And I wonder how he'll feel about that.
I was six years younger than both my brother and sister and continue to carry a rather large chip on my shoulder about it. Even though I am acutely aware of this failing, I can't help but despise when anyone questions my abilities or treats me as less-than. Being underestimated, and resenting it, is deep in my psyche.
So one might think that I would empathize with Malachi, and in many ways, I do. Malachi is functionally "younger" than his twin because of his greatly delayed physical abilities. I can see a dynamic emerging in which Malachi follows along with whatever JJ chooses to do.
But often I think of JJ as the younger one. To the rest of the world, Malachi is deficient, but to JJ he must seem The Chosen One.
Malachi still gets to have bottles, often loaded with fancy sugary stuff like Pediasure, while every day JJ has to cry bitterly into his cup of regular cow milk. Malachi gets to ride in the stroller or get carried around, while JJ is often forced to walk. Malachi gets praised enthusiastically for every 10th bite of food (counting bites has been the only way to keep his interest in eating real food), while JJ eats impressive quantities and varieties of foods, unnoticed, occasionally yelling out his own numbers in an attempt to capture his mother's attention.
|JJ (left) pretending to fall asleep in his food, like Malachi did.|
Capturing my attention comes in many unusual forms in this house. Jaden will often lean very far over in his high chair until I ask him to sit up straight, like I do to his brother when his poor balance causes him to topple over. Lately, when upset, JJ will fall on the floor and then watch me from his back with calm eyes. If I don't react, he'll say: "JJ fall down. Pick-er up, please. Mama, pick up."
I do. I don't like that he mimics Malachi's helplessness but I understand that he is trying out ways to get the love and attention he wants. And haven't we all felt like we just wanted someone to pick us up off the floor some days?
But it breaks my heart. So many things about Malachi's cerebral palsy is unfair, but the way it impacts his twin is one of the worst for me. His parents are so exhausted from taking care of Malachi's myriad needs, that they never have enough time or energy for him. In fact, when I was in high school, I remember always trying to say "When I have a kid" instead of "When I have kids" because I felt like it would be impossible to try to accommodate more than one child's emotional and physical needs.
It is impossible. And I know that everybody feels like the grass is always greener, but I becoming convinced that JJ is much more difficult than the average kid — perhaps because he doesn't get enough attention and his brother gets too much, perhaps because he was a preemie and has his own special issues laying in wait for a school-age evaluator to reveal, or perhaps just because he's got a lot of pretty difficult people in his gene pool.
Whatever the reason, it seems to be getting worse. Yesterday, for example, we went to the Children's Museum and had to wait in line with lots of other children and their caregivers. JJ was the only kid running around and around, oblivious and uncaring as to how far away his mother was nor how many times she insisted that he stay close. Other people's kids seem psychologically tethered to them in a way that Jaden never has been. They seem to accept corrections in behavior with relative equanimity while JJ falls to absolute pieces the second he feels like someone is impinging on his God-given freedom to touch anything he pleases and go anywhere his feet take him.
He is fearless and fiercely independent.
A near polar opposite of his twin in that respect.
So I have one 2-year-old who wants to do as much physical activity as possible — without pesky supervision because "I know exactly how pens and electronics and glass containers and cars work, thankyouverymuch" — and the other who would love it if someone would just sit and read him books all day long and hand-feed him bottles and never require him to use any of his hard-fought physical skills.
Why didn't I just have one again?
One of the many things I didn't get to choose on this journey of motherhood.
Hopefully JJ won't become as bitter about it as I am.