The other day, I needed my kitchen junk drawer organized. Like all of a sudden, I couldn’t deal with the clutter any more. But looking at the mess was overwhelming and I didn’t even know where to start. So I did the most logical thing I could think of; I asked my 14 year-old daughter to do it.
When you think of a teenage girl, organized is probably not the word that comes to mind. But Sydney is a warrior of efficiency. She is boldly diligent and methodical in everything she does. This is a kid who has never, ever had to be told to do her homework, happily sets her alarm for 6 am swim practices on Saturday mornings, takes the most fastidious class notes you’ve ever seen (except for mine, maybe) and drives down a basketball court like she’s on fire.
She is all blazing passion and determination, this girl.
What she wants, she gets and what she does, she does with a fierce intensity that’s both admirable and, frankly, a little scary.
I got pregnant with Sydney and her twin brother Aidan after 3 miscarriages and a round of fertility treatments. I never thought I’d be able to have a baby, so getting two for the price of one was, to me, nothing short of a miracle. That first ultrasound at 7 weeks showed one clear beating heart, and another fainter flicker, likely conceived a couple of days later. That was Sydney, affectionately referred to as “Twin A” throughout my pregnancy. It’s always seemed to me that she was determined to be there, to fight for real estate in my belly alongside her brother.
I like to think that her soul was floating around my heart for a while, and then one day she was just ready to become a person.
She didn’t make it easy on me, though. Sydney was the twin who wouldn’t grow, whose head circumference was impossibly tiny. While her brother grew and thrived, she stubbornly refused to leave the 2nd percentile. Bed-rest, twice weekly ultrasounds and non-stress tests, discussions about betamethasone to mature premie lungs in the event of an early delivery – this was all because of Sydney. And it was also because of her that I had an emergency c-section at 37 weeks, when I went into insulin shock and she went into fetal distress. Little did I know that her dramatic entrance was a harbinger of things to come.
She was born, all 4 pounds of her, with a shock of black hair and the most humungous blue eyes you ever did see. And while her brother was born and promptly fell asleep, Sydney refused to close those giant eyes, afraid to miss out on any more than she already had in 9 months on the inside.
When she looked at me, I had this incredible sense that she already knew me. That her tiny body housed an old soul that had already been here, done that.
She was in a rush, my Twin A, to do everything. She slept through the night at 7 weeks old, walked at 10 months, talked even earlier. Her preschool teachers observed a focus and intensity rare for her age. When Sydney painted, every square inch of the paper was saturated with colour. When she hugged her friends, she tackled them to the ground. And she liked to talk. A lot, and at the speed of light.
That extraordinary, intense little girl is a full-fledged teenager now. She’s in constant motion. Texting, swimming, studying, running, bingeing on Grey’s Anatomy, talking. Still so much talking. She works so hard and plays so hard and I worry. Because inside that extraordinary brain of hers is some of my perfectionist, type A, DNA. And while she has more confidence and self-assurance in her little finger than I could have ever imagined at her age, I recognize that need to achieve, to be the best, to do it well or not do it at all.
I’m also all too familiar with the crushing anxiety that precedes trying something new because what if I fail?
I’m so proud of Sydney and the amazing young woman she’s become. I applaud her strength and courage, her ambition and determination. And while all parents wish for their children’s success, I want my big girl to know that I will love her, unconditionally, no matter what her grades are, whether or not she shaves a millisecond off her backstroke or scores a 3 point basket. I want her drive to come from the place that makes her feel accomplished and fulfilled, and not out of fear that she’ll disillusion me or be any less remarkable in my eyes. I want her to feel exhilarated from new challenges and confident in the knowledge that I’ll admire her just for having tried, because perfect is way overrated.
I also hope she keeps talking, because that’s the only way I get the scoop on her brother.