Dear Vicki: I have 14-year-old twins who are as different as night and day when it comes to personality. I love your blog and after studying the Five Elements a little, it’s occurred to me that one is a Water and the other is a Fire. Not surprisingly, they don’t get along well. Ted, my Water, loves to be alone. He is a low-key guy happiest reading or watching movies. Tammy, the Fire, is the exact opposite: everything is exciting, needs to be celebrated, or at least shared at high volume. Family dinners have degenerated to the point that Ted no longer talks much because he can’t get a word in while Tammy goes on and on. Tammy thinks Ted is a downer and Ted thinks Tammy lacks substance. Any advice for a mom trying to hold her family together? If it helps, I’m pretty sure I’m an Earth. Signed, Battle Weary Mom
Dear Battle Weary: Well, your household is never dull, right? But hang in there. Just because Water and Fire relate on the Controlling Cycle doesn’t mean they have to fight all the time. In fact, they both need the other in ways they might not image. This is a perfect example of when information and understanding can be your friend.
Here’s what you’re dealing with: Tammy will definitely feel like Ted is raining on her parade because, honestly, he probably is. Water puts out Fire. Ted may even have a slight feeling that he needs to do this; Waters can consider it their job to keep Fire under control. And that is good – Fire left to burn without limits destroys itself. And a burned out Fire will lack substance, as Ted says.
The third piece of the puzzle is you, the Earth mom. As you no doubt know, your daughter’s Fire will feed your Earth and your Earth will control your son’s Water. This means that, at a subtle level, your daughter is participating in keeping her brother under control through you. If Tammy builds your Earth, there is more of it to keep Ted’s Water in check so he doesn’t overdo it with her. Clever the way that works, isn’t it? Earth is one of the mechanisms for balancing yin and yang. Working together is the other.
I realize none of this will be comforting to a 14-year-old girl or boy, or the mother trying to keep peace in the family, but it’s an important mechanism to use. First, the twins are old enough to understand the Five Elements and how they relate to each other. Knowledge is power, as Francis Bacon said. Help Ted and Tammy understand that they are polar opposites of each other. Ted is all about quiet, inward focus, Tammy is all about active, outward focus. He is the yin to her yang. This means that they are the perfect antidote for each other when they are out of balance.
Let’s start with Tammy. Even a Fire will admit there are times when they feel weary and burned out. When that happens, Tammy would benefit from seeking out the cool depths of Water to replenish herself. As for Ted, too much alone time in those depths never gives him a chance to feel the warmth of the sun and the joy of celebration. He needs those Fire times to be fully happy and alive. The truth is that each twin will have times when they need exactly what the other has to offer. The challenge will be getting them to realize this and seek each other out. That’s where your Earth comes in.
Earth is the great balancer. Earth energy embraces the Fire fed to it to keep the Fire burning in a contained fashion. Earth energy also gently guides Water to keep it moving in a beneficial way. Your energy will be perfect for both Tammy and Ted to help them appreciate what the other has to offer. To do this, you will need to develop a bit more structure than you might usually have because both Water and Fire are feed by structured elements. Wood feeds Fire and Metal feeds Water. That means both of the twins will respond positively to a degree of structure.
To get things started, I suggest you arrange an hour to share the Five Element model with Ted and Tammy. Keep it light, but structured – they are the two elements with the least amount of structure. Help them see how their individual elements relate to each other, you, and the whole model. Explain that “controlling” doesn’t have to be bad. It can be something that allows greater freedom. Also help them understand that they have a gift for each other: the ability to experience life through each in ways they will never be able to on their own. This is the dynamic of yin and yang.
To make this real, create opportunities for them to experience how Fire and Water can balance each other. It’s almost summer, Tammy’s time, and everyone appreciates cooling water in the heat. Take your twins to a beach and help them experience the benefit water provides after the heat of the sun. Then remind them of how welcome this heat is during the winter when everything is so cold. What you are teaching them is the importance of balance. If they can learn this now, as they mature Tammy will know she can seek out Ted if she is feeling burned out. And Ted will know that he can seek out Tammy when he is feeling cold and alone.
Your twins are two halves that make a whole. As their Earth mother, you can facilitate their appreciation of the balance they offer each other. If they learn it now, it will be a life-long gift as they grow to realize they can complete each other. Good luck!