06 January 2011


The father of one of the twins' friends emailed me yesterday. He said that his daughter was wondering about the possibility of having a playdate with Maddie. Just Maddie.

M&R have played with the girl in question, F, many times before. In fact, this father/daughter pair totally saved me in the gap between our former nanny going back to school and getting Z through the door. During that eight-week stretch, SuperDad picked up my kids and his own kid from preschool every afternoon and entertained them all until I got home. He is a Rock Star, and after all of that quality time, our kids are very familiar, and at times very fond, of each other.

It's fair to say that Maddie and F have always played together more than Riley and F or perhaps even more than the three of them as a trio. As with basically all of the kids the twins play with, F is more Maddie's friend than Riley's. Maddie is highly social and motivated by who she can play with. Riley is more task-oriented and chooses what he wants to do first, then welcomes those who want to play with him. If that's no one, he's OK with that. He's never asked to have a playdate, but has happily tagged along when I've arranged one for Maddie. Sometimes, going along with Maddie has been the only option; either there's no one for me to leave Riley with or the friend comes to our house. Sometimes he's made a deliberate choice to go with his sister. But in any case, it's never been clear to me if he was going more or less by default or by design.

When I got home last night, we had this conversation over dinner:

Me: "Hey, guys, I got a call from SuperDad. He said that F wants to have a playdate, with Maddie tomorrow."
Riley: "Just Maddie?"
Me: "Yeah, she thought it would be fun to have a playdate for the girls!" [wasn't quite sure how to present this]
Riley: [no words, but looks like he's going to cry]
Maddie: "But who will take care of Riley?"
Me: "Well, Z will be with Riley."
Maddie: "But I don't want to go without my brother!"
Riley: "I want to go! Why can't I go?"
Me: "Don't worry, guys, I'll tell SuperDad that you'd rather go together and see if that's OK."

The were both totally scandalized by the idea of a playdate for one and not the other. I know this is a part of growing up that they will need to deal with. They will have separate friends, they will be invited on separate outings and to separate parties. I look forward to that, selfishly, as it will give me a way to spend one-on-one time with them, something I rarely get to do and always enjoy.

But it's also painful, this process of individualization, and it was so upsetting and shocking last night that I was unwilling to push it. I know from my own observations and from feedback from teachers and friends, that M&R are totally capable of being independent. They have different interests at school, and while they tend to play together at home, they also play separately from time to time. Riley is obsessed with football right now and Maddie could not care less; Riley spends time on his own every weekend with our neighbors watching games while Maddie and I do other things. I'm not sure I could pay Maddie to do a puzzle, but she'll color at the art table while Riley works on one in the hallway.

At the same time, they have rarely ever truly spent time apart. I don't think either of them would sleep well or much if they weren't in the same room. When they are apart, they ask about each other constantly. They don't know anything except having the other around. It has brought me great comfort to know that while the might have only one parent, they have a clearly deep and supportive bond with each other and that they provide each other stability in ways that are unintentional and unknown. They love each other in a way that it true and pure.

I feel no need to force the separation that will naturally occur. They will find a way to balance their individuality with their bond, and I will help them in that process. As someone who grew up functionally as an only child, I find Maddie and Riley's tie and devotion to each other compelling, sweet, and foreign. I like that they don't want to be apart. I'm sure their interest in being constantly together will ebb and flow with time, but for now, if they want to be together, so be it.


Kelli said...

I love reading this. My twins are exactly the same, and although I grew up with a younger brother, we were never twin-close, and I love seeing the way my twins love each other. We have a younger daughter also, she is 15 months behind the twins, and while we tend to lump them together like triplets much of the time, there is a definite, distinctive bond between the twins that doesn't exist with them and the younger sister.
I completely agree with you - there will come a time of individualization, but there is no need to force it before they are ready. That twin relationship is pretty special, isn't it?!

cindy said...

That hasn't happened yet with my twins, maybe because they are both girls, and they have all the same friends for now. They're starting kindergarten next fall, and I plan to put them in separate classes. They've only been apart a handful of times in their lives (when one has been sick and the other was fine), and I hope the transition to separate classes goes well. I think it will benefit them to be split up, even though they'll miss each other.

Anonymous said...

Did Super Dad agree to both kids playing with F?

CV said...

I love that both of them seemed equally upset about the prospect of a singleton playdate! They really have a true compassion for one another that must be somewhat unique to twins. I don't remember any empathy from my older sister (or vice versa) when one of us had an opportunity for fun but the other was left out.

I hope super-dad and F are able to accommodate your circumstances. I can see from their perspective how a solo-playdate would be preferable, at least once in a while. Sounds like they're the type of people, though, who will understand M&R just aren't ready for that.

k. said...

I'm a twin. My brother and I were a lot like you've described M & R. He was my best friend for years. We always consulted each other about what we wanted to do, and I've heard stories about how we could never sleep if we were separated.

I think our biggerst influences were our friends. When the boys and girls started sepaprating the way they do, we did the same. I think it was around first or second grade. Even though we were still in the same classes, we started developing different friend groups and were less reliant on each other.

So, while they may not be ready yet, it's probably coming sooner than you think. :)

PS: I've been lurking for a long time but I think this is my first post. Hi!

*magnolia* said...

Hi Snick! I love this post. What a beautiful relationship M&R have.

I don't know where to ask this - I have read through your archives (and enjoyed every post!) and saw that you did IVF with M&R. I'm going through my 2nd round and would love to hear your experience. Of course, if you don't want to go into it, no problem at all :)

AMW said...

I don't have twins, and really don't know when it's right or wrong to have them do separate things. You need to listen to them and your goals for them. If they aren't ready then don't do it.

I do think that you need to be aware that at some time they do need to do things separately. I say that because I have friends with teen aged twins that have been friends with my own teen.

When they were younger it was difficult to have both twins over for a playdate, but that was all that the mom was open to. It was difficult for me because there would always be one twin who would not want to do what the my kid and the other twin were doing and ended up coming to me for something to do. I would need to go intervene and get all three to play together. If Riley is more interested in what he wants to do rather than play in a group perhaps the dad thought it would be easier to have just Maddie since they play more together. If your kids aren't comfortable doing things separately that's fine, but I do see where the dad may be coming from.

I'm awfully sensitive to this, because the twins I know have never been encouraged to do anything separately. In middle school my kid and one twin worked on a project for school together and when we were setting up them getting together at our house to work on the project the mom expected the other twin should come along, too. Perhaps I'm insensitive to the bond of twins, but that was ridiculous to me. The kids were working on a project, not a play date. What would the other twin be doing? Expecting me to entertain her or getting involved in the project that she wasn't part of?

As teens these twins still come as a pair. Unfortunately that has meant that many of their friends (including my kid) from earlier years have pulled away as friends because "sometimes you just don't want to have to deal with both of them."

I'm sure you will encourage your kids to develop separate interests and friends when it's appropriate for them. Perhaps having a friend at your house for Riley to play with when Maddie goes to her friends house, will make it more of an adventure when the time comes.

OK, I just reread this, and clearly, I've got some unresolved feelings about the twin-parenting I've personally witnessed. I'm going to go ahead an post it because maybe it will help me get over my judgment about this woman's parenting.

I think you do a great job with your kids! Now I should get over this.

Snickollet said...


Yes, the kids had a group playdate and it seemed to be enjoyed by all participants.


I'm sending good wishes your way for your IVF. I am not at all opposed to talking about my experience, which was positive, but it might be easiest if you send me specific questions at snickollet at gmail.


I can't imagine that as teens M&R will still be this much of a pair, but who knows? I'll have to wait to see how it unfolds. I appreciate your perspective. For now, M&R are so young that I'm just going to roll with it and try to be sensitive.

Anonymous said...

I love their relationship and your handling of the situation. I am imaging a situation where a friend still wants a play date with just one twin, even after you've asked to include both. Clearly you would not force the twins to separate, but how to tell them that they are not invited together? Would that call for a little white lie? Or a lesson that rejection is not always personal? I realize this is a total hypothetical, but I am interested in the theme of truth telling to young kids even if it is initially hurtful.

Mandy said...

I have a twin brother and we actually turn 30 today! From a very early age we never wanted to be separated. It wasn’t until kindergarten that my parents had to make the decision as to if we would be in the same classes or not.
My parents let us decide if we wanted separate play dates, and if we invited a friend over it was always for the both of us.
When kindergarten came it was decided that we would go into different classes. It worked out great and I'm glad my parents made that decision. We were able to form our own friendships and our identities.
Being a twin is such a special gift. My brother is still my very best friend. We have had each other through some very hard times, and happy ones too.

P. Gardiner said...

When I was in middle school I invited a friend over & her mother dropped off both my friend & her twin sister. I thought it was a little weird, I didn't really known the other one. Their mother also called them by saying "Twins! Twins come here!" I thought it was all just odd. Later that night my mom told me how awkward it all was for her. My mother is a twin and she was sad that the girls didn't seem to have a choice in who they hung out with, and didn't even get called by name, like they were each 1/2 a person. It was kind of creepy. I'm glad you recognize they will individualize on their own!

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I felt so sad for Riley while reading this.

On the upside, I suppose the fact that you have boy/girl twins will actually help with the individualization process as they get older. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle that with two girls.

Kerrie said...

I have a friend with boy/girl twins...my friend is also a sole parent.

She found much the same as you have done...they don't know any different and really miss the other when not around for some reason.

As you mentioned, the separation for them occurred naturally, and by my friend letting it happen that way for Evie & Hugh it was gentle and it happened at the time they were ready for it by their own "choosing"...I seem to remember it was about time they started school.

They are almost 14 now and are close but don't live in each other's pockets. They go to different schools and have many different friends but still enjoy each others companionship during various activities they enjoy together.

I think you are doing the right thing by asking to see if it's okay if Riley comes too, it would be sad for him to feel pushed out.

Let us know how the playdate pans out...I'' be interested to see if Maddie & her friend play together and Riley separately or if they all play together.

Kerrie said...

Oops, didn't read all comments before I responded.

Glad it went well, glad also that Superdad was okay with both coming over.

I like the idea of Riley having a friend over while Maddie is involved in another activity, maybe not just yet but certainly in the future.

kathleen999 said...

We try to separate ours when we can and always have. My husband takes one somewhere and I take the other. It gives them the kind of attention they can't get otherwise. And they both LOVE having special time alone with a parent.

Now that you have Z, maybe at times Z can take one and you can take the other on equally fun outings. Also, if there is something happening (like this playdate) rather than presenting it as one kid gets to go and one doesn't, you might try planning an outing for the kid who is not invited. We would say it like this: Mommy is going with Zacky to the playground, and Daddy is going with Nicky to ride bikes! Presented as a fact and not as one choice being lesser.

Anyway, that's how we do it and maybe some part of that will work for you.

Anonymous said...

Aww. . I love how Maddie and Riley love each other so much.And you are just a great,great Mummy to them.What a grand job you are doing raising them. Happy New Year and hope its a healthy one for all of you.Love from Colleen in the UK

Anonymous said...

I don't have twins and don't know much about parenting twins. But as a parent of singletons, I wonder if Riley was upset because he would "just" be home with the nanny (not doing anything particularly special) while Maddie would be having a fun playdate, and Maddie then didn't want him to be sad about that. Perhaps the kids would be okay with the idea of separate activities if Riley is going to do X (something uniquely fun, not just be home with the nanny) while Maddie does Y (the playdate). It is often a very different experience when it's two kids having a playdate compared to three kids playing together.

Janine (txmomx6) said...

I have no words of wisdom for you, Snick. My identical twin girls are now 23. They have always been close and yet independent. They now live together and love it.
We just took these events as they came, though the first time it happened it was very hard (probably more on me than on them).
As an aside, right before they started K I took in a study to the principal that showed that it was ok to have twins in the same class, as long as they didn't depend on each other or there was competition. It said that the majority of adult twins said they wish that they had been allowed to be together, or at least been asked their opinion in the process. It also stated that no school official knows what's best for your twins .... you do.
Our school had never allowed twins in the same classroom before. I informed him that it would be up to the girls and her father and I to decide that .... year by year. In K they chose to be separated. They wanted their teachers to "know who they were" (they're very, very identical). After that, each year they chose to be in the same class throughout elementary school. It worked out great and of course was much easier on us as parents. The principal loved the study and continued to use it for years.
Sorry for the long post ... I just though parents of multiples would be interested.

caitrin said...

Just yesterday we arranged a separate playdate for my boys. My son Emil was scheduled to go over to a neighbor's house. This was the first intentionally separate playdate. My son Matin had a VERY hard time with it. His reaction was like we were separating them for life. My husband looked at me and said what should I do? I told him to just go. It all worked out, quite well, but so tough to get there. It has been really important to try and separate them for a more loving environment in our house. I think it's a really different experience with same gender twins, especially when they are identical. As parents of twins we have a lot to consider when it comes to nurturing amazing relationships and fostering healthy individuation.
Hope you are enjoying the west coast from over east in Somerville. :)

Catherine said...

I have twin boys that are five. They dont really get along and it makes me sad. They just are very different. While one hates to be separarted and loves to do everything together, the other one loves to be independent. They are also super competitive and that makes being in the same classroom impossible. They had to be separated in pre-school (per the school request). Now that they are in separate classes, they get invited to separated b-day parties and playdates, while it was difficult at first, they are now adjusting. Many parents have offered to take them both for a playldate, but since they fight a lot, I wouldnt put that on another parent. You are very lucky for the special bond they have, I think some personalities just mesh better for closeness, and boy/girl is a good combo. I hope as mine get older they will grow closer. Enjoy it for now!

Wabi said...

Another adult twin (of a boy/girl set) here who loves reading about your little ones!

Several thoughts: First, I agree, there is no reason to stress the kids out by dramatically forcing social separation now. It's so cute that they were horrified at the thought of it! If you present it as a good and normal thing I'm sure they'll warm up over time.

Second, taking off my "twin hat" I wanted to say that as a mother, I much prefer hosting play dates with just one child. There is less energy, noise, and mess to deal with when there are fewer kids in the house! I wonder if Superdad feels the same way and sometimes would like a little break from the automatic double dates? Just something to think about.

OTRgirl said...

I appreciate how much you allow them to be their own people. Your support for them and enjoyment of them are beautiful.

Mijk said...

Just a warning: my daughter had decided she rather not play with the twins next door then separting them by asking the girl or boy alone. But she really didn't one to play with both. If she would have turned down after gathering the nerve to do just what this girl then I think she would have stopped wanting to play. It was really really really important for her to start having one on one time. She felt she was just alone sometimes when she played with them. I guess because they are very in tune with one another. Also the girl has a speak delay which doesnt bother my daughter but her brother understands her way sooner then my daughter and she felt very left out.

Jen A said...

My daughter has really good friends who are identical twins. It is hard, because she is sometimes closer to one (usually the one who ends up in her class, unfortunately..) and even the mom likes to try to do playdates with just one of them going. I suppose it depends on the relationship you have with the parents, whether to ask if one can tag along. I would be kind of put off if I had asked one child over and then put on the spot to invite the other. Obviously the dad/daughter wanted just your daughter to come or else he would have invited both. I will be curious to see how my daughters friends do as they get older. Their mom separates them in school, and have never treated them as a pair. But I know they usually get invited to things as a pair (can't leave one out or they will be hurt) so it would be hard as a parent to see one hurting, but also trying to provide them opportunities for just them alone.

Danielle said...

My girls are 4 1/2 and I've struggled with this too. They are literally the best of friends and almost always have playdates together. I'm coming to a point of wanting to encourage some separate playdates, mostly because I think they are ready. I haven't tried this yet, but am thinking that in order to make it work, the one that does not go on the playdate needs to have something equally fun to look forward to. Maybe a playdate at another friend's house, or a special outing with me. For my girls, it's all about how it's introduced, and how their feeling at the moment, so it could work, or totally backfire. Good luck encouraging R & M as the best of friends, and as stellar individuals. We all do the best we can right?

Sadia said...

My girls are approaching five, and I think about this issue. They have no interest in being apart, and (perhaps because they're both girls and both outgoing) they have yet to be invited to separate things. However, we're considering splitting them up in elementary school, because Melody has a tendency to answer questions for Jessica. At that point, separate friends, and thus separate social occasions, are inevitable. I know this is norm for people with kids of different ages, but it's so painful with multiples!

My girlies still think having to play in separate rooms is the ultimate punishment, and rarely are apart for more than ten minutes voluntarily.