One of the more entertaining aspects to writing this blog is sifting through all the interesting search terms people use in order to find it. Most are obvious and self-explanatory such as “twin pregnancy blog” or “can identical twins look different?” Some are puzzling like ”which twin to introduce first?” But my all-time favorite has to be ”what is the teeny twin used for?” (Don’t ask me what they were looking for—I haven’t a clue.)
This week, however, I spotted a search phrase that struck a cord. “Is it OK to invite only one twin?”
Short answer? Yes. Please do.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this question from (I presume) a parent without twins. A few years back, for instance, a friend who is the mother of two singletons, called me for a bit of advice. It seemed her fourth-grade son was friendly with a twin at school and wanted to invite him over for a play date but my friend was hesitant because, she explained, the twins do everything together. She felt uncomfortable excluding one twin. But her son was only friendly with the one twin, not the other. In fact, he didn’t particularly care for the other twin. Yet despite my urging, my friend couldn’t bring herself to call the other mother and just invite the one twin. So her son never had his play date, and ultimately as the school year progressed, the friendship cooled as the relationship never had a chance to blossom and grow.
When I pressed my friend on her reluctance in inviting just the one twin, she couldn’t get past the fact that the twins were always together—in the classroom and on the playground, playing on the same sports team and belonging to the same clubs—and she didn’t think that they’d want to be separated. In short, she didn’t want to be viewed as the “bad guy,” the mom who tried to break up a twin pair before they were ready.
As the parents of multiples, we know that our twins often enjoy being together. After all, they’re not only twins but friends, too. Yet they also appreciate their time alone. It’s great that twins share so much but it’s equally important for each twin to venture out all on his own whether it’s to a summer camp or to a birthday party. But how do we convince parents with singletons that it’s fine to reach out to just one twin? We need to encourage them. And often.
When my twins were in second grade, for instance, a mom approached me after school. Although her son had invited only one of my twins to his birthday party, she wanted me to know that it was fine for my son to bring along his cotwin. I smiled and thanked her but told her that I’d prefer if he went alone. She looked puzzled. But when I explained that twins sometimes don’t get a chance to have experiences all on their own, and that I wanted my son to have a unique memory separate from his cotwin, it finally made sense to her.
Still, it’s also important for parents of multiples to reflect upon how they are presenting their twins, triplets or quads to the community around them. Are you sending a subtle message that your twins are a package and not two individuals? That’s not to say you should force your twins to play separately or attend different after-school activities. Twins are first and foremost friends, a wonderful sibling bond that will endure through good times and bad throughout the course of a lifetime. It’s precious and sacred. But twins will grow up and go their separate ways each having a family all his own. They need to learn the art of navigating life sans twin. And they should learn these valuable lessons at home from their parents.
So the next time a classmate shows an interest in just one of your twins, encourage the relationship. In fact, why not approach the mom and suggest that just the two children get together for a play date? She may just welcome the offer.