It’s not like my kids are carbon copies of each other. Yes, they are twins but they as fraternal twins, they’re about as alike as my brother and I are (3.5 years apart). My “babies” are true siblings that happen to have shared two uniquely common things: space in my belly, and their day of birth…but that’s where the similarities end. Nothing else about them is really the same – their looks differ, their interests differ, and their personalities differ (drastically).
Yet, everyone thinks of them as a unit. To everyone at school, they are known as “The Twins.” To their grandparents, they are known as “The Babies.” Even my husband and I sometimes refer to them as a single unit. We most certainly treat them as a single unit solely out of logistical convenience – they share a room, they share toys, and they even used to share clothes. As a result, I worry that my kids are getting short-changed because they are not thought of as individuals but rather as a pair.
On a superficial level, when they receive gifts (birthday gifts, Christmas gifts), they often receive one item to share with a card labeled, “To A&B.” Sometimes, it’s one large combined gift, but many times, it’s just a regular gift for sharing between the two of them. While I, as their mom, understand that it might not occur to gift givers to offer two gifts (and I’m truly grateful for the gift that they did receive), try explaining to a preschooler why they have to share a single small gift when all the other kids each got their own.
On a less superficial level, my children are being inadvertently excluded from activities because other parents believe that they’re built-in entertainment for each other. I often hear things like, “You’re so lucky to have two – your kids have each other so you don’t need to make playdates on the weekends…” Just recently, a mom said to me, “We’re going to the Fairy event, but since A/Boy won’t want to go, you probably don’t want to go out of your way to bring B/Girl…” I completely understand that these parents are operating out of survival; making playdates to help pass the time on the weekends, but my kids would love to come play with children other than each other. Think about it – if you had a sibling growing up, how often did extended “quality time” with your sibling(s) NOT result in fighting?? When my kids learn that their friends got together over the weekend, they feel sad and excluded and believe me, at this age, they understand exclusion.
I need to listen to myself when it comes to treating my kids individually. They’ve been at each other’s sides since conception and I can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been apart for anything other than doctor’s appointments. I KNOW that I need to separate them more because they do thrive when they’re apart, both academically and socially. A becomes much more outgoing and dives right in with his friends. B stops worrying about what A is doing, and really engages herself in whatever activity is going on.
Kindergarten is just around the corner for my kids (fall of 2015). The policy in our school district is to separate twins by default, and if parents feel that this is a problem, they can appeal to keep them together. Many moms of multiples, particularly ones that haven’t had their kids in a daycare/preschool setting, feel that it’s in their children’s best interests to keep the multiples together in the same classroom. Some families even move specifically to be in a school district that allows them to keep their multiples together.* I fully intend on allowing our school to separate them even though for me, it will be a logistical nightmare. I do believe that it will foster individuality, build to their strengths and will be in their best interest in the long run.
* In Connecticut, the decision to keep multiples together / split them apart is at the discretion of the school district.