Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Twins divided, naturally and happily

A new dynamic is moving through our house.
Jonathan has ditched his twin brother as his best friend in favor of his older brother Riley, who is almost 11.
He draws pictures for him, fetches him Popsicles and emulates his every gesture, word and move when he is around.
When Riley is in school or otherwise occupied, Jonathan turns back to Matthew again, taking up where he left off.
This worried me at first.
How would Matthew handle the loss?
My heart ached for him.
As always, Matthew and Jonathan have surprised me.
Matthew isn't the least bit bothered by Jonathan's new allegiance, no more so than he is bothered when Jonathan plays with other children in school. A comfort level seems to exits between the two of them that allows them to explore other relationships without diminishing their own.
I would like to believe that we have contributed to that confidence by never forcing them to separate. Yes, they have gone off on their own with my husband or I at different times, mostly on errands. Occasionally, for a bite to eat.
But we have never felt the need to enroll them in different activities or classes simply to foster their individuality. We have never felt the need to tear them apart unnaturally.
Instead, they are teaching us to be patient, to step back and let them grow apart as we let them grow together. The pressure is on -- always -- from those who believe that forced separation is the only healthy way to raise identical twins. But forced separation is no healthier than forcing a shared identity through matching clothing, lumped nicknames  or constantly calling attention to the fact that they are twins.
They are who they are.
And we love who they are.
We'll make mistakes along the way and plenty of them. But Jonathan's affection for Riley and Matthew's reaction to it have assured me that we are on the right track. And we have one very proud big brother, who is who amused and thrilled by his new status.
For now.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Imagination explosion

(Above: A birthday interview with Matthew and Jonathan)

Just the other day, Matthew noticed a small embroidered palm tree on a beach towel. Within minutes, the towel was stretched across the floor and he and Jonathan were pirates, seeking lost treasures throughout the living room.
Only an hour earlier, they had been at the beach, wearing their swim trunks in the bathtub. Before that, I heard long tales about Dino Dan's impending visit. He was bringing his mother and his little brother and it was his birthday.
Would I please bake a cake for him, they begged?
The day I have been waiting for has finally come.
Jonathan and Matthew have become so immersed in their imaginations that they often forget to wrestle, to pull the cushions off the sofa, to tear their beds apart, to dump water on the floor, to demand fruit treats, to tease the puppy, to tease their older siblings -- to do all the little things they used to do when they were bored and wanted to stir things up.
It is still a lot of work.
I often have to provide props or act a part in their imaginary worlds. But that's okay. I would rather be the bad guy fighting Leonardo and Batman than the stressed-out mother who runs out of options and patience when time-outs don't work, and then yells far more than she ever wanted to.
Even better, their new-found manner of play allows their older brother and sister to take part. On Tuesday, when all four kids were stuck home for a snow day, they all played Pokemon together. The older kids loved the fact that the twins understood the show and they laughed whenever Matthew and Jonathan chose their Pokemons and unleashed them.
I wrote an entire chapter of my next novel that day.
A whole chapter with all four kids at home.
And I didn't feel guilty because they we all busy and all happy.
We still have our moments and I'm sure we always will.
But what a relief.
What a huge, huge relief.