Isabella & Victoria
Recently, we dropped off Victoria — Isabella’s big sister — at the Broadway Conservatory for a 2-week program. That means that she will not be able to accompany us to the one and only visiting day at Isabella’s 7-week camp. We haven’t mentioned this to Isabella. She will be expecting Victoria. Whenever Victoria was away for a school trip — for as little as one night — Isabella is not right.
The two share a room, which Victoria complains about on occasion. Like any other little sister, Isabella will go through Victoria’s stuff. The way I see, Victoria leaves her stuff all over the place. It’s there for the messing. Isabella does not goes through Victoria’s closet. Though they are only 2 1/2 years apart, they do not share clothes, discuss boys, or style each others hair. Victoria does that with her girlfriends. Isabella does not do that at all, except discuss boys during a social worker-facilitated girls’ group in school. That’s a bit different.
They share parents, a brother, and most of all a home. That saying — “Home is where the heart is” — is somehow more true.
Twins' Birthday Celebration 2008
For the first time in 16 years (if you count their birth), Isabella and Zachary were not together to celebrate their mutual birthday. Isabella celebrated her 15th birthday at camp, while Zachary celebrated (just barely) at home. I offered to bring him and a few friends to Rockaway Beach or Coney Island. He said thanks, but no thanks. At the end of the day, we asked him with he wanted — a cake.
OMG. I didn’t have a cake. The morning were getting ready for Isabella’s camp, I thought about her birthday, which was three weeks in the future. My sister Carla (knowing that I would not have everything ready) came over. She immediately stepped in to help. I was concerned that Isabella would not have a proper birthday cake for camp. They’d have a cake that she wouldn’t be able to eat. What’s the fun in that. So Carla baked a gluten-free cake for Isabella. I found cardboard discs to store the cake and put them in the car to cool on the ride to camp. We had the icing in a separate container and asked the camp director to freeze the cake layers and put it together for her birthday.
Isabella Celebrating at Camp with a Homemade GF Cake
Weeks before my twins’ birthday, I collected gifts to send to Isabella — an American Girl magazine, a puzzle, a dress, Katy Perry stuff, a few treats. Before I left on a business trip, I instructed my husband to mail the thoughtful gifts to Isabella. Victoria went into work late the morning of Isabella’s birthday, so she could give her birthday wishes on the phone at the pre-assigned time. A lot of thought went into Isabella’s birthday.
Zachary, her twin, who was home with us for his birthday, was another story all together. I did not bake him a gluten-free cake (nor did his Auntie Carla). At 9 pm, my husband and I rode our bikes to Ben & Jerry’s for an ice cream cake. The only ones available served 25. We ran into some friends (not random, our families are close, really!) and invited them to celebrate. I left it to Zachary to invite his friends. He showed up with just a few guys following the Harry Porter movie. After everyone left, he wondered aloud if he’d be getting any presents. (He certainly observed the cake baking and gift pile for his twin.)
Zachary Celebrating his 15th Birthday at Home
OMG. Presents. We did not have a single present for Zachary. I panicked. I told a white lie, saying that his birthday gift was in the mail. “What was it?,” he justifiably wanted to know. How should I know? I hadn’t ordered anything. Yikes! Bad mommy. Luckily, I was at the High Line this morning and passed an Apple store — an iTunes gift card would do the trick.
Of course, a book with the title Twin appeals to me as a mother of twins. This book is especially pertinent to me. It’s authored by the twin of a disabled (I do not like that term) twin. Um. What does he have to say? The author is Alan Shawn who happens to be the son of the former editor of The New Yorker. Okay, that probably means that the book is well-written.
The book starts by Shawn revealing that his phobias (which are many) are due mostly to the fact that his sister was shipped off to a residential living facility following a summer at camp. He as also inherited a few phobias from his father. (Aren’t all very bright people a bit off?) And he tells us several times that his father had a protracted love affair while he was raising his family. (This fact is not particularly germaine to the what happens to the other sibling theme, though it does make for interesting reading.)
The most poignant part of the book is when the writer’s literary father observes that Mary (the institutionalized twin) is a happier than they are. This is something to think about. It’s the parents who mostly suffer…and the closest in age sibling (according to the book). Parents bemoan the life that they believe that the disabled child ought to be living. This is very far from the life that the child lives in real life, of course. Hence, the term “bemoan.” The parents are unhappy because they believe that the child is missing out.
The child, however, does not think that she is missing out. She lives in the same lovely home as her siblings. She eats the same nutritious food (and then some) as her siblings. She has relationships with the same relatives. She goes to school and has friends at the school. The school isn’t the same as her twin and only was for a short time in her educational career, but she’s okay with that. In fact, she’s okay with everything.
Once, I asked Victoria if she’s missed having a normal sister relationship with Isabella. Victoria coolly responded how can she miss something that she never had. I quickly pointed out the other sister relationships in her life, such as mine with her aunt. She just looked at me. WTF. I’ve come to believe (or pretend to believe) it is what it is.
For me, the major theme of the book was not be sure to keep your other children in the loop least they end up with the problems. It was each person in the family impacts the other. Zachary, Isabella’s twin, would not who he is today without living with Isabella. Of course, the twin thing makes her influence on him more intense. Maybe it has something to do with being bathed in the same amniotic fluid or experiencing the exact same moments together in the womb.
You really never know how your kids will end up. In the end, you simply want them to be happy and to be loved.
It has been awhile…hasn’t it? Way too long. A lot has happened in my life (you can check www.essentialmusings.wordpress.com/ for that update if you’re so inclined) and in Isabella’s, too. She’s doing something that I never imagined that I’d allow. She’s at camp…overnight…as in sleep-away. Growing up in Brooklyn, we always knew kids who went to camp — some for the entire summer. I went went to Girl Scout camp once when I was 10, so my BBF Joanne and I could be with the Dilworth sisters who had just moved from Brooklyn to Connecticut. That was an abberation in our lives (Joanne’s too), but I do remember having good time.
The director of Isabella’s school had been mentioning camp for Isabella for the last several years. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. My response was always, “We’re not a camp family” and “We don’t even send our other kids to camp.” Well, those statements are true. Suddenly, things changed or morphed or evoled. Or maybe, I let go. Here’sthe sequence of events. Isabella’s older sister was leaving for 4 weeks and I was worried about Isabella being without her. (Obviously, I know that’s going to happen someday…soon, in fact.) At the same time, we realized that Isabella was not as independent with basic ADLs (aka: activities of daily living) as she needed to be. We were holding her back. She certainly had roots…probably a bit too deep in the ground. Isabella definitely knows about her connection to her family. Wings…not so much. There wasn’t much flying going on. That was for sure. Victoria most definitely has the roots & wings thing happening and so does Isabella’s twin brother Zachary.
The time had come…for me to let go. We had heard about a program at Frost Valley, a YMCA camp in upstate NY, that has a program called MAC, which stands for Mainstreaming at Camp. Two of Isabella’s classmates had attended for several years. And we kept hearing abaout Frost Valley. Some of Victoria’s classmates had attended the non-MAC resisdential portion of the camp. Could I finally send my twins to a place together, but separately? (Sorta like going to different high schools together. Remember that?) This was sounding more and more appealing.
We did it! Or rather, she did it. Isabella is right now, at this very moment, at sleep-away camp and so his her twin brother Zachary. And we have zero communication with them. So, I sent Isabella to camp for 2 weeks and I cannot be in touch with her the entire time. I’d say that I’ve grown up…
Two of the three children in our home are selectively independent, meaning that they do what they want without doing what I want. Independence without the responsibility. I think that’s normal. While Victoria and Zachary hang out locally, going to the movies, visiting friends’ homes, picking up a snack at Panera, Isabella stays with me. She does not seem to mind. We go shopping, attempt bike riding, watch a movie on TV. I don’t mind either. She’s good company. For the most part, there’s no complaining. She doesn’t whine when I say that we’re going to Whole Foods. Instead, she asks if she can get sushi. She’s ready to be independent. I think the first try will be mailing a letter. It requires crossing one one-way street. I will follow her. She ran home the other night from the car and crossed two streets in the dark. I watched her from the car. I did not hover. And, she came back, too, unharmed. Funny, she didn’t even announce that she had accomplished this by herself. I think she’s ready. And I think I am, too.
Each morning Isabella gets picked up by a van to deliver her to her school. The time that transportation arrives varies daily. We try to be ready at the same time each day. Sometimes, but not often, Isabella waits on our stoop. We usually leave the front door open and she yells in to us or runs back in to give me a kiss good-bye. (I get kisses good-bye from all my children every single day.) This morning Zachary got concerned. What if a stranger came by and picked up Isabella. I said that wouldn’t happen. Isabella wouldn’t leave her stoop to go in a vehicle with an unknown person. I asked Zachary if he was worried about Isabella today or for the future. He said, for the future. What will happen to her? Will she be able to live on her own? We really don’t know the answer to that question. We simply move forward believing yes, she will be okay.