How to Help Your Twins Develop an Emotional Backbone

While I was out for my early morning walk the other day, it suddenly hit me that my twins had to wear neckties to school that day. You see, they attend a Catholic high school and it was Ash Wednesday, a mass day. One problem. I left before everyone was out of bed and I’m the only one in the house who knows how to tie a tie! The only female. (Yes, not even my husband.) So I did what any other mother would have done in my position—I took off running towards home hoping to catch them before they left for school. As I was huffing and puffing, pushing myself up and down my neighborhood’s hilly streets to get there in time, I thought, “Why am I trying to save them?” If I keep making life easy for them, how will they ever learn to fend for themselves?

For better or worse, we all want to protect and shelter our kids from physical harm, emotional pain, and failure. We hate to see them hurt or sad. It’s normal. But when you’re a parent to multiples, there’s that added impulse to try to keep things balanced within the twinship, too. You want to make everything fair, fifty-fifty, even-steven for fear that if not, one twin will feel slighted. Many twins are indoctrinated to this line of thinking early in their lives. If one twin is invited to a birthday party, for instance, many parents of multiples will simply pick up the phone and politely ask if it’s OK for the uninvited twin to tag along as well. It’s seems unfair to have one twin sad when it’s an easy fix, right?

fraternal twins with arms around each otherBut many parents continue this balancing act throughout their multiples’ childhood. One mom told me that when only one of her twins was accepted into the gifted program at school while the other was not, she chose not to tell either of her children and secretly declined the offer for fear that if only one enrolled in the program it would set off a rivalry between her sons. Another mom told me that when her twins’ school had a limited number of available spaces for an upcoming science fair with the lucky participants chosen by lottery, she convinced their teacher to put both boys’ names on a single entry.

I truly do understand these moms’ impulses. But there’s a question that begs to be asked: When we even the playing field for our twins, what’s the message we’re sending them? Don’t worry, your twinship will protect you from many disappointments? As adults we all know that life is anything but fair so why do we try to shelter our twins a bit more than if they were singletons? As parents to multiples, it’s our responsibility—however difficult—to help our twins and triplets develop an emotional backbone so that down the road when life really hands them a disappointment (college rejection, failed relationship, missed job promotion) they can shake it off and move on rather than feel immobilized by it. When one twin succeeds where the other fails, instead of trying to fix it, offer a hug and comforting words instead. Don’t deny the opportunity for the twin who failed to feel the rejection. Allow him to feel the disappointment, to live it. Sympathize with the hurt twin, or share a story of when you were in a similar situation and then move on. He will get through it and be stronger for it!

So did I get back to the house in time to save my twins from after-school detention, the consequence for not wearing a tie to school that day?

Yes and no.

Just as I got to the bottom of the hill near my house, I saw our car turning the corner and I frantically began waving my arms. They saw me and pulled over. They smiled at me dressed in their starched white shirts and perfectly tied ties! I was shocked.

“How did you do it?” I asked.

My son in the front seat laughed mockingly, “It’s called YouTube, Mom.”

Pretty resourceful. Perhaps I should hang up my Super Hero cape and call it a day.

7 thoughts on “How to Help Your Twins Develop an Emotional Backbone

  1. Sonya fox

    I Was fanatical at one time that everything had to be equal. The same number of hugs, the same type and number of toys for gifts etc. it wasn’t until I had a conversation with someone, where I was complaining that my mother in law was favoring my son that I realized my actions and how destructive they would be. As I talked I mentioned that I felt I needed to compensate and give more attention to my daughter when my MIL was around, and it wasn’t until that point that I heard myself say the words that I fully grasped what I was doing. I also realized that life is not fair and I don’t have the right to impose a perfectly equal playing field on my kids because that is not preparing them for the reality of life. For my kids the attention from people outside, and the difference they felt between them might be cause for niggling remarks, but feeling that difference coming from me would have devasting effects. From that point I’ve looked at my kids more as individuals, looking for ways that I can validate each of them in ways that they each appreciate. My son needs more hugs than my daughter, my daughter wants me to notice her achievements. I only regret that as a flat out working mum I don’t have much time to set up individual date nights or outings, but I look for times when I can grab some alone time with each child (including my younger singleton).

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