Those were the words my singleton son said the other day after we had just dropped off his older, twin brothers for a week at camp.
While not completely surprised by his statement, I did press my youngest on what exactly he meant. “They have each other and I’ve always been more independent,” he answered. “They often do things together while I’m on my own.” He wasn’t sad, just reflective.
It’s true—my twins do many things together and share a big segment of their lives. And many times my singleton is left out of their plans. Part of it is a “twin thing,” that natural bond that began in utero and has blossomed through the years but that’s not the whole story. In fact, it’s such a small part of the equation. He’s left out often because of his age–he’s two-and-a-half years younger than his brothers. A lifetime to teenagers.
Being born on the same day, my twins naturally share many milestones—personal, academic and social. Take this week at camp, for instance. It’s a leadership symposium sponsored by our local archdiocese and open only to 16- and 17-year-old parishioners. If they had offered two different sessions, we would have signed each boy up for a different week but they didn’t. So the boys went together (but are sleeping in different bunks). Furthermore, if they had opened it up to middle-school kids, we would have signed my youngest up, too.
These types of circumstances permeate much of my boys’ lives–they simply have a lot more in common solely because they’re the exact same age. They hang out in the same social circle and often head out together on a Saturday night (although they each have a separate best friend). But they got their driver’s permits together and share the same grade as well as subjects in school. It’s just the bottom line when you’re a twin. Unfortunately, it can come at the expense of having either a younger or older singleton sibling.
But I don’t want to paint this situation with a broad brush—poor, little singleton feels left out and unloved; big older brothers care only for each other and not for their younger brother. It’s not like that at all. To the contrary, my youngest is close to each of his older brothers but in different ways. Besides it’s all just temporary. As they grow into adults, the age-thing won’t be such an issue. The trick, however, is to always be aware of his unusual position within the family and continue nurturing the relationships among all three of them.
So here are my goals for the week that his twin brothers are away:
- Keep business as usual. My youngest still has his chores to do and won’t get off the hook because we feel sorry for him.
- Goal #2: Don’t feel sorry for him! He is not a victim of circumstances.
- Focus the conversation on him and his goals, his dreams for the coming school year.
- Don’t say, “I wonder what your brothers are doing right now?” Keep those thoughts to myself but engage my youngest if he asks the question.
- Spoil him a little by taking him to lunch, seeing the new Spider-Man movie, and going to the park so he can fly his radio-controlled airplane (something I often don’t have the energy or time to do).
- Talk a lot; listen more.
How do you engage your younger, singleton sibling so that he or she doesn’t feel left out?