A friend of mine has twins who are about a year younger than mine (which would put them right around 15 months). She has a babysitter who comes in for 4 hour chunks several times a week so she can do some part time work at home or run errands or do whatever needs doing. But she also uses her sitter as an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with each kid. For example, the sitter might come at a time when she’s signed up for a mommy and me type of class, so she’ll take just one (and alternate from week to week) instead of taking both. I’ll admit, at first this seemed strange to me. Why not just take both? I know the other gets to go the following week, but I felt bad for the kid left at home who didn’t get to attend the music class or art class or whatever sort of activity it was. And I prided myself for being the kind of MoM who can handle taking both of my kids out to a library storytime or playdate at the playground by all by myself.
But recently, I’ve begun to see her strategy as very, very wise and healthy. Because Tiny and Buba spend all day every day together. And yes, I have some one on one time with each kid throughout the day (as does my husband when he’s on duty in the afternoon while I do some very part time work outside the home), but the other kid is always nearby. On the weekends, we tend to spend our time together as a family, something there really isn’t much time for during the week. Our kids have seemed happy enough with this arrangement, so we haven’t questioned it much.
But last weekend, while we were poking around at a yard sale not too far from our house, my son got very, very fussy. It was clear that he needed to leave. So, my husband pulled an umbrella stroller out of the car, and took off with Buba while Tiny and I stayed to look around. The second the van started up Tiny began to scream and cry, “Buba! Buba!” She didn’t want to stay if he wasn’t staying too. She demanded that I hold her and refused to walk, as she’d been doing since the moment we’d gotten out of the van. Instead of smiling and waving to all the people and cars who came by, she clung to me. And whenever a stranger spoke to her, Tiny tried to bury her head into my shoulder. This was not the Tiny I knew.
I don’t doubt that my twins share a special bond that I’ll never fully comprehend. But seeing Tiny fall apart like that has made me realize that without the one-to-one time, I’m not helping my kids to see themselves and each other as individuals. And I really want my kids to feel confident and happy when they’re apart as well as when they’re together. But I don’t know how they’ll learn to feel that way if we don’t ever give them the opportunity to practice.