Sometimes parenting identical twins feels like running a science experiment. The push and pull of their relationship with one another is fascinating to me. The ways in which they are different are surpassed only by the ways in which they implicitly understand one another.
Where one is jubilant the other is thoughtful. Where one is salty the other is sweet. Where one is bound by rules the other...the other has a fine career in crime ahead of her; keep your eye on your wallet.
I've said many times that if parenting and watching your children act like you doesn't make you love yourself more then you are doing it wrong. Being with my kids allows me to be kinder to myself. Parenting daughters means you have to be kinder to yourself...assuming you don't want them to grow up with all the fucked up messages that made you hate your body, your face, your....everything.
My relationship with rules is complicated....there is a part of me that follows rules as if breaking them is not an option. And then there is the other part...the part that does things she knows she isn't supposed to and revels in it, every moment of it. Each of my daughters inherited one of those parts. Liv revels in rule breaking, being mischievous is part of her identity; it is truly who she is. Grace is a rule follower, she almost never steps outside the line. Except today, she did, literally.
At lunch today Grace and Olivia were playing with friends on the playground. The kids weren't allowed in the grass today, probably because it was so slushy. Gracie stepped backwards without looking and inadvertently placed one foot in the grass just as a lunch lady turned around. She was yelled at and had to "turn a card" to yellow. It is the first time in her school career she has been reprimanded for anything. Apparently, if your card is turned in class you have a chance to "earn back" the turn, but if it is turned at lunch you're just screwed. To say she is upset is an understatement, she got in the car, hours after the incident, crying her eyes out. What I was upset about was that she didn't feel confident enough to speak up for herself, to tell the lunch lady that it was an accident, that she understood the rules and didn't mean to break them. She said she would have spoken to her teacher after lunch but they had a substitute so she couldn't. What she is upset about is that her record is permanently marred. Someone told her that they email your parents when your card is turned, she was upset and embarrassed that I was going to hear about it from school. My kids all need different kinds of parenting, what Gracie usually needs in these cases; at the times when her anxiety is at it's highest, is an example of how exactly her life will not be ruined by this particular event.
"Gracie, look at me" I say into her reflection in my rear view mirror. She looks right at my eyes, her own spilling tears down her cheeks.
"Was it a mistake?" I ask her and she nods. "Do you think I'm a good mom?" I ask her, she nods her head enthusiastically. And Olivia, bless her criminal heart pipes up with, "You're a fantastic mom and you're really silly too!"
"Gracie, I make about 1,000 mistakes a day. Today I think I made 2,000. Seriously, shit just happens. I promise you when you are a forty year old picking up your second grader no one is going to know that when you were 8 you had your card turned. I'm pretty sure no one will remember tomorrow. It isn't worth spending one more minute worrying about, really, even if you did it on purpose, it's not a big deal. Mistakes can be lessons but not this time, your foot just went in the wrong place, the lunch lady just didn't' understand. I got in trouble when I was a kid and look how good I turned out." I say all of this while navigating us out of the danger zone that is school pick up and she looks at me the whole time, trying to gauge if I'm right or not. I can tell when she decides I am. It's when I said "I got in trouble when I was a kid." The minute I said it she visibly relaxed, she stopped crying, she moved on. I gave myself a pat on the back. I feel like I know my kids really well...Aidan is rule bound as well, he would have required nearly the same speech but he would have calmed down at "shit just happens." Olivia would need me to say, well, nothing, she wouldn't have been upset about it at all. She had a card turned once in kindergarten, she's clear that it was because she was in the bathroom when the rules were explained and that's that, the teacher should have paid better attention.
I don't know what the lesson is here, except, your kids are going to be like you....good, bad and ugly. Enjoy the good, let the bad and ugly go when you can. Maybe if you figure out a way to help them through it you can learn to be a little better to yourself. Shit does just happen, let it go and move on....rules are made to be broken. Just ask me and Olivia.