In our long trek across the Potomac, since the 3 guys were way up ahead of me, I had plenty of time to think. And it was the appropriate moment to wonder what would compel someone like me, with no advance notice, to fling myself across the country knowing very well that mostly what I would be doing at the inauguration would be to stand out in the cold all day without food or water or a bathroom? (Despite my worries, oddly enough the only place during the entire day that I did NOT encounter a line or a crowd—was outside the Porta-Potty.)
Anyway on that long walk I did think about whether something in my DNA makes me seek out these experiences when other people–including some of my own flesh and blood—are completely satisfied to experience these same events while enjoying good food and wine and even a bathroom—from the comfort of their own home.
And I happened to witness the perfect example of the differences in human nature.
I only had around 36 hours in Washington, but I did get to see my family, especially the biggest Obama fans, my niece’s identical twin girls. And while I was visiting their house, I found out why identical twins offer such a perfect opportunity for psychologists to probe the mysteries of the human personality.
You look at this picture and they’re hard to tell apart. The girls are exactly a year old; they both recently started to walk. Their dad was rough-housing with them–he was sitting on the floor in front of the couch, and he’d put them both up on the couch to play this little game.
The twin in the pink pants is Ellie—she would get to her feet standing on the couch, then instantly and with an enormous smile she would fling herself like a torpedo into her dad’s arms, barely checking to see if he was ready to catch her. (He always did—at least while I was there.)
Ellie (Knievel) did this stunt maybe 40 times while I sat on the floor watching. Her dad got tired of the game way before Ellie did.
Meanwhile her identical twin Marin was also on the couch, playing the same game with her dad. Marin was having just as much fun as Ellie; but she was playing by slightly different rules. Marin sat up on the couch the entire time. She laughed hysterically and clapped her hands, delightedly screaming as Ellie hurled herself off the couch, over and over and over. Marin was looking– not leaping.
Finally Marin waited for Ellie to jump off—and she took her opening. She got to her feet and stood there a few seconds, cautiously hesitating. Then with her dad’s encouragement, very gingerly, she jumped into his arms. Once. That was enough.
You could not ask for a better lesson in parenting—one I wish I had learned when my kids were the age Marin and Ellie are now. That we are all completely unique; we all march to our own beat— even if we share the identical DNA.
Meanwhile, there is one other lesson to be learned from this little game—her parents better watch out when Ellie gets to be a teenager.