Safety in the Big Bad World

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I know that my job is not so much to protect my daughters from the big bad world as it is to prepare them to tackle it increasingly independently as they grow. Despite the urge to wrap them in a protective cocoon of parental control, I force myself to let my nearly 7-year-olds experience the world and fight their own battles, within reason.

For Easter, my daughters received small kites from their father and stepmother. We live on a quiet suburban street, so when my daughter J begged to fly her kite on the sidewalk while I cooked dinner last week, I agreed, trying to hide the knot of fear in my throat. I watched her from the kitchen window. She raced up and down the sidewalk, never going more than two houses away, never getting too close to the street, laughter pouring out of every pore.

The next afternoon, J’s twin sister M joined her, although they were back in the house in minutes. The kite had landed in a tree, fortunately within my reach. The grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices I was working on didn’t take too long, so there wasn’t time for any more kite flying that day.

On Thursday, when I arrived to pick my children up from after school care, there were three police cars parked at the intersection where I turned to park. I asked the caregivers what was going on. They shooed my daughters away to retrieve their backpacks and quickly told me that a man had attempted to abduct a boy at that intersection. The boy got away, but was injured. No one there was sure how badly he was hurt, but a policeman had stopped by to talk to the after school caregivers, to tell them what was going on and to ask questions. The would be abductor had escaped.

I briefly considered not telling my daughters what I’d just learned, but decided that they needed to know that vigilance was important. They’re outgoing little girls who befriend others easily, and lack the instinct to distrust strangers. I told them what I knew, leaving out the part about the boy having been injured, and told them that I was going to ask them not to go out of the house without me, except to our fenced back yard. I promised to take them kite flying in the park after church.

J’s questions were about the boy and what the police were doing to catch the bad man. She walked around our house with me to ensure that all our blinds were closed before bed, and was generally satisfied with our safety. M refused to be in any room without me that first night, but has since relaxed.

I don’t think I’m overreacting. My kids still spend all day at school and after care without me. I still let them let go on my hand on the way to dance class or church or stores once we’re out of the parking lot. I’m just not ready to let them out of the street unless there’s a trusted adult with them. Eventually, though, I’m going to have to let them explore the world without me. I can only pre-screen their peers, teachers, and mentors for a little longer.

That terrifies me.

Sadia is raising her 6-year-old identical twin daughters in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is divorced and works full time in higher education IT.

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Once, when my kids were under a year old, I had a complete stranger ask me “which is the good one?” I only wish I hadn’t been so shocked by the question that I might have come up with a witty and biting response to such an inappropriate question.

Among all of the crazy-ass things that people feel compelled to say to me when they find out my kids are twins, one of the most surprising is some people’s fixation on the “good twin/evil twin” thing.  Seriously?  People, that’s just a bad soap opera plot device. It’s not real.

Or, is it?

Sometimes, it’s a teensy weensy bit real.

Because, of course, one of the things about having two kids who are exactly the same age is that they will still hit some of the developmental milestones at slightly different times.  Some of those phases are less pleasant than others, and some kids will have a rougher time than others.

out for a walk

Right now, we are in that delightful two-year-old stage of constantly needing to assert independence and control. And while they are both dealing with it, it’s hitting my son especially hard.  Today, the whining and demanding for [insert whatever item his sister is currently holding] started before we even made it out of their bedroom.  It was a rough morning, and we’ve had a lot of days like that recently.

What might be making it even harder is the contrast with his sister’s behavior. She’s no angel (friends accurately described her over the weekend as a “wild card”), but where Daniel digs in his heels and throws a tantrum, she is more likely to realize that she is about to get in trouble and back off.  And so, human nature kicks in, and I (temporarily) have a favorite child.  Which only makes me feel worse.  I struggle with simultaneously being enormously frustrated with my son, and then feeling bad that I harbor less happy feelings toward him than his sister.

Thankfully, if I’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that they will soon switch places.  While some of these characteristics are consistent and very true to their personalities, I also know that the title of “more difficult child” is passed around with great frequency.  But in the meantime, I still have some internal conflict.

What about you? Do your kids trade off on the “good/bad twin” role?  Do you find yourself temporarily favoring one twin over the other?  How do you cope with favoritism, even if it is fleeting?

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