Throughout the first eight months of the girls lives, they both quickly began exploring and interacting with the world - in different ways of course, as all humans do.
I fall more in love with both of them every day. There is a lot to love about each of them. As a parent, I have found that, as your children grow bigger, so too does your capacity to love.
Laurel has become fascinated with objects - toys, plants, running water, feathers, and the way the trees blow in the wind. She is a tenacious, athletic little comedian. Over time, the blood curdling cries of her infancy have turned into chuckles and tiny belly laughs.
Laurel began to sit up independently very quickly and, shortly thereafter, she began to crawl and pull to stand. At eight months, she started saying “mama,” “dada,” and “baba” (mama being first, to my dismay). She has become beautiful and brilliant - a stark contrast to the simple terrorist she had been in her infancy.
Juniper couldn’t be more different than her twin sister. While Laurel focuses mostly on objects in her surroundings to learn about the world, Juniper is facinated by faces. She will look deeply into your eyes to connect with you. I have never experienced this before with another human being.
In Juniper’s eyes, you can see the absence of ego, cynicism and foolish pursuits to ‘progress’ and the presence of innocence, peace and love. Juniper is calm natured, quiet and kind. She has a sense of humor too, but it is much more subtle than Laurel’s energized and excited delivery. Juniper too has shed nearly all of the horrific howling of her infancy and the house has become more peaceful again.
Many people judge their children’s progress based on their ability to reach milestones that our culture imposes. Don’t buy into it.
It is a trap that has been set for your children from the very beginning. A message that our culture tries to embed in their tiny heads: you must compete, you must be better than everyone around you, crush your competition at all cost.
Crawl, walk, run, climb the corporate ladder. Don’t worry about who you step on along the way.
The message that I want to convey to my girls is contrary to this. I want them to value cooperation over competition. I want them to understand that nature does require some competition for organisms to survive, but that cooperation is far more powerful.
In American culture, most value competition over cooperation, at a macro level. In our sports, our education systems, in out capatialist economy and workforce and within the current political climate. Even if there is a group working together, it’s usually against another and the emphasis is often on competition. It always seems to come down to you versus me, or us versus them.
For many that transcend this, the thought may be: we are not all that different from one another, so we should all work together.
But we are different from one another. And that’s a good thing. Diversity too, is critical to our survival.
I want my little girls to know that they are unique and to appreciate the differences in others. Whether it’s because of different genetic chemistry, different beliefs or opinions, different wardrobes, or different views of the world. We all experience life in different ways. We each have our own perception and we grow at our own pace.
Never judge a candle by how bright it burns, because you never know how long it’s been burning.
I want my girls to feel like they can grow at their own pace. When I watch Laurel crawl across the room to get to me, and Juniper in the background unable to push herself along, I hope that June knows there are other things that Laurel may struggle with, yet she has mastered. And when it comes to those things, I hope Laurel can be content with finding them in her own time.
It's hard not to be heart broken if I focus on the things Juniper cannot do - things that she is 'supposed' to be doing. It's hard to watch her sit by herself, struggling to reach for a toy as Laurel crawls freely about the house on an exploration. I have to continually remind myself of the things she can do, that I cannot even do myself, even at my age. The unique perception of the world she has.
I have to also remind myself that I have to play a big part in how my girls discover the world. Sometimes you have to push your children. Sometimes you have to carry them. Sometimes you have to help them feel big. Sometimes you have to remind them about how small we all are.
But, I hope the world doesn’t try to push them too hard. I hope they don’t feel like they need to grow up too fast. I hope Juniper is never made to feel like she is 'behind.' I hope Laurel isn't either.
Because some of the most beautiful trees are slow growers.