Question: I just found that I am pregnant with a boy—our third. Our fraternal twin boys will be two and a half when the baby is born. I am experiencing some unwanted and unexpected gender shock/disappointment but that is a whole other issue. I bring this up because I’m curious as to how this is all going to go with three boys, two of whom are twins. For their whole lives, I have viewed the twins as being so close and loved them being close. They do everything together—hug, kiss, fight over toys. I’m so worried that this new little boy will disrupt the balance of how things are now. I thought if I were having a girl things could continue—I could love the twin brother bond and spoil the little girl who would be special in her own right due to being the only girl. But I am already feeling bad for this little boy. Will he know where his place is and what will his role be in the family? I just don’t know how to do any of this. Do you have any advice? Are your boys close and do they view themselves as brothers first, twins second? Do your twins have a closer bond than the third boy?
Answer: The timing of our children and the zygosity of each is exactly the same. My fraternal twin boys were two and a half when my singleton son was born. So I understand your concerns and worries but take it from me, it will all work out fine.
I remember when I went into labor with my third—I cried as we left for the hospital, thinking of how everything was about to change. Yet, when I held my youngest son in my arms for the first time, I fell madly in love. The bonding experience with him was completely different than when I had my twins. It was more intimate, more intense, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Three days later when I checked out of the hospital, I cried again. This time because I didn’t want to leave!
But let’s talk about some of your concerns.
You write, “I’m so worried that this new little boy will disrupt the balance of how things are now.” You got that right! Yes, your newborn son will definitely disrupt the family but so would a daughter. Bringing home a third child, regardless of sex or zygosity, changes the family dynamics forever. Period. But that doesn’t mean you won’t quickly adapt. You will.
Next, when referring to your twins’ bond, you write, “For their whole lives, I have viewed the twins as being so close and loved them being close. They do everything together…” Yes, that sounds about right. Young twins spend more time with each other than with anyone else, even mom, but I smiled when I saw the words, “their whole lives.” They’re only two years old! Only two short years out of a long lifetime. Although they are close now, their relationship will grow and evolve. Once they hit the school years, your twins’ social circle will widen tremendously. And it should. Your twins need to develop close relationships with others in order to develop into emotionally mature adults, and that includes forging strong bonds with their other siblings, not just with each other.
But as a parent, you may need to help your twins foster those outside relationships. How? First, start by changing your vocabulary and your family’s vision. Don’t put all your focus on “The Twins.” Instead think of your children as just that, your children. Don’t put them into categories: twins over here, singletons over there. And the twin bond? It will take care of itself without encouragement from you. In fact, when parents place a strong emphasis on the “twin bond,” putting stereotypical expectations on their twins, it sometimes has the opposite effect of pushing twins apart. I get dozens of emails each year from twins who feel suffocated in their relationships with their doppelgängers due to the pressure they felt growing up to take care of each other. Everyone around them expected them to be close, to do everything together. Many twins push back and pull away.
Although my twins are close, they still see each other as brothers first, twins second. “It’s a title and nothing more than that,” one twin told me. The “twin-thing,” he added, is only brought up by others, it’s not something he or his twin thinks about on a daily basis. And how does my singleton fit into his brothers’ lives? All three are tight. They all attend the same large state university and hang out with each other often. All three have many of the same interests and even friends. But from the time my boys were little, we made the effort to ensure that all three boys were treated individually and that each twin had a relationship with their younger brother. If I had to run errands on a Saturday morning, for instance, I’d take only one twin and the singleton so they’d have a chance for some one-on-one time. (The other twin would stay home with his dad.) If one got invited to a party and the other didn’t, I encouraged the party-goer to go alone. And once a year, we had all three boys switch bedrooms so at some point the singleton roomed with each twin. It was this focus on each boys’ individuality that I believe strengthened their connection and bond with many, not just with their twin.
My singleton has never felt it was two against one. In fact, he believes his relationship with his brothers is more like the Three Musketeers—one for all and all for one. His brothers have always provided support, offering advice to him on what lies ahead such as how to navigate high school, for instance. And his relationship with each twin offers his brothers a chance to be someone else other than just a twin—a chance to be a true individual.
Bringing a new baby into the family is indeed stressful but truly exciting time for everyone. By the bottom line is simply—see each child individually and love each child uniquely and the rest will fall into place.