It saddens me to hear one of my twins say “and not Liam?”, or “and not Gregory?” to be reassured they are getting privileged access or a compliment the other isn’t receiving. They are looking to be different, better, privileged from their twin. My answers always fail to address their desperation to be the favored one because I am also concerned with encouraging them equally. I hope to help them realize their own inner differences, but I don’t think I should have to say one is better at something than the other at this early stage of development. That is often what they wish me to do.
As parents we have tried to strike a balance between fairness and recognition. My husband and I have midnight discussions after everyone is in bed, hashing out whether we are executing fairness and recognition fairly and equitably.
I have not read a book that truly addresses this twin issue at the level our twins are experiencing it.
Twins are people, they are siblings, individuals, but alas they are also twins. One twin I met in a department, store told me being a twin is like being a couple. Another twin I met at a coffee shop, told me being a twin feels very cozy, and that her concept of sharing with her twin has extended to finances as an adult– to the dismay of her husband.
When my twins were very little, I asked every twin I met what it was like to be a twin. The answers were often blurred and fuzzy, because the college-aged twins I was asking hadn’t ever thought about it much. When I asked about sharing, or whether they ever wanted private space I could see the wheels turning, but the answers were always a bit vague and deflected. I began to realize that it is difficult to contemplate whether you would have ever wanted more private time, or space, if you never even had the concept of such a thing. Nor would it be easy to imagine being a more separate person, doing more separate activities if you never saw yourself as truly separate.
I’ve been warned of the extreme competition that twins experience. Well meaning and regretful parents have told me that, looking back, they should have had more one-on-one time with their individual twins so that they could see their own worth apart from their twin. They felt that would ease the competition they now experience.
One thing I know for sure, the struggle for identity, for the reassurance of love, and the worry of being lesser than one’s twin is the painful part of the relationship that will likely never go away.
One of my twins accidentally hurt the other. He now manifests the guilt by imagining he experienced the same bodily damage he inflicted upon his twin. He tells me he is bleeding and that his tooth is missing. He does this with horror and emotion, pleading me to take him seriously. Both tell me their tooth is regrowing– with hope that the reality is not as final as it is. I think their sharing of this experience runs deeper than even the most sympathetic siblings.
So as I’ve been raising my twins, I’ve tried to keep all of this in mind. We are still in the thick of raising them so my understanding of twins will certainly deepen as we go through life.