Now, this could very well be a blog post about me, my own insecurities and well-documented issues, or how I have a need to fight other people’s battles for them or attempt each and every day to save the world, instead, let’s think of it as what I continue to notice in each of my children.
Picture it: A bright, warm afternoon, Justin regaling me with many topics over a shared foot long turkey sub sandwich, including old friends he missed, new friends he’d made, how his brother was starting to change for the better, a new trick he’d taught the dog, etc., etc., etc. I listened as he used words I was unaware were even in his vocabulary, watched genuine expressions as they crossed his features, and felt how enthusiastic and sincere he was in his story telling.
There was one other thing that struck me as exceptional though, something I very rarely see in other people, and sadly, NEVER in myself. That one thing was how exactly, well, Zen, my youngest child is.
Justin began to tell me of another friend of the same name that had recently entered his world. Really he’s more Dominic’s friend, but a friend of one usually ends up being a friend of all in their group.
In any case, to avoid confusion of two people responding whenever the name “Justin” is called, there was some agreement made that the new boy would be, well, Justin, and my son would now be known as “U-steen”.
I let it go at first, my own narcissistic tendencies were scratching only mildly at my psyche. This was Justin, no, sorry, USTEEN’S battle. However, my narcissistic tendencies are very strong, very powerful and I have zero willpower.
I had to interrupt Justin’s debriefing on why Iron Man was far superior to the Hulk. It was killing me. Choking on righteous indignation, I needed to know: “Doesn’t it bother you that you were there first, but you were the one who had to change your name?”
This sudden outburst was of course met with a puzzled look and mild gasp and, when the lady who had so obviously been eavesdropping moved on, Justin looked at me, kind of the same way she had.
Using his distraction at my sudden outburst to steal another one of his Maui Onion potato chips, I took my time to rephrase the question, 1) so he wouldn’t notice I’d stolen another chip, and 2) so as not to sound so much like a weirdo.
“Doesn’t it bother you that you were friends with Dom, Ray, and Anthony first, but now you have to be the one to change your name because of the other Justin?”
Justin stared at me. A good solid, “you-know-I-saw-you-steal-a-chip-right?” kind of look. Then, he shrugged.
HA! He said “not really” which meant, at least a little, it DID bother him. Then he went on to say, “Everyone already knows me. What difference does it make what they call me or why?”
Justin, only 11-years-old, has been called a very old soul. He has wisdom in his eyes unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. If I hadn’t seen for myself the many, many times he’s lost his stuffing because of something his brother had done, I would have said he was Buddha reincarnated. The name thing, admittedly petty, wasn’t even a blip on his radar. This is the same kid who when told he did 10 points better on a test than the rest of his class, actually bowed his head because he was upset that his friends hadn’t done as well as he had.
Dominic, 16, when not grounded for grade related violations doesn’t quite have the ‘old soul’ mindset that his brother is known for but he has his own unique disposition. Where Justin is much more old school and traditional in his ways, Dominic is becoming a quick study in the art of sarcasm. I’ve witnessed his one-liners and comments that have more than once taken even me a full moment to grasp (and I’m so proud of him!). He has a way of thinking that is both at once humbling and amusing. I’m finding it is much more work to keep up with him in an argument now than it had been only a year ago.
Two completely unique individuals, born and raised in the exact same way, by the exact same mom and are so completely opposite of one another. Justin is very self-assured and calm, while Dominic has the most inane personal hang-ups and is a very restless being. It almost makes me want to question the whole nature versus nurture argument.
I cannot wait to see what happens to them in the future – what they make of these very different temperaments. A hot button of late has been the favorite child debate. I, for one, cannot fathom how that is even possible, not when each child is so unique, so incredible, so amazingly priceless in their own right.
Needless to say, the sandwich, I’ll forget, the reason Iron Man is better than the Hulk, will fade, even the very discussion about identities and the indignity I felt about it, will ease.
What I will never forget though, is the realization that, this is their world. I’m just here to visit.
Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16. Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year.