Awhile back, I interviewed my fraternal twin sons about their relationship and the challenges of growing up twins. It was a popular post, offering parents of young twins just a glimpse of what’s to come. So I thought, why not try it again? This time I interviewed a set of young women, also fraternal twins. Rebecca (“Twin A”) and Kayla (“Twin B”) are just shy of their 19th birthday. Both are freshman in separate colleges. Here’s the first part of the interview where they reflect on their early school years. (I’ll post Part Two, the evolution of their relationship, next week.)
Q: How would you describe your relationship when you were just kids?
Rebecca: When we were kids, I always had a positive outlook on our relationship. We weren’t best friends to the point where we were inseparable but we were pretty close. We never really competed with each other. We respected that we could have our own friends but also share friends as well. Growing up, I was always a little more athletic and she was more scholarly. I always wanted to be ‘one of the guys’ so I liked to play rough and tumble more often. I kept up with sports through my senior year, and she quit around freshman year.
Kayla: When we were kids we were social crutches for each other. When we were uncomfortable meeting new people or trying new things, we would rely on each other. Once we were comfortable, we would spread out. When asked who was better at different things, we would say, “we don’t compare,” which was true. We would have our disputes but my mom wouldn’t get in the middle. She made us learn how to navigate our own relationship.
Q: When did you separate at school?
Rebecca: We were together in first grade and then separated in second grade. (I believe because the school wouldn’t allow us to be together any longer.) They didn’t want us to build a dependency on each other. There were other twins in our grade that were separated the whole time, but my mom requested that we be in the same class for first grade. I remember in second grade I would spend at least ten minutes crying every day because I missed my sister (although there was only a thin, room divider between us) to the point where they would pull us both out of class until I calmed down. Then I’d spend the rest of the day just fine on my own.
Kayla never lets me live it down that I missed her more when we were first separated! We switched to a private school in third grade were there was only one class per grade. Looking back on it, I guess this is where the relationship began to change. Our socialization began to develop differently and it showed once we were back in the classroom together. This is when I began to socialize more freely and she became more introverted.
Kayla: The elementary school strongly advocated for us to be separated. My mom fought it for two years but we were separated in the second grade. I don’t remember taking it hard, but I was pulled aside several times while we adjusted so Becca could see me.
Q: What do you remember of those days, Kayla?
Kayla: I remember going out to the hallway, and I think we would hug. But I don’t remember very clearly. I do know that after that point in my life, I have always been concerned for her emotional well-being. Like, she goes out, does what she likes, makes new friends, but when things get too rough, or her friends aren’t as good as she thought, she comes back to me. Well, used to. In our recent past, we have been more independent from each other and rely on other people for emotional support.
In the third through fifth grades there was no option about class, as it was a small private school. We transferred to a larger private school in sixth grade, and by that time we were ready to separate on our own terms, so we allowed the school to do so.
Q: Did you enjoy being in the same class together?
Kayla: In high school, I loved the classes I had with Becca. (Our teachers? Probably not so much.) We took it as a chance to catch up with each other because we were both working and had different social circles we didn’t really see each other outside of school. We even sat at lunch together. Being in the same class allowed us to engage in more thought provoking conversations over the content of the class. We were easily able to get on the same page, and explore different views in a short amount of time. If one of us missed class, we could bring homework home to the other. I will admit I didn’t like Becca bringing it home unless I asked because no other student would have that advantage. (I was just being stubborn.) There were disadvantages—teachers had a tendency to compare our academic performance. “Rebecca understands this concept, why don’t you, Kayla?”
Q: Have you ever gone through a period within your twinship when the relationship was tested?
Rebecca: I guess this happened all the way back in third grade. I was the one spreading my wings. In the process, I didn’t realize that she was hurt, even though I do remember trying to include her. Whenever she would decline, I always thought it was because she just didn’t want to [join in]. I never thought that there was more to it. This has come to light more so now than before because it started causing some tension when she was making some decisions that I didn’t think were the best and she made the comment, “I’ve never had your support before, so I don’t need it now.” And that really upset me. We’re still working on it, but it’s a lot better than it was before. I guess the change happened in third grade because that was when it became apparent that we had both changed. I just hung out with friends outside of class more, having sleepovers, and stuff. It wasn’t that she wasn’t invited, because I would try to invite her all the time, she just didn’t want to go. Eventually, I stopped trying.
Kayla: Oh my gosh, our relationship has been such a roller coaster! Especially recently now that we are making real life decisions. We love each other so much, that we have ideas on what is best for the other one, and those often conflict, such as who we date, college decisions, and so on. Rebecca is definitely the more outgoing one. She was more apt to make friends where as I was content doing my own thing. In cases where I was concerned about her well-being and her choices, I would definitely tip my mom off to look in to it. For this, I sacrificed my relationship with Becca for a little bit as she stopped trusting me. So now I have learned how to leverage with her. Twins will always have dirt on each other, and it will be an ugly mess [if you spill that dirt] so I avoid it. Now if I have a problem, I just try to talk to her about it. But I will never draw a line for her to choose me or something else, because I know I would lose her.
Q: Tell me about your relationship in third grade, Kayla.
Kayla: In third grade we were in the same class after being separated in second. We didn’t know how to manage our relationship and our individual lives at the same time. We were simply on different pages. We had never had to actually communicate with each other about how we were feeling, so we didn’t realize there was a disconnect. At the time, I didn’t realize, or had the words to explain how I was feeling, but it definitely took a toll on me as a person. I felt like I was being replaced. I felt I wasn’t good enough, and she didn’t want me. Often times I would decline invitations because I felt like they were made out of pity, as if she thought I needed friends. But more importantly, I didn’t find what she did all that fun. Whether it was sleepovers, dress-up, or whatever. As I grew older, it began to feel like she only wanted to hang out with me because no one else would, or she wanted something from me. We went through stages where I would go out of my way to be available to her and do my best by her, and other times when I would feel down-trodden, taken advantage of, so I would shut her out for a while. But I think we have gotten better at navigating our relationship so those types of things happen less often. The key is to remember that we operate out of a place of love for each other, so even if we end up with different opinions, we have the same end goal—wanting the best for each other. When there is a major conflict, we stop and think, “What’s more important? This current issue, or my relationship with my sister?”