Saturday, March 08, 2008

7-Up

The one thing that is fascinating about raising twins is you can see, by comparison and because they are being raised in exactly (almost) the same environment at the same time, what is truly passed down to them through genes. Jayden is so much like his father, with his fearless love of life and jumping into any situation without looking. Tye is the reserved one, sticking a toe in a situation by watching it first and for a long time before he's comfortable enough to stick a real toe in. That's me.

Seeing this in him both fills me with wonder and with dread. I don't want this insecurity and fear about the world that I've passed down to him genetically to be fed by his environment like mine was, making it an out of control force to be reckoned with all his life. So, I started thinking back into my childhood, something I rarely do anymore, trying to find the events that enforced my insecurities about myself and the world, moments that maybe could have given me confidence instead of more fear. One in particular stood out, even though it was a small event. I can't even remember how old I was...probably six, maybe seven.

The day I went to school with my cousin instead of to my own safe, familiar school. To a school on a giant hill with classrooms with real wooden floors and long sticks of soft chalk and a teacher that seemed both mysterious and sweet. A teacher I was instantly enamored with.

I remember pressing my wet palms against the unfamiliar desk, trying not to look at the other kids, who were staring at me with that rude curiosity we learn to tame as we get older, when the teacher announced we were going to play 7- Up. The kids seemed excited. I was horrified. I didn't like games. Games were for outgoing people, competitive people, people who enjoyed winning things and the attention that came with winning things. Worse was...I didn't know how to play this game and no one bothered to explain it to me.

So, we began.

Put your head down on the desk and close your eyes. I could do this. Darkness, anonymity, closed eyes. This game was fun so far. I don't remember the point of the game, I only remember the point of the game that made me want to bolt through the door and back down that big hill.

I lifted my head. Slightly, to see what the other kids were doing, to see what I was supposed to be doing.

"Hey!" I heard a boy cry to my left. "She peeked! She cheated!"

I felt the soft presence of the teacher to my right and turned my head to her, still trying to keep it on the desk.

"Did you cheat?" she asked quietly.

"No," I stammered.

"Did you peek?"

I wanted to explain that I wasn't actually peeking. I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. But, in her eyes I saw that all knowing disappointment as if she were peering into the mystery that was me and had already found her answer. Disappointment. She didn't know me, didn't know I wasn't the kind of child that would cheat. Or maybe I was? She seemed to be entertaining the idea and she was an adult who understood things, who knew about things. Maybe she knew something about me I didn't. I could feel my face burning. I couldn't speak because I was too busy trying to swallow tears. So, I just shook my head yes.

"Well, you can keep your head up then. You can't play this round."

I had to pick my head up. That was hard. I stared at the desk, feeling disappointed in myself, feeling that I would never understand the world and how it was supposed to work.

This is a feeling that hasn't quite gone away, maybe that's why this memory is so clear. My first taste of it. The feeling that you are always in over your head, in a game where you don't know the rules.

Can I save my shy, sensitive son from knowing this feeling?

7 comments:

bella said...

I go through this with my guy too.
His reserved nature, needing to observe before he is comfortable trying new things. And it is me, from me.
I want to honor who he is, not teach him he has to "overcome" it. And yet, like you, I don't want to feed it, making his grow up in fear as I did.
Your story made me ache. Those experiences stay with us.
You are such a good mom.

Gary said...

I'll tell you a little secret: that this is on your mind and that such an experience was endured is all you will ever need to not make mistakes in him regarding it. The worst thing you can do is put pressure on yourself to either try "to" or "not to" to "help" him, as a particular case or not presents itself. We are often programmed from such experiences, and in the first person, negatively. But that very, exact same programming to our young most often has the exact opposite effect on them.

For instance, I had my ass beat on a daily basis from before I could remember up until I was 14 or 15, at least somewhere in there was the last time I got a spanking. Now, while I have no fear of tearing my daughter's fanny up IF a real, honest to god need arises for it, I find I never do. I find I'm already programmed against things toward her that my parents "erred" in with me. This fear issue thing is a big one for me, too. Man, my mother did her best to shelter me from hurt in ways that damn near made a coward out of me as adult, fear of failure being the worst thing.

But, without trying, I find that I encourage Gracee the opposite way, and, when I'm not consciously making the effort, without pushing her, too. Of course, so much of this is "hearsay," as I never get to see her like I should. It seems like when we start thinking and worrying about it--yup, let the fear creep in again--that we make the mistakes. I mean, provided you're not the latest character in "My Mom Was a Naked Serial Killer," which, barring certain literary slants, I don't think you are! :-D

So, relax and have a 7-Up. A mother like you will do fine and find w/out any effort at all you'll help him not "end up" like you (the things you think are bad, I mean). He'll inevitably be the one that grows up outgoing, with you having to encourage the son more like his father. The irony of life. Isn't it too cool? Cheers!

Christian said...

Shannon~ as we've discovered in the recent past, you and I are a lot alike in many ways (read: introverted). But I don't think it has to turn into insecurity or anything like that. It may manifest itself as such now, when he's young, but it's what he does with it that will be amazing. I went from being the geeky, painfully shy kid to an extroverted (but wholly sensitive) guy who loves to be around people. And you haven't turned out to be a simpering wallflower, either. So don't despair!

Karen said...

Ah, oh, my, such a well told recollection. Georgia tells me they play this game on rainy days in school still. One thing that might help if you believe, truly believe, that we all feel like that sometimes, if not all the time, whenever we are somewhere new. We just have different ways of expressing it. Some duck, some run, some shout and tear about appearing brave, some sit still immersed in shame. Shame is universal.

Be unafraid to let your son be afraid. Wherever he goes, you go too. Just be with him (emotionally) wherever life takes him, whatever it doles, so that even when he feels isolated and alone, there is still you, your love and acceptance, shining, as it does on this page.

Your baby will be OK.

Shawn said...

Great post! I recall when my girls were younger how Jadyn, the more reserved twin, would always be outshined by her adventurous sister who always lets a flirty smile cross her face easily. I don't worry as much now because I know that there are some real advantages to standing in the back, watching and trying to figure it out. If anything, she'll -- and so will your Jayden -- have more confidence in her own abilities. AT least, that is what I am telling myself.

Today, in fact, she was the one to fly down the big slide on her own -- and once on her back! She's amazing at times.

Tia Nevitt said...

Great story. One would wonder--how would the boy have known you were "cheating" if he had not cheated, himself? Any sensible teacher would have put this together, I think. But obviously, she was not a sensible teacher. You learned a lesson that day, but probably not one the teacher intended, but probably one you needed to learn.

It sounds like the teacher didn't like having visitors to her class.

Shelli said...

Just this morning I took my little boy to story time at the library. It was our third time, and it was the most crowded today that I'd ever seen it. As all the other little kids are wiggling around and yapping, he just sits or stands there, watching the lady do her thing. He is stone-faced, and I'm probably the only one who knows he's a normal little boy who gets wild and crazy at home. He's so shy. Just like I was. And still am sometimes. Your post really touched me. I have the same feelings, though I don't know the answers. And I can remember that feeling as a child, having to play a GAME. Eck! I also kind of remember 7-up, though I don't remember how to play.