Though I didn’t give birth to them on the same day, I have twins. A girl and a boy born nineteen months apart but so similar in looks, size, demeanor and temperament that people often assume they’re paternal. Once when this happened, I explained the age difference to a woman, and she exclaimed, “Oh! Irish twins!” For me, they’ve remained that ever since.
‘Irish twins’ is one way to describe them. High maintenance (in the best sense – energetic, free spirited and curious about everything) is another. As much as this keeps me on my toes and delights my heart, boy can it be challenging! Taking them to the grocery store or anywhere with a crowd can be a daunting prospect. While their quirky personalities make our home seem like a comedy set, this doesn’t go over as well when trying to shop or keep track of them in public places.
All that to say, when unforeseen circumstances dictated that I’d have to take them with me to a Back to School fest last weekend, “looking forward to it” was not how I would have described my feelings at the time.
The night before we rented Disney’s “Mars Needs Moms.” The mom in the movie had been chosen by the aliens because it was evident to them that she expected good behavior from her son, and they wanted to “harvest” this from her in order to raise their babies. My babies were moved to tears when mother and child were threatened with permanent separation. The fact that the son hadn’t been kind to his mother right before she was taken – because of what she expected of him – seemed to hit home with my kids. They’d both clambered into my lap early into the movie and stayed there for the duration. “I love you, Mommy,” Levi wept near the end while Liv clung to me as if her life depended on it.
Later, when I tucked them in, I reminded them about getting up early the next morning to go to work with me. Taking my cue from that fictitious mom, I stressed how I expected them to be on their best behavior. Solemnly, they both promised, in their typical Irish twin manner, “We’ll behave, Mommy.”
And to my great relief, and I have to admit, surprise, they kept their word. From the moment they woke up, they couldn’t have been better. There was no whining, lollygagging or bickering. Once we arrived at the school, they helped set up my table and then proceeded to not only pass out awareness materials and giveaways, they were welcoming and polite to every parent and child who came by. Not once did they get up and run around as they’re prone to do. Nor did they keep asking how much longer we had to stay. Instead, they went about their task joyfully, occassionally asking me how they were doing. I assured them they were doing GREAT, as did parents and those staffing other tables.
At the end of two hours, they helped pack up and then asked if they could each have a Webkin since they’d been good. And I gladly obliged – this time. I’m not one to buy a toy to reward every good deed because I believe the reward should be feeling good about doing the right thing. But this was an exception. Besides how awesome it felt to be able to reward them instead of redirect them, it also felt right for them to learn that when they make good choices and live up to reasonable expectations, they can expect good consequences. Sometimes tangible, as in this case, sometimes not.
So what did the mom of the Irish twins learn? That it’s more than O.K. for me to set a high standard for my children’s behavior. And that I shouldn’t be surprised when they rise to the occasion.
After all, Earth needs moms with great expectations too.