattern of not speaking her mind, of just sitting back and listening, or going off to do her own thing.
Overwhelmingly, I think the effect the girls have on each other is positive, so I was caught unawares when a negative popped up; now I’m trying to remedy the situation. I’m doing the unthinkable, splitting them up several times a day. Setting up Mumu with separate activities so I can read, talk, and play with Lulu alone. And it works, Lulu answers questions for herself when her sister’s not around. She’s improving on speech, but there’s still a long way to go. I wish I had realized what was happening sooner, and yet, I’m so sad that I realized it at all. I wanted to hold onto my whole– twinhood is awesome in every way with no negatives whatsoever–fantasy a little longer, like forever. I feel like I’ve sat too close at the ballet and the magic has dimmed. Just a little, as most things do on thorough inspection. And to be honest, I’m a little sad about it.
Yeah, I am all about this book. Normally I try to avoid books everybody talks about until the hype has died down. I still haven’t read any Potters–for reals. I frequently receive requests from authors of parenting books, books about twins, etc., to review their books on my blog, and I never do, because I don’t want to go out and buy their books (and can’t, anymore– the only real bookstore on my side of the island just closed!) and no one loves me enough to offer me freebies.
But, I did hotfoot it over to amazon to buy NurtureShock after Sadia’s faboosh review piqued my interest. I’m about half way through, and can say that the book is excellent, and changing the way I think and parent. And no- the people from NurtureShock did not contact me about their book–I am small potatoes–they are taking the parenting world by storm and don’t need a bit of help from me. Turns out, I needed help from them, and I didn’t even know it.
Just this afternoon, Nurtureshock helped me to handle a situation I would otherwise have probably handled badly. Well, maybe not badly, but not helpfully, not the best way. Lulu started to tantrum in a public place. For the first time, I didn’t just shut her down with firm words or whisk her away to the car. I actually thought about how her brain was processing– how her way of thinking is different from me, my husband, and even her twin sister.
It was a study I read about in Nurtureshock that made me stop and re-assess the situation, and interestingly enough, the study was not about toddlers, not even close, it was about teens. A researcher at Vassar, Dr. Abigail Baird, MRI scanned the brains of teen and adults as she put a series of brief scenarios to them. The subjects were to answer if they thought the concepts mentioned were a “good idea” or a “bad idea.” The good ideas were things like walking the dog, etc., the bad ideas were things like swallowing a cockroach, or lighting your hair on fire. Everyone got the questions right, but teens and adults used their brains differently to come up with the answers. The adults answered instantaneously, their brains visualized the “bad ideas” and red flags flew up and waved vigorously–danger, danger! Not so for the teens. They took longer, no red flags went up at all. They had to use the cognitive parts of the brain, had to actually consider whether lighting one’s hair on fire is a good idea, they didn’t just know as adults know, that it isn’t. Why didn’t they know? They didn’t have experiences to draw on, didn’t instinctually understand the danger because they had never lived it.
Enter Lulu’s tantrum. At the time, we had just gone for a scenic drive and had pulled into a beach park popular with surfers. It’s very pretty, with a lovely stream and a little waterfall, and a small, rocky, treacherous beach with excellent surf, popular with the surfers (and only the surfers) because they’re gnarly like that. We were just there to walk around, have a look, and watch the surfers (Mumu loves surfers). Three out of the four of us knew instinctually that going into the water was not an option, with the surf crashing in, and big jagged rocks everywhere. Not Lulu, the danger didn’t scare her one bit. She tried to rush into the frothing caldron and was devastated when I pulled her back and told her she couldn’t go in. She was crushed, and this manifested in a lot of yelling and flailing of limbs. My first thought was that she was being kind of an a-hole, being that toddler, ruining our enjoyment of the scenery. Then I thought of that study and it occurred to me– she literally doesn’t understand the danger of that beach. She’s fearless by nature, and doesn’t have any experiences to draw on. She thinks we’re being the a-holes and ruining her fun. I got down to Lulu’s level and spoke to her, told her I knew she was disappointed, but that we couldn’t swim because it was dangerous, and I didn’t want her to get hurt. She calmed right down. Wow.
And I’ve still got about a hundred pages to go. Should be illuminating…
Jungledad has been home and in charge of the little ladies for 5 days, and Lulu has been playing him like a violin. 14 days away has made him forget that toddlers (or at least mine, anyway) are like the ocean–you can NEVER turn your back.
Her first major offense was dumping an entire box of cornstarch on her head. There is no other way to describe her face after she did this other than–delighted. A pound of cornstarch plastered to her face and hair and huge, billowy clouds of powder engulfing the kitchen. Lulu, standing in the middle of it all, PSYCHED. She did this once before, many months ago, but that attempt/result was not nearly so spectacular.
Zero remorse afterward. She skipped to the time-out room, thinking the punishment was so worth the ecstasy of the crime. Of course, I only became aware of the crime in the first place because Mumu tattled. I was holed up in my writing cave, novel revising, when Mumu started pounding on the door, yelling, “Oh no, oh shit! A mess, a mess!” Jungledad was reading the New Yorker, oblivious. This led to the dilemma of who out of the three to punish first. Tough one. But–a least Mumu has since stopped dropping the s-bomb, whereas Lulu has carried on with her campaign of schooling Daddy and wrecking my kitchen.
Yesterday she dumped out half a box of cornflakes on the floor. Then stomped on them, skated on them, and ate them. Again, PSYCHED. Insanely happy. My family finds her behavior hilarious, btw, and won’t shut up about that apple falling from the tree business. Because yes, I was a notoriously naughty child. I always tell people I spent half my childhood in time-out, and I’m not kidding. Actually, I think it’s more like 65-70% of all waking hours in my early years were spent on the time-out couch. And it didn’t work, I’m still mischievous, I can’t even help it.
And this afternoon, for the first time, Lulu managed to climb out of her crib. As Mumu would say, OH SHIT!
Update: It gets worse. Since I wrote this post, Lulu came home from the park coated in mud and dripping wet, from taking a running dive in every mud puddle in the park. And then she broke a chair (don’t ask). What am I going to do with her?