Our twins have started to really develop a sense of self. I think that’s what you call an ability to say no, right? Now 16 months old, the twins are starting to pick and choose their destiny in many little ways.
At times, steamed green beans are the greatest food that has ever existed. There they are, shoving beans in their mouths faster than they can chew, and there I am, hovering over the steamer basket, blowing streams of air over fork-fulls to try to cool them down to meet demand. The very next day the mere suggestion of a steamed green bean is enough to incite an absolute riot, with both twins waving their arms in all directions and flipping their heads side to side, refusing the beans while screaming loud enough to knock paintings off the wall.
The twins are also walking. Well, mostly. It’s a lot of walking and a lot of wiping out and a lot of head-bonking, but they’re walking. And there is absolutely no possible reality in which they’ll let me help them. Dottie pushes my hands off her hips like a tween refusing to kiss her mom goodbye: with absolute disgust. Olimpia rips her hand out of mine and holds it close to her chest so I can’t grab it again. Then they clomp around the house, excitedly trying to open every cupboard, reaching up to flip open door handles, and push things off of desktops. The message is clear: they are strong independent babies and nothing will get in their way!
Famous books and famous parents say, “You’ll always be my baby” and I am starting to understand the sentiment. They might be eating whole triangles of watermelon now (instead of tiny pieces) and laugh together maniacally about jokes I’m not included in, but they’re still my babies. They’re still the tiny little shivering bundles we brought home that day 16 months ago, too small for newborn-sized clothing.
As the kids push us away, refuse our direction, show us how they can climb on and off the sofa unassisted, I’m left feeling for the first time the torturous sense of pride and yearning that comes hand-in-hand with parenting. It’s an emotion I can barely articulate, but when I think about it for more than a moment I well up in tears.
I think all parents truly want their kids to grow up and be strong independent adults one day. There’s a part in all of us that yearns for it to happen quickly, because with each step towards independence comes more freedom for us as parents. But every step towards independence also leaves an empty space in our hearts where a baby once was. It’s a funny, emotional rollercoaster experience of wishing time would speed up, and simultaneously yearning for it to slow down.
Though there are times when the end of my rope is my full-time location, I can see what more experienced parents are talking about now. When they stop us in shopping malls, wanting to know all the details, they’re striving to make us understand how important it is to cherish these years.