Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aggressive affection

I've come up with a new term to decribe the way Matthew and Jonathan relate to each other.
I've decided to call it "aggresssive affection."
It starts off sweet.
One grabs the other around the waist or shoulders, leans his head against his twin, grins and makes baby noises.
Most often, the other responds in kind.
It's a Hallmark moment.
Or a Kodak moment.
Or something like that.
Until it's not.
Usually, within about five minutes, hugging becomes flinging.
Flinging becomes wrestling.
Grins turn to giggles.
Wrestling results in head stomping, eye poking or chest crushing.
Giggles evolve into tears.
I should probably stop it before it even begins.
But I can't.
When I watch them standing there with their arms around each other, their heads together and those untamed smiles on their faces, I am reminded of their infancy. I remember when we would put them down at night crossways on opposite sides of their crib only to find them together in the middle minutes later with their heads touching.
Sometimes, we'd find them holding hands.
They don't intend to hurt each other during their wrestling matches.
They just get carried away.
I like to think that they get too aggressive simply because of their need to be physically close to each.
Hence, the justification for my new term for their sometimes bloody battles (Matthew's head whacked Jonathan's face a few days ago, leaving Jonathan with a bloody nose. A few days before that, Jonathan repopened a small cut on Matthew's leg.): Aggressive affection.
Sweet, huh?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Potty training: a division of labor

Tomorrow is a big day for Matthew.
Tomorrow he will wear underwear all day long for the first time.
And Jonathan will not.
Matthew has been using the potty for months now.
Until recently, he was inconsistent. He would pee on the potty or toilet when we set him there, but he would not ask to go and he would fight the suggestion. And number two? No way. He wouldn't even consider it.
But something clicked a few weeks ago and, much to our relief, he's ready.
Matthew is about to graduate from toddler to "big boy."
But he's leaving his twin brother behind.
Far behind.
And, for once, we're not worried.
If they follow their usual pattern, Jonathan will be whizzing like a pro in no time.
Jonathan has taken this same approach to each milestone since birth. Over the past three years, he has sat idly by while his brother struggled to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand and walk. And Matthew worked so hard. He plugged away, sometimes for months at a time, until, finally, the day of celebration arrived.
In the beginning, it worried me.
Who am I kidding? It terrified me.
I remember clearly one telephone conversation in the spring of 2007.
"Jonathan won't roll over," I told the pediatrician, nearly in tears. "His brother worked on it for months and is rolling well, but Jonny just lies there and watches him. He doesn't make any effort at all. He doesn't even rock on his side."
"Well, maybe it would be a good idea to have him evaluated," the doctor said in that I'm-not-trying-to-worry-you-but-this-could-be-serious kind of voice (a tone of voice that, in my stressed-out state, I probably imagined). "He really should at least be interested in rolling by now. I can refer you to an excellent therapist."
I hung up the phone with every intention of dialing again and making that appointment. But I got distracted. I don't remember what happened--whether it was a diaper change, a feeding, Matthew rolling out of the safety zone--but, for whatever reason, I postponed that phone call.
Within hours, Jonathan started rolling.
There was no struggle.
He just rolled and he rolled well.
He rolled with more ease and more speed than Matthew.
And that's the way it went from then on.
For each milestone, Jonathan waited until Matthew achieved perfection and then he immediately surpassed him.
And he's doing it again, we hope.
Jonathan has been Matthew's greatest potty-training supporter.
He follows him into the bathroom. He flushes the toilet for him. He does the "yippee" dance whenever Matthew succeeds, sincerely thrilled for his twin brother.
But when we ask him whether he wants to try, his answer is firm: "No."
Bribes, charts and postive reinforcement are useless. He is immune to them. We leave the bathroom defeated and deflated and, if we've annoyed Jonathan enough, sometimes even bruised.
We know better, or at least we should.
We should know that Jonathan will wait until Matthew is comfortable in his underwear and accident-free. He will wait until all the mistakes have been made and corrected. He will wait until the process is ingrained in his being, until every movement, every bit of required coordination that he witnessed over these past several month, is part of his own psyche, his own experience.
Then Jonathan will approach that toilet and he will attempt to one-up his twin brother.
He won't bother sitting on the seat.
He will pee standing up.