Vinyo is a handsome baby. Everyone says that. Not that I could think any differently even if a report from the World Independent Commission on Beauty stated the contrary. But it is still nice to be part of the majority. A lot about his looks reminds me and everyone else of Dovie. They look quite alike. I thought it cute initially that everyone remarked how like his brother he looked. But it didn’t take long before it began to irritate me.
People would exclaim that he was Dovie’s brother indeed and then either do a quick compare and contrast essay or stamp everything about him as ‘he is really Dovie’s brother’. For instance the fact that he is a big eater confirms that, ‘he is really Dovie’s brother’. He has dimples, again because ‘he is really Dovie’s brother’. ‘Where is he?’ ‘He’s asleep.’ ‘O he is really Dovie’s brother’. ‘What beautiful hair he has, he is really Dovie’s brother.’… It is making me wonder what I ever did to make the whole world doubt my fidelity to my husband; I feel almost relieved that that particular secret concern seems to have been put to sleep. Of course no one is saying how he really is Kofi’s son so it is possible all I’ve proved is that my children share a father and not necessarily that I have taken ‘forsaking all others’ to heart.
Dovie is a handsome boy, a darling, everything a little boy or rather a big baby his age should be. I would be the first to shout it from the rooftops. But the subjugation of Vini’s personality to his is completely unacceptable. It is early yet, when he is older his own traits will be established. I feel though that if I allow this ‘Dovie’s brother’ nonsense to go unchecked and unremarked it will be so deeply entrenched that he will always be assessed in reference to Dovie. ‘He’s a good athlete, unlike Dovie.’ Or ‘he doesn’t do as well in music as Dovie.’
No observation made about Dovie was preceded or followed by a comparison. He didn’t have to be fair unlike my ex boyfriend’s son or smarter than Kofi’s one night stander’s daughter. He was just fair or smart or cute or funny. And Vini deserves the same. He is no less complete a baby.
I am not saying, never anyone dare mention both their names in the same breath. I have no objection to any comments about the similarity in looks. ‘They really look alike’ does not offend me. It is ‘he is really handsome, just like Dovie’ that does. Why not ‘what handsome boys they are’? What’s wrong with ‘your sons are heavy sleepers both’? Why must his personality stand in relation to his brother’s?
Some things are difficult to refrain from commenting on I concede. It is impossible not to notice that both my babies are big boys; that Vini is bigger than Dovie was at his age and his face is a different shape than Dovie’s. But that’s where it stops. Behavioral comparisons will not change what they are and will only serve to make them resentful of each other and the makers of said juxtapositions.
And I will not permit it. I refuse to have my sons made to feel insecure or inferior just to satisfy somebody’s desire to share an idle observation. I have officially outlawed comparative statements among my peers. I have yet to find a respectful and tactful way to do it with the adults. I’m working on it. I’ll soon come up with something.
I was a shy child and I was clumsy. It was not too difficult to acquire complexes. The unintentional unkindness of being compared with my nimbler elder sister, tidier cousins, less talkative peers soon took its toll. I am the only left handed person in my family. I have 2 sisters, 23 cousins, 1 nephew, 7 uncles and an aunt and not a one is left handed. But thanks to my old folks, I have always been inordinately proud of it. They never let people bully me. Despite the negativity attached to the left hand in our culture they found a way to make me unashamed. In class one, my teacher tried to force me to be right handed and it soon began affecting my work badly. I was failing miserably at right-handedness and the anxiety of facing another day of failure was making me lose interest in school and schoolwork. As soon as my mother found out what was going on, she descended on the school authorities and told them to stay away from her child. ‘God made her left-handed’, she said ‘and God doesn’t make mistakes’
I myself am sometimes guilty of the sin of comparison. Occasionally I catch myself thinking ‘Vini is stronger than Dovie was at this age’- like it makes a difference to anything. When I do, I chastise myself severely. So I recognize from my own experience that it is not always easy to avoid the greater than/less than speech. But I am making conscious effort and anyone who wishes to be part of their life better make one too.
I will stand in defense of my children’s distinctiveness. Anyone who tries to warp their self esteem and confidence, even if by accident of careless talk, will feel the unrestrained sharpness of my tongue, famed even when tempered for its acidity. The exception is with the adults. This method cannot be applied to them without social sanction both for myself and for the children I am using it to protect. For them I’m polishing my tact. When such statements are made, I will politely but firmly state my displeasure. If it is dismissed airily as complaints by the young often are here, I will not make a fuss. I will hold my tongue. Just be sure you say your fondest and most earnest goodbyes when the kids are leaving you. Chances are you will never see them again.