4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.
It’s raining teeth around here. Teeth and fingernails and hair. Little pieces of my children’s bodies are paring off, peeling away, to be swept off the porch, swallowed whole or caught in my fist. And besides the tooth fairy, and my husband and I, no one seems to be marking these changes.
If they were cicadas they would scream as their skin split and bared their shiny bodies. If they were caterpillars they would retreat to cocoons where their bodies would literally melt into a snot looking blob before turning into wings to fly, fly, fly.
Mica and Reid attended orientation for kindergarten this past week. In their brand new classes their twin cubbies are marked by small wooden butterflies with their names in markers, each cubby down at the opposite far end of their classroom halls. Those halls are mirror images, as in Through the Looking Glass, where their twin existences overlap, but shine boldly unique, foils for one another.
When they were born I thought the twins would look more alike. I saw them for the first time after leaving the delivery room ensconced in neighboring isolettes in the NICU of Pennsylvania Hospital. But what with Mica’s craniosynostosis and skull surgery, and Reid’s diminutive stature, and of course their different genders, they seemed impossibly different. By the time they were 18 months old I would enter their rooms with the ends of their cribs only a foot or two apart, and I would catch them throwing stuffed animals from one crib to the other and back again, playing games invented out of joy or boredom.
There was never a secret shared language, but there has always been a filling in for one another, as if their twin bodies were a single conflicted person divided into two distinct piles: I will be physically strong and you will be bizarrely creative. You will love words, reading them, writing them, juggling them in the air, and I will like fabric and wood and cardboard that can be sewn or taped or glued. When you are kind, I will be mean, when I am patient, you will writhe with anticipation. If I listen, you ignore. If you are scared, I will offer comfort.
So for the first time in forever, their days will be split by a wall with a door they can peer through, but only open with permission. She will be here and he will be there.
Today while running I listened to the latest TED Radio Hour podcast on learning. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talked about how children in the womb learn, how newborn babies hear their mother’s music, her digestion, her voice, how their first cries are even accented in their mother’s native language. Their brains are figuring out unbelievable things during their nine month journey to the light, from what they like to taste to which voice belongs to Mama.
As I ran and listened I couldn’t help but picture an early ultrasound six years ago where the technician said she couldn’t quite make out where one twin ended and the other began because they were sort of entangled, facing one another, their right hands pushing towards the other. Like they were dancing. Or communicating. Or trying to stroke each other’s face through the individual sacs that encased each of them.
I read a beautiful post by an amazing blogging Mama considering the possibilities of her new kindergartner: Will he be patient? Will he be kind? Will he be the mean one or the antsy one slightly out-of-control? Will my child be the smartest, the strongest, or the weakest, the late-bloomer? And the answer of course is yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, to all these things.
Experience has taught me that in kindergarten this year Mica and Reid will play and learn, succeed and fail, feel joy and frustration. They will be cruel and kind. They will each be the best and the worst and mediocre-est in turn.
And then they will come home so exhausted that they cannot even mange a temper tantrum, or so excited that they cannot listen to a single thing I say. They will sit in the back row of the minivan interuptting one another in order to be the first to tell me what they ate for lunch or how many monarch butterflies hatched today, or they will hit each other in their neighboring carseats, or they will sleep.
But I wonder if they will ever stop midway through their kindergarten days to peer through the glass door to see their opposite, the shell to their goo, the strength to their weakness, the neighbor from the womb, just to check in and make sure they are each still right there, just on the other side of all that divides them.