Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Raising the curtain on dramatic play

The goofy guys! Jonthan on left; Matthew on right
 I was walking past Matthew and Jonathan's bedroom the other day when I heard this:
"Get out of my room, you two! I said, get out now!"
"But we just want to play."
"Get out!"
I paused just outside the doorway and peeked in.
They were playing with the dollhouse their older sister had given them. Apparently, identical train engines Bill and Ben were invading their sister's bedroom. Their sister, a soft lavender engine, named Rosie, was livid. The engines whimpered away, muttering "Bossy boiler."
That plot sounded familiar.
Matthew and Jonathan have been acting out many familiar scenarios lately and they've spent even more time coming up with new ones. Sometimes they are at a huge splash park and each room is a different pool or slide or ride.
Other times, they are airplanes and they are flying to visit various relatives with a particular interest in the relatives' dogs.
Quite often, superheros, game show hosts and the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote make appearances in our household as well.
Dramatic play rules these days and it's a mixed blessing.
It is fantastic to watch them play. Their games are seamless, each twin's actions and dialogue perfectly following the other's. They'll stick with one imaginative scenario for an hour or more and I can go happily about my housework or writing.
These guys click.
They really click.
But when it falls apart, the explosion is equally intense.
It is advisable to take shelter.
I have learned that trains can fly.
I have learned that there is a price to pay for my free time.
I have learned that disciplining identical twins and mediating their arguments is a huge time and energy drain, stealing back all those gains I might have made earlier in the day. Their level of engagement with each other is so intense that they have a long way to fall when they let each other go.
The cool thing, though, is that they always recover fully.
Their older brother and sister played together well, too, at their ages. Riley would pull out his dinosaurs and Kiersten would bring her Polly Pockets into the living room. Together, they would build huge cities that would remain sprawled across on the floor for days on end, providing hours worth of entertainment.
But as they have grown, their differences have grown too.
Riley and Kiersten are still close at ages 10 and 11.
Just not in the same way.
But this thing with Jonathan and Matthew is a little bit different.
Riley and Kiersten had to talk about what they were going to do. They had to plan, bargain, negotiate, agree. They did it well, but the need was still there. They negotiated endings too, each telling the other a few minutes beforehand that he or she was going to quit (at mom's insistence after many an argument).
Not so for Jonathan and Matthew.
When they start an imaginative game, it just happens and it flows naturally, smoothly, without guiding words. When they decide to move on to something else, it just happens too. They either play another game without missing a beat or each wanders off on his own.
Watching Matthew and Jonathan play together can be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time, particularly with their high energy levels. The anticipation of the potential explosion -- often caused by one claiming the other's coveted train engine -- can be stressful, very stressful, enough to undo all the work I've done to bring my blood pressure down.
But like anything else that is exciting, dangerous and beautiful all at the same time, it is worth it.
It is so worth it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fraternal verses identical: the attention factor

It's rare, but it happens.
Most often, parents of fraternal twins find the fact that Matthew and Jonathan are identical interesting, but it ends there. Raising identical twins has its unique challenges, but parents of any category of twins have so much in common that further discussion of their zygosity needn't come up.
But every now and then, I'll get that immediate snub from a fraternal-twin parent, that kind of look that I'd expect to see on a middle school playground from the girl who is envious of the other girl for reasons that are all in her own head.
I know what that look means because I am a curious person. I've explored it before. I've pushed past the snub and pursued conversations. It means that this parent is a little envious because she believes my twins get more attention than hers.
The hard part is that she is probably right.
The harder part is that it shouldn't matter.
The people we meet don't mean to upset anybody and it certainly doesn't mean that fraternal twins are any less valued.
It's just that identical twins are more obvious.
They attract attention.
But, as we were often taught during sensitivity training in my former career as a journalist, intention is pretty much meaningless. Perception is what counts. Reporter Dionne Searcey of The Wall Street Journal does a wonderful job of capturing that perception and the dynamic behind it at the annual Twins Days festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, last weekend.
Click this link for her story: At a Convention Full of Them, It's Apparent Not All Twins are Created Equal.