Having twins is a two for one. All the joy with half the headache. One pregnancy, two beautiful angelic babies. Get the dirty diapers, the potty training and all the developmental challenges over pretty quickly. Playmates and best friends for life. Sharing clothes. One pick up and drop off for extracurricular activities. Constant peace and encouragement.
And if you’re still reading up to this point I hope you’ve figured out that the above paragraph is the dream, not the reality. As I write this the twins are upstairs yelling, threatening, playing musical instruments and rearranging each other’s room “for fun”. It has resulted in disaster, and any attempt from mom to intervene has been thwarted. I encourage them to pick up the stuff on the floor and not try to rearrange all the books or replace the clothes in the drawers with toys. They are not interested.
I asked my own kids what they like about being a twin and this is what they told me:
- having someone to play with
- having more toys
- not being the only one in trouble
- being good with my twin because then we get to do something really special
- being the one to lose more teeth
Then I asked them what’s hard about being a twin. They said:
- fighting with my sister
- when the other one is being really bad and we were going to do something really good but then we can’t because the other one is so bad
- being blamed on me even though the other one did it
- what’s hard is when the other one did a good job and you didn’t, the other one gets to do something good and you don’t
- yea, that’s kind of terrible
Sometimes people tell me how lucky I am that the twins are my first, so that I don’t know the difference between having one baby to care for and having two. This is what I say to them.
I’ve had a heck of a time raising twins. And I’m not saying my journey is any easier than anyone else’s. I’ve met people with all sorts of families. Triplets. People with four or more kids and some with special needs. People with kids who have had scary medical journeys. People struggling with personal difficulties and whose kids have their own challenging difficulties. No judgement on anyone and I’m definitely aware that my journey could be harder. Yet, we do have our challenges. This is what I’ve concluded so far in my 7 years as a twin mom:
- Often having two babies is twice the work as having one. You change twice the diapers, do twice the clean up, make twice the trips to the car and back, and try to calm twice the number of crying babies. You brush twice the teeth and do twice the showers and God forbid one kid gets 2 for 1 shampoo and conditioner while the other one gets separate shampoo and conditioner- this is just not fair or equal… which leads to the next conclusion:
- Twins have a huge natural rivalry. At least mine do. You cannot compliment one without the other needing to know you think well of them. You cannot do something with one without the other one needing it done as well. You cannot give one a handful of food without counting out the exact number of items so that the other one knows things are equal. There’s a constant underlying worry of inequity with kids who are close in age. (Please note parents of siblings, I can hear you saying loud and clear that this happens with any siblings, but I’m willing to bet there’s a little more urgency with twins.) Lately, when you ask one daughter what she wants she will automatically reply “I’ll have what my sister is having.” She knows is easier that way.
- Friendship is complicated. Since twins are a package deal, they often have a playdate together. When they even have a playdate. We’ve struggled getting people to have playdates with us. People may enjoy them but do not recognize them as individuals. They are referred to as “the twins” or as “AutumnandBriana.” People wave and say hi to them with both names, since they do not know whom they are addressing. Having a personal identity is huge. Having an attached-to-your-twin identity is at times a little lonely. And a smart older friend can quite easily manipulate your emotions when they realize that they have the power to play with one twin and exclude the other.
- You have to compromise your wants to appease your twin. One twin was dominant for a while, and now the other one has really caught up and surpassed her sister. They show great problem resolution skills. They have the ability to comfort and help one another. They have strong interpersonal communication skills. But only when they choose to. More often than not they prefer to fight.
- Biting, hitting, calling names, scratching, kicking, screaming and shouting. A lot. Like almost every day this week. It’s tough. I am hopeful that these behaviors will fade. And they will choose to use their problem resolution, communication and comforting skills instead. Yet at age 7 these two experience more delight in the power and control of fighting. It ain’t pretty.
- Their behavior plays off of each other. When one has been fussy and throwing fits for a few days, the other one will definitely be doing it a day or two later. When one gets upset, crying and screaming, the other one is often in mental anguish at the pain of her sister. I suspect their mirror neurons are quite strong, and they feel each other’s emotions intensely.
- They struggle being alone. Lately the girls are scared of giants and hyenas. (We recently watched the Lion King). So they think that going upstairs by themselves means they will get attacked by giants or hyenas. They insist on the other one going with them. Or a parent being there. First thing in the morning, one calls the other one into their room. At night they sometimes sneak into the other kid’s room. And if the other one doesn’t come when called, the first one is indignant, angry and creates quite the scene.
- They push each other to learn and grow. When one gains a skill, the other one works hard at it and soon gains it too. They have switched back and forth with being the one to learn something new. The first one to crawl was not the first one to walk. The first one to lose a tooth has not lost more teeth than her twin. The one who first demonstrated amazing ability in math is no longer in the lead with her math skills. What one does the other one catches onto. They do have their own identity, interests and charms. But they also constantly observe and listen to one another, and this often propels them to work harder to keep up and grow.
- They reinforce behavior in one another. Their speech has similar qualities- they often mispronounce the same words (demand is remand for example.) They sit in pretzel shapes at the table and eat quite messily with their hands. I repeatedly remind them to eat over their plates, use silverware and keep their feet on the floor. One started being sensitive to the chewing noises mom and dad make, and now both overreact to that on a constant basis. Their latest trend is saving every wrapper, box and food container to reuse. After eating a granola bar, for example, they will run and throw the wrapper on the floor in their toy room to reuse later. Which can drive mom and dad crazy, but also makes me laugh.
- Life can be fun! The girls are known for the hats at school. It just kind of happened. They each have a trucker hat with an airbrushed picture of Pokemon dabbing on it. They each have a Santa hat. They each have crocheted pumpkin hats. They have crocheted llama hats. They like to wear that hats and sometimes wear them all day at school. In the middle of September. (What people don’t realize is the reason they don’t take them off is fear of their hair being messed up.) Also dance parties are a blast. But full of rivalry (mom dance with me how you danced with my sister.)
- Alone time with one twin is golden. When one girl is home sick from school, we have a rare peaceful day together. When I can, I try to spend ten minutes alone with one kid then ten minutes just with the other. Having uninterrupted attention from a loving parent is healthy. It is helpful with lowering stress and reminds my girls that parents are there to love and support you. The girls listen to me better after we have had our alone time. Alas, it is a challenge to do it in a busy day when there is school, after school, dinner, showers, and an early bed time. It seems when trying to set up 10 minutes, it takes 15 just to discuss it, it agree to it and figure out what to do. Parenting is busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tell me if I’ve got it right or disagree with me if you like. What parenting stories do you have? Comment below and let me know.