This post also comes from my call for blog topics on my Instagram story. Someone asked me to write about my upbringing and how I want the twins’ to be in comparison. This is a similar topic: things I lacked growing up that I think still affect me today that I want to make sure the twins have in abundance.
1. Close Relationship with Extended Family
My mom’s family lives in Ohio and my dad’s family live in Alabama. They both moved to Atlanta for college, met, married, and had my brother and I. So nearly all of our extended family lived in other states. The only cousins we had close to us were much older and were more likely to babysit us than play with us. I love my cousins, but I wish we had grown up closer. I wish we had the family bond of “second siblings” like many others have with their cousins, but it’s hard when you only see them once a year, if that. I want Alex and Nathan to have those familial bonds outside of our household. They have a four-year-old cousin who they see daily, and I hope they remain close as they get older. Friends are nice, but there’s just something a little different about family.
I’ve talked in the past about being bullied growing up. I can’t put a finger on exactly when I started feeling bad about myself, it was so long ago. I was maybe 7 or 8. But honestly, I never truly recovered. I still have self-esteem issues that date all the way back to childhood that I’m afraid will stay with me forever. I don’t want that for my children. I don’t want their self-views to be so wrapped up in the things other people say to or about them that the words they hear from others tear them down, possibly permanently. I’m still not totally sure how to make that happen for them, and honestly, maybe it’s out of my control. But I want to make sure my boys grow up with a lot more self-assurance than I did.
3. Comfort in Making Mistakes
This wasn’t as much of a problem as I got older, but when I was really young, I was obsessed with being the perfect kid. It wasn’t because of anything my parents did, I just wanted approval so badly that if I was so much as reprimanded, I cried. My mom still tells me the story of the time in kindergarten that I had to use the bathroom but held it until I was crying from the discomfort because I feared if I asked to go to the bathroom during nap time, I would get in trouble. She said that still hurts her to think of – that I was so afraid of not being “good” that I’d allow myself to be uncomfortable and in pain. I want my boys to know that in no way do I expect them to be perfect. How can I, when I’m flawed myself? I want them to know that it’s okay to make mistakes and they don’t have to fear punishment or disapproval at every turn. I want them to know that they are human and so are we, and it’s okay to do something wrong every now and then, as long as you learn from it.
4. Freedom to Communicate Openly
Parents always say “You can come to me and tell me anything,” but how many of us really do it and how many of us keep secrets anyway to keep from getting in trouble? I know everyone says this, but I really mean it. I remember when I first started dating at 15 and kept it a secret. In retrospect, I was probably super obvious, but I was afraid my parents wouldn’t approve of me having a boyfriend, so I didn’t tell them and tried to sneak around instead. Could I have told my parents (or at least my mom) that I was dating a boy without them locking me in my bedroom? Probably. But I didn’t. And I hope my boys don’t feel that way about James and I. I hope they know that when they need to talk, have something on their chest, or have something big going on (like a first love), I’d like to know about it. I remember telling my mom that I was struggling with depression at 13, and I was so scared, I was shaking. Of course, she was receptive and tried to help me as best she could, but I hope my children feel an ease in telling me hard things.
5. The Feeling of Being Understood/A Sense of Belonging
I was a nerdy kid and an angsty teenager and I was definitely one of the only black emo kids in all of DeKalb County, Georgia. I felt like nobody really got me – at school and at home. I felt weird. I felt different, and not in a good way. I even asked my mom one day, “Does it bother you that I’m not like everybody else?” She reassured me that it didn’t. But I always felt like I didn’t quite fit in where I was and it was a very uncomfortable feeling that’s stayed with me to this day. Even when I make friends or am surrounded by people that care about me, I always feel like I don’t quite “fit” or there’s something about me they won’t like. I always assume people are judging me or talking about me behind my back. This stems for being the “weird kid” growing up. I have a feeling Alex and Nathan will be different too. Their parents are, and we’re raising them liking “different” things (their dad plays them Bjork, for crying out loud). So will they grow through life feeling like there’s no place for them? I honestly hope not. It’s a lousy feeling, and I want them to feel like they are always understood in our home.