Friday, September 12, 2008

Heel-Grabbing

Yesterday I pick the boys up from school and Alan's teacher had a smile on her face she was clearly trying to mute. All she explained was that she had mistakenly referred to me as his daddy and Alan had just told her how to tell apart his daddy and his papa. As we walked away, I asked him what made his teacher laugh.

He told me, with his characteristic smirk, that he explained his "daddy is hairy and papa is bald". Very funny, Alan, just like your brother.

Exhibit A:

A picture of us from our California marriage last month. Clearly, I'm not bald; I've distinguished-gentleman thinning, but not bald, right?

Anyway, such distinctions were kind of the theme of yesterday. It's also kind of fitting my last post was on genetic differences in the abilities of humans.

With twins it seems people, us included, can't help but compare no matter how hard we try. They really are very different kids, and I'd actually say, at this point in our family's life, being the parents of twins has added far more complication into the average parenting job than being gay parents.

Our boys were academically evaluated by their teachers yesterday. They are in separate classes just to minimize on their self and peer comparisons; no one wants to be defined by their brother. I have to say putting them in separate classes has been one of the best decisions we've made as parents of twins (thanks to those parents of twins who informed us on this one).

Anyway, they are both the youngest in their classes. We could have held them back, but, when tested, they were ready for kindergarten last year. Trouble is, well, it's probably best explained by the teacher's evaluation from yesterday.

Brian is "at the tippy-top of the class." He's "reading at an 8th grade level" and his reading comprehension is at "a 4th grade level." In short, he's an abnormally smart 6-year-old, especially for being the youngest in his class. He has asked for and keeps a calculator and a dictionary by his bedside. He's a self-motivated reader (not to mention piano practice). He's been corresponding via email with his adult relatives in Moab and his kindergarten teacher all summer. He says he wants to start a blog ("write on the internet") but that's where I've drawn the line.

Alan, he needed tutoring over the summer, but he's keeping up. I don't want to give the impression he's doing poorly; there are older kids lagging behind him. He's at his grade level and, if not for his brother, he'd not notice anything, but the contrast with his brother is apparent to Alan. He gets mad at Brian when he tries to help him with homework. Last month my cousin asked him if he was the "smart one" and Alan answered "No, but I'm more funny" (Note to people who aren't parents of twins: never ask such questions). In truth, he may have fared better if he was the oldest in his grade, but they're both qualified by minimum age and ability to be in 1st grade, and, really, we couldn't split them up in different grades of course; that'd be humiliating.

It probably doesn't help either that humans have been so enthralled with competitive twin stories: Jacob and Esau, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, Spock and Spock with a goatee. People seem to like such twin narratives so much that asking stuff like "are you the smart one" seems okay.

I guess I'm soliciting parents of twins (or twins) to tell me it'll be okay :-). They're both such special people in their own way, and if they were carbon copies of each other I know our family would miss out on a lot. I know having your abilities come to you easily is not always a blessing either; so what if Alan has to work more? I just fear, being a twin, Alan will never regard himself himself as "the smart one" despite the fact that he is very smart, despite his undeniably quick wit.

(and extra special kudos to anyone who knows why I picked such a silly title)

6 comments:

Kengo Biddles said...

I see no problem with your boys, and I wouldn't call Brian "abnormally" smart...I'd say exceptionally, or something nicer. :)

And my wife was thought to be learning disabled in 2nd grade...she was just bored with the material and the teacher.

I wouldn't worry about your boys.

Jér said...

My sister and I were compared to each other frequently as kids--she was "the responsible one" and I was "the smart one"--and I think we both had complexes about it until years later. My sister didn't realize how brilliant she was until she took organic chemistry in college and her study group meetings basically turned into group tutoring sessions where she helped everyone else solve the problems. And I always thought I was irresponsible until--wait, I'm still convinced I'm irresponsible. Hmm.

I guess you should just keep doing the best you can to teach them not to label themselves. And be extra, extra careful what you say to them; I still remember things my mom said to me when I was five that I am still getting over. I, uh, don't remember much my dad says to me. I'm sure it's a defense mechanism.

Java said...

Heel-grabbing: Jacob was second born of the twins, but was hanging on to Esau's heel as they were born. And Jacob outshone Esau in their very competitive lives. If I recall correctly (IIRC) and that's without Google.

My two youngest are adopted, but not biologically related, and very close in age. He is 50 days younger than she. They are 10.5 years old now.

The twin syndrome sometimes comes into play, especially in academic and athletic endeavors. They are each individuals with his and her own talents, abilities, and weaknesses. However, often they are judged against the other's performance. It isn't fair, and their dad and I try not to do that ourselves. And we are careful about what we say and do with them. That doesn't mean we don't make mistakes. I'm sure in 10 years they will each be able to say verbatim the damaging things we have told them, though I don't know of anything I've ever said that would hurt either of them.

Good luck. All you can do is your best. From what I see, your best is very good. Love covers a multitude of parental mistakes!

chosha said...

Now the important question is 'who is the evil twin... (^_~)

I think you should explore Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences. I've always been the child who did well in school - that's my type of intelligence. My brother is better with his hands and has an artistic (drawing) ability that I deeply envy. My sister has always been good with people. She excels in jobs where I and my brother would be clueless. These are all kinds of intelligence: verbal-linguistic, visual-spacial and interpersonal. It's just that the verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical are the ones that get measured the most often, every year of our school life, so we think of those as measures of 'smart'.

Scot said...

Kengo:"I wouldn't call Brian "abnormally" smart"

As an abnormal guy, I think I may have reclaimed the word, at least in my mind :-). There's nothing wrong with being abnormal, or exceptional.

"And my wife was thought to be learning disabled in 2nd grade...she was just bored with the material and the teacher."

And I fear that would have been the problem we'd have face with Brian if we had made them the oldest in their class. Darn borderline birthdays.

Thank you for sharing your personal experience Jer. You struck me as responsible enough :-).

"And be extra, extra careful what you say to them"

We are; I hope I didn't give the impression that we go on about how good Brian is at reading in front of Allan. Trouble is, he notices anyway and he comments on it. And if only I could control others in the family; you just never know what's going to come out of a cousin's mouth.

Java: in a room full of Mormons you win the scripture prize :-). I hope neither of our boys sell their birthright for a pot of soup.

You are practically raising twins there. I know exactly what you mean.

"I'm sure in 10 years they will each be able to say verbatim the damaging things we have told them, though I don't know of anything I've ever said that would hurt either of them."

Lol, I think that sums up a great deal about parenting fears.

Thank you Java.

Chosha: "I think you should explore Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences."

That's a good point. Some forms of intelligence get a lot more press in school. And Alan is more creative with his drawings, and somewhat more math oriented... Then though, if you nurture that to make up for the praise Brian gets in other areas, you have to watch out for Brian feeling like he's not creative or mathematically inclined.

Sheesh, parenting can be a tight rope act; at least, paraphrasing Java above there, love can bring the ground up to a safe distance.

Mr. Fob said...

Don't forget Tomax and Xamot--they both can be evil!