By: Amber Leventry
When my partner, Amy, was pregnant with our twin boys, Baby A was nestled in low and positioned to make his exit first. He wiggled and fluttered in the space below his brother, and sometimes I could feel him move if I poked Amy’s belly in just the right spot. He seemed content to be still, perhaps even introspective. His brother, Baby B, stole the show when it came to action. He rolled and flung his limbs around constantly; we thought he would be our energetic one, our madman, our let’s do keg stands kind of guy. When Amy and I finally decided on the names Benjamin and Ryan for our twins, we thought of their in utero personalities and labeled Baby A, Ben, and Baby B, Ryan. Benjamin seemed fitting for our calm and quiet boy, and Ryan seemed appropriate for the baby who was ready to party.
Our boys are now two years old. It is hard to know for sure who their personalities will shape them to be, but we have some clues. We also got a few things wrong. Ryan is no slouch, but he is not active in the way we anticipated. He is our most intense, emotional, and dramatic child. His flailing was likely nonverbal communication telling us about his overwhelming happiness or misery. Yet when his voice and movements are silent, he is peaceful and thoughtful.
Baby A, our Ben, is not content to be still. Ben seemed to use his time in the womb to store up the energy needed to be our shit stirrer, our risk taker, and our most athletic child. Much like a caterpillar in his cocoon, Ben was lying in wait as his butterfly wings took shape. The womb did not offer enough room for him to reveal the size of his energetic spirit or for it to share space with his brother’s strongest characteristics.
When he was a baby, I read the twinkle in Ben’s eye as a sign of the deep-seated poetry he would write or the painting he would create while holed up for days in a loft in the city. I thought his relaxed disposition and his easy smile were signs of a calm and easygoing child. He may still be a budding artist, but I now know that twinkle is a constant state of mischievous thought. And what I thought was a calm kid was actually the calm before the storm. When Ben is quiet, I worry. The only thing quiet about Ben is his confidence.
As a toddler, we have dubbed Ben as the kid who takes things one step too far. He breaks things, spills things, throws things, and kicks things, seemingly for the sake of being destructive. Our pediatrician insists that it is his way of experimenting; it is his way of learning. To me, it is another way to drive me bat shit crazy. What lessons can possibly come from throwing toys into the moving ceiling fan that I can’t articulate to him? What is he learning when he tears pages from a book or snaps pieces off of the toy kitchen set?
Yet, when he is disciplined, I am quickly reminded that Ben is our most sensitive child. His toughness hides the fact that he is shy and that his feelings are easily hurt.
His energetic spirit also embodies the creativity of taking the rind off a slice of deli ham and using it as a whip and the fearlessness of climbing to the tallest piece of playground equipment with the intention of jumping. And every time I tell him not to swing into open space 20 feet off of the ground, I am reminded of why we changed our insurance policy to better cover emergency room visits.
In those moments when Ben is just being Ben, I fear for his safety, I want to ring his neck, and I want him to just be still. When I finally intervene by stopping an action that is not safe or appropriate, his face darkens. Sure, he is mad because I told him no, but he is also genuinely surprised that what he is doing is not okay. His bottom lip quivers with frustration, his eyes water with unhappiness, and his embarrassment is palpable if scolded in front of a crowd. In those moments I remind myself not to break his spirit.
All of what can be labeled as terrifying or troublemaking behaviors are what will make him successful. I doubt he will back down from a challenge. I know he will do things most will be too afraid to do. He won’t take no for an answer, but will continue to try new ways to get the answer he wants. This spirit may cause Ben to break a bone or two, but it is this spirit that will take him to heights some can only dream of.
Our quiet, Baby A is a stereotypical boy and seems to ooze of testosterone linked to cave men. He sleeps with toy trucks and cars. He carries around a mini basketball hoop while dribbling a soccer ball through the house. He pedals his bike like his pants are on fire and he is trying to get to a bucket of water. He pushes boundaries and buttons. Ben flashes you his devious grin and then spreads his wings to fly.