I am amazed that siblings growing up in the same house could be so different from one another. My daughter, Amanda, my sons, Alexander and Danny, may share a common genetic code, but that's about it. You can tell they are related but I knew watching them grow up, they weren't the same.
To illustrate this, I go back to one afternoon when I was still married. I walked into the house with the three of them and sitting on our couch was my friend, Ricky. The kids were all under nine-years-old. Amanda saw Ricky and moved to the furthest part of the living room, away from him. Alexander would neither advance nor retreat until he knew who this stranger was that had invaded his home. Danny moved toward him like a glad-handing politician running for re-election.
"Hi, I'm Danny," he said, "who are you?"
Amanda is an 'old soul'. From the time she was three she was an adult. She could read and write before most kids in her class. One Valentine's Day, when she was in first grade, she was told to hand out cards to all the kids in her class and to print 'Happy Valentine's Day' on each one. Instead, she sat at her bedroom desk and wrote individual cards to each member of her class.
I wasn't always so certain how she'd grow up. The first day of pre-school I dropped her off in a basement classroom of a community center. I said my good-byes, tried to walk away, but Amanda would not let go of my hand. She started to cry, I started to cry. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw this little boy walk toward us, a tissue held high in each hand (punk). I finally pulled away, and cried all the way to work.
After work I would go to pick her up and while kids in the playground were on the swings and in the sandbox, I would find Amanda sitting on the park bench, legs crossed at the ankles and hands in her lap, right next to her teacher. Over time she finally got off the bench -- my thought is that she was just waiting for the right moment to get into the game.
Alexander was crawling as a baby and then the next minute he was walking. It was as simple as that. There was no staggering phase, no watching him walk like a drunk after closing time trying to find his keys. He was crawling, and then he was walking.
Jump ahead a few years. We took the training wheels off Alexander's bicycle and I held him up as he rode down the sidewalk for the first time. I was afraid to take my hand off the handlebar as he wobbled all the way to the corner. Out of breath, we stopped and I started talking to a neighbor while Alexander waited patiently by my side. I continued to talk when I noticed he was gone. I turned and saw him riding back home, perfectly straight with not assistance. He just wanted to go home, so he did.
Giving Alexander a ride to his little league or basketball games, or any time in the car with him, you'd think he was on a tour bus seeing the landscape for the first time. His head turned to the right, he never said a word. It wasn't that he didn't talk; he just didn't talk to me. I drove him to a pre-season football picnic for his high school team. I parked the car and he jumped out and walked over to some teammates and their Dads. Suddenly, he was animated. With a half-cocked smile and hand movements punctuating his words, his audience laughed after every few sentences. I should have taken a picture -- it was like finding out that Big Foot was doing standup at The Laugh Factory and I wasn't invited.
In contrast to that were car rides with Danny. Sitting in the front seat, Danny would (and I say this with all the love in the world) never shut up. Every few seconds brought a new question, each starting with 'Dad?'
"Where does the moon go during the day?"
And so on, each new question prefaced with Dad. It wasn't like I would leave the speeding car only to be replaced with a stranger who looked remarkably like me. It was just how he started every question.
Then one time, when he was about eight, he starting asking questions that were heading in an uncomfortable direction.
"Dad?" he asked.
"The baby is in the woman's stomach, right?"
After a few seconds passed he started again.
"Then the baby comes out of the woman's stomach, right?"
Just then panic set in when I realized if these questions kept coming, I was about to have the sex talk with my eight-year-old son. Fortunately for me, Danny's mind doesn't work that way.
"Yes, Danny?" I replied, dreading the next question.
"Are hamburger rolls and hot dog rolls made from the same stuff?"
Shy. Determined. Inquisitive. Thank God my kids are all different - think how boring my life would be otherwise.