I had a terrific turnout for my recent presentation in Madrid, largely due to AMAPAMU’s vitality and largesse. With a membership totaling six thousand families, the association commands a tremendous presence in Madrid. Much of the association’s success is due to the hardworking efforts of its dedicated volunteers and to the association president’s leadership. President Lucila Menendez’s unwavering optimism and creative vision has helped the organization become the major resource in Madrid for families raising multiples. The number of fathers who attended the presentation amazed me! It demonstrated how involved both parents are in caring for their children and how successfully AMAPAMU has mobilized and energized their participation.
Throughout my talk, I stressed the importance of the parent-child relationship, cautioning parents not to be swept up in the fantasized version of the twin connection. In response to this issue, a woman in the audience raised a salient concern. She related that her four-year-old son and daughter are in separate preschool classes. While her daughter is delighted to be away from her brother for a few hours each day, her son misses his sister terribly.
Although her son is doing well in preschool and enjoying his friends and activities, the mother is troubled by his sadness about not being with his sister. She asked me if I thought it were important for them to be together, in light of her son’s feelings. It became clear that this mother was having difficulty tolerating her son’s unhappiness. I explained that she could best help her son by allowing him to express his feelings about missing his sister and then reassuring him that he would be fine. It is our job as parents not to try to make everything “nice” for our children; rather, our strength comes from helping them manage feelings and modeling self-soothing behaviors.
Another parent asked if I felt it were emotionally unhealthy for four-year-old boy/girl twins to have an exclusive connection to the parent of the same sex. Although this set of circumstances may not result in any difficulties at the moment, I related that I had some concerns about how this arrangement might contribute to complications later on. Parents must work hard to compromise and support one another in terms of discipline and boundaries.
As children get older, they require more sophisticated rules and regulations. If each parent has an exclusive attachment to one twin, it might become very difficult to parent together as the children get older. Parents may feel torn apart by loyalty conflicts and guilt if they are overly attached to one child more than the other. I suggested that the parents begin to develop ways in which to minimize this attachment split, because it will be easier to make changes while the twins are still young.
Another issue that arose had to do with the challenge of separating eight-year-old identical twin girls. After hearing my discussion about the challenges of separating identical twin girls, a mom shared that her girls refuse to be apart from one another. She acknowledged that she would have to begin to do something little by little to help the girls become less dependent upon one another. Having two younger children at home has naturally made this task more difficult.
Expectedly, the sometimes-cruel reality of being a sibling of twins emerged as an issue broached by one of the parents. A dad asked me about taking out their singleton with one of their twins. I responded very positively to the idea. A working single mom of three-year-old twins told me that alone time is impossible. I suggested she leave one child with another mother of twins and then return the favor by caring for her children. Also, one daughter can play by herself for five to ten minutes so that they can take turns having time alone with mom. Thinking about the importance of alone time and carving out as many opportunities as you can manage will go a long way in facilitating healthy parent-child attachment.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with this group and appreciated their keen interest, participation, and enthusiasm.
Does the discussion I’ve described bring up questions for you? I welcome your thoughts and questions.