The realization hit me just before Christmas.
It was early in the evening and all four kids were playing together. My daughter stopped to describe a funny incident involving one of her twin brothers. I asked her which one. She pointed to Matthew and said, "That one."
"Who?" I asked.
"That one," she said.
"No," I said. "Tell me his name."
She shrugged and said she didn't know.
Then I asked her older brother.
He didn't know either.
Neither was bothered.
Matthew and Jonathan were indistinguishable to even their own siblings.
How could we have missed that?
We missed it because we were too busy.
When all four children are together, the household is a chaotic mess. They twins like to get wild and the older kids like to get wild with them. It's all I can do to keep my sanity and to ensure that no one gets hurt.
Who has time for individuality and identities?
I didn't let it go that evening. I pressed my older children to figure out who was who and, in the end, they got it right. When we sat down to breakfast the next morning, we had a chat. Riley (9) and Kiersten (8) told me that they can figure out who is who if they really try, but that they usually didn't bother.
They didn't bother, they said, because I was always quick to identify their brothers for them.
We reached an agreement.
I explained why it was important that they know their brothers as individuals.
They agreed to try.
For a day or two, it was a game.
It quickly became a habit.
There are still times when they refer to the twins as "this one," or "that one," but most of the time it's "Matt," or "Jon."
And something beautiful has come of it.
Their strategy of play has changed.
Riley and Kiersten are learning that Matthew and Jonathan have different play styles and that simply getting wild isn't the only option. Riley and Jonathan have a cuddling game. Kiersten enjoys engaging Matthew in conversation.
The house is quieter (sometimes).
The kids are more content (sometimes).
I am much less stressed.