Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drop Like A Rock

One of the challenges when raising twins—fraternal or otherwise—is resisting the urge to compare them. Just as you would not want to compare an older sibling with the younger, the more athletic with the bookish, you do not want to compare two children who arrived on the scene at the same time! This is, however, incredibly difficult. They eat together, sleep together, grow and develop together. Side-by-side these two human beings are experiencing life before your eyes together; it is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid comparisons. My attempt at “not comparing them” was to at least restrict these observations to my own private thoughts. In not sharing these, I felt like I was in some way being fair. Still, after a while, my own private thoughts spilled over into random spoken observations and rhetorical questions at dinner to my husband. “Do you think Wylie would say more if he were not always smoking his fingers?” might float out in between bites of pasta or pizza.

One observed behavior that became problematic in preschool for Wylie was the “drop like a rock” maneuver. Basically, to the untrained eye, whenever Wylie did not want to comply with a wish, request, or command, it looked as if he was willfully disobedient because he would quite literally drop like a rock and hide his head. Had he not been born into a practicing Christian home, one might have thought he was preparing for ritual prayers to Allah. To the trained eye, this behavior could sometimes be exhibited when Wylie simply did not want to comply. But, it was also and more often employed whenever Wylie was overwhelmed. And, that turned out to be quite often.

How to deal with a healthy and densely packed two year old folded into a good-sized boulder? In preschool, they risked their health insurance deductibles and lifted him off the floor to move him to the next “center” or spot on the carpet they had directed him to go. God bless them! Sometimes, they tried to speak rationally to him through one tiny air pocket of his rock. In short, they adapted. So did Sunday School teachers (sometimes), other parents, grandparents, and siblings. As parents though, we felt like we had to “do something” about the behavior (just like you have to do something about a child that bites his preschool neighbor or colors on the walls). So, we began to discipline Wylie for dropping into rock mode. We would count to ten slowly before placing him in time-out, etc., all the typical approaches. Maybe this would have worked in the long run if the behavior had simply reflected willful disobedience. But, like the other coping mechanisms Wylie would develop in the future, dropping like a rock was one of his first. It was necessary for his survival.

You see he dropped like a rock at his own birthday parties…during children’s church when the Bible puppet came out…when it was time to line up to go back to class…when one too many people came through the front door at restaurants when the food was brought to the table. Any experience that overwhelmed one of Wylie’s senses resulted in this defense mechanism. Daily—multiple times a day--he was terrified beyond his ability to express or communicate. Thus, the rock. We know that now. Sadly, we didn’t know then.

1 comment:

Jonnell said...

Thank you Jill for writing so openly about your stories. I'm finding them so interesting... Your children are blessed to have you as a mom :)