They were twins. 2 girls from the same egg. Hence, genetically identical. When they joined me, one was a thriving overachiever and the other was a flagging underperformer. The younger one, whom we will call Martha, was a go getting charmer. She knew how to put herself forward to get attention and affection from authority figures. The older one, whom we will call Mary, was introverted and retiring. She hung back and refused to compete whilst her twin sister reached out to grab parental time, attention and approval.
Their mother connected better with the younger and more assertive daughter. That was not surprising. Martha knew what she wanted and if she wanted her mother's love and affection, she knew how to turn on the charm to get it. Mary simply hung back because she was afraid of her more assertive twin.
Over time, Martha shone in every area. This was not surprising to me. She was well resourced with love, affection and parental approval. Over time Mary retreated into her own shell. If she competed for parental love, affection and approval, her sister would turn on her. However, without as much parental love, affection and approval, Mary's spirits flagged. The twins' Mama complained that it was hard to get Mary to even complete schoolwork. She dawdled. She dreamed. She dragged her feet lethargically. Mama could not see the web of dynamic interactions within her own family, that was starving her Mary of the emotional resources to pour into achieving.
When it came time to test into the Gifted Education Programme, Martha made it in. Mary did not. That was around the time that they entered my class. Readers, please note that these 2 children are genetically identical. If IQ is genetic, these 2 should have the exact same IQ. Why did one make it in and the other did not?
I observed the girls' interactions in class. When Mary got a SkipHWCoupon for good HW done, from me, she would quietly slip into her bag. When Martha got a SkipHWCoupon from me, she would march over to Mary and gloat, waving her coupon in Mary's face. Mary's face would fall. In class with me, Mary's body language was drawn in, humble. She tried her best not to get noticed. Martha smiled and was full of small gestures aimed at gaining my goodwill.
I found Martha endearing. Who would not? However, with my autistic pattern finding eyes, I was also seeing family dynamics that gave me cause for concern. Even more, my high affective empathy as an autistic person, gave me pain because I absorbed Mary's pain every time she came off 2nd best, and she came off 2nd best very often.
As neurotypical readers, imagine that you are Mary. Day in and day out, someone in your family grabs emotional resources essential to your wellbeing. Teachers, parents and grandparents were all drawn towards Martha, who converted their approval and affection into motivational energy. As for you, you did not even dare to compete for these resources for fear of Martha's displeasure. Martha was well resourced and strong. Mary was starving and weak. Think a litter of puppies where the runt of the litter does not get enough milk because he is not strong enough to fight for a teat on his Mama's belly.
This is Sibling Cannibalism.
So, I intervened. I coached their Mama. I also laid down OB markers for the girls. The girls joined me in Sept of their P3 year. By Semestral Assessment of their P4 year, Mary topped the mainstream cohort in Nanyang Primary. There was no direct competition with Martha, who was, by then, in GEP in Nanyang Primary. By PSLE, Mary achieved a higher t-score than Martha, who was burnt out by the demands of the GEP.
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