When our twins were born, I quickly realized that the more I did with my babies as a set, the more validation I got as a mom. The average person would look on as I tandem breastfed and would marvel at my accomplishment. Merely navigating the aisles of the supermarket with one baby in the cart and the other in a sling was enough to garner looks of approval and a brief adult conversation or two. All this was so needed early on that I actually feared taking out only one baby and no longer being “special”. On top of all of this, there was so much of an accepted mystique about twins and how they should always be together, that they would miss each other and so forth.
Over time I realized that this widely held belief that twins prefer to be together was actually getting in the way of many things. As my children have gotten older, I have really come to understand that although it is a unique and wonderful thing to be a twin, it is perhaps even more wonderful to be known for one’s own individual self. One of my favorite quotes is from the book Siblings Without Rivalry: “To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely – for one’s own special self – is to be loved as much as we need to be loved”.
Over the years I have done a lot to help my children feel that they are known for their own individual selves, not just as part of a set. Although we do a lot as a family, we also spend a great deal of one on one time with each of them, they have play dates without the other, they have separate rooms, they will be in separate classes when they start Kindergarten next year, we encourage separate after school activities and so forth. This does nothing to diminish their bond as siblings or twins; in fact, I believe it strengthens it immensely.
Of all of the things we do to nurture their individuality and encourage their sense of self, what has most recently seemed to make the greatest impact on them was having separate birthday parties for their 5th birthday.
We always had two birthday cakes and sang “Happy Birthday” to them separately, but this year I offered them the opportunity to have a party of their own and they jumped at it. Over the next couple of months the excitement built, they told everyone about their respective parties, what the theme was going to be and who was coming. Most of all, they told everyone that they were having their own party, just for them. I began to realize that it was a different sense of excitement than in previous years, this time it was a chance for each of them to bask in the glow of their special day when everyone is there for them, without having to share that experience with another person.
Most of you who have a sibling know the feeling of having to share toys or clothes or maybe a room. But few siblings of different ages have to share a birthday. It is just obvious to most parents that each child would get his or her own birthday party. Yet the reaction from many people was one of surprise when I said I was doing this for my children.
Although throwing two birthday parties in one weekend was more work (and a greater expense) for us, seeing the joy our children had being able to experience their special day just for themselves was well worth it. On top of this, the experience also allowed us to teach them lessons about being gracious when it was not their day, being aware of their own feelings as well as the feelings of their sibling, exercising patience and most importantly, having the awareness that they were each being honored for who they are, as individuals.
Gina Osher is a former holistic healer turned parenting coach and mother of boy/girl twins. She is also the author of the blog, The Twin Coach in which she offers advice, bares her soul, works though her imperfect parenting moments and continues on her journey to be a more joyful parent. Gina is dedicated to helping others find both a deeper understanding of themselves and a stronger connection to the children they love.