Inspired by my niece, who always blamed her (nonexistent) evil twin.

Wouldn’t it be fun to say: “It wasn’t me, it was my evil twin”? If you happen to be a twin, I doubt that either of you is evil, but tell the truth: As mischievous children growing up, how many times did you point the finger at the other hoping they’d get the blame for what you did?

Fun, eh?

We weren’t triplets, but with 1.5 years between Jackie and me and 2.5 between younger brother and me, there must have been plenty of times we felt like same-age kids to our stay-at-home mom. Before the lesson of the necessity of taking blame took hold, we pointed the finer at each other every chance we got for everything bad we did. (My brother cut my hair first, I’m sure of it. My sister stuffed me in the—unhooked—dryer, I didn’t go willingly. RoseMary got the paints out, not us! He dared me to staple my thumb.)

Whether mom ever bought into our blame-game or not never came to light. I suspect that she was a lot smarter than her tots gave her credit for and knew exactly which mini terrorist had completed which act.

Don’t you think kids have a natural sense of self-preservation and will toss the credit for bad actions anywhere they can? Of course, we probably all know too many adults who still behave that way, but moving on…

Back to that parental lesson of taking responsibility for our own actions and learning accountability. It was as popular with us as laughing at ourselves, even when it was deserved. Taking the culpability and sharing the credit sounds great now, but that age of learning comes long after the usage of the, “S/HE DID IT!” passing of the buck.

My dear niece wasn’t so big on foisting things onto her much calmer little brother, but she was an ace at saying with attitude, “My evil twin did it.”

Where does a kid even get that notion?

She’d roll it out at a moment’s notice, never batting an eye or revealing a smirk, or giving anything a way. I’m sure the first time she said it, my sister and I looked at each other and thought, huh, where’d another kid come from?

I’ve been thinking about how to use such an attitude to our advantage in adulthood.

“Rm, who broke the shredder?” My spouse makes this inquiry quite nonchalantly.

Stoically, I reply, “My evil twin must have stopped by!”

He pauses in his tracks to consider this new piece of information. No, he shakes his head, by now I’ve met all her family.

Haven’t I?

Pray that I have.

But, hey for a moment, he had to wonder, right?

Taking the blame for the things we do that are less than stellar is never an easy thing. It is, however, a very large part of growing up.

I would like to never be the bad friend again, never hurt someone’s feelings, never forget to say thank you or do the right thing. But I’m not that good. How convenient to assign fault to some other part of myself rather than taking a deep breath and setting the responsibility squarely on my own shoulders where it belongs.

Teaching kids to accept their shortcomings but not let those flaws define who they are must be a daunting task for parents. It’s hard for adults to shake off mistake-baggage and move on. Perhaps allowing ourselves to have an Evil Twin on which to occasionally blame things is not, exactly, a bad idea after all.

Parents, what do you think about your kids?

Adults, how about yourselves?

My non-evil niece a few years ago...

My non-evil niece a few years ago…