Learning how to hurt and then how to heal at age 4 and 44

There’s a pattern to their fights. To their skirmishes. To their kerfuffles.

They are four. They are twins. They wrestle and touch each other CONSTANTLY until it gets to be too much and somebody snaps.

When they push each other down and call each other names and maybe even bust out an I HATE YOU, I do not love it.

When they find one tiny broken part of a toy in the midst of a thousand perfectly healthy, functioning toys and proceed to argue over the dumbest little piece of crap for an hour, a day, a week, I do not love it.

When they whine and cry about who goes first to get dressed every single morning, I do not love it.

There are all these moments that older moms and grandparents will tell you go too quickly.  Don’t blink because you’ll miss it.  If I’m being honest here, there are some days I’d rather miss most of the shenanigans that go on.

But then I would miss the rest. This learning how to hurt and then how to heal.

When they lose each other on the playground, and yell out the others name until they come back to each other, I do love it.

When they are in the middle of doing something and say, “I need to go show this to Bebe because she will think it’s really funny”, I do love it.

When we are out shopping and they pick out things that the other one would really like, I do love it.

When they kiss each other good night and say good morning to the other last and first thing, I do love it.

When a kid at the park told her that she couldn’t be in a tunnel, and her brother heard about it and charged over there to confront that kid? I do love it.

When they instinctively grab the others hand when approaching anything new or scary to them, I do love it.

When they finally do get dressed and rave about how the other looks, I do love it.

My girl has a cold and is coughing too much to go to school today for the very first time, but her brother really wanted to go to school because his new friends birthday is today and he didn’t want to miss it. HE WENT TO SCHOOL BY HIMSELF. This is a first. We are proud of him. Even his sister who is grumpy to miss school is proud, though she won’t say it, but hopes he will bring her a birthday treat home.

This love that they have that eclipses any love I’ve ever felt in my entire life.  This other half assuredness that the other will always be there when they are scared or hurt or alone. There’s a reason I’m of the mind that everyone should have a twin.

With that deep and wide love comes cavernous power struggles and at times fights for independence.

I need to grant them more grace. I need to remember that this is all brand new to them and they are just learning how to hurt someone they love. They are just learning how much it hurts themselves when they do it. We all learned this at some point.  We all know how to find the vulnerability in the people we love and to use it against them. This is a new power to them and when they inflict it on the other, there is great pain. Four year old, dramatic, all-encompassing pain. So then they cry and they expose their vulnerability and take responsibility when apologizing.

Yesterday there was a moment in the kitchen when she thought he got more chips than her (HE DIDN’T) and she shoved him hard into the refrigerator and he hit his head and crushed all his chips.  She knew. In that moment, she knew it was too far.  She turned red and started crying and ran up to her room.  That pain right there – that moment of seeing that you really really hurt the person you love the most in the entire world, well it made me cry too.

Her brother was ultimately fine, but needed a few minutes to calm down.

I went up and she was hiding under her blankets and the first thing she said was, “I don’t want Gah to be afraid of me.”  As I felt her hot tears on my chest while hugging her, I said, “He’s your favorite person. Just go say sorry to him and tell him you love him, and I bet he forgives you right away because you just got so angry.”

This is learned behavior and they are four years old. This is learned behavior and I am forty-four years old.

My husband and I know how to hurt each other. We are much better about using those weapons than we used to be, but it still comes out occasionally.  I am most upset and disappointed in myself when I use his vulnerability against him.  That reflects on me, not on him.  He trusts me and I hurt him? I know he feels the same when in battle with me, and we always come back to each other, but it is vitriolic and it is messy and so painful. But we keep coming back to each other.

Grace. More grace. Even more grace. More forgiveness. More love. More encouragement. These things work for children and for adults.  I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time, but I know these things work.

When my girl went downstairs her brother was waiting for her as she quietly approached him and they were both crying when they hugged.  She said, “I’m sorry Gah.  I got so mad, but I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. I won’t ever do it again.” Well, we know that it will happen again, or some version of it will happen again, but still.  He then said, “It’s ok, Bebe.  You’re my best friend and I don’t like it when you hurt me.”  This is the process we need to go through each time. It is important that they learn we can hurt each other, but more importantly that we can heal.

Being a parent is not for the weak. Being a child is not for the weak.

They are getting to the age where they know our vulnerabilities and they can call them up if needed.  I can usually let it roll off my back but on a bad day, I am hit hard.  They can make me furious and weep all at once. Then we heal. They know how to recognize when they’ve hurt someone and they know how to apologize.  Sometimes it takes a while, sometimes it comes up days later in a quiet moment where they will say something like, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings or I’m sorry I pulled your earring too hard”, and well, that I love.  I wouldn’t want to miss this.  And in order not to miss this, I have to go along with all the other parts that I’d like to skip over sometimes.

We are learning. At age four and age forty-four that human interaction is hard. But so many times if we open ourselves up, if we are vulnerable, we get the deepest, most incredible, most enduring relationships of our lives. We find safety in failing and rising back up with help from each other. We find comfort in our shared struggle and admitted faults. We find encouragement in places we need it most. Reach out a hand, and one will be there for you to grab onto when you need it most. Grace extended will always come back to us. This is family – by birth or by choice. This is relationship. This is imperfection and grace and it is the most beautiful thing I have ever had the honor of witnessing.


Great big gratitude.

Related – A whole bunch of other posts I’ve written about these kids and twin love

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