In my last post, I wrote about how my oldest daughter is angry and acting out, jealous over the attention her twin brothers get from us, each other, their extended family, and from the public at large.
When the boys were little, we tried to make sure our daughter got special attention from us. She stayed up later, and she and I had tea parties together in the evenings. We went on little outings most weekends, to run errands or swing by the park.
Our boys were almost two before either of them got one-on-one time with a parent, out of the house and away from potential interruption by the other children. And those times were few and far between – mostly involving ER and urgent care visits. We poured most of our extra time into our daughter, who seemed to need us more. After all, our boys have each other.
That, right there, is the myth. Even when it benefits my singleton by securing her more individual attention from her parents and grandparents, we’re perpetuating a myth that hurts her: that she is incomplete, and would be – what? – more confident, less lonely, less needy, more whole – if only she had a twin. To treat her as though she needs more and her brothers need less, is to reinforce the lie she believes – that she is missing something that would complete her.
Our boys are 6 now, and even though they miss each other when they’re apart, they want one-on-one time with us. And they deserve it, as much as their sisters do. They might deserve it more, because they’ve certainly received less individual attention over their lifetimes than either of their singleton sisters has.
I struggle with meeting each of their needs for my undivided attention, like any busy parent does. Clearly the strategy we employed for the first 5 or so years of the boys’ lives – giving their older sister more time because she seemed to need it more – did not work. And as the boys have gotten older we’ve run into more situations where their being twins is not a boon, but a burden for them. Our new strategy is to treat them equally. Our twins are no more special than our singletons, nor any less deserving of our time and attention.
Because our kids are so close in age – and because our oldest needs to be in bed by 7:30 to keep her temper in check – they have the same bedtime. Our individual time comes on weekends. We rotate; each child gets one “date” with Mom and one with Dad before the next round begins. We started this over the summer and are still working through round 2.
I have no idea whether the “equality” approach to parenting is the right one, but I’m hoping that by consciously treating each child the same way, rather than according to what I perceive to be his or her need, I’ll be able to soothe my daughter’s fears that she’s missing something important and drive home to my boys that they are complete as separate individuals, as well.
(One of you asked about my youngest and how she feels – she’s not yet 4 and seems well adjusted so far. Most of her strong feelings hinge on things like Cheetos and her princess nightgown and when she watches “Dora,” so it’s hard to tell how badly I’ve screwed her up at this point.)
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.