Separate Bunk Beds; Separate Lives
They'd been sharing the top bunk ever since they realized monsters lived in their room.
But a few weeks ago, Johnny drew about 200 pictures of monsters that might live in their room. Monsters with one head but several faces. Monsters with eyes on the ends of tentacles. Monsters with eight arms and no legs...Then he decided he didn't believe in monsters.
Richie panicked when Johnny said he didn't want to sleep in the same bed anymore.
"But I will be scared of monsters," he cried.
"Richie, monsters aren't real," Johnny said, exasperated. He himself would never believe in such a thing. Not in the last 24 hours, anyway.
"I will be scared of ghosts," Richie said.
"Most ghosts are nice," Johnny said, throwing his hands up in the air.
"Can I sleep in your bed?" Richie asked, turning to me.
I felt sorry for Richie, but sleeping in separate beds was a good idea. Johnny claimed Richie hogged the whole bed when in fact Richie slept pressed against the bed railing. Richie yelled at Johnny to move over. Johnny said his side of the bed was scary. When they were grumpy in the morning, I wondered if they were getting a good night's sleep.
Plus, maybe a little space would give Richie room to grow.
As the second boy, I worry that he'll see himself as Johnny's opposite, and not see how unique he is in his own right.
And they are opposites. Johnny answers questions fast. Richie thinks them over. And whereas Johnny makes big plans in split seconds, Richie takes his time. Sometimes, by the time he decides what he wants to do the next day, Johnny has already planned their whole lives.
Whenever Johnny lists what he wants to be when he grows up: scientist, inventor, doctor, astronaut, lawyer, carpenter...I ask Richie what he wants to be.
"I don't know," he says.
So Johnny says Richie can be his helper.
Yesterday we went to the zoo. Johnny wanted to take pictures of the animals and make a book. Richie loves taking pictures, so he wanted to take some, too. He took a couple of the animals, but then he decided he just wanted to take pictures of J.J. and I.
Then, while Johnny took pictures of the baboons grooming each other, Richie sat down next to me.
"When I grow up, I want to be a mommy," he said. "And I'll take pictures of J.J. And I'll sleep in your bed and put my clothes in your dresser."
Justin and I were going to be his kids, too. He showed me with his hand how tall everybody was going to be. Naturally, he was going to be the tallest.
I wondered how long he'd been thinking about this. Ever since I asked him a couple weeks ago what he wanted to be?
Now Johnny and Richie both wanted to hold the camera the whole time. Johnny, so that he could pretend he was a wildlife photographer. Richie, so that he could pretend to be a mommy.
Richie would click pictures of J.J. and I chugging cups of water or wiping sunscreen out of our eyes, and Johnny would say, "Richie, I have to take a picture of the warthog!!!!"
Richie would hold the camera to his chest. I could just see the wheels turning in his head: "Just because I thought of my plan later doesn't mean it's not as important."
They took turns, sort of. Finally I put the camera away. In the 100 degree heat, I didn't have the patience to be the camera referee.
That night, Johnny cleared the stuffed animals off the bottom bunk. He laid Richie's Spiderman blanket across it and put the Spongebob pillow at the head. He arranged his own blanket so that it wouldn't fall over the edge of the top bunk and block Richie's view of the nightlight.
And Richie gladly laid down on his own bed.
"Mommy, will you lay down here?" he said, pointing next to him.
"What are we doing tomorrow?" he whispered. This is a question Johnny usually asks.
"What do you want to do?" he asked.
"I want to go see what Ma and Granddad are doing."
"They're in Florida," I said.
"What's Florida?" he asked.
I told him about the different states and how you get there by airplane. Richie is still at the age where he thinks our friends and family live at the airport. When we want to see them, we go pick them up.
He didn't make a new plan. I'm sure he had to think about it for a while.
With the boys in bed, Justin and I watched 20/20. It was about Siamese twins connected at the torso. From the waste up, they were two people. From the waste down, they were one person. They only had one kidney. But at age 4, doctors gave them a 95 percent chance of surviving separation. Their mom was donating a kidney to them.
She said she would donate both her kidneys if it meant they could lead separate lives. Still their dad was crying before the surgery. Not just because he was worried but because they wouldn't be Siamese twins anymore.
Not to compare sleeping in separate bunk beds to being severed at the torso, but with Johnny going to school, the boys are severing a bond of sorts. Richie will get to make his own plans in the morning. And at school, Johnny won't be the big kid anymore. He'll be surrounded by kids his own age. I think they'll both grow a lot in the next year. But I hope they always stay close.
The Siamese twins survived the surgery. Doctors pushed their hospital beds side-by-side during recovery so that they would see each other when they woke up. They knew that being close is what helped them survive being Siamese twins in the first place.