Sunday, December 2, 2012

Left Out in The Storm

It all started when Hollywood got his hair cut.

For a long time, he'd been thinking about chopping off his curls. Middle school is a tough time and we (and he) thought a shorter, less conspicuous style might make his school days a little more tolerable.

The good news is that it seems to have worked. His confidence is up and he loves his new look. I like it, too: It highlights his sparkly blue eyes, his crazy long lashes, and his firm jawline. And he looks older now, more like the teen he is.

But, it is with this new look, this more grown-up Hollywood, that The Storm's troubles all began.

Let me back up:

It all started when Hollywood got his haircut.

"Oh my gosh!" said the stylist. "I never realized how much you look like Sunshine." 

"Doesn't he?" I said, because although they've always looked alike, suddenly, for his new height, and his new hair, they could be twins.

"Sometimes, I feel left out," said The Storm, later, when she and I left the salon to do some shopping. "I don't look like anyone."

"It's just that they look like Dad and you look like me," I said--but that wasn't what she wanted to hear.

For the next few days, there was much gasping over Hollywood's haircut and the strong resemblance he bore to his big sister. And the two teenagers in our home were suddenly bonding as they hadn't in years, laughing over things that weren't funny to the baby of the family, jokes too sophisticated for a nine-year-old. 

When she wanted to play Monopoly, they didn't. When she wanted to watch Disney movies, they wanted to watch a scary movies. When she wanted cookies, they wanted ice cream.

At the dinner table, the two grew animated sharing stories about thier days at school.

"She's awful," agreed Sunshine, of a teacher Hollywood was complaining about, one she knew from her own middle school years, one whose name The Storm couldn't properly pronounce. More laughing.

"We're doing a science fair," said The Storm, about her own school day, but the teenagers weren't very interested.

Sunshine told us instead about a girl from her science class who was probably on drugs.

"We start our drug awareness course, next week," said Hollywood.

"Oh, that's an intense week," said Sunshine, and she went on to preview all that Hollywood could expect.

The Storm asked to be excused.

We've thought a lot about this, Balthazar and I, about the very different upbringing our two daughters have had. When Sunshine was nine, our dinner table conversations included all the topics you might expect of a family with a preschooler, a second grader, and a fourth grader: dinosaurs, puppies, princesses, and the benefits of eating carrots.

But The Storm, at nine, has been exposed to entirely different family dinner experience.

It's the way of things, Balthazar and I said, by way of forgiving ourselves for the movies we've allowed her to see, the words she's heard, the subjects explored at our table.

Then one evening, shortly after Hollywood had his curls lopped off, when again the subject of how much he resembled his sister came up, The Storm snuck away without even asking to be excused.

She'd been crying for twenty minutes when we found her. 

"We can't help it if we look alike," said Sunshine.

It's more than that I explained after I'd spent another several days thinking about it: "Just because she can keep up with our fast growing family doesn't mean she should have to. She's nine. We need to make room for our nine-year-old."

We started with a game of Monopoly.

Then a family trip to the Santa Monica Pier...

to turn us all into nine-year-olds...

...for just one more day.

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