Sleepy and Grumpy are going to be four next month. Four-years-old! I keep looking at my memories on different apps and seeing pictures of what I looked like while they were still growing inside of my belly, and I do not understand quite how we got to four years old. But here we are anyway.
They are thriving. They are so stinking smart. They count to thirty all on their own while playing hide-and-seek. They love cars and planes and trains and dinosaurs. We are living in a world dominated by the Puppy Dog Pals and Lightning McQueen. They have spent a quarter of their lives in a fairly strict quarantine because Saint Daddy is not well and there is a pandemic going on (in case you have not heard), but they are not the worse for the wear because of that. We plan to enroll them in preschool next year, a year later than we had hoped. Again, pandemic. They know their shapes and their letters. They are working on writing some of those letters. They love to sing and play and go on walks. They are thriving.
Sleepy is not okay.
We knew this about Sleepy when he was very young. We gave Grumpy his nickname because he was a curmudgeon of an infant. It is not really a fair nickname now. Grumpy can be bossy and demanding, but he is not actually a grumpy child at all, nickname aside.
Sleepy is still pretty sleepy. His nickname still fits. And much like the fact that parents buy their college-age children the snacks they loved as they were children even though they are pretty gross now that those children are in their twenties, some things just stay around. Like Grumpy.
I am getting off target here.
Back to Sleepy.
Sleepy is not okay.
As an infant, Sleepy always let us know that he wanted attention too. He was absorbed with this constant thought that he would somehow be forgotten, ignored, left-behind, misplaced, unwanted. It permeated him before he could speak. If Grumpy was held, Sleepy demanded the same attention.
Don’t forget me! he seemed to be saying with his scrunched face and his balled-up fists. I’m here too!
We never forgot Sleepy. We never would have without his demands, but his demands were clamorous. They could not be ignored.
Sleepy does not seem to see it that way.
Perception is reality, right?
In Sleepy’s case, that is definitely true.
That was three years ago now, but not much has changed. Me too! Sleepy always shouts. Try not to forget! Me too!
I am not sure if this is the twin dynamic at play, but Sleepy’s anxiety is so different from Sunshine’s. Sunshine definitely worried that she would be left somewhere, but she imagined being physically left because we were out and about and misplaced her. Sleepy is obsessed with being emotionally left behind. Kept and yet discarded. Fed but not loved.
He acts out. He throws and he hits and he bites. He calls people names and says things like “I don’t love you” to get a reaction. He lashes out because negative attention is still attention. He is fighting a power dynamic of his own creation. He is three.
Sleepy also demands certain behaviors out of others. If Sleepy has a thought in his head, he is going to say that thought out loud. His expectation is that whomever hears that thought will repeat it verbatim. If we are off by even a single word (saying “it’s a car” instead of “it’s a yellow car,” for instance), Sleepy will yell and cry. This might last for quite some time. Last week, we played a game as a family, and when Sleepy spun a five, Saint Daddy repeated yes, it’s a five while I counted out his five spaces for him. I did not say it’s a five, and Sleepy cried for ten minutes because it took me too long to say it too.
Grumpy says I don’t want to say it, brother! multiple times a day.
Sleepy insists on making sure the doors are closed. He needs to wipe his hands on a towel multiple times throughout dinner. He melts down completely within the first two hours of being awake nearly every day.
He is looking for control where he rarely has any.
Maybe it is because Grumpy is the dominant twin, and Sleepy needs something to balance that out. He cannot overcome Grumpy’s dominant personality. We try to help him by asking him what he wants to watch, what he wants to eat, what he wants to wear. But Grumpy still makes most of their decisions.
It makes me wonder…
A few nights ago, Sleepy was whimpering as I put him into bed. He sounded like a wounded puppy. I checked his body for boo-boos, bruises, and scratches. Finding none, I asked him where it hurt, thinking maybe his belly was sore or his head ached.
I’m sad, he said.
“What are you sad about, Buddy?”
“I heard that, Love. What’s making you sad?”
“Do you want me to stay with you for a little while?”
I want you. I’m sad.
I lay next to Sleepy in his dinosaur-sheeted bed and wondered how to help him. I called out to the universe. Sleepy is not okay. How can I help him be okay? Please help me figure out a way to make him feel okay.
It reminded me of holding Sunshine when her intrusive thoughts kept her up for nights on end. I cried and prayed and held my sweet girl and wondered how it got there. And I knew I needed help.
I finally turned to my friends. Let me tell you, I have good friends. They have their own young children, and they listened to my story. Many of them have stories of their own. Stories that I will not share because they are not mine. But stories that are similar and different in so many ways. But, like I said, I have good friends.
They said, “You’re right. If something feels off, it’s off. Sleepy needs something more. We don’t know what it is, but it is something. You can find it. And as you do, we’ll be here with a good word and supportive thoughts because we know, we’ve been there, we’ve fought this fight too. We’ll fight it right along with you.”
I do not know the exact statistics on mental health among children. I try not to think of my children that way. My heart goes out to all of the parents of young children who are not okay.
Today, I requested an evaluation for Sleepy to help him to organize his emotions and handle them as they come.
Sleepy is not okay.
Sleepy will be okay.
Until then, I am so grateful for the people I have surrounded my heart with because I know that they will fight along with me.