I called one of my twins from work the other day. “Are you lonely?” I asked. On the last day of his spring break and with his cotwin gone with a buddy for the day, I worried that he might be feeling left out.
“Lonely?” he laughed. “I’m here with my three best friends: Pandora, XBox, and iTouch. No waiting for a turn. No arguing over my music. I now know the joy of only children. I want to be one of them!”
He was joking (I think) but his point is well taken. When you’re a twin, you’re rarely completely alone. Sure, all kids within a family lack a certain amount of privacy or alone time. But by nature of their unique relationship, twins share so much more with each other (birthdays, developmental milestones, friends, classrooms, bedrooms, interests and hobbies) than families with single-born children that it can be difficult for some twins to feel what it’s like to be by themselves for an extended period of time. Furthermore, singleton children often spend time away from their families from a much earlier age than twins.
That’s what Mary Rosambeau found. The psychologist and author of How Twins Grow Up (now out of print) interviewed more than 600 twins and their parents and found that the average singleton is about nine years old when he or she spends two or more nights apart from family for the first time. Twins, on the other hand, are 14 1/2 years old when they venture away from family and cotwin for the first time. That’s a whopping five-year-plus difference!
I was shocked at that little bit of data when I first read it years ago. Yet fast forward to 2011 and somehow these statistics now fit my family to a tee. At age 15, my twins have never spent a night apart from each other! Sure, they’ve spent nights away from us, their parents, but not from one another. It just hasn’t happened. They’ve done sleepovers at relatives’ and friends’ houses but they were always together. And they’ve even gone away for five days on a sixth-grade class trip to Catalina Island, but since they’re in the same grade, they were never far from each other during that trip.
By contrast, my youngest son, a singleton, had a regular sleepover circuit with his friends by age ten. He even took that same trip to Catalina Island when he was in sixth grade but he didn’t have a cotwin in which to rely on when he felt homesick. (As an interesting side note: My twins didn’t feel any homesickness on that trip to Catalina. They could have stayed another week. My singleton, however, was very emotional when he returned home. Yes, he had a great time but he also found it difficult to be away from family for so long.)
So what do I make of all this? How important is it for my twins to spend a night apart? What, if anything, will spending a night away from their cotwin teach them about themselves?
And what about your twins? Have they ever spent a night away from one another?