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.