Whenever I tell someone I have twins, I always get the same two replies: Twins! Oh my god, I can’t imagine. Or Twins are so cool! I always wanted twins! And it wouldn’t be a twin conversation without someone telling me I have my hands full.
But, yup, having twins is exactly like those two sentiments at the same time all of the time. The line between wondering how the fuck I am supposed to survive my twins and being in total awe of their relationship is fluid at best. Having twins is really, really hard, but it’s one of the coolest things I have had the privilege to witness.
First of all, growing one baby is wild and amazing to me. But the fact that a human body can grow two or more babies at once is baffling. Before my babies were even born, I was fascinated by the sound of two beating hearts, and as they grew I loved to watch the babies move. The ultrasound allowed us to see their movements and the way they seemed to only move as if in reaction to the other. That and watching my partner’s stomach stretch and change as if the babies were trying to escape through her skin like the scene from Alien were eye-opening glimpses for their never-ending fight for space and resources.
My 6-year-old boy/girl twins could not be more different. My son is sensitive, empathetic, gentle, and a pretty chill kid. My daughter has big feelings, is impulsive, and tends to be on the lookout for only herself. Don’t get me wrong, she is amazing; but she is definitely not chill. She is the hard candy shell to my son’s soft and gooey interior. You need to work to get beyond her tough exterior.
But for my son, her twin brother, it doesn’t seem like work. He expresses and processes his feelings right at the moment he experiences them, but my daughter will internalize. It can take days for her to articulate what is bothering her. Yet, my son seems to be the only one who knows what is eating at his twin sister before anyone else can register that something is wrong.
When my daughter is sitting in the middle of a big mood, it’s usually best to leave her alone. I offer my assistance and let her know I love her and am available, but there isn’t much to do that she would find acceptable when she is frustrated or insecure or raging against the injustice of being a child. My other two kids will usually melt into my hug and then talk it out; offering more than the basics actually causes my twin daughter to explode. I take this as my cue to walk away. My son takes it as a cue to lean in and offer up what she needs.
Trust me, they have their ugly moments together, but most of the time he can soften her. Without prompting, he will kiss her on the cheek, extend a toy, or offer an idea of something they can do together. And it works — like magic. It’s absolutely incredible to watch.
Twins rely on each other too. In new situations, my son tends to be more shy and hesitant. When we had to drop them off at kindergarten registration and leave them in their new classroom for an hour, my son struggled more than my daughter. I knew he was anxious; I knew he wanted me or his other mama to stay with him. While other kids were crying and being pulled off of parents’ legs as they left with a mountain of guilt and worry, I walked away with relief and gratitude because in the chaos of tears and nervous anticipation, my twins had each other. They grabbed each other’s hands and walked into the classroom, ready to embrace what was ahead as long as they had each other to embrace. In that moment, having twins made parenting really easy.
This works for swim lessons, soccer practices, doctor appointments, and birthday parties. I don’t see their comfort in each other as a crutch or unhealthy dependency. When people ask if I purposefully separate them in these situations, it doesn’t make sense to me. They have always had each other and I hope they always will. Of course, I want them to develop a sense of self and independence, and based on their very distinct personalities, I can promise you they have. But who they are is also defined by having a twin. They developed just fine sharing a uterus; they will grow just fine by being in the same classroom or bedroom too.
Their beautiful bond was created organically, and I am not about to break it up. They have always played well together and make each other laugh like no one else can. They understand each other and have pushed the other to reach milestones I knew were coming but had no idea would come so quickly or gracefully. Crawling, talking, walking, running, biking without training wheels, and swimming without a life vest were like dominos falling. When one child achieves a new level of independence, the competitive spirit drives the other to catch up. They use each other for strength and confidence. And believe me, I am not about to get in the way of that.
I promise you it is not always magical. Having two kids at the same developmental stage is fucking exhausting. Growing pains and the tantrums and arguments sometimes make me wonder why I ever wanted kids in the first place. And the first year with twins (as well as their older sibling) was all about survival. If it were not for Facebook memories, I would have a hard time believing there were moments of joy in very rough stretch. Everything was and is always multiplied by two. Sleep deprivation, expenses, teething, laundry, diapers, ear infections, and potty training. Their ability to take care of each other only goes so far.
When it comes to having twins, this Rolling Stones song seems to sum it up best: We can’t always get what we want. But with twins usually you get what you need. And that’s pretty damn cool.