Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Free to Be Me

Raising twins, I thought identity questions would come up surrounding Molly and Jack's twinness. Molly and Jack are very well aware that they are twins, siblings, share a birthday and that being a twin is special, however I don't think they attribute their multiple status as a huge factor in their sense of self.  We've always made a conscious effort to allow them to dress how they want, to avoid comparing them directly to each other and to call them by names more often than "the twins".

We've all been working with Jack a lot over the past few months on his emotional and social development (including the ECE staff at our daycare, speech therapists, family and friends). All children begin to develop a "self-concept" between the age of 18-30 months of age, using labels about who they are and how they feel in very concrete terms. Three to five year olds are not generally aware that someone can be a good person that has done "bad" things as this doesn't really fit into their black and white world.  Pre-schoolers also begin to incorporate their "remembered self" into their self definition as they grow and their long term memories become a part of their identity.   It seems that our work is paying off and all of a sudden Jack has a ton of questions, tests and labels he's using to assert his own self-concept and esteem that he's working out inside his head, and I thought I'd share.

Say My Name
In early December Jack became smitten with another child at daycare who shares his name.  Each day he was adamant about welcoming "little" Jack to daycare, playing with him and then giving him a hug good night each evening before he went home.  This fast friendship, which seems fairly unrequited and seems entirely based on the fact that they share a name.  Now that we're into the new year he doesn't seem quite as interested in playing with "little" Jack, but it was an interesting phase nonetheless.

101 Jacks
At the beginning of the holiday season Jack insisted on being called Jackaroo, a few days later he was Jackie Bear, then Jack Attack, a week after that he was Jack and the Bean Stalk.  The way he was taking control of his name has been interesting for us.  Personally I favour Jackie Bear, but it's my pet name for him, so I'm partial to it.

I am Not.
Recently both minions have been asking me questions about what they are not.  One morning Jack said to me, "I am not Kung Fu Panda, right?" and I confirmed that he was not Kung Foo Panda.  He later followed up with, "So, I'm not Tai Lung, right?" Then last week Molly wanted confirmation that she was a little girl and not a puppet.  I suppose determining who you aren't is an early step towards figuring out who you are.

Colour-Coated Babies Showing Emotion
Molly has a game she's played for several months now in which she developed a "character" named Pink Baby.  Pink Baby crawls around pretends to cry and announces that she is Pink Baby, yeah that's all the game is.  Pink Baby has also given various other people in her life baby titles: I am 'Purple Baby', Chris is 'Green Baby' and Jack is 'Brown Baby'.  Both children call us Mom, Dad and by our baby names on a regular basis.

One night a few weeks ago Jack insisted on bringing a Build-a-Bear stuffed monkey to bed with him. This monkey was a given to us by a friend who had received it from an ex-girlfriend.  There are two unique things about this monkey: 1) it wears a Ryerson Engineering helmet 2) if you push his arm you are subject to a recording of the ex-girlfriend calling out our friend's name over and over and over again.  Jack spent half an hour post story-time pressing the monkey's arm, repeatedly.  Finally Chris went upstairs and firmly told Jack that if he kept pressing "E" Monkey's arm that he would confiscate it.

Suddenly Jack was inconsolable.  For nearly two hours he described his emotions to us, while he sobbed.  It was strange, yet highly adorable, as these descriptions all happened with Baby Titles, i.e. "Brown Baby is sad." "Green Baby is mad at Brown Baby." "Green Baby hurt Brown Baby's feelings".  Suddenly Jack was talking about his emotions and other people's emotions in a much more complex way, even though it was under the guise of  "Brown Baby".

Stay tuned for what unfolds next...

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