Category - Twins

Identical yet different

1
Those Darn Twins
2
Flight
3
My Sons, Pure Poetry
4
When I Grow Up
5
Handedness
6
Jumping
7
Outer Space
8
Sam’s Science
9
Tigers Roar
10
My Boy, He Has Some Skillz!

Those Darn Twins

I apologize for keeping some of you hanging, it’s just that I’ve been spending all my free time visiting orthopedic surgeons. Someone has to keep them in business and it might as well be us since there isn’t enough on our plate. Ha! You see? That was a joke, which must mean I am emerging from the darkness.

As you know, Sam broke his elbow after attempting to fly off the couch — this is already one of those stories that will follow him into adulthood because it’s just too much — the Icarus references and his earnest certainty that he could fly. Even he says: “I will tell this story to my children someday, when I’m a father, okay?”

This is the boy who also informed me that babies are made when the dad gives the mom sperm. “But Mom? It’s different from a sperm whale.”

Oy.

Eight days home from school and he devoured every book he could get his hands on. When he finally got his permanent cast on, I was quite delighted to return him to school so he could inform his classmates where babies come from continue his first-grade education and share his new-found knowledge of orthopedics (since he devoured a medical book too).

All was peaceful on the home front. I basked in the empty quiet of my house, at last able to get some work done (the kind that pays, not the housework kind, but that needed to be tackled too) when John decided to take a tumble down some stairs.

Now at first I thought his fall just produced a really bad bloody nose and further loosened an already-loose tooth, but after rocking him back and forth on the floor and getting his bloody nose to stop, his screams did not lessen — if anything, they picked up. I quickly scanned him but didn’t see any other cuts or bruises. That’s when he said, in his small beautiful voice, “El-bow! Hurts?” — I guess his way of telling me that something was not right and remembering Sam’s fall and what Sam said over and over as we raced to the ER.

Brilliant boy.

So back in the car we piled and off to the ER we raced again. They recognized us, go figure! Non-displaced wrist fracture. We were just grateful he didn’t need surgery. As soon as he heard the word cast, he began to demand “Blue cast?” Obliged.

So here we are: identical twin boys with nearly identical twin casts. Eerie twin thing? I’m inclined to think yes.

Flight

Icarus  (ˈɪkərəs, ˈaɪ-)
— n

Greek myth: the son of Daedalus, with whom he escaped from Crete, flying with wings made of wax and feathers. Heedless of his father’s warning he flew too near the sun, causing the wax to melt, and fell into the Aegean and drowned

There’s a type of mother I envy: she is calm in a crisis. She knows just what to do and does so serenely.

I am not that mother.

The first scream is high-pitched, so high that I’m not sure it’s human — is it our cat? I pause upstairs and listen, John has just arrived home from school and he stops too. I take a deep breath, and will the sound to be a false alarm, but instead it is followed by another. “Sam?” I race towards the basement just as he begins to limp up the stairs, his right arm hanging at an odd angle.

“What’s wrong, baby? What happened? What happened!” I ask although it’s painfully obvious that it’s his arm.

“I fell, I fell!” he sobs. I mentally review the downstairs, the kid-friendly soft couches, the large bookcases bolted to the wall. I pray he isn’t bleeding. I sit him down and scan the rest of his body, all seems okay but the arm is already swollen. We’re going to the ER without a doubt. I grab a pillow, my phone, and tell John we have to go in the car. The sound of other children crying usually agitates him but right now he is uncharacteristically quiet and still.

We pile into the car and my heart feels like it will thump right out of my chest. Despite this surge of terror, I am somehow able to carefully strap Sam in and place the pillow under his elbow to cushion it. “How did you fall, honey?” I am close to tears. He tells me he fell off the couch. Impossible, I think. He’s been climbing that couch since he could toddle.

“How could you fall? I don’t understand.”

“I jumped off, Mom,” he cries, “I was trying to fly!”

“You were what?” I say, incredulous. “What were you trying to do?” I tell him that people cannot fly, why on earth and all that’s holy, did he think he could fly?

“I thought I could! I can fly in my dreams! And I-care-us can fly,” he says.

“‘I-care-us’?” I ask. “Who the heck is ‘I-care-us’?”

“You know, from the greek mythology,” he tells me. Ah, Icarus. Of course you’re reading greek mythology.

As we race to the ER, I explain that mythology is like fiction. And fiction is the opposite of non-fiction, which means it’s a made-up story. Never even mind that the story does not end well. Did he read the whole story?

The wait in the ER is interminable, but at last they take us back for x-rays. The techs slap up a couple of pictures and say nothing — that’s the doctor’s job — but even my untrained eye can see the break at his elbow. He’s a trooper, but scared and worried and starting to fret about all the possible scenarios. I figure there’s a cast in his future.

As it turns out, the break is severe enough to require surgery and pins to help set the elbow. And because he is so young he must be transported to Children’s for a pediatric specialist and an overnight stay. This after I’ve assured Sam that no way, no how will he need surgery again, a cast probably, but not surgery.

Silly, stupid mommy.

This is just one of the reasons I blogged not at all during the month of May.

Here is another:

To be continued…

My Sons, Pure Poetry

If there’s one constant about my boys, it is this: John is always in motion and Sam is always talking.

************

John’s hands flap, fingers flick, solo then together. Legs skip to a beat he surely feels but we don’t hear. He jumps and runs and flies through the air. Give him a wide open space: the backyard, or a football field, or a park in springtime and he’s off. Movement is his poetry.

When he was younger — two and three and even four — he was oblivious to everything but his pursuit of lines and shadows and above all, street signs and lampposts. There’s this new documentary called Loving Lampposts? and I can’t wait to see it — I have dozens of photos of John doing just that. When I think about that time, which is not so long ago, I think about the panic that tinged every facet of my day with them. Normal trips to the grocery store or to the playground were wrapped in a layer of impossibility and responsibility. While most children stay with their parents when they go out into the world, John’s first instinct was to bolt. I felt like his very survival depended on my not letting go of his hand.

I still think that it did.

But something has changed with my boy. He stops when you tell him to stop. He turns when you call his name. When we go to the playground now he is still drawn to the same things but he’s also the boy going down the slide and the boy saying “Swing Mommy Push?”

Sometimes when he strays too far, that familiar panic begins its rise in my belly. I’ll begin my sprint after him but just as quick am frozen in my tracks when he turns and stops at the sound of my call. It’s kind of a freaking miracle.

************

Ever since Sam was two and learned his alphabet, he started to talk and has not stopped. If he is not talking about anything and everything under the sun then he is humming. He hums while drawing, he hums while playing, he hums while eating, he hums all the while. When I draw his attention to it, he’ll be quiet for maybe 15 seconds and then busts at the seams with sound. It is his poetry.

Sometimes, shame on me, I tune out. I almost missed this loveliness. Something about the language was different and so I stopped cutting vegetables and exclaimed, “Wow, Sam, was that a poem you just spoke aloud?”

“Yep.” he said. “It’s called All Around the Year.” I asked him if it was in a book he was reading and he said no, his teacher had read it aloud to them in class. And he remembered it.

“Honey, do you think you could write it down for me? I’d love to have it,” I asked, once again completely and utterly amazed at his memory.

A Poem
All Around the Year
Now, winter that
mean polar bear. Goes loping
inside its lair. A melting
river tugs loose its terrible
bear hug.
Winter
Spring
As Earth starts to seethe
As plants grow. Willow
branches grow high.
And so will I. And so will I.

When I Grow Up

“Mom,” he says. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I tell him that for one, I’m already grown up and 2) I’m doing it — I’m his mom, I’m John’s mom.

And then I follow it with a long-winded tale about life before kids, when Mommy actually Worked. In an office! Because that’s the pinnacle, you know, that’s what Daddy does.

“Yeah, but what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Honestly, I just want to know what the heck a Fujita Scale is.

Handedness

Sam and John are identical, it’s true. I watch them all the time and marvel at their similarities and differences. They began in my womb, mirror images of a thought fully formed.

  • Both are left-handed, although John uses his right hand to eat.
  • They both love to laugh and sing.
  • Although they share the same features, the way those features express themselves on each face is delightfully unique.
  • Both have the same dark freckle in the same exact spot on their back.
  • They each have an unruly mop of hair.
  • They both eat the same darn thing every single day.
  • Each asks for a story before bed. In rotation: Dr. Seuss ABC book for John, the Children’s Encyclopedia for Sam.

Sam and John are identical, yes, but so different too.

Jumping

A little boy jumps on the couch, a grin spread ear to ear. He says, “Mommy sit? Mommy play?” and I stop in my tracks. I look again, pretty sure I passed Sam upstairs before coming down here.

John?

You bounce up and down, up and down, and now I see the squint in addition to the grin, the finger puppets dancing by your face. Since when do you ask to play? I grab you and give you a big hug. You laugh and say again, “Mommy sit? Mommy play?” I tell you that first I need to help Sam get started on homework.

Then you say the most amazing thing: “Sam downstairs play?”

Who cares about homework. I yell for Sam, Come downstairs and play with your brother! He asked to play with you! and Sam comes running.

IMG_4193ASam in John’s space at three.

It’s hard to explain how my heart fills and overflows at the sight of you two laughing together, jumping together up and down, up and down. It may not last for long, and who knows when it might happen again, but this moment leaves me breathless.

The things that other people take for granted with their children.

You laugh and jump and plop together on the couch and it seems to me that for the briefest of moments there is no autism here, just two brothers doing something so ordinary that it qualifies as extraordinary.

John, your brother has never given up on you — he’s climbed, chased, pulled, turned, followed, and sometimes hit you — all in an effort to get your attention. He loves you so.

And today I see just how much you love him.

Outer Space

Back when Sam was oh, about two, he discovered outer space. He’d watch the Baby Galileo DVD on a constant loop if I’d let him. The planets, the stars, irresistible shiny things. As with every subject that fascinates him, he would make drawing after drawing of Neptune, Saturn, Mars and then call out their names, his love of the alphabet nearly as strong.

We discovered soon enough that he could read. The first time was at the grocery store: we’re passing the deli, Sam looks up from his seat at the front of the cart and sounds out “De-li. Ham.”

There was the time we took him to the National Air and Space Museum and as the four of us walked the exhibits he’d shout out the planet names to the astonishment of those around us. A little tow-headed two-year-old, who until recently had not uttered one word.

I remember all this as John’s obsession with outer space has now reached its pinnacle. He believes that his mother can do anything. He watches me crochet and climbs on my lap. I tell him “Mommy is making a scarf.”

He jumps off, brings me some yarn and says “Mommy is making the planets.” And so it begins. The moment he awakes: “Mommy is making the Mars?” Yes. The moment he steps off the bus: “Mommy is making the Neptune?” Yes. Even Pluto, that poor maligned planet that’s no longer a planet.

Days later I am done and I turn towards my neglected scarf. He brings me more yarn and says, “Mommy is making Muno babies.” He thinks I can do anything.

Sam’s Science

Lately John’s reactions to minutiae have been extreme: he’ll suddenly stand up and scream at the top of his lungs. Frustration born of not finding the words quick enough I imagine, which doesn’t make it any easier — only understandable for those of us with the Autism Manual. It is of little use to the public at large, including those inside our educational institutions — but at least most people look at John and see his disability. His is evident.

But my Sam often passes for typical. Often. Which means when he acts atypical people are all what the hell? I’ve been guilty-guilty-guilty of this more times than I care to admit. We expect so much more from him, so much more than we do from his brother. When Sam’s reaction to a timeout for speaking out in class is explosive screams and a mad dash around the room, some are quick to categorize him as a “bad child.”

Sam spends all of his free time reading the encyclopedia for fun —  he is all “nano-technology this” and “Cambrian period that” complete with helpful and constant pencil drawings. So we signed him up for this after-school science program. His brain is in need of stimulation that an after-school science program would seem to provide. The weekly topics and experiments scream SAM.

So when John and I arrive to pick him up — after first negotiating the parking lot and John’s screams because I was unable to complete a crocheted Mars before we had to leave (yes, a crocheted Mars) — after negotiating screams and flailing limbs as we walk down the hallway because, I don’t know, I chose the wrong route? or maybe he was still upset about Mars and needed to scream some more about it? After all that, we arrive to the classroom and I see my boy huddled in a chair backwards, snot falling down his face, eyes red and still wet with tears. He sobs when he sees me. The instructor motions that he’d like to speak with me… “He was very rude,” he says “he talks a lot —a lot!” he adds with exasperation “and he doesn’t listen. It seems he can’t hear when he’s spoken to.”

He was in a timeout for nearly an hour. An hour!

Huh. So you see, I’ve forgotten. I’ve forgotten how well my boy copes, how often he passes for typical. I’ve forgotten to relay strategies to this young and inexperienced instructor. Once again I am taken by surprise that yep, my boy still has significant challenges! still enough to knock me over. I try to explain now Do you know what an IEP is? You do? Great, He has an IEP that is supposed to address some of his challenges. He really loves science, it may be helpful to give him a warning or two about speaking out before putting him in a time-out. Just makes it worse, I promise! 

This is the third session and the third time Sam has been miserable when I’ve picked him up. This last time is, of course, the worst. The program is not run by the school system but by an outside organization, so I don’t think I can ask for accommodations — or can I? I’ve contacted his team and am hoping for the best. He is desperate to continue. The instructor is glad to hear some things that might help but does not sound overly confident that he can handle it.

So there are these times? Times I just feel outside myself. Sometimes I think it may be the gaping stares from others that hurls me out of my body, a spectator to my life, to the situation. When John body-drops to the ground, my limbs feel leaden and uncooperative in the exact same way that his refuse to budge and part of me is above looking down at the ridiculousness of it all.

But Sam needs for me to be different.

Tigers Roar

John surprised me today…after reading a book about animals, we pulled out toy animals (tigers, bears, birds) and John began to do some pretend play! He took two tigers and made them roar at each other and march along the table. He played with the animals for 15-20 minutes… Go JOHN!!

—John’s teacher

This child amazes. The many things this boy could not do and is doing. He is reading books. He generalizes words from his programs and can transfer knowledge to a book he’s never seen before. There used to be a time that bed time consisted of my sitting on Sam’s side of the bed to read a bedtime story but every night John demands: Read story? and I plop myself between them.

Amazing that we are here.

My Boy, He Has Some Skillz!

My little boy is sad. This makes me sad. As I may have alluded to earlier in the school year, Sam is finding it tricky to navigate the social wormhole that is first grade. He actually says, “Mom, it’s tricky.” My boy is nothing but astute when it comes to feelings, his feelings, but has a harder time figuring out his peers.

He had one constant friend, a little boy who is perhaps a little quirky too — but unlike Sam, X seems to be accepted by all the cool kids (the kids that Sam desperately wants to play with). Whereas in kindergarten play date invites were passed out to all like a bag of lollipops, first graders have settled on their favorite flavors and invites are not as forthcoming. Birthday party across the street? Not invited. He was hurt and blamed me for not taking him (I gladly accepted the blame).

This one little boy, though, had been pretty constant.

So when Sam announced that he plays alone at recess now — an unstructured, loud environment that had gotten better (I thought) with intervention from a few adults that were asked to facilitate — I asked him why? What about X? That’s when my little boy said that X has a new friend. And that’s when he started to cry. “He was my one, most special favorite friend, Mom. He doesn’t play with me anymore.”

Help, readers! I’m feeling blind rage towards first-graders! My first instinct is to scoop him up, move far away to a place where he is loved and admired for being such a special, brilliant kid. A place with kids who get him. Doesn’t a place like that exist? Yes, he is quirky. Yes, he sometimes sounds like a 30-year-old when he talks. Yes, he has a hard time modulating his voice. But he is loving and caring and wants to be your friend. He wants you to be his friend. He is a damned good friend.

And just so you know, we have had X over numerous times. They play really well together but lately I hear X scolding Sam: “Why do you talk so loud? You don’t need to yell, Sam.” And while I know he has this tendency — I can’t tell you how many times a day I remind him “Inside Voice!” — I bristle to hear one of his peers, who can be just as loud, lecturing him this way. I hate later, after the play date, when I ask him about it and Sam asks me, “Do you think he’ll still be my friend?” I hate that the answer was apparently not.

Instead I hug him tight and tell him that it’s hard when our friends seem to forget us when they make new ones. I suggest he try playing with both of them — and this is where it’s tricky for me. I know that social relationships adapt and change frequently at this age. That is to say, I know this because I am told this. I have no practical knowledge of this phenomenon. I look around and what I see are pretty solid friendships going back to last year. What I see are kids who once played with him? Now they ignore him.

But then he says, “Mom, it’s okay. I feel better. I’m drawing you a picture of how it goes.” Ten minutes later he brings me this, an “Imformaition” key helpfully written on the back, and he explains:

“1. First I start off with the Happys (they are yellow).
2. Then something happens and the Attack begins (those are the red mixing with the yellow).
3. A Volcano forms and erupts (I yell or make noise).
4. The Angrys come in (they are red).
5. The Smokys are here and they make me very quiet.
6. The Blues, I am very sad.
7. There is a Problem now because I can’t talk.
8. I Rest and then the Happys slowly return.
9. The Betters are here (they are green). And I’m okay.”

He is more than okay. He is way better than I am.

I can’t help but think that if he can so clearly express every stage of every emotion he feels, then he is doing way better than 99% of us. I think how I’ve had my head in the sand the last few months, not really able to deal with much and wonder how it might be different if I could draw myself a map of “how it goes” for me.

Homework.

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