Our children present an interesting mirror to us. We might catch glimpses of our younger selves in them, reflect upon our experience at their age, or imagine our parents’ experience now that those shoes are on our feet. The Ella Zoo is as much about being a parent as it is about the antics and attributes of a growing girl.
My first born, my beautiful little Ella, gave birth to my motherhood. As a new mom, I learned alongside her, slowly pulling myself up to my parent stature. Although now it seems obvious, one of the things that took time to realize was how a unique aspect of my and my husband’s childhoods would influence our parenting. My husband and I are both identical twins.
No, my twin sister did not marry my husband’s twin brother.
And yes, I assumed a question and answered it.
Because I expect questions whenever it is revealed that we are twins. For example, my husband and I are also often asked, Did you have twins? (No. Our two children are both singles.) But when we were younger, in reference to our siblings, it was always: Who is taller? Who was born first? Who is smarter?
Comparison was not only inevitable— people marveled at how incredibly alike my sister and I were—but also necessary in order to tell us apart from one another.
I was taller. She was thinner. I was better at sports and art. She was better at math and history. I was older, by five minutes.
I love being a twin. But I am also an individual.
Born of this experience was my desire to be recognized without being set apart as less than or greater than my sister. Surely there was something about me that might simply be me. And so by being identical, I learned to value difference.
It was not something I expected to draw upon to parent my two very different children. But eventually I realized, though more direct for twins, comparison was inevitable and frustrating for all children. As a mother, I needed to remember to offer what had been so important to me: to allow ample freedom for their changing natures, recognize their emerging selves, and celebrate them as masters of their individuality.
That was how the child in me became the most suitable mother for my children.