At one point in my life I had two small boys who were best friends, and a little girl. My sister had two boys, too, who together with my boys formed a motley crew. My little girl was the caboose on a long, lively boy-train, and I worried about how she’d make it up the mountain-of-life without a sister to push her along.
I decided, with infinite wisdom, to have another child. A girl. I was determined it would be a girl. A sister for Annalise. What it turned out to be was exactly what I wanted, and more. It was twins. Twin girls for Annalise. And for me. Boy, were we both in a for a wild ride!
To begin with, to be handed two babies at once is to be gifted with a lot of baby. Imagine bringing home two brand new cars on the same day. It would seem excessive to most everyone. How would you decided which car to drive on which day? What if the cars looked exactly the same? Got the same gas mileage? Which one would you clean first? How would you possibly choose between them? How would one manage financially, with identical, hefty car payments?
Today, my girls are almost eight years old. They look alike. They grow at nearly the same rate. They reach milestones at remarkably similar times. They are, and have always been, surrounded by the same voices, toys, walls, and influences as each other, day after day, year after year. Yet they are becoming very different people. Which seems incredulous to me, given that they are, on a cellular level, clones. Juliet makes daily lists of her goals and chores while Katriel makes puppets and sings in a quivery voice.
And that is where the challenge as the mother comes in. Because different people need different kinds of boundaries, encouragement, and love. And because life is just not fair. Ever. Even for two people who look exactly alike, grow up side-by-side, and burst into laughter at the same moment.
This morning Juliet ran into my room at six am. “It’s Brio’s birthday today, remember?” she cried excitedly. Brio was her cat – a birthday gift received two years ago. Brio’s sister cat was Zuzu, gifted to Katriel. The cats were twins, too – litter mates. But last year Zuzu ran away. Immediately I sensed this would not be a good morning for Katriel.
And it wasn’t. While Juliet fed Brio a birthday breakfast of dry tuna, Katriel wept. “I miss Zuzu,” she wailed, inconsolably. Juliet empathized with Katriel, but couldn’t contain her excitement at Brio’s big day. “He’s two now, right, mom?” she asked. “I’ll make him a little crown. Do you think he’ll wear it?” Katriel took paper and pencil and made a colored name tag that said simply ‘Zuzu’. She filled a bowl with dry cat food and put the little name tag on top alongside one unlit candle. This she set on the front porch, hoping against all hope that Zuzu would magically return.
I had no idea how to mother these two drastically different scenarios. I tried to console Katriel, all while helping Juliet celebrate Brio’s day without it becoming obnoxious. It was hard. One girl was clearly ‘up’ while the other was most obviously ‘down’. Which way should I head, upstairs or down?
Which leads right back to the basic dilemma. Life is not fair. Money and luck and opportunity are not doled out to one-and-all in equal amounts, no matter how identical your paths might be. The best I can do is spend my day trying to run upstairs and downstairs in fits and bursts, and make sure I pause on the landing long enough to shout loudly, so that both girls can hear – I love you, two.