As Angelina Jolie bravely brings twins into this world, she has my good wishes—and encouragement, since raising twins, as any parent of multiples knows, is something completely different from raising siblings one at a time.
Before I gave birth—somewhat dramatically and very prematurely—to my twin sons, one cold February morning five years ago, I thought I knew everything there was to know about raising twins: After all I am the older sister of twins, one of whom has her own set of twins.
Like all new parents, I was determined not to replicate my own parents’ behavior. I knew my sisters hated being lumped together and always being referred to as “the twins” instead of by their names. I also remember overhearing my mother on the phone telling people she needed to behave like a drill-sergeant at home to keep us all in line.
I was determined not to be a military mother.
And I wasn’t—certainly not when my newborn sons were teeny tiny, and hospitalized. I was, instead, a completely helpless mother. One baby was small—three pounds—but healthy, while the other weighed two pounds and was very sick. They were in different wards of New York Hospital’s newborn intensive care unit.
How to be fair to both? Spending time with the smallest as he fought for his life seemed imperative. Yet it would have been totally unfair to his brother to have left him alone in a strange place with alarm bells from other isolettes going off.
Thus was my swift, harsh introduction to a life where you feel you never have enough arms and legs; there is never enough time to hug one person at a time, to put Band-Aids on two different sets of scratches, to tell two separate bedtime stories, to manage it so that one boy gets the golf lessons he craves, while the other plays soccer.
Then there are the screeching volume-levels. Listening to two children shouting to you simultaneously about their day, as they fly through the door, shedding outer clothing on the floor before being told to put it away, then heading like missiles toward the food in the kitchen, makes you very cheerful—but also makes you wish sometimes you could get on a magic carpet and levitate above the madness.
And then there’s the guilt over the fact that they have to share toys, rooms, clothes, food, everything: “Why does Lorcan get to spend longer on the computer than me?,” his brother, Orlando, asked the other night.
The real answer is: “because Lorcan is more manipulative than you are.” But do you really want to say that to a five-year-old?
The plus side is that, for life, these two children have a friendship and a bond that other siblings envy. My two never stop talking to one another and inventing games—even if some of them are somewhat unfair. Orlando once suggested to Lorcan: “Hey, let’s play dinosaurs. I’ll be the dinosaur. You’re food.”
Small wonder Lorcan told his granny on the phone that his brother was “bossy.”
Yet they are in effect learning ahead of their time the rules of negotiation, as well as the boundaries of the individual.
As for me? I’m learning not to break out in a panic attack when I hear what sounds like an entire army platoon hurtling up the stairs towards my peaceful office.
After all, they fought for their lives. And this is living—times two.