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Let them be alike

How beautiful it must be to have a partner to go through childhood with. Not in the romantic sense, but in the I always have a best friend sense.  What a gift to always have a buddy who understands you and loves you during those formative and sometimes challenging early years of life.

Most twin parents worry about and focus on making sure their twins are seen as individuals. And I am no exception. But…

…one Sunday morning I saw one of those feel good news segments on how similar both fraternal and identical twins are even when they are unfortunately separated at birth. Curious, I looked up a few other stories. These fraternal twin girls, adopted by two separate families and raised in different parts of the country, both had an interest in globes and maps as young girls.  That isn’t as common as say dolls or riding bikes.  It doesn’t sound like a coincidence.

This story led me to reflect on the notion, that letting my twins be alike may actually be helping them to be their true selves – both individuals – who have many differences and oh so many similarities.

My twins have different personalities, are often in different moods in any given 2-minute period, and may pick out different stuffed animals.

But for each time they want to do the exact opposite thing (sometimes at the most inconvenient of times), there are 5 more times that they want the exact same thing – the exact same truck, the exact same stuffed animal, the exact same toy lawn mower (even though there’s another one that’s the same standing right next to it).

You may be wondering, are these really similar preferences or just what all little kids do? Perhaps it’s an early notion of the grass is always greener and his toy must be better than my toy.

But I think it’s more than any early case of the grass is greener syndrome.

There are many more unique instances of shared preferences and thought processes.

My boys do funny things – just like all kids. What’s different, what seems crazy to me, is that in a vacuum – without knowing that their brother did something – they pick the exact same funny thing to do.  Their minds must be thinking about how the world works and processing their surroundings through an uncannily similar lens.

Like the time that on a Wednesday while Ben was taking his afternoon nap, of course 14-month-old Nick was not napping –notorious for not wanted to take an afternoon nap. So, I’m hanging out with Nicholas downstairs.  He was enjoying some independent playtime while I cleaned up the kitchen and prepared for dinner.  I kept popping my head over the couch to see what he was doing – it’s eerily quiet when only one is awake.

And what did I see? Nick was literally having the time of his life taking a clean, CLEAN, I emphasize, diaper that must have fallen down from the changing station.  He had the Little People Toy Farm – but instead of opening it up and playing with the animals he had it closed up and turned on its side so that the doors and windows were facing upwards and it looked like a little farm suitcase.

And there he is, just cracking himself up shoving this diaper in and out of the barn windows. Literally the diaper’s in the barn. Oh! The diaper’s out of the barn.  Wait, the diaper’s back in the barn!

This is the best thing ever. It’s cute and it’s keeping him incredibly occupied.  I could tell by the looks of extreme concentration followed by sheer excitement that he must have been thinking something like, “This is just the coolest! It’s way better to shove things in and out of the windows than to put the pig in the pen.  There are just so many other great places to put stuff.”

This continued for a while and once Nick moved on I put the clean diapers up and we went about our day.

Sidenote – why was off work on a Wednesday afternoon? For a while I worked different hours to support the APAC time zone.  For more on this see the posts about managing global teams and business trips.

But what is most ridiculous…

…fast forward to Friday night after dinner. Both of the boys are up.  We’re hanging out as a family and Benjamin is over by the farm, with if you can believe it, a clean diaper that he swiped during his last change.

And he starts doing the SAME thing. He was not awake when Nick was doing this the other day.  They both thought of the same BEST idea ever, independently.  I even confirmed with the nanny after the fact that Nick had not shown Ben the super cool activity while I wasn’t home.

Ben played with the diaper and the sideways farm suitcase by himself for a while. Then both the boys sat down next to each other and we had to get another clean diaper out because we were having some meltdowns over the diaper and who got to put it into the farm and take it back out of the farm again.

Then they both sat there for a full 12 minutes stuffing these diapers into the farm, pulling them back out again and repeat. For 14 month olds 12 minutes is an eternity.  This was INTENSE!  And the same thing caught the attention of both of them for an unusually longer period of time.

SO where does all this lead?

Whenever I worry about making sure my kids are viewed as individuals, I also think about how amazing it is that they have someone who understands them so well. Someone who very clearly knows why shoving a diaper into a farm suitcase is the best game.  And likely as they get older, someone who understands when they need comfort or support and when they need time to shine on their own or to pout on their own.

This hasn’t led me to try to make them exactly the same. Sometimes the boys are dressed the same (pictures, convenience – same pants, swimwear and shorts makes shopping way easier), but most of the time they are not.

I often hand them different toys or read them different books and pick out different colored items – a blue bowl for Ben (love the alliteration) and a green bowl for Nick – sorry Nick, no common “N” colors. They pick out their own toys, select their own pajamas and gather their own bedtime books.  Sometimes the selections are the same and sometimes they are different.  But as much as I’ll work to make sure they have their own identities in school, on sports teams and when selecting hobbies, if they both choose the same activity or the same color backpack I will let them be alike.  It really might just be their favorite.

What’s most important is that each child gets to be himself. And that may mean playing a different sport from his brother.  Or that may mean selecting the same college major as his brother.

It’s not whether it’s the same or different as his sibling that matters. It’s whether it’s the right choice for him that matters.

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