Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friends at last

When Matthew came toddling into the living room the other day carrying Jonathan's stuffed blue rabbit, I prepared for trouble. "Rabbit" is Jonathan's favorite stuffed animal. He sleeps with him every night; he cuddles him when he doesn't feel well; he snuggles with him whenever he goes down for a nap.
But, just as I started to intervene, Matthew shoved Rabbit at his brother, smiled and said "da." Jonathan grinned and hugged Rabbit close to his body. Matthew toddled away and came back with his own stuffed animal, "Beary." The two boys carried their animal friends to the staircase, where they sat side-by-side watching the Upside Down Show.
Since then, I have seen similar scenes repeated often.
The boys routinely bring each other sippy cups, toy cars and unused diapers that they have snatched from the changing table. They laugh, they giggle and other strange, new sounds come from their throats. Often, the exchange encourages one twin to join the other twin in an action or a game.
Other signs of this new awareness have surfaced lately as well. Last week, Matthew was sitting in his rocking chair when Jonathan discovered his brother's toes. Jonathan played with Matthew's toes in a game that left them both aching with laughter.
They rarely fall asleep easily now. When I peer between the cracks in their doors long after I have kissed them goodnight, I find them standing in their cribs, grabbing each other's hands over the rails and falling back on their mattresses in giggle fits. Then, they get back up and go at it again.
Jonathan took things a little too far two days ago though when he used Matthew's head as a drum. And they still fight over the toy that looks like a telephone, but plays nursery rhyme songs. But, when I saw Matthew give Jonathan Rabbit for that first time, it wasn't just his brother he comforted.
It was me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

They are what they wear

A pregnant woman apparently felt panicky today so she sought advice on an online bulletin board for multiples. She is carrying identical twins boys and she is terrified, she said, that she will mix them up after they are born.
It got me thinking.
We don't use the blue nail polish anymore. We don't have to now that a single blue vein has surfaced across the bridge of each boys' nose. Jonathan's is thick and Matthews is thin. The difference is subtle, but we can see it if we look closely enough.
But there is another way that I tell them apart when I can't see their faces, and I hadn't realize it until today. It's a subconscious thing and it happens when I dress them in the morning or see them for the first time after my husband has gotten them ready for the day.
It happened this morning.
My husband dressed the boys in identical shirts and camouflage shorts. Though the shorts were similar, they were made of different materials: Jonathan wore cotton. Matthew's were made of a bathing suit material.
After I read that post, I caught myself checking out their shorts before I called their names. It happened again and again and I couldn't help it. I had programmed my brain this morning with their identities: Jonny in cotton; Matt in bathing suit material.
And that's how I thought of them all day long.

I still don't know how to do captions, but in the photo, Matthew is on the left and Jonathan is on the right.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Shared pain or empathy?

I met a elderly man in the mall a few months back who stopped to admire the twins. He is an identical twin, he told me. He said that one day a few decades ago, when he was home in Cincinnati, his arm began to ache terribly. He sensed that something was wrong with his twin, who lived five hours away in Cleveland.
He called several times.
No answer.
Then his twin called him.
His twin had broken his arm.
"You just wait," the man said with a grin.
I have heard and read many similar stories since the twins were born, but I was a skeptic. There is no scientific evidence that identical twins feel each other's pain. It is all anecdotal and, probably, highly exaggerated, I figured.
But an incident today made me think again.
I had taken the boys to a Mom's Day Out program that I was considering for the fall. I immediately disliked the place. Several kids played aimlessly in a cramped room while the caretaker sat there like a bump on a log. The director had explained to me that this particular program was simply a babysitting service. But, come on. I would fire any sitter who didn't interact with my kids.
Still, I decided to give it a chance and let my boys play a while.
As I was trying to persuade a 2-year-old boy that Jonathan's head was not a highway for his dump truck, I heard an ear-piecing scream from Matthew. He was sitting under a table and another boy was crouched behind him.
I figured Matthew had tried to stand and had bumped his head.
But his reaction was far too strong for that.
Before I could even move, Jonathan looked at Matthew and released an identical scream. And there I stood, between the boys who were crying and screaming so hard that their faces were turning blue (The caretaker, of course, just sat there and did nothing).
Neither boy stopped crying until we left that place.
Later, as I lifted Matthew's shirt to put on his PJs, I found the source of his pain: a perfectly round bite mark from a child who clearly had all of his teeth and knew how to chomp hard enough to break the skin.
Now, mostly likely, Jonathan saw the look on his brother's face and, because they have been together every day since the moment they were conceived, he sensed what Matthew was feeling.
Maybe, even at only 15 months old, Jonathan has already developed empathy.
But maybe not.
I am still a skeptic, but I am a skeptic with an open mind. That is, toward the concept of the twins feeling each other's pain. My mind is closed to the Mom's Day Out program.
When this mom goes out, she'll be bringing her twins.