"See right here? You're having another boy." I remember the overwhelming swirl of emotions at that ultrasound appointment, back in 2004. There was the wistful realization that I would never have a daughter, and the strange sense of loss for someone that never was. There was excitement, of course: brothers! And there was a fleeting stab of something like a resigned sigh -- I'd already done the boy thing, and now I was going to do it all over again.
From where I stand now, I can laugh at my naiveté. How ridiculous that I thought one child would be exactly like the other, simply because they're the same sex. As I learned within weeks (days?) after my second son was born, they were wildly different right from the get-go.
For instance, my first son was a GREAT sleeper. He consistently slept through the night starting at about eight weeks old, and the ridiculous thing was that my husband and I thought that we actually had something to do with this. Whenever I heard other parents exhaustedly bemoaning the multiple times they were getting up with their babies throughout the night, I would have this smug sort of attitude, as if my parenting had produced a superior sleeping model of baby. Oh, your baby wakes up and cries? Too bad you're not doing it right.
My second son schooled me in this department. He launched a sleep-deprivation campaign from birth and didn't relent until he was a potty-trained toddler. I tried everything, including plenty of things I had no interest in trying, and nothing made it better. My nightly servings of humble pie came at 11 PM, 1 AM, and 3 AM for a very, very long time.
My boys also had a fundamentally different outlook on life as infants. Riley was a deeply suspicious baby -- he beetled his brow at everything with a sort of Whatchoo talkin bout Willis? expression on his little face. For example:
Whereas Dylan always seemed like a good-times lovin' frat boy who'd made it halfway through the keg:
They've always gotten along, for the most part:
But they are definitely their own personalities. Riley tends to be methodical and focused; he's always loved Legos and would choose assembling elaborate Minecraft worlds over playing outside any day. Dylan doesn't have the patience for putting blocks together, and his fearless, physical nature is why he's the one who's already had two broken bones. Riley loves drawing complicated tightly-contained cartoon panels, Dylan prefers coloring in great scrawling swashes. Riley likes to delve into imaginary worlds where he acts out various roles, Dylan likes music and will turn anything into an instrument. Riley's sensitive yet outgoing, Dylan's blunt but incredibly shy.
(Aside from pizza and frozen waffles, they don't even like the same foods. There's one area where I wouldn't have minded some serious overlap, if only to make dinners less of a pain in my butt.)
I look at them now -- at the complex, fully unique individuals they are -- and I can hardly believe I once thought they would somehow be carbon copies of each other. "You're having another boy," she told me, but I should have heard this: "Another person is joining your life, and what an indescribable gift it will be to watch them grow and change, and know that each year will bring a million new dimensions to your family."
What will they be like five, ten, fifteen years from now? How will they be different, how will they be similar? Oh, it's almost too much, imagining my boys' lives deepening and spreading like rivers, reaching out in traveling tendrils, joining together and forging apart. How incredibly lucky I am to be a part of it.
Images via Linda Sharps