I have a very special and unique situation. I have twins. As a mom to twins I get to see the idiosyncrasies and differences between them as they get older. Those parents with two kids – even if they are close in age – aren’t privy to this experience. Their older child has already established a distinct personality by the time the younger one comes along. When Dylan & Riley were born it was a clean slate. They were “the same”. They would react the same way to things like being hungry or tired, they would laugh at the same things, they were treated the same way.
As they began to grow and learn more, I started noticing subtle differences. Riley slept through the night while Dylan was colicky and up every 2 hours. Riley liked the crib; Dylan preferred the cosleeper. Riley wasn’t a fan of swaddling; for Dylan the tighter wrapped the better.
Then at about 2 years old I REALLY started noticing differences. I noticed that Riley was fairly easy going and Dylan would melt down. I couldn’t understand why they had such polar opposite reactions to the same thing. As Dylan got older, it got worse. I thought it was me. I thought I was doing something wrong with him. He would hyper-ventilate because the peanut butter and jelly sandwich was cut into triangles, not rectangles. He would freak out if his cup wasn’t filled to the very top. I scolded him and told him to take what he got. After all, Riley hardly ever complained, why should Dylan? I began treating him differently – he would easily get 3x more time outs than his sister.
One morning I made pancakes. Instead of maple syrup I asked them if they wanted a little powdered sugar. After all, what goes better with chocolate chip pancakes? I sprinkled some on Riley’s pancakes as she squealed “It’s SNOWING!!” and gleefully dug in. I sprinkled the same amount on Dylan’s.
“Mommy, I need some here” as he pointed to a spot that didn’t have any powdered sugar. I sprinkled.
“Here too” I sprinkled a little more.
“Here too”. One last time.
“No you missed here too”.
“No honey, that’s enough” I said as I put the powdered sugar away. By this time he had almost twice what Riley had.
He freaked out. started crying and saying “but it’s NOT COVERING!!” Hyperventilating and inconsolable hysterics. Those kind of fits that aren’t normal.
That’s when it hit me. He doesn’t want more, he wants it to be right. And right now the pancake was incomplete. He couldn’t handle it. He sobbed and shook. When I spread out the powdered sugar to make it totally even on the pancake, held him for a bit, and he calmed down. Internally I was the one freaking out now. What do I do? How do I handle this?
I began to notice other things – Dylan needed to separate his block by color. He needed his blanket a certain way. He needed to color code EVERYTHING. Dylan has not been officially diagnosed with anything. I am just beginning to realize these issues and approaching his doctor on what she thinks.
Dylan will be going through his life feeling like this. He will be told to stop being so selfish and many won’t understand why he’s sobbing because the crayons aren’t separated by color, or his cup isn’t full “to the top”. It’s not complete and in order.
Since then I have to think about the fact that, chances are, if he throws a fit it is because something isn’t right. It makes me treat him differently – instead of time outs (or as many), we would try to work through what is wrong and why.
But I know he has a long road ahead of him.