Wyatt popped out of the pool with the traditional summer blue quivering lips and begged for his towel. “Can I sit on your lap?”
I beckoned him in, and he settled, warm and damp, with me in the deck chair. I turned to the friend I was with and sighed. “Twenty seconds,” I said.
“Twenty seconds. You’ll see. Give it twenty seconds.”
Within fifteen, Rory–who just minutes earlier had been happily going off the diving board with Lily and shows no signs (yet) of pool-induced chill, appears. She seizes her own towel. “I wan’ sit in your lap.”
“Wyatt’s already in my lap.”
“But dat not fair!”
Friend is snickering beside me.
Yesterday, under the same circumstances, I scooted Wyatt over and made room for both. But we were about to leave then. Today, we have plenty more pool time ahead, and this is ridiculous. “No. Wyatt is in my lap now, and you can be in my lap later. You sat in my lap yesterday. Last night, I snuggled with you on the couch and I didn’t snuggle wit Wyatt. I love you, but you don’t need to be in my lap right now.”
Disgruntled, she hovers for a bitâ€”-but Wyatt isn’t going anywhere with her waiting, and she knows it. She drops the towel (into the puddle on the pavement, natch) and heads back to the pool.
Five minutes later, Wyatt gets up, joins a friend and heads out for more water time, and I turn to my friend again. “Thirty seconds,” I say.
A little over the mark, Rory is back picking up her now soaked-thru towel. “I wan’ sit on your lap.”
But she doesn’t want to sit on my lap. Not really. She wants to swim. She loves to swim like no one I have ever seen. And so she doesn’t cuddle back, or even lean back (the way she usually would). She sits perched on my knees like a coiled spring, and I can’t stand it. I don’t know how long she would stay, but this is just silly. After a minute or two, I kiss her. “I’m getting up now,” I say. “Do you want to stay in the chair?”
Nope, she’s off. I wander around for a bit, socializing, and eventually settle in a different chair. Some days, they both repeat this process all afternoon, but that day it was a one-off.
Those are my virtual twins.
That’s the downside, or at least, the pain-in-the-ass side. The upside is that they play together nearly all the time. Defend each other. One reads to the other. They clear each others plates and take baths and ride bikes and throw balls. I never have to play knee hockey or even Candyland–they’ve got that covered. It took a while, but at two years in, they’re completely intersected in dozens of ways and very happy about it. (They also tell each other they hate each other, poke each other, hit each other, provoke each other, steal each other’s toys….)
For the most part, I think they came out ahead. On the one hand, because I don’t HAVE to play knee hockey or Candyland, I never, ever doâ€”but the truth is that I rarely would have. I only had so many games of Candyland in me, and I my oldest child exhausted them five years ago. The well has not refilled. I love to cook with them, read with them, hang out with them, bike with them and even swim with them, but I really don’t do much in the way of playing with them. And they push each other to greater and faster achievement. If Rory can ride her bike, within an hour, Wyatt can too. Reading isn’t coming along quite as quickly for her as Wyatt was able to pull of the bike-riding, but it’s a whole lot faster than it would be.
But Wyatt’s time as the only baby of the family was cut short, and Rory never had that at all. And when it comes to activities, I tend to gravitate towards things they’ll both like, even though they might be better off with separate teams or places to excel. If every kid gets his or her own separate sphere, I’ll be doing nothing but drive them to activities for the next decade, and it already feels that way. Until someone rebels, if one of them plays hockey or tennis, they both play hockey or tennis. Worse, there’s this competition thing, which sometimes seems as though it will go on for life.
Why does Rory feel like she HAS to get that time in my lap even though she’d rather swim? I’m not entirely sure. Maybe if Wyatt sits in my lap and she doesn’t, there’s the chance that later, I’ll favor him in some other way because she let me give him “more” today. Maybe it’s just too risky not to grab any bit of me that she can get. Maybe Wyatt secretly gloats. Maybe, even after two years, she’s still not sure what could happen next at any moment. Cementing that her place in our family is exactly like Wyatt’s may seem like the best way to go. That last one seems most likely. It’s all of a piece with some other Rory-isms: leaping to help, resisting doing some things she can do for herself and constantly going over the memories we share together. I think she needs to emphasize her connection with me.
And so maybe I should let her perch on my knees instead of pushing her back towards the water. I don’t know. Maybe encouraging her to do what she really wants to do isn’t pushing her away, but giving her permission to go away–and then come back.
Cross-posted to No Hands But Ours.