The other day while driving in the car with one of my twins, I had something on my mind that I wanted to talk to him about but deliberately kept my big mouth shut. Not an easy task for me. I literally had to bite my lip! It wasn’t his driving that I wanted to discuss, although there would have been plenty to critique as he only got his permit a few months ago. Nope, my concerns weren’t about him at all but rather his cotwin.
At sixteen years old, my son’s cotwin has turned into a moody, ornery and at times, disrespectful kid. We’ve had moments like this before but lately his behavior seems a bit more intense, not to mention approaching unbearable. Typical teenage behavior? Maybe. But how could I be sure? By asking his twin, of course!
Should You Ask Your Child to Spy on His Cotwin?
When you’re the parent of twins—especially older twins—there’s this temptation at times to use one twin as an informant, supplying you with information about his cotwin. How great is that, you’re thinking, right? Someone on the inside playing double agent then reporting back to you. You could put your mind at ease or learn, for instance, if your suspicions of slacking off in class or girlfriend troubles were true.
By nature of their relationship, twins have the inside scoop on each other. No matter how much we love them or how close we are to them, twins simply understand each other a bit more than we do. As same-age siblings they share a large portion of DNA, teachers and friends, sports and popular culture. Not only are my twins siblings, they’re also friends and confidants who are experiencing the challenges and thrills of young adulthood together. They’re on the same journey. They get to see the different degrees of each other’s personality more than I do, too. I only see their home persona, the one that lately includes eye-rolling and moodiness. They have the privilege of seeing each other’s public persona, that happy facade that teenagers save for the pleasure of their friends. They just know more of each other.
So it’s just so darn tempting to pull my son aside and ask, “Hey, what’s the scoop with your brother? Why’s he being such an a-hole lately?” Sure, I could go to the a-hole directly and ask him outright, “What the hell is up with you?” And I have (not using those exact words, of course) but lately my concern with his behavior (my son would say it’s nagging) has been met by blank stares. Teenagers and not exactly forthcoming with “their feelings.”
The Dangers of Twin Spying
But I’ve resisted tapping his cotwin for answers as it would be hugely unfair to put that burden on my son. Why? It would weaken his bond and level of trust with his cotwin. By offering up information, it would put undo stress on him, too. I’m sure he’d want to be helpful to me and he’d offer any observations that he could but he’d be betraying his brother in the process. If he became my informant, their relationship would soon be based in lies. I don’t want that no matter how much of an a-hole his brother becomes. Furthermore, although we like to think that twins can read each other’s minds, they really can’t so we shouldn’t expect them to interpret their cotwin’s actions or motivations. Ever. No, this is my problem, not my son’s.
Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances where speaking up or breaking a twin confidence is not only warranted but necessary. I’m talking about in times of safety such as if one twin gets involved with drugs, under-age drinking or other dangerous behavior like texting and driving. (I could go on with all the scary stuff that teens could get involved with but I’m going to stop before I completely freak myself out!)
It’s important for both twins and their parents to know when it’s OK to become a twin informant and when it’s not. Fortunately, I realized this time was a big NOT.