I have twins.
Twin boys who are now 8.
Life is challenging. (there, I said it!)
One of the biggest challenges, yet opportunities, is encouraging and celebrating each son individually. Each son is his own person with his own set of likes, interests, strengths and modus operandi. My twins are not completely alike. They are fraternal and are as different as peanut butter and jelly.
When we originally found out we were having twins (and after I broke down sobbing), mommy and I got to work to prepare for the little buggers. We assumed that they would be cute and intelligent (obviously taking after me), but that they would also be very alike. It would be easy to dress them alike and feed them the same things and they would naturally gravitate to play with the same toys. We prepared for their arrival under those grandiose assumptions.
I don’t want to say we were wrong, but…well… we were. From their birth, including at their birth, they have been completely opposite of each other. One son came into the world crying and eager to explore. The other one had to be coaxed out and then consoled when he realized he had left his warm and safe domain.
When we brought them home, they were pretty young to start showing any true personality traits yet. We would dress them alike and feed them the same things as we could. Listen, when one has a poo-poo, he needs to be changed pronto. It really doesn’t matter which onesie you choose, whichever is closest and cleanest will do.
When feeding, we used separate everything, spoons and bottles, etc. Again, what’s ever the most convenient will do.
Over time, we began to notice slight differences in their preferences. One like fruit more. One liked vegetables more. No one liked everything. Then tastes in toys began to appear. In the beginning and for the first few months to a year, these tastes began to become more prominent.
Around this time, we made the decision, that of course we would respect their tastes and preferences individually. After all, each was his own person, albeit baby.
Also, we realized that not only must we accept and respect their differences, we should encourage and celebrate them. We should share our attention to both and each individually. This could be especially tough if one is somehow needing more attention by reason of sickness or disability.
What did happen is that one son began speaking before the other. After a couple of months, we began to worry that the non-speaking one was somehow disabled. We called a social service agency and requested a speech therapist to check him out. It was gonna be free, after all. Almost immediately, he began talking. The therapist said that he was not disabled, he had just chosen that speaking was not a priority to him. This was the same little guy who was also the first to stand up, walk and climb out of the crib. Clearly, physicality was more important to him than conversation. That’s ok, sometimes I’m the same way.
Twins develop in their own way at their own time. One will walk sooner, one will talk sooner, one likes this, the other likes that. One likes pictures or music that is different than the other. It’s all good. I recommend if you have any concerns to get them checked out immediately. However, they will develop individually, too.
Of course, the occasion to discipline will arise. This is one of the toughest challenges for all parents. The single perpetrator needs to be identified and dealt with appropriately. Punishing both for indiscretion of one is a no-no.
Rewards follow the same treatment. Occasionally, the twins together will act in unison and need to be disciplined or rewarded together. My experience is that if they were acting together, it was not for a good thing.
It has been fascinating to watch as they’ve grown and developed. Day care. Pre-K. Kindergarten. And now regular school. They have both formed different friendships based on their personalities along the way. That’s OK. I don’t always understand why or how they choose their friends, but at a younger age, I just go with the flow.
Since mommy and daddy both work full time with varying schedules, setting up playdates is a challenge. Generally, we try to coordinate them with our days off. We like to include both in the playdates even though it has happened that one son is closer to the friend than the other. Not everyone has the time and availability to set up different playdates with different friends for different sons. If you do, that would be my advice. It could be a logistics nightmare, but if you can handle it, more power to you! This will also help them gain their personality and sense of identity.
Embracing the Individualism
As mentioned, we have not had that luxury. The same is true of birthday parties. Just a couple of weeks ago, I took one son to a birthday party for his friend and my other twin was not invited. We requested if he could attend, but the parent hosting the party declined because she could only have a set number at the venue. Fortunately, we would able to find something else for my other son to do.
Each twin deserves love and attention and their own mommy time as well as their own daddy time. They also deserve their own memories including pictures and accomplishments.
One of our sons was diagnosed with a learning disability in school a couple of years ago, at the end of 1st grade. We have had to spend extra time with him on his homework because of his disability. He has not grasped reading as quickly as his brother. One of our primary concerns is that if we spend so much time with this one, who happens to be the same one who talked later than the other, is to not neglect the other one whose reading ability is already above his grade level.
Raising twins is a glorious challenge. I want to do everything right and not make any mistakes and ultimately raise the best kids I can. Of course, I made mistakes and will probably make more. I may never know how I did. I won’t be around when they’re 50 to see how their lives turned out. I’ve decided the best thing I CAN do is be present in their lives and to love and cherish them individually and to try and hang on to my sanity in the process.
Special note: Thanks to Sergeant Major Mommy! Raising twins is truly a team effort.
Do you dress your twins alike? How do you make sure that they are expressing their individuality?
We want to know!