Thursday, June 19, 2008

Different But the Same

How is it that two children borne of the same parents, with the same essential genetic makeup, can be so very different? Night and day may be a cliché, but if the cliché fits....

This morning in the wee, wee hours, Beckett awoke in tears, gums aching with the pain of sharp new baby teeth poking through their delicate surface. At 2 a.m. I was in his room, giving him Tylenol and a bottle. He had already awoken at 12:15 screaming with what we thought at the time was a nightmare. Scott brought him into our bed where he cuddled sleepily, chewing the tail of his beloved puppy dawg and giving us the sweetest smiles. When he seemed sleepy enough I put him back in his crib and he settled in cuddling his doggie.

Just as I was drifting off while watching Conan interview a stripper bellydancer, I was snapped back to the here and now with more screaming. This time, I went in and just tried stroking his hair and he settled down, until I walked out his door to go back to bed. I thought, "He always puts himself back to sleep, so I'll just let him cry it out and he'll be fine." Ha!

He cried for over 10 min. and I couldn't take it. Even burying my head couldn't help me escape. This is entirely unusual for Beckett who has been an excellent sleeper from day one. So, I ended up, back in Beck's room. This time I brought the big guns. Tylenol. A bottle. And cuddly time.

I lifted him from the crib and we settled in the cozy blue velvet chair in his room where we sit to read before his nap every day. I just cradled him in my arms and stroked his hair and forehead while he smiled sleepily up at me and played with my face. He talked softly to him and massaged his jaw and cheekbones. Before long he was very relaxed and starting to drift off so I put him back into his bed where he settled in peacefully and was asleep almost instantly.

With Brendan, I would have been up until 5 a.m. He would never let me sit and cuddle him and ease him back into sleep. He would have screamed at the top of his lungs the entire time, taking the bottle, but batting away the Tylenol. Instead of sitting quietly and rocking, I would have had to pace the floor until I was ready to drop. Each time he quieted and I would try to sit with him or place him back into his crib, he would start screaming again. And this would repeat until I finally just gave up and put him down on the floor with some toys, lying down beside him, and praying he would wear himself out quickly.

And this went on for three years, more or less.

Why are they so different?

There are many other ways.

By this age, Brendan was playing much more independently. He was taller and thinner. Their interests, too, were very different. Brendan has always noticed details. From the time he was six months old he would look up at the sky and point out airplanes, helicopters, birds, and bugs. He would pick flowers and give them to me and point at any little thing that caught his eye and want us to tell him what it was. And he's still like that today.

Beckett could walk past an airplane parked in the driveway and not notice it I think. He's much more about the experience of things. He's very physical and wants to climb on everything, including you.

I'm just constantly amazed at how different two members of the same family can be, especially siblings. Still, they are alike in one very important way.... They both exhibit a very great capacity to show love and joy. They both love each other very much and have fun together. So for now, their differences don't really matter.

They just fascinate me. And sometimes I wonder if it's that they are so very different or if it's me who's changed.

So, I'd love to know if you see major differences in your children. Are you and your siblings different? How did those differences affect your relationship? Did your parents try to make you or your siblings more like one another or compare you?

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Have I told you all how much I loved going to Vacation Bible School when I was a child?

Well, if I haven't, you should know that going to VBS was the highlight of my summer for several consecutive summers. There were a few years when I went to the one at my church and one at the big new Church of Christ in my hometown. I don't know exactly what it was, but I loved going.

Brendan is going to VBS this week at our church. It's a very different experience than the one I remember, but even better.

At our church it isn't actually called Vacation Bible School. It's called Kaleidoscope.

It's a huge program with probably 200 kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. Each age/class is designated as a different country or ethnic group. The children spend the week learning about their country and how Catholics in that country or that particular group worship God. If Christianity is not the dominant religion in that country, they may briefly touch on the other religions and how they worship God. They learn about the saints from that country. Culture. Food. Art and Music. It's really neat.

Last year – Brendan's first attending – he was a Native American. This year, his class is Ireland. I've loved hearing him tell me about how St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland with his drum; about how a leprechaun has wrecked the classroom every day when the kids have left for snack time; his interpretation of the story about Jesus and Zacchaeus (it involved Zacchaeus stealing everyone's money and Jesus telling him to give it back.).

I don't guess he's going to become Pope overnight or anything, but I love that this experience has him thinking about and relating to God on a level he can understand. The one thing I really dislike about our church is that there is no Sunday School for children who haven't started Kindergarten yet. And I haven't met a 4-year or 5-year old yet who can sit through a homily and get much out of it. So, Kaleidoscope offers a terrific opportunity for the younger kids to connect in a way that makes sense to them.

Of course, Brendan tends to focus on the outrageous aspects of any thing he learns or hears. This week I've had to answer questions about who killed Jesus and why, whether or not St. Patrick was killed, as well as whether or not a leprechaun would wreck Santa's workshop. He also informed me that Santa has a factory, not a workshop.

I can't wait to hear what he comes home with today.