In our house, being “normal” means you are decidedly in the minority.
Meet Emma — in many respects the most normal kid I know.
Developmentally at the apex of the bell curve, I like to say my 13-year-old twin came out of the womb a 40-year-old adult. More than one person told us, “That one… She’s been here before.”
Sometimes I feel like she has.
In some respects, Emma has gotten a raw deal in the DC-to-NY shuffle. On one front, her twin brother — the person she is most connected to in this world — is away in another city and having a ball. On the other front, she is at home with her sister, who is her exact opposite in life.
Almost since they were born, I have described the Emma-Kate relationship in a series of obscure visual metaphors that only serve to illustrate just how different they are. Among them:
• Some days I feel compelled to introduce my daughters to each other: “Oil, meet water.”
• With apologies to Ted Nugent — never something I thought I’d say — the background music when they go at it should be “Cat Scratch Fever.”
• If there is ever a community theatre version of Jennifer Weiner’s “In Her Shoes,” I know the two girls who could play the leads.
Same sex sibling relationship aside, Emma has taken what could have been a crushing experience — losing day-to-day contact with her twin — and turned it in her favor through sheer will and determination. She has terrific grades in a challenging academic program and, more important, takes charge of her homework, priding herself on not asking for help.
That means she doesn’t enjoy middle school on some days. Example: "I don't like science. The teacher turns off the lights, turns on the movie, and pfffft, that's it. I'm asleep." Say what you will about the teacher, but it also says something about a child who is both nocturnal and needing to be stimulated and engaged.
What also has been amazing to watch is an ongoing physical transformation, which started when she decided to work like a bull terrier to get into shape. Earlier this year, Emma and her mom ran a 10-mile race, and plan to do so again next spring. The girl who used to be proud of her belly now watches everything she takes in, and while she’s not above the occasional ice cream cone, has mostly sworn off fast food.
The thing I admire most is that Emma has thrived at being “normal,” if there is such a thing. She has a sweet group of friends with whom she is sharing life in middle school, is easily embarrassed by too much parental involvement, and upset when there’s not enough. She can’t load the dishwasher to save her life, but is the first to offer to make you dinner when you most need it.
In a family where the only thing mellow is the drama, she is on a steady course, or at least as steady as one gets these days. For the most part, she is very straightforward about life, and knows that she doesn’t yet know what she wants to be when she grows up.
Recently, waiting at the bus stop — at the horrifically early 6:15 a.m. — I looked at my little girl and was struck by how mature she has become. "You've grown up,” I said. “How did that happen?"
Her matter-of-fact response: "Time..."
Yes, Emma is straddling this period between little girl and young woman just fine. Not perfect always, but just fine. And I don’t think she’d have it any other way…