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A Front Seat View of a Child's Evolution

Watching kids become individuals is an amazing part of parenthood.

Last night, two scenes played out within a few hours of each other that gave me pause.

For the sake of anonymity, I’ll refer to my girls as Laverne and Shirley. Laverne has been our “Drama Queen” from birth. Now 3 years old, she has honed her skills well enough to win an Academy Award for outstanding crying scene with flailing, falling and feigning grief and woe.

During dinner, Laverne started to pout. I don’t remember why… maybe the risotto was touching the tilapia. (They actually had fish sticks and french fries but I wanted to make my wife sound impressive). She sat with her arms folded; her head down with a scowl that could stop a Navy Seal in his tracks.

I took out the video camera and asked Laverne to “Show me a happy face…now a sad face…give me scared….let’s go for angry.” On cue, she did it like a seasoned thespian. My little actress.

Naturally, Shirley wanted in on the action; I dutifully obliged my other princess and turned the camera on her. Sadly, every emotion looked exactly the same. No future Natalie Portman in Shirley. Thank you. Leave your resume. Next!

Later that evening, my wife was reading Tolstoy to the girls. (Okay, fine…Cat in the Hat). She read a sentence, “And, then, fast as a fox/the cat in the hat/Came back with a…” Shirley jumped in to complete it: “Box.” I rushed for the video camera and recorded my little scholar’s brilliance as she flawlessly read through the entire story.

Meanwhile, Laverne sat quietly on the other side of my wife trying to fit her monkey’s tail up her nose.

Laverne thrives on attention. She isn’t shy around strangers, nor does she shrink in the midst of a crowd. On the other hand, Shirley needs time to warm up to strangers before she sparkles and hates to be in a large group. My wife and I often say, “Laverne will throw a party when we are out of the house. Shirley will tell on her sister and have the house spotless before our return.” We have also suggested, “Shirley will panic over a pending school test. Laverne will say, ‘Test? There’s a test? Huh? Oh look, something shiny.’”

Don’t get your pancreas in a knot. We aren’t going to label them: “She is the smart one and the other is the Republican.” I just wonder how much of who they will become is stamped in their DNA.

I love watching them turn into individuals. The idea of personality has me the most curious. When Hitler was a little boy, did he overrun and occupy all the lemonade stands in his neighborhood?

I have to be careful about expectations. I already imagine the following conversation:

“Shirley. Stop studying for your seven AP exams, Laverne’s school play is in an hour. We have to leave.”

“I’m studying.”

“We have to be there as a family to show our support.”

“We’ve gone to every stupid show since the third grade.”

“And every year we all go to your Honor Society induction.”

“Fine. But if I don’t get into Yale and am forced to settle for Princeton, it’s on your head.”

I just had an awful thought. What if they both turn out to be incredibly bright? Tuition to two ivy league schools at the same time? Oh No. I’m going to be working 10 years after I die.

amy romano May 30, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Funny, as always, and so insightful. You better relax...they will be teenagers all too soon and you will be doomed!
John S. May 31, 2011 at 07:14 PM
Very funny! Great article!
V W May 31, 2011 at 10:23 PM
You're funny, and it's funny how 3 year old twins have distinct personalities. Are they identical (physically)? I am enjoying following your family (and how loving you are to your wife. She must have a great sense of humor, too.) Keep up the good humored way to look at things. It's great!
Meredith Brake June 05, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Very funny
Eilene Rosenblum June 06, 2011 at 08:03 PM
I laughedout loud as I remembered my own children at that age. Every house has a Sarah Bernhardt. Keep these columns coming, I love them. Eilene Rosenblum

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