Thursday, March 06, 2008

ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU? (and other twin issues)

When I found out we were having twins nearly 4 years ago, I couldn't have been more thrilled. Part of the excitement was the unknown. I wondered what it would be like to have two little girls running around with identical faces. I wondered what kind of friendship they would form, how they would relate to other kids, whether they would gang up on me, whether they would fight, and a hundred other things. After reading lots of books about twins, I mostly just hoped the pregnancy would go well -- all those chapters about bedrest and NICU babies and what to do if one baby died scared me to death. Once I got far enough along that the babies could be born safely, I turned my thoughts again to what having twins would be like.

Well, at 3 and a half, "the twins" (Did you know it's a crime to call them that? They are individuals and should always be referred to by their names. I figure, if that's true, then I'm also ruining the self-esteem of "the boys" and "the big kids" and "the girls" in my family) are so fun to watch together. They are certainly individuals and I think of them very differently. I'm always surprised when people ask me how *I* tell them apart, as if because they see two girls who look just alike, that must be the way everyone sees them. I always say, "they just look different to me." But it's more than that. To me, they are as separate as any other child in my family. I can hear their voices in another room and I know who is saying what. In the dark of the night, when one appears by my bed, I know just who it is even before the timid voice says, "Mommy, can I sleep with you?" When one is throwing a tantrum in the hall at church, I usually know just who it is. I can anticipate their individual whims and separate needs.

That's not to say I don't have occasional moments of confusion; when their back is turned or I'm far away and I realize the reason the girl I'm calling is not turning around is because I'm using the wrong name, or times when I assume the child in the other room that's yelling is Allison because that's usually what she yells about and I find that this time, it's Sarah doing the yelling. But those don't happen that often.

While Sarah & Allison (see, look how good I am at not using the phrase "the twins"!) are separate people, they also function and work as a unit, completely different from any other sibling unit in our family. They have a twin bond and a closeness that I love to watch develop.

Case in point: Lately, the girls have fallen asleep in all sorts of places other than their beds. Mostly this is because they fall asleep faster if they are not in the same room together, talking and giggling and deciding that bedtime is a perfect time to get out all the ponies from their closet or rearrange their dolls. So we put one down in her bed and one down in ours. Or one down on the couch. Or sometimes, when they insist, they both fall asleep on our bed. (my motto: anything that makes bedtime easier goes!) But it also means that sometimes they are separated at night, which is not acceptable to Sarah. She tends to wake up once a night anyway and can often be found crawling into bed with us in the wee hours of the morning. But I realized that her first order of business is to know exactly where Allison is. Several times in the last few weeks, I've woken up to an urgent yell, "ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU? ALLISON -- WHERE - ARE - YOU?" The first time, Allison happened to be sleeping next to me and she immediately popped up and yelled, "Right HE-ERe!" Another time, I think she must have been sleeping on the couch in the family room right outside Sarah's bedroom, because Sarah quieted right down.

I love that they love each other so much. They keep up a constant chatter and figure out solutions to problems faster than I want them to sometimes (for example, how do we get down that spray bottle mom put up on top of the freezer in the pantry so we can make a mess with it?). But they also really depend on each other. Sarah sends Allison into Daddy's office when he's working from home to ask for treats for each of them. Sarah wanted to do something the other day, so she sent Allison downstairs to ask me, "Mommy, can Sarah have . . . ?" If one of them finds something exciting, the other is the first to know. They are getting pretty good at sharing, though fights are still common.

On the other hand, they don't gravitate towards each other or depend on each other too much. At the storytime at the library, they run in the door separately and sit down with the other kids, rarely next to each other. They started preschool for the first time this week, a fun class run by the child development class at the local high school. When I dropped them off both times, they rushed off to different activities in different parts of the room. When I pick them up, Allison has been at the reading center while Sarah is washing her hands or playing with toys somewhere else. I'm glad to see them separate so well.

I look forward to watching their relationship grow over the years. They are blessed to have each other, and I am blessed to have them.

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