greater than is equal to less

More than.  Less than.  Greater than.  Equal to.  We learned it in school with polite little symbols.  Carrots, really, wedged into our everyday lives, where everyday consisted of lunch trays, chalkboards, and playground carpeting.  And then we grow up and are told not to make comparisons anymore.  They strip us of experiencing things fully.  You shouldn’t compare one city with another, shouldn’t certainly, compare your present partner with those of your past, and by all means never compare your children. 

As a parent of twins, the one thing you hear most often is the boldface warning, "Don’t compare them!" It’s a baby evil akin to honey and stomach sleeping.  Comparison might not kill them, but if you dare to try, you might as well defecate on their souls.  Books demand you treat them as individuals, that you don’t refer to them as "the twins," always grouped together.  Don’t dress them alike, realize they’ve got their own personalities and tastes and timing.  No shit, assholes.  Seriously, I hate these books and their insipid warnings.  Forget for a second that our twins happen to be a boy and girl.  If they were identical, we’d of course expect them to be different.  They’re different people with different names.  We know not to compare them, not to expect one to perform just as the other does.  These warnings should have been blown down along with the pig’s first house. 

Because we compare everything and everyone.  We just do, and the whole, "well I try not to compare you" line is bullshit.  Of course you compare.  You look at what has come before and weigh things out.  Is what I have now better?  Do I feel better?  Am I happier now?  You compare your now with your then.  Measure people up.  Compare and contrast is as old as Eve, or at least as old as Mrs. Zlockhower (my frighteningly horrid third grade teacher). 

We visit the Pediatrician who asks how Lucas and Abigail are doing, and we begin by saying, "Well, we don’t want to compare, but–"
"Of course you compare them," he said.  "Everyone compares their children.  The only difference is parents of single babies don’t remember exactly when their first born began to smile or roll over.  They think it over and determine things but because they don’t live it at the same time, they don’t think about it as much."  This translates to "don’t worry about it as much."  Abigail is more inquisitive, physically advanced, and alert than Lucas.  She’s almost sitting up on her own, knows how to roll over (but cannot yet roll from her stomach to her back).  And knowing she was lifting herself and rolling over for well over a month now and Lucas hasn’t yet begun, we told our doctor.  Truth is, we’re not worried about him.  We’re not saying it out of fear.  We’re reporting the contrasts.  Still, I feel uneasy using the word "more."  Guilty really, as if a grown twin is going to slam the door to our examination room open, then bitch slap me silly, shaking her head, "You really shouldn’t compare them.  Look how I turned out!"  She’s of course ridiculously bitter and brooding, with wiry black hair pulled into tight frizzy braids, just out of a clinic for her eating disorder. 

"They’re both doing great.  And the good news is that he’s got a built in tutor with this one," he says of Abigail as she flirts wildly with her doctor. 

"Don’t listen to him!" crows the imaginary raven-haired twin beside me, as she smacks my cheek a third time.  "You’re ruining them by comparing.  You’re expecting him to get in line with her.  Expecting! I tell you! RUINING!!!"  Then she wrings her fists at me, indicating that she’s ready to throw them down.  Who is this woman?  And why is she here, in my head?  She’s the bitter twin, the twin with self-esteem issues who’s never felt good enough.  She went to an Ivy-league school, but her twin sister went to a better one.  Her sister has natural talent, while she’s always had to work for it.  She’s never been naturally thin, athletic,or talented at anything other than dramatics.  So she decided to wear the creative cap in the family, and in her dorm room, she mounted a requinto guitar because she thought it made her look interesting, and when she wasn’t smoking clove cigarettes, she was going to downtown to Fez.  "At least I have social skills," she’d sometimes think when comparing herself to her brainier sister.  "And I’m prettier."  And she’s fucking deluded.  And now she’s warning me not to turn one of them into her. 

"Lucas will see Abigail doing things," the doctor continued,"and it will motivate him to do more than if she weren’t around."  Boys mature at a slower rate than girls.  It’s always been so.  Our doctor doesn’t agree with this outright, just shrugs his shoulders and tells us that’s what the mothers tell him.  I am not the kind of parent who reads up on milestones.  I don’t believe it’s a sign of intelligence how early a child crawls, or walks, or talks.  They all get around to doing it eventually, so why rush them, and my God, why worry about it?  We all take this world in differently, and learn at our own pace.  I digest things slowly and sit with them for a long time thinking.  Phil is quick to determine his opinions, gets them off his chest, then moves on.  Days later, they’re still with me.  We take in the world differently and doing so makes us who we are, not who we aren’t.  You know, more or less.   

COMMENTS:

  1. Although my brother and I aren't twins, my mother always tells the same story about us when I was first learning how to walk: "It was the funniest thing, (Brother) walked at seven months, but Lisa didn't walk until she was almost nineteen months old! (Brother) just did everything for her! She had no reason to move!" And I would guess the opposite will be true for Lucas and Abigail, based on your doctor's advice. The exploits of Ms. Inquisitive will pique the interest of Mr. Laid Back and "tutor" him. And in the same way, Lucas's more laid-back pace will probably influence Abigail positively, too.

    I honestly think it's impossible not to compare two babies who were born at the same time from the same womb to the same parents living in the same environment. There's comparing and there's comparing.. objectively evaluating differences versus approaching them with a critical/worrysome spirit. Although my mother compares us, she's never critical of our developmental differences and I don't think I bear scars from it. From this post, it sounds like you're well aware of the difference.

    And now I'm going to stop talking like I know you and your babies personally. :) Thank you so much for sharing baby tidbits with us (especially the pics, of course).

  2. You want reassurance, and yet, even if someone gives it to you, you're still unsure. Thats because you're a new parent. My first born, walked about a week after she turned 1. My second child, walked at just over 9 months. I was shocked. Now what if I had had them in reverse order? I would have expected that one child was slow because the other had done things so quickly. So how do you go about comparing, as you know you will do? You watch for growth in each, at their separate paces. As long as they are both learning something, making progress and changes, even if it is at a different pace from each other, they are fine. And thank you for the picture updates recently, adorable those babies of yours :)

  3. I can see why you might have some concern, but Im with you, and think it's too early to start worrying. I get this mental picture of Abigail being bossy, playing teacher and sweet, calm Lucas playing her student when they get older.
    Your house is going to be so much fun with two totally different personalities running around.

  4. Since I sent my almost 24 year old son off into the world of business last year when he graduated university, I'm here to tell you that all things happen in time. My son was bright enough to decide for himself if was going to do something or not and no amount of encouragement, bribing, etc.,changed that. He was reading at 3, but didn't toilet train until he was 4 and he really did it by himself! He didn't drive until he was 20. I just lived with his time table. It must have worked because he got into the only school he applied to for university, bloomed into a fine student, and became president of the campus TV station his senior year. Don't sweat the small stuff!

  5. You're right. Comparison is inevitable. I'm amazed at families with 2 or more kids because parents usually end up telling me how different their kids are. By simply describing their personalities, you are, in essence, comparing. The one thing I differ with you is when you said, " I don't believe it's a sign of intelligence how early a child crawls, or walks, or talks." OK, forgive me for being the proud parent here, but Andy did everything early and has really been 'advanced' his whole 11-year life. So I think, those things are indeed signs of intelligence. Time will tell, m'dear.

  6. Just a word of advice – pediatricians are generalists. They operate best in black and white illnesses. They don't know everything, are likely to pooh-pooh concerns that are developmentally based. If you have any real issues with Lucas' progress, see a developmental pediatrician. Early intervention is everything, and assessment can't hurt even if he passes with flying colors.

  7. I am too the parent of twins, and of course you notice these things and measure their development. With twins, they just happen to be the same age, so the development markers are closer. Okay, don't COMPARE them, but measure them at the same time??! I guess what I mean is there is a difference, a happy medium, between not having any concern over Lucas' development and using his sister's development as the sole measuring stick for his.

    I know it's hard, but don't take the books and experts so literally, and go with your gut. Your good instincts and love for your children will lead you to the right balance.

    And as far as the adult twin with frizzy hair slapping you… sounds like a cartoon character for your own anxiety network. I know you can't MAKE that kind of feeling go away, but try acknowledging her, and then shutting her off so you can have some peace!

  8. I'm feeling some serious identification with frizzy haired twin, though in my head she's not a twin; she's the middle child. In any case, take her on an imaginary visit to Ouidad's salon, buy her an imaginary condo in one of those new buildings in Williamsburg, and I'll bet she'll stop bitchslapping you.

  9. As far as Lucas' progress is concerned, I say to go with your gut feelings. If you feel he is not progressing at a normal pace, then see a developmental pediatrician for his/her assessment. If there is no concern, fabulous, you can lay your fears to rest. If there is concern, you can acknowledge your fears and get on with it.

  10. I think about this issue all the time with my 10 month old twins, and it sounds like you have a good handle on it. I think it with their milestones (# teeth/babbling/sitting/crawling etc.), their personalities, their likes and dislikes. When S learned to wave I would wave at her all the time and then I realized, I never wave at J, so now I try to wave at both. When J started really liking to play a certain game I would play it with him, and then I realized, I should play it with S. It's a fine line… I want to let them have unique interests, they should be allowed that, but then, do we create or enhance their differences by picking up on a tiny personality difference or small preference difference and emphasizing that with one but not the other?

  11. I say. Essay. Compare and contrast exams got me through school. Ex dropped out. School. Job. Job.
    Job. Job. Job. Me. Me? Moved on and out with toddler and twins. I've always been an eventually everything falls into place girl. No add boiling water get instant answer timer's still going. Patience. Acceptance. Laughter. Creativity. Confidence. Happy fourth to you four!

  12. I would say, don't worry about comparing things as long as you're obviously not creating a preference. My mom will talk about how my and my brother are incredibly different — but she always says "but you were like that from the minute you were born." It's all temperament.

  13. Well, mine aren't twins (triplets), but were all born within 4 years of one another – and there are just plain fundamental differences between boys and girls. There just are. My cute boy was never as dextrous as his sisters – asking him to do some fine needlework or delicate work is like asking a bull to tiptoe through the china shop. I realize this is a generalization, that there are many neurosurgeons who are men, perfectly capable of delicate surgeries…but this is my world.

    My daughters have always been the fine detail, intricate patterned people…they are more creative and intuitive when it comes to people/food/decorating/flowers…almost everything. The daughters sing and dance – and have since they could walk – the son? not so much.

    But they are all precious beyond words…it must be fascinating to have babies at the same time and watch them side by side.

    You're doing a fabulous job.

  14. My Daughter, Terra, didn't really talk until she was about 2 or 3. I only have her so I compared her to the others kids in play groups. She definetly was slower on the talking thing than them. I compared her ot other kids, and she is fine. I still compare her to others, I love her and think she is perfect but I compare.

    On the other side, my husband is a twin. He hated the same clothes thing and has a hard time when I try to get matchy with him. I call it coordinating, he calls it cute twin crap. I use comparisons to get my way. "But everyone else will be coordinating!"

    You are doing a great job (from what you write about) don't worry! There will be so many more opportunities to mess up when they are older, this baby stuff will seem so easy!

  15. The good thing is that they are different sexes so they will have different interests, different friends, different everything. My sister and I are Irish twins, I'm older by 11-1/2 months, yet we still were very competitive, even though she was the cheerleader who went to MY Senior prom (bitter still, 20 years later, I think so!), and I was the journalism/yearbook girl.

    We both turned out allright, I think.

  16. don't have any kids yet but we have a family who has come over for vacation for few days to our house. Read your post and i can kind of 'relate' to it!! this couple has a 2 yr old and his mom keeps telling us of all comparisons between him and his buddies at the daycare!
    I keep thinking wouldn't this actually stress out the mom SO much!

  17. Well written! I love how you said the comparison thing is taught when we're young, but not accepted when we become adults. It's so frustratingly confusing!

  18. Ah yes. I used to read all the developmental books for milestones, just to make sure my little man was within reach. Now, I just say…he will do as he will do, and he is doing fine. You shall see this too- whether or not there are delays.

  19. I only have one little boy (for now), but I always compare him to my friends' babies who are the same age. On the mobility front, he seems about 3 months behind all the girls (it doesn't help that he is 90% percentile for height and weight). I think it's completely natural to compare, especially this early on.
    I do remember, though, having issues (at grade school age) when my mom compared me to her friends' kid, who was more organized, got better grades, etc.

    Both of your babies are beautiful and seem to be doing wonderfully! The latest set of pictures is great.

  20. My oldest son (I have three of them) did everything late – walked, talked, rode a bike, swam, etc, etc. He is now 6, and he is borderline genius. I mean scary smart – far above most of his peers. And he can do all of the other things, too. My message is this: don't worry.

  21. I have a twin brother so I felt the need to comment immediately. My brother and I were born a month and a half early…and we were somewhat delayed in certain milestones. My elementary school wanted to hold my brother back in Kindergarten because we were born in late in the school year. My mom outright refused. There was no way she was holding one or both of us back. She is a psychologist and she believed we would catch up (all kids do by third grade). By third grade we were both in gifted and talented. My brother and I are incredibly different people although we grew up doing all of the same things. And while our parents always treated us as individuals we were known as the "Kaplan twins" by our peers. It didn't hurt us at all, although we definitly fought hard to be our own people in high school and drifted apart a little. In the end, we both went to Ivy League schools..so the part about the twin who went to the lesser school made me laugh…I won't comment on the level of our schools.

    I guess I just wanted to comment on how much your situation resonates for me…and also that your twins will be fine and will develop their own personalities and be wonderful!

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