Are They REALLY Related?

The other night I was watching while my two children, our 12-year-old daughter, Shayla, and our almost 7-year-old son, Dimitri, were having cereal as a bedtime snack. I was watching because they really have to be watched. Really, Corn Pops shouldn’t be a challenge, but with our kids, one can never presume. But as they ate, I took notice of their little quirks, those little preferences that make them so, well, themselves. And I marveled at just how different these two are.

My son, as usual, had most of my attention. He is generally just one poor choice away from the ER. This time he was swinging between the table and cupboard. He supports his weight on his arms while he swings his legs from a foot off the ground. I very nearly stopped him, but I remembered how proud he was of this skill just last week, showing everyone and announcing, “Look how strong I am!” Because of this activity, the snack time conversation went something like this.

Me: “Dimitri, take a bite.”

Dimitri: “Okay.”

He drops down, takes a bite, and swings again while he chews. I wait for him to swallow, and we start the script over again.

Meanwhile, I kept close tabs on my daughter. She’s a terrible eater. This isn’t a new development. It started when she was a baby, so we are rather used to it. However, I was pleased to note that she ate quietly and calmly, in complete contrast to her brother.

I was suddenly struck by something at little eerie. Shayla eats like me. Or rather, like how I used to. I used to drive my husband crazy with the tiny bites I insisted were just the right size. We argued often about spoon sizing. He got bored in restaurants while waiting for me to nibble my portion to death. His biggest peeve was spaghetti, which I ate one strand at a time. Can you imagine how long it took me to eat a plate of pasta one strand at a time? He tried to teach me, several times in fact, how to put three or four strands on the fork. The thought made me want to gag.

But – and to this I say “HA!” to my husband – our daughter followed in my footsteps. Shayla won’t use a soup spoon for anything. Cereal, soup, Jell-o, you name it, it has to be eaten with a teaspoon. “Bite-sized” in our house could mean microscopic portions. And one strand of spaghetti? Forget it. While her brother needs a shovel to get this food in his mouth, Shayla takes a single strand and, while it is hanging at full length from her fork, takes a bitty bite from the tips.

This is just one example of how she is. Shayla is a dainty girl. We had a cat when she was a baby (Squeaker died before Dimitri was born), and she was the very definition of gentle. When she was a toddler I used to joke you could keep the fine china at knee-level and it would be safe from her. She would look at the stuff, admire it, but you could always trust her not to touch it. Nothing (much) ever broke under Shayla’s touch.

She never climbed the furniture. Never used the lower cupboard shelves as a ladder to get to the counter. At the park she was happiest on the swings, and she didn’t like climbing.

In her room, she keeps her papers in neat stacks, and though her stories look scattered over the various surface areas, to her they are “away”. She knows where each story she authored is, and she gets very upset if they are moved. All her stuff – her toys, her figurines, her stories – has a “spot” and she gets them back in that spot when she’s done. Move something out of that spot? It HAS to go back to where it belongs.

Not so with her brother. He’s a little hurricane. He thinks it’s funny to run into walls, and does so at every opportunity. I wouldn’t bring a pet into the house until he was old enough. The bigger the mess, the funner the game.

He learned how to get out of the back room (when the gate was locked) by climbing over the ledge and into the kitchen. At the playground the only way he will face forward on the slide is if he is going UP.

His room is full of toys scattered all over his floor, many of which are missing pieces. Many of these missing pieces would just pop right back on if only we could locate 1) the piece and 2) the body, preferably at the same time. This is more work than he is willing to do, and would much rather just replaced the toy. (Of note, he actually got away with this once. Within hours the replacement toy was in pieces.)

Yet, as I watched them chowing down on cereal that night, monitoring my daughter’s food intake and my son’s recklessness, I noticed they have the same face. Their eyes, their noses, their jaw and chin – Dimitri is a boy version of Shayla. So I can look at Dimitri and remember when Shayla was nearly seven, and I can look at Shayla and picture what Dimitri will look like when he’s twelve.

They will always be so different, but they will always be ours. And they will always belong to each other. Because that is just what family is.


One Response to “Are They REALLY Related?”

  1. There was a time in my life when I would eat corn on the cob one row at a time. Not anymore. When eating with a knife and fork people seem impressed that I don’t change hands when handlng cutlery. It seems you are ‘supposd’ to cut with your good hand, (right in my case) then switch the knife out of the right hand and put the fork in the right hand to bring the food to your mouth. Me? way to lazy, fork in right hand, knife in left and I just shovel it all in till its gone.

    For awhile my mother-in-law ate everything with a ice-tea spoon. Long and smaller than a tea spoon. Why? just to be her usual self. Eventually, when it didn’t get a rise out of us she quit and went back to the ‘normal’ stuff. I do get annoyed waiting for people to finish up in a restaurant. I eat fast, my wife eats fast. I give plenty of time for others to eat but eventually enough is enough. Then again I have crohns so my stomach hurts after a meal so I can get unfairly cranky while waiting.

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