Time to Elevate.
People tell me, “you make jokes about your kids but I bet you can’t imagine your life without them.” Uh, try me. Sometimes that is all I can hang onto. –from my standup act
I’m not very proud to say this, but sometimes I resent my own 5 year-old twins. I know this statement sounds horrible, but hear me out. This problem of mine comes from my childhood. Considering how young my parents were when they had me (20 and 18), it’s remarkable how much they did provide for me, but as I’ve outlined before, it was a very dysfunctional situation. In comparison, my twins are growing up in a great suburb, on a cul-de-sac, with a life of pretty much anything they want–they get. They can’t help it, but I sense the entitlement they have to their nature, which triggers the resentment I feel towards them.
It’s nice to hear from so many people that my twins are well-behaved, but my wife and I are constantly working to improve upon them as little human beings, as they are definitely still a major work in progress. As parents the goal should be for your children to have a better childhood than your own. I know my Mom tried hard to do that for me, but life kept overruling her dreams. The most important thing to me is creating a great life for my children, but there is a nagging doubt about how good always creeping in. The nagging doubt is wondering if I’m not making my twins too soft.
My guess is this thought-process comes from growing up with a bi-polar father who often had views that reflected his split-nature. He would come home from working in the factory and tell me he would never let me follow him into that place. You can do better than that. (Closest thing to a pep talk he ever gave me.) On the other hand, he would constantly
tell yell (at) me that I had no idea what hard work was and I needed to toughen up. Listen Papa Roach, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that I will never do that job, but belittle me for not having done that job. Well, come to think of it, I guess you can if you are a really big man with an explosive temper. No such thing as double jeopardy being illegal in the house I grew up with.
As an adult I sometimes have guilt for living such a soft life. Don’t get me wrong, I put more hours into my job per week than my Dad ever did into his, but comparing the level of manliness between working on a Maytag assembly line and coming up with a clever tweet are miles apart. Evolution has brought us to a point now where physical size will become less important as technology has taken us out of the industrial revolution. Even nerds have less reasons to be strong considering the advances in computers. The 2013 moder of nerd doesn’t have much chance of pulling out their back lifting an iPad, unlike the 2003 model who had to clean and jerk up a Dell monitor and tower.
I know I have wandered from my main point. It comes down to this. I’m not sure it’s that important to toughen up your kids, as it’s not as much of a hard-scrabble existence. My instincts, though, fight this potential reality. This is where Maddie is my great helper.
No matter how great my 5 year-old twins lives are, they will always have a sister with developmental disabilities. Her special needs often trump the attention they get from their parents. Susan and I feel some guilt about this, but ultimately, you just do the best you can. They might not like it, but that’s what it’s like at our house.
There are a lot of challenges that Maddie’s autism brings to their lives. Now at the age of 5, they don’t feel embarrassed by their big sister’s quirky behavior and public meltdowns, but this will change soon. It will be hard for them to recognize in the moment, but I’m confident that growing up with Maddie will inform their lives making them deeper, more caring people. It will also make them tougher, as they have went through things most of us never did as children.
For those of you that grew up with sibling(s) think for a minute about the things that pissed you off the most about your childhood. My guess is that them getting away with things you didn’t feel you were allowed to would be right towards the top of the list. I can tell you that there are things my brother did that I would’ve never thought of doing that still piss the living shit out of me. (Which I will admit is much better than pissing the dead shit of me. That really is an icky phrase, isn’t it?) Well try to contemplate what it would be like to have an older sister who is held to a completely different standard than you are. A sister who is coddled during a meltdown, while you are chastised for just talking too loudly. I’m sure it chaps their little 5 year-old rumps, but that is the way life works at our house. Total double standard as Maddie’s autism usually gives her a get out of jail free card that they can’t pull out on their way to buying the Boardwalk.
So ultimately, I need to get past my own problems about my twins not being as tough as I think they should be. They are a lot tougher than I give them credit for, as life with a sister on the autism spectrum has brought them a different view of life that they could never get from a TV show or even a great story like the one you just read:)
I’m predicting that when my twins get older they won’t agree with everything I write, but I’m betting they will buy into this one. Considering how much better of a person Maddie has made me, I can’t imagine how they could have any other view.