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?
Exclusives, the Dorian Gray topic
1 hour ago