It all started with dance class.
My three-year-old daughter desperately wanted a chance to whirl around on her tippy toes in front of a wall-length mirror while dressed in frilly pink duds. As Abbey gazed longingly at the pages of the Angelina Ballerina books – you know, the ones featuring the little white mouse in the pink leotard -- she decided that she wanted to emulate the little rodent. When I finally relented and signed her up for a class, Abbey giddily emitted a positively pink-tinted squeal as she pirouetted in the living room in her ballet shoes.
Standing off to the corner was her twin brother Jonah, kicking at the ample lint on the rug. Clearly, he wasn’t pleased. This would be the first time they’d done anything apart. Virtually everything -- from baths, to shopping trips, to library story times – had been done in tandem.
Until dance class.
My husband Scott and I weren’t sure how the thick-as-thieves duo would respond to this separation. But, much to our surprise, once we found Jonah his own activities – a soccer class and trips to the driving range with Daddy, complete with a miniature Snoopy driver – each child blossomed.
During Abbey’s dance class, Jonah and his baby brother Casey would accompany Mommy to the local doughnut shop, have some doughnut holes and milk and later bounce around the mini-van to tunes of their choosing. During Jonah’s golfing or soccer, Abbey would have special time with Mommy to either just hang out or run errands.
The time each child was able to spend without his or her twin made us realize that, once separated, they acted like different people, which, for parents of twins, is something you have to keep reminding yourself of, particularly when the love bundles are very young. Sure it’s fun to accentuate the “twinness” when your children are babies. It makes them, and you, stand out from the crowd. It’s fun to even dress them alike, to call attention to their uniqueness.
But there’s a drawback to all that twin-centered attention. People start referring to them as a unit, “the twins,” instead of by their individual names. They start being seen as a singular package, not two distinct people. People may do things like bring one birthday gift to the children’s birthday party for the kids to share, when they’d never dream of expecting a single child born alone to share his or her birthday gift with a younger or older sibling whose birthday is on another day. There comes a time when you want your kids to be recognized as who they are: two kids with different names, likes, dislikes and talents.
What I hadn’t realized until the advent of Abbey’s dance class, was that when Jonah and Abbey are together, they spend a lot of time vying for attention (“Mommy’s reading my book.” “No, MY turn with MY book!”). They jockey for position for a toy (“My marker!” “No mine!”). They bounce likes and dislikes off of one another (“You like these peas?” “Naw!” “Me neither.”). And, of course, they fight.