Connections

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Categories Community, Individuality, Other people, Parenting Twins, Perspective, RelationshipsTags , , , 2 Comments

Yesterday, shortly before 1 pm, my phone rang. It was summer camp. M had been complaining about feeling unwell, and was running a mild fever. I went to pick her up, and asked J whether she wanted to stay at camp or come home with us. J decided to come home because she didn’t see the point of being at camp without her sister.

When I walked to the back of the room to retrieve backpacks, lunch bags and water bottles, a counselor I hadn’t met before approached me.

“I just wanted to say that your girls are just so sweet,” she said to me, smiling. “I saw J crying and asked her what was wrong. She was worried about M not feeling good. She said, ‘She’s my entire world.’ I totally get it. I’m a twin.”

We talked about the counselor’s relationship with her twin brother. She told me that they were the only twins out of her 22 siblings. I thought I’d misheard her, but she confirmed that she had 12 sisters and 9 brothers. (This makes my brain and ovaries hurt simultaneously.) Even with that many siblings, the twin relationship was a special one.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time. Adults we cross paths with, from teens to the elderly, tell me not only about how their sister-in-law’s cousin’s stepmother’s great aunts were twins, but often about their own experience of being part of a set of multiples. I once had a woman stocking wine at the grocery store tell me that her marriage counselor had advised her to stop expecting her husband to be her twin. That advice had saved her marriage. (I’d never met the woman before. People in Texas talk to strangers, and on just about any subject. It’s why I like it here.)

I love how much my daughters care for each other. I know that the teenage years may be especially hard for them, as J and M individuate not only from me, but from each other. It’s nice to hear from adults how precious they hold their connections to their twin siblings and that my daughters’ affection for each other resonates with them. It also helps me rest easy. I don’t need to force my girls to be separate individuals. They’re quite different without my having to push them to be different, but to deny the primacy of twinhood in their lives would be dishonest.

Maybe in 10 or 15 years, it will be J who smiles at the way a pair of young twins interacts with each other, seeing a reenactment of her magical connection to M.

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Same Different: A Constant Pull

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Just as we are working to affirm and encourage individuality in our daughters, they seem committed to being more definite about being treated the same. For example, if one is wearing a sweater to go outside, the other one wants her sweater too. If one is wearing her brother’s shoes or bike helmet, the other wants to do the same. If one of them is reading a book with me, the other one goes to get a book to read. Or, even harder yet, if I’m carrying one, then I’d better be prepared to carry the other one next.

Wearing the big kids' bike helmets

So, I’ve started experimenting to see how they respond to different situations. I’ll admit I’m as curious about multiples and the “twin connection” as the next person. So, I’ll get one girl dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Then I’ll offer her sister a choice of outfits that is either similar to her sister or different.  Now, I can’t say they always choose the same or always choose different, but I can say they are definite about their choices.

At snack time, if one does the sign for milk and her sister does the sign for water. I’ve noticed that if I get water (or milk) for one girl, her sister will change her mind and want the same. If one finishes her snack more quickly and asks for more, her sister will expect more even if she hasn’t finished what she already has.

The other day, I tried switching their cribs to see how they responded. About the only consistently different thing between the girls has been their cribs. Since we moved and set up two cribs in their bedrooms, they have consistently slept in the same crib, unless we get them mixed up, unless the nanny isn’t as concerned about this as I am, as far as I know. So one day when they were playing around a nap time, and neither wanted to get in her crib, I plopped them in to the closest cribs, which meant they were in the “wrong” cribs.  This didn’t seem to bother them at all. Nap time went without any problems.

Riding on the same toy car

So I’m left wondering do they have a sense of individual identity or shared connection or not? Do they care who sleeps in which crib or who has which blanket, or does it only matter when someone is getting special treatment or extra attention?

And most importantly, I continue to wonder how do we foster individuality when they spend so much time together and they seem so much alike?

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Twin connections

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Our identical twin girls are now 18 months old, and they have just recently started to show signs of the special twin connection or bond everyone talks so much about.  Most of the time they are either doing their own things or competing for attention. But, every now and then they’ll show that they are aware of and concerned about each other.  Here are a few examples.

The girls are only allowed to have their soothers in their cribs or in their bedroom.  When I’m changing R, and S is on the floor, S will crawl over to her crib and get her soother.  Then, she’ll get R’s soother and bring it to her. R will do the same thing if I’m changing S first.

S was riding around the living room on a toy car while R was playing in another part of the room.  S wanted to pick up a toy but couldn’t reach it from on the car. She pointed at the toy, but I said she would have to get off and pick it up herself.  Meanwhile R came over and picked up the toy for S. R then went back to playing with her toys.

Recently, I was breastfeeding S before bed.  Nana took R for a walk down the hall to keep her busy for a couple of minutes.  When it was time to trade, I started feeding R and Nana went to put S in her crib.  S was quite upset.  She kept pointing down the hall where her sister had been walking.  So Nana had to take her for a walk even though she hadn’t seen where her sister went while she was feeding.

At dinner they will often trade cups or spoons or bowls. This transaction is a different from when one reaches over and takes something from her sister. They just suddenly pass each other their cups and then continue with their meals.

It is so refreshing to see these moments when so much of my time is spent refereeing or mediating between the two girls and their older brother. I’m looking forward to seeing how this connection develops as they get older, more mobile and more communicative.

Do your multiples share a special bond? When did your children start to develop a special bond? How do you nurture it?

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