Parenting the Child in Front of Me
I guess it was inevitable for me to just assume there was only one way to parent a child. From the moment those two small beating hearts flashed and flickered on the screen, I thought of them as one, a matched set.
I had no blueprint or roadmap for the journey. I felt that I had been parented the same as my siblings, even if it was apparent to me that the three of us were indeed different in temperament and personality. Twins were a new, unexplored world of mixed milestones and simultaneous want I didn’t really understand until much later.
When the gender reveal came, “You’ve got two fifths of a basketball team in there!” it cemented it. The Boys. Our boys. My boys. “Boys” would be said and heard for eternity. For as many times as I’ve been known to shout, scream, whisper or exclaim a single name ,it is more often that I am heard bellowing “BOYS!!!!” through the hallways of our home, down the street, or across the gym in a futile attempt to corral them. To this day when I am holding one I am looking for the other, always.
Their unique and different personalities meant nothing to me in their infanthood. Survival (mine and theirs) meant that I didn’t have time or inclination to attend to their needs in different ways. Instead, I fed them from the same kind of bottles, changed their diapers in an identical rote fashion, bought them identical outfits and I didn’t give one thought to them as individuals. I would sooth them similarly, never imagining they needed anything else from me. I was taught they needed a good mother, a thoughtful, doting parent, and so I gave them myself in equal amounts, spooned out; a little here, a little there until everyone was temporarily satisfied
That is until they began to grow; crawl, walk and speak. Until I couldn’t ignore the differences in the timbre of their voices or the talents they possessed. For one son that was an uncanny ability to draw, create and memorize lines of movies. An actor in every sense, he became the boy who would dress and mimic the characters he loved to distraction. His focus was easily shifted, his outfits questionable, and his hand was forever holding a pencil, crayon or marker.
The other had kicked through and broken my water, a sure sign of the aim he’d display at the goal net. He walked later than his twin, but once he found his footing it was obvious that he was an athlete through and through. A sensitive, soft-spoken shy boy with huge brown eyes and a propensity to run, jump, kick, shoot and score. His competiveness seemed to be rivaled only by his determination.
It happened overnight, this need to tend to my sons differently. To use one voice with the artist and another with the athlete, as if their hearts were accessible to me if only I used the correct key. I wasn’t prepared the day it happened, I was too busy pushing straws into juice boxes and carrying on a meaningful conversation with another soccer mom while trying to get some sun on my pasty white face.
I saw the artist son struggle on the field, trip over his own feet, and fall into a patch of dirt that stained his white sock. His face twist in annoyance as the rest of his team sprinted by and he, instead, rubbed vigorously at the dirt mark.
Seconds later a shrill whistle stopped the game, releasing him.
“This just isn’t my thing, Mommy.” He confessed as he ran toward me.
“Buddy” I said, handing him a wipe so he could go back to trying to rid himself of that stain. “You just keep trying.”
“I’ll never be good.” He plopped down next to me and hung his head.
I had only a split second to answer him, to offer him encouragement.“Well, I think that you should just think of this as a play or a movie. I want you to pretend that Miss M has given you the role of an awesome soccer player. Go out there and believe you’re a fantastic player.”
“Right!” he nodded, eyes shining, “I can just act like I am!”
Two minutes later he scored his first goal of the season and hasn’t looked back since. He runs to the field like he belongs there, treating it like the stage he loves so much.
With his brother it was more of a plea to the place in him that excels and wants to be better than good, to be more than average. Like when he takes three minute math quizzes and finishes fifty questions, getting forty-seven correct, and ties for first place, and is angry with himself for not bringing home a perfect paper.
Discussing the school play last year, this son twisted his own face in disgust as the other gleefully announced his intention to join glee club.
“Not me!” he declared from the back seat. Once again, I had only a split second to answer, to offer him a reason.
“You know so many children will want to be in the play but won’t join glee club. Imagine how much experience you’ll have by December when it’s time to audition if you do.”
Sure, it was a direct hit at his competitive nature but I stayed still and waited. Just moments later, “Mommy, can you sign me up for glee club?”
Weeks later I could hear his voice harmonizing with this brother’s as they practiced their songs and pride surged in my chest as he strode to the end of the stage and took his bow at the end of their three-performance weekend this spring.
One belonged on a stage and the other on a field, but with some gentle persuasion and fierce encouragement, they’d stepped out of their comfort zones to command another space.
My boys had arrived together but soon demonstrated how very different they were. It took me a while to understand all the intricacies and variations until I learned my first real lesson as a mother.There are an infinite number of ways to parent a child. So get to know your children, creep inside their likes and dislikes, get under their skin and down deep in their hearts to understand what makes them tick. Then you’ll know how to parent the child in front of you.
Head to the Family Room
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This post was written by Kirsten Piccini exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.