Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be different or else!

People have all kinds of unsolicited advice for parents of identical twins.
Among the most prevalent is that we must do everything possible to encourage separate identities. Dress them differently, buy them their own clothes, separate them in school, take them on separate outings, give them their own bedrooms, never call them "the boys," cut their hair differently, register them for different activities -- I could go on and on.
Now, I don't dress the boys alike, but it's not because I'm pushing some theory on individuality. It's because I'm too lazy. If I dress them differently, I can memorize their clothing in the morning. Then I know who I'm talking to without having to look at the veins on their noses or observe their behaviors for clues.
So that's about all we've done to encourage their individuality.
With two older kids, we lack the time and the energy to take them on separate outings. I also refuse to dictate their activities as they get older; If they both want to play soccer, then they should both be allowed to play soccer. And recent studies show that identical twins fair better socially and academically in school when placed in the same classrooms. So, if we feel it is in their best interests, we will fight tooth and nail to keep them together.
Yet. individuality happens anyway.
Identical twins don't necessarily need a facilitator.
Just the other day, Jonathan started screaming whenever we tried put him in the newer of the two highchairs. He gladly slides into the older highchair, which he has claimed as his own even though we have always randomly seated them for meals.
Matthew refuses to eat grapes or blueberries even as Jonathan devours them. Sometimes it seems that he refuses them because Jonathan devours them. He watches his brother eat them and then fervently shakes his head "no" when we offer some to him.
Jonathan has even learned to say Matthew's name (Sort of. He says "Maaaahhh!") He looks or points at his brother as he identifies him and then giggles (cackles, really). If asked his own name, he just gets a shy look on his face. "Jon" is hard to say. He doesn't dare try. But he knows that he is not "Maaahhhhh!"
Both boys answer only to their own names.
A sense of self is a product of discovery and discovery occurs when children have choices. Forcing individuality upon identical twins --making them pursue separate activities, separating them in school for no reason other than the notion that separate is better, denying them the chance to decide their own sleeping arrangements as they get older -- is no more admirable than forcing them to be alike.
Like the rest of us, Matthew and Jonathan might never fully understand who they are, but they already know who they are not.
Matthew knows he is not Jonathan.
Jonathan knows he is not Matthew.
To me, that's a successful start.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

18 months tall

They are tall.
Boy, are they tall.
Three feet tall.
That puts Matthew and Jonathan far above the 95th percentile compared to their male peers, just like our two older kids.
We grow them big.
Matthew is the more svelte of the two at 28 pounds, seven ounces, according to the doctor's scale. Jonathan weighed in at 29 pounds, three ounces, during their appointment Monday. Both ranked at the 75th percentile for weight, which makes them long and lean despite their chubby cheeks.
Their heads remain in the 90th percentile.
Lots of brains, maybe?
The doctor expressed some concern about the development of twinese (or idioglossia or cryptophasia). She said to contact her in three months if they still say no words clearly. The next day, of course, Matthew and Jonathan alternately walked up to our van, patted the side door and said "car" perfectly. Later in the day, they became obsessed with doors, again pronouncing the word clearly.
Earlier this afternoon, they spent 15 minutes walking from door to door, patting each one and saying "door?". They refused to move on until I said "Yes, door," with a nod of approval. I had to follow them from room to room or they stomped their feet and cried.
I had planned to drink my coffee.
It got cold.
I didn't mind.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Speak! Please?

I'll admit it.
I've been getting a bit paranoid about the twins and their language skills as their 18-month appointment approaches (It is scheduled for Monday, about three weeks late.). They seem to understand most everything: they run to their highchairs when I ask whether they want to eat; they bring us their shoes or go to the door when we suggest going outside; they can make a wide variety of animal noises on command.
But they just don't really speak.
They have a few clear words. (Well, I can't really think of any that are clear right now, but they do talk a lot.) They practice inflection frequently, usually imitating the true inflection of conversation. They rely heavily on nonverbal expressions, like when they shove books at us, put shoes on our feet or tug on our shirts if we dare try to read the paper, eat some breakfast or even just rest our heads on the table.
Yet when I listen to other toddlers communicate, it just isn't the same.
Despite our best efforts, Jonathan and Matthew are sinking quickly into the language of twinese with such sounds as "nah" for "done" (Where the heck did that come from?) or "seh" for "sit" or "da" for almost anything they want the other twin to see.
So, of course, I turned to Google.
And this is what I found.
According to this recent study, the boys might be behind in language speaking ability, but they are probably right on track as far as overall language development. As twins, they simply tend to use nonverbal skills more often than words.
In fact, they might have an advantage over singletons and twins who do not create their own languages. According to the authors, twin language (or twinese or idioglossia or cryptophasia) enhances language development in a way that is similar to the language enhancement experienced by bilingual children.
Now this study might be flawed.
It is based on a small sampling: the children of 26 mothers of twins and singletons.
But, who cares.
Before I Googled this study, I was worried that my boys might be behind in their communications skills. These folks say Jonathan and Matthew might, instead, be above average.
Their study is good enough for me.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gimme the sports page, would ya?

Perhaps the boys inherited the journalism DNA! This is how I found Matthew and Jonathan one recent morning after I ran to the basement to get some milk from the spare fridge. Jonathan is wearing the red shirt. Matthew is in green.