A little over eleven years ago, I was blessed with identical twin boys. I was a mother for the first time. It was exciting, but it was also quite intimidating! From the moment the test came back positive, every single decision I made, and everything I did, had a new implication. "How will this affect my children?" I'm not going to touch the truly divisive parenting topics - but I will share with you some that twin moms face.
I passed my pregnant days with sweet visions of little boys dressed in matching outfits. I had a mental scrapbook in my mind. I would shepherd these boys into adulthood as a team. They would share a childhood of wonderment under my loving tutelage and they would grow up to be best friends. I had plenty of hopes and plans.
Until I began to read. Compulsively. I not only had to be a good mother, I had to be a good mother of twins! I wanted to do everything right. That was probably my first mistake. The books came with an invisible friend - self doubt. It crept in and set up camp in my brain, sent butterflies to my stomach, and made my heart skip a beat if I thought too hard. When I became obviously pregnant, the questions and well meaning advice came fast and furious. My head was spinning.
According to these books, websites, and people with good intentions, I was on course to destroy my children's lives. Dressing them alike would cause them to lose their self identity. Keeping them together in school would isolate them from their peers and they'd never have friends. If they were too close as adults, they would never marry and be doomed to a bachelor life forever. Yikes!
Now that it's all in the rearview mirror, I've had some revelations. A mother's heart is worth more than a hundred books. We know our children, and we know ourselves. Our intuition is strong, and we should listen to it. This came to me in bits in pieces along the way. I have also learned that although none of us will ever get motherhood perfect, most mistakes can be repaired, and some will make us better parents if we learn from them. These realizations didn't come as a single epiphany - but over time.
It started with my baby shower. My wonderful friends bought some of the most adorable matching outfits I have ever seen. Perhaps only the threat of death would have kept me from putting those clothes on my babies. I rationalized that for the first two years of their lives, self-identity wasn't going to be high on their list of needs. I was fairly certain that love, affection, clean bottoms and full fed bellies would trump any esteem issues. I was right. Even more interesting, when I began to dress them differently, they hated it! They chose to dress alike until they were about five. Then, without any discussion, they slowly stopped. Now they are happy to live with a guy who is the same size and shares similar taste. They have a much bigger assortment of things to choose from.
Then came toys. I was told if I bought two of everything I would spoil them. They had to learn to share! Really? I think twins aged five and under might be only people in the world who don't need any advice or counseling about sharing. From the moment of conception, they share a womb. As infants, instead of a a lot of quiet one on one time with mom, they have to share a tired, frazzled mother. They share their first (and every other) birthday, their first Christmas, their first day of school. There are very few moments when a young twin has the spotlight all to himself. Having his own little piece of plastic shaped like Superman isn't going to spoil him. I quickly put that notion out of my head.
Then came school. I'm happy to say that I was part of the movement to let parents decide what is best for their twins in school, but it wasn't the case when my boys began. My district had a policy that they would be separated. Period. There was no discussion of their special needs. That was just the way it would be. The rationale was that it would allow them to create great new friendships and develop a sense of rugged individualism. In many children this is absolutely the case; separate classrooms are best. For my boys, it created feelings of insecurity. Whenever they were in the same area, they would gravitate to each other immediately. They became anxious and unhappy. Although I assured them that it would get better, I was pretty sure I was wrong. I eventually took them out of public school and we homeschool now. They are far more relaxed, and as they get older, more mature, and more sure of themselves, they are finding it easier to make new friends. They often go off without each other to enjoy the company of other people their age. It all works out.
I don't know what will happen to them as adults. If their conversations are any indications, they fully intend to get married, have families, and live apart from each other - just not too far! That sounds pretty healthy to me!
I remember all the books on parenting conflicting themselves. Put them on a schedule, no don't. Lay them on their side, no their back, no their tummy. It wasn't until I got rid of that little 'self-doubt' dude that parenting really took hold. I don't know how you did it with twins. God bless you!
I just read this and I really liked it. When I was pregnant with my boys, I was terrified from the books I had read, and stories I had heard. And yes, it was bad at first! Sometimes I dress them alike, but mostly, we're lucky if they get dressed at all. I have learned over the past 11 months to treat them as individuals, not identical twins, and they seem to respond to that very well. They have such different personalities, and catering to that is often very tiring, but it's worth it. I worry less about what the books and other mothers say, and just listen to the cues from my very different, very unique indentical twin boys. :)
Sometimes parents (all of us!) read too many books and have no confidence in our own instincts! Children are individuals and what works in a book doesn't always work in real life! congrats on sticking to your own instincts!
I love what you said about twins sharing. I have twin cousins, a dear friend who is a twin, a niece and nephew who are twins, and the relationship it always amazes me.
You observations about what your twins need is so much more powerful than what you could have learned in a book. "Experts" always flip-flop on what is best for kids, including twins, so what do they know?! I don't have twins but my observation has always been that twins do better when they're together in classes, similar to your experience. They are lucky to be twins and they can't take advantage of their twin-ness when they are separated!
I have so much respect for my friends who have twins. It seems like a crazy experience!