When your babies are born within minutes of each other, it’s sometimes difficult to treat them differently. After all, they did share a womb for several months. However, the pressure to treat your twins the same often leads to intense sibling rivalry and competition, amongst other things. So, how can you be fair to your twins without feeling like everything must be shared or split equally?
Fairness and Equality For Your Twins
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CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Siblings of all ages demands fairness and equality and for twins it often leads to intense sibling rivalry and competition. As a parent how can you be fair to your twins? Does it mean that everything must be equally shared and how can you help your twosome just to the natural inequality of the outside world. Today we are talking about how you can approach the concepts of fairness and equality with twins. This is Twin Talks
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Welcome to Twin talks, broadcasting from the Birth Education Center, San Diego. Twin Talks is your weekly online on the go support group for expecting and new parent to twins. I'm your host Christine Stewart Fitzgerald.
Now have you downloaded our new network app, it is the best way to get all your favorite New Mommy Media Podcast on the go. And be sure to subscribe on our Twin Talks newsletter to learn when new episodes are posted online. Well here with Sunny with more information how you can get involved with our show.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright will love to hear from our listeners and this show is yours. We think it's yours, we want you guys to participate, be part of it, own it and so there are a couple of segments that we have and we have all these information on our website. So if I am like talking and you are like “What was that she was talking about?” Just go to New Mommy Media and go to the Twin talk section and you would see all of this. So just click on the segment link.
But I am going to highlight just a couple here so you guys have an idea. So we have a segment that is kind of funny that we call “we are expecting what”. It's our funny stories actually your funny stories of how you found out you are pregnant with twins or triplets or quadruplets. So we have some really funny stories of people and what has happened and everybody is reactions and stuffs. So that is one segment you can submit for.
We have another one called “special twin moments” and that is where you know as twin parents we witness this amazing things that our twins are doing. And they have got this awesome, awesome relationship with one another and they do some really cool things. So if you can recall whether you know your twins are now older or you just had your babies and they are doing some really cool stuff. We would love to know about those special twin moments that you experienced you are twins doing.
So again a lot of segments on the website, check it out, go to www.newmommymedia.com and click on the Twin Talks link. If you want to submit though, again through the website, go to the contact link and you can just kind of type it out your response or I like this option the best because we actually get to hear from you guys and that is when you leave us a voicemail. So if you call 619- 866- 4775 it is going to go straight to voicemail. Just tell us your story and we are able to take your little clip and insert it into future episodes. So that's a couple of ways where you can get involved.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Alright, so before we start let's introduce ourselves, so I think Sunny why don't you tell us a little bit . . .
SUNNY GAULT: A little bit about my kiddos?
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes.
SUNNY GAULT: I have 4 in total; my oldest is 5, a boy. My middle guy is 3 and then my twins are turning to next week and those are girls, I finally got my girls. I made two boys and I am going oh we are going for virtually baby number 3 because we wanted to have a little girl and I joked and I tell everyone you know everybody in my family, everyone I knew was praying so hard for a little girl that God was just like you know what I am going to give them 2. There are all these prior request coming in, I am just going to give them 2. So I joke with people that are how I got my twin girl. I just wanted the girls so bad.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So Dr. Friedman, so in addition to be in an expert on the professional level, please tell us about your family both when you were growing up as well as an adult.
DR. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Well my story is a little bit like Sunny but not exactly. I had 3 children and I was 40 and I wanted one more because I came from a family of 4 and I had my own fraternal twin boys. That's just what happened; sometimes you get more than what you wish for. So my boys now are 26 years old and it was an amazing experience because I am an identical twin and growing up my sister Jane and I were basically you know stars.
There was no IVF, there weren’t many twins around unlike now which is what you hear about everyone having twins these days. So it was a very interesting upbringing in terms of what it felt like to be a twin and how we were raised and parented and then they have the experience of been able to raise my own boys, my own twins really gave me this terrific insight into what I feel parents need to be aware of when they are raising twins.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: They are unique individuals.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright so before we get started with today show, we like to talk about different headlines when we find headlines involving twins and triplet and stuff and this one is actually localised. I found it, I am like another Google alert that goes off like anytime you know interesting twins and triplet articles are posted online but this one is actually right here in San Diego, and headline is “dad and twins propose to mom in NICU at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital” which is right here in San Diego.
And apparently what this dad did, his newborn twins they were born 2 months premature and he decided to you know have them be part of his proposal to their mamma. They are in the NICU over at the hospital and he basically . . . I will post a photo to our Facebook account so that you guys can kind of see the picture because you got to see the picture because that is what makes the whole thing.
So the picture of this dad and he is holding his cute little twins in his arms and they have these onesies on it that says “will you marry my daddy”. And then next to it on the little pillow there is the ring box of course with the ring in it and I am thinking how do you say no to something like that. First of all that is the father of your children and you are probably so emotional already. It was kind of an unfair proposal if you ask me.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Right how can you say no?
SUNNY GAULT: I know what are you suppose to say, I am hoping someone better comes along, what are you going to do but she did say yes.
DR. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Another unmarried father passing by.
SUNNY GAULT: So nice story and has a happy ending but using your babies in your proposal. I have never heard of that before.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: I have never heard about that before I mean at the hospital . . . I am sure you are postpartum, you are already emotional and you are bonding with your babies, how does he win by heart. . .
SUNNY GAULT: I know, right. Actually it is a pretty smart idea on that stand of point; she can't say no if I do this.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: But you know what I have to say you know like when my husband when he propose to me you know it was a very casual setting so I always think about you know you won't remember this moment . . . I think well . . . okay can I put some lip gloss on . . .
SUNNY GAULT: Yes she didn't know what's coming . . .
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: We are here today with Dr. Joan Friedman who is here to talk about the concept of fairness and equality as it applies to twins. You know the idea for the show actually came from a voicemail from one of our listeners and I am going to turn this over the sunny so that she can tell us a little bit about this.
SUNNY GAULT: So this came from Amy in Dallas Texas and she is kind of struggling in there, she has a two and half years old boys and I am going to let her tell you a little bit more about her problems here and then we can kind of pick up the conversation from there.
AMY: Hi there my name is Amy and I am from Dallas Texas. I am a first time bomb of twins, fraternal twin boys and they are two and a half years old. I am currently going through a situation where they are almost violently jealous of each other when I am showing them affection separately. And I just wanted to get a little insight on any experienced mothers of multiples on this and any suggestion as to what I should do in this situation.
SUNNY GAULT: So she then kind of goes on and say some other stuff and again that is Amy, so Amy this episode is for you.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Alright, so Dr. Friedman let's jump right in, so I think you know we talked about the ideas of fair and equal . . . fairness and equality, let's take a step back and can you kind of tell us I mean what does that really mean especially in twin terms.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Well you know how children are siblings and twins are always sort of saying “it is not fair, it is not fair, it is not fair” and usually that's about . . . you know they are impatient, they want something, you know they are kind of pushing the limits, they are really just wanting to see what they can really get away with and have you know we as parents are going to respond. I think that is really what kind of fairness is. I see the issue of inequality as something where child is really legitimately angry about something where we as parents you know need to step in. So there is a difference between managing kind of the annoying, nagging, fighting that goes along with wanting things to be fair and the bigger issue like when things really are unfair
Let me give you an example, something really unfair when you have you know like I give you an example, if both of your daughters are in a dance contest and one daughter really deserves a trophy and the other one doesn't but the judges give each girl a trophy because they don't want to leave one of the twins out, that is really inequality that is someone not given one of the twins what it is she deserves and what she earned. I mean being competitive for mom’s intention or sitting on lap or wanting the same cookie or wanting the same toy. I mean that happens with singletons of course because that is just part of developmental behaviors is seen how much you are pushing the boundaries and you have to set the limits.
I think Amy the mom who called is struggling with that same issue. She is obviously having difficulty saying no to one, setting limits, you know here she has to wait and being okay with that. And I know often parents of twins feel like, they feel bad, they feel guilty when they can't give each one of them the same thing. But each one of them doesn't deserve the same thing or they are not entitled to the same thing like what if just one needs a pair of shoes are you going to get the other one a pair of shoes just because one needs them.
I mean this is how you begin to help them see that the world isn't organized around there needing to be the same. But if parents are feeling guilty and bad and struggling with that concept then they will give them that message and there would be endless competition and endless struggles and you can't keep this up. Because as children get older they are going to be in the world and they are going to find the world is not going to treat them fairly like a mom of kindergarten kids told me that both of her daughters went to I think first grade and they both were wearing a watch and they are in different classes and one teacher permits children to wear jewellery and the other one doesn't.
So they had a situation where the mom just had to say whatever daughters I am sorry your teacher has different rules, she has a different way she runs the classroom and you are not going to be able to wear the watch. Of course she got upset but this is life. So it starts outside of course but in the home it starts in the most important way where we really need to give a message that they are individuals and they can't have everything the same all the time and if one gets in trouble one gets in trouble and that is just the way that it is and it is really trying to keep in mind that they are like two unique children born at the same time.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: You have raised some amazing points because I have to think probably on a cultural level I mean just all parents here are probably uncomfortable with idea of equality. I think there is a lot of pressure that we want to encourage you know the children, their self esteem, so we don't want them to be left out and so like you know as you were mentioning we have to give them all rewards for their effort even if it is not achieving the same results. And to your point it is sort of eliminates that teaching moment or what we're trying to achieve.
I think this is a great explanation of equal so I think that is great for me as a parent to think about . . . I need to get past that uncomfortable feeling that it is okay to be unequal and there is going to be some conflict there as a result because the behavior is not always going to be equal.
SUNNY GAULT: Well is it intuitive you know Joan you have done your research on stuff back to Amy's point the lady that called and you know she has got little kids and I can relate to this too because my twins are 2 years old and they would come out to me with full force both want in the exact same thing. They do legitimately usually have some sort of need maybe it is just cuddles with mom or whatever and maybe I can do that at the same time with them, sometimes they let me do that sometimes they don't. I am just wondering from a twin standoff point you know is there anything . . . is that a learned behavior that somehow the way thing they should do everything on their own. Is there any research to support that or you know is it just . . .
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Let's think of it this way, they are just so competitive, there is somebody in the space you know pre-birth-after birth and you know they are always going to be sort of competing for what they available supplies are. So you are the supply they want a cuddle, they both want you well I mean that's completely understandable, they love you. You are the one that has to decide at some point whether you want to make one wait and cuddle alone or you cuddle them both together. I mean it is going to be up to you given how they are able to be respectful and responsive to whatever limit you are setting about how they are going to behave.
I was at a conference and this mom said that how children fight over who possesses the mother and who possesses the father and I didn't answer very honestly because it was in a group of people and I didn't want to be too harsh. But to me that is just weakening of parents having trouble that they are set in any limits. And I don’t use that limits with your older boys so you know what that’s like but it is harder with twins because they both want the same thing at the same time.
But the end result is the same just with your older boys, they have to learn how to wait, they both are not going to get the same thing. They have to handle whatever ill feelings it creates between themselves and you were going to model all that by being really consistent and respected limit setter by saying this is what you expect from both of them and they need to wait.
I mean it is really difficult, if you think in this straws so how when it is so difficult when they are yelling and screaming and complaining and telling you that you are so unfair with this that your girls haven’t told you this yet. But it is just that you can think about it that you are really helping them feel like separate individuals that are entitled to their only unique experience.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So what should our goals be as parents in terms of creating fairness for our twins?
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: I think the goal is been able to understand that you are giving them a gift. That you are preparing them for life that thing won't always be equal. That you are really able to view each of their own needs and be responsive to each of them rather than responding to them as a unit and really helping them create a sense of their own resiliency so that when they grow, if one is invited to party and the other one doesn't go, it is not the end of the world. You know if one of them ends up having more friends and other one maybe only have one best friend, it is not the end of the world. It is the senses of these are two unique beings they have their own personalities and needs and their own journeys.
You really are respectful of have they have gone about creating their own individual world and that comes from being able to see them as individuals. A mom in the group said to me both my boys play the violin and it seems like they are both playing the same. I said well you may not really be hearing that they are playing differently. I mean it is kind of a metaphor but you really do have start seen these kind of . . . even if they are really little differences and really respecting the differences because that is what is going to help them grow into their individuality a little bit easier.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well that's a great example for looking for the differences because that is a big challenge.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Yes especially if they are identical, it's very big.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Sunny and I can both agree on that.
SUNNY GAULT: Yes totally.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: You were talking about kind of creating some opportunities for them to create their own resiliencies and there are individual experiences and from a teaching opportunity I mean how can we as parents be intentional in creating these opportunities for our kids?
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Well I think is really important to try to do some one on one time because that really does help you essence of each one of them away from the other. I also know it's often with extended families and with caretakers it’s often when you try to introduced time alone with grandparents, they think you're crazy because they don't understand that, that would be such a gift to be able to take one . . . one time and then trade off and take the other one. That really is something wonderful like you can do and people just always imagine that twins never want to be separated.
Someone I worked with her children just went off to different colleges and she is still getting questions like “oh my god didn’t they want to be together”. I mean people have to be educated; the twins strive having some time away from each other. You know they are kind of born married with a partner they didn't choice . . .
SUNNY GAULT: Arrange marriage.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: . . . they might just need some space to have something that is kind of their own. My advice or wish for a lot of parents of twins would be to really try to curve out some alone time and to kind of get the message to extended family, caretaker you know to other moms that they just want to invite one over for a play date not another. Those are all wonderful opportunities for you to help them deal with the fact that they are not always going to do everything together and they are not always the same and people respond to them differently. It is a gift!
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: It is a gift! Absolutely! Hold that thought and we are going to take a break and when we come back we are going to talk about some of the practicalities of providing fairness to our twins.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Welcome back today we're talking with Joan Friedman about teaching our twins about fairness and equality. So we were talking about some of the practical ways that we can introduce unique and different experiences so you know when we are involve in other family members, sometimes I think the immediate family may be sensitive to these needs but the outside world isn't so kind, so how can we as parents handle the situation? Do you have any examples that you might be able to share?
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: I know that if parents can handle the situation if they feel comfortable with what they are doing. I think it’s their discomfort if they are feeling that they are doing something wrong if it makes it difficult and of course it is the twinders protesting saying they don't want to go, they don't want to be split up, or you know they are upset that the parents have to have their resilience within themselves to recognise it. They have to be able to go ahead with what they need to do in spite of the twins making protest or been upset. I think it is kind of this parental organic sort of feeling that this is what I need to do for my twins.
They may not understand it that this is a good thing, but I know that this is a good thing and I think eventually they would really appreciate it also. So you know it’s like making decisions to you know maybe take them alone to an activity or you know to arrange a play date for one or one is invited to birthday party and the other one doesn't to go ahead and say yes, or if a mother calls in and says do I have seen white both of them, you can say no. That kind of things!
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Some of the examples that you were mentioning I can say just recently my girls are been getting invitations to birthday parties from their class . . .
SUNNY GAULT: They are different classes.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes, they are different classes, and I know that most of the parents are pretty flexible in terms of inviting siblings but my husband and I, you know we have kind of made this decision that we are not going to bring the siblings if we can at all avoid it. That is logistically impossible; we are going to just try to have the invited twin attend. I know few months ago it turned out that it was on the weekend, we had one twin going to a birthday party and the other twin ended up having a little camp over with the grandparents. So it worked up but we got pushed back, it was like “why can I go to the birthday party with sister” and I really felt that even though we knew we were doing right thing it was hard you know getting this push back and complaining and we had to do it a few times . . .
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: You know what they will probably always be complaining but more you do it the easier it will be and then you will see they both had a really wonderful and unique experience on their own away from each other, I mean they both had fun right?
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: They both have fun and you know I think you mention earlier about you know kind of splitting them up to spend time with them and I think one of the benefit is that the grandparents get spend time with one twin and get to know her. My parents are one of those folks where they have a hard time telling them apart. So I have an alternative motive like okay maybe you can get to know this girl and you can recognise her next time around . . . its funny.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Yeah, no, I will tell you that will happen, there are 3, you have really a lot of agendas there which is wonderful.
SUNNY GAULT: How's that working out for you?
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yeah [laughing]
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Let me ask you, when you felt the push back did you feel guilty, I mean what did you feel when they were trying to make you feel bad about this decision?
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well you know I guess on one hand I knew that they probably wanted to go to the birthday party because it was just a fun kids activity. I mean well they do like spending time with the grandparents . . . in my head I knew it's the right thing and it is something we need to continue. But I will just admit on a practical level you know we told them going up to like 2 weeks ahead at time this is what we are going to do and all the way up there and you know it almost every couple days “ I don't want to”. So at the back of my mind I'm thinking “I am really getting tired of this . . . I am really getting tired of hearing this.”
And then even afterwards, after they had fun, they were still “oh but sister got to do this, you know sister got to do the other thing . . . “
SUNNY GAULT: It is a constant reminder . . .
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: It is a reminder and so I still do get a little bit of grief but I know like “okay hold on stay strong”
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: And maybe when they get accustomed to do in it a little bit more, they will be less complaining, maybe 2 weeks was too much notice.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes, just bring it on in say “oh by the way you are going to your grandparents this weekend see ya”
SUNNY GAULT: Yes it's true, they couldn't think about it.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: They are going to get you grief because they know it bothers you, you know . . .
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: once you get you know much more cavalier about this decision making it would probably be less grief, I would hope.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes, are there any carnod rules that we should follow when it comes to kind of you know equal and fairness I mean as far as you know you talked about setting limits. I am thinking about when it comes to giving rewards for effort or experiences.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: What would you do if there were different singleton, that is how I would have you answer that question in your head.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: So that's a good point so if they were different ages and perhaps they had different development needs or social needs or interests, would I treat them any differently? And you know what I think I do have the conversation with my younger singleton and often it goes in the lines like well you know you’re younger and you are in a different phase. So this is what the big girls do and this is what the little girls do, and so that is kind of what it is.
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: And that will work with twins of the same age and that's that argument.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Yes
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Which gives us all so much more heartache, that is the problem, because you can't do that that is not how you can think about it. So I think what we have to do is to have a thing in our head about we are really trying to help them become resilient individuals and that is how I am going to be making decisions about how I am going to treat each one of them. So instead of going to that age thing let's try to think about that we are really going to that kind of individuality, the self esteem, the capacity to tolerate differences and to set them up to have strength to deal with themselves, each other and the world when things don't exactly do the same for each one of them.
Because that is an insane sort of expectation if you think about it why would their worlds be the same? I mean you can give them the same toys but I mean after point the world which comes for them and for us are much more complicated.
This woman in a group a long time ago who really haven’t successfully dealt with this issue came to the group and was complaining that she was so into this kind of fair and equal that they have these girls had her wrapped around their fingers to the point that she . . . if she didn't get the crust cut off from each of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches equally they would have a fist. So I thought I didn’t know what to say because this woman was beyond my help.
That is how crazy it can become if you don't get some sort of bigger perspective you know long range perspective about the importance of you know responding to each of them. I mean some things are little but bigger things where you as a parent and each family is different in terms of what their priorities are. That is when you have to start thinking about that things can't be the same.
For example what if one is a better athlete than the other, what do you do? I mean one mom told me one son you know they got bicycles and he was often running on the bike you know it is like the first time he got on and his brother was watching him and couldn't get on the bike and this has a really hard time and then of course didn't want to ride the bike, didn't even want to try to ride the bike because he felt you know so bad about fact that he couldn't do it but his brother did do it. So that stuff is going to happen. . .
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: It is going to happen if we have to teach done okay you know sorry maybe one kids got the ability to do it and you don't think you got strengths in other areas and so . . .
Dr. JOAN FRIEDMAN: Or else you know what he did it once and we are going to go out and practice until you do it and when you do it you do it and that is just fine.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: And that is life and you will get used to it.
Alright we going to wrap this up and I just want to say thank you so much for joining us today and be sure to visit our episode page on our website for more information about Doctor Joan Friedman and her books about Parenting Twins as well as links to additional resources. This conversation continues for members of our Twin Talks club and after the show Doctor Friedman will share some stories about what can happen when twins are treated exactly the same with embarrassing behaviors that follows. For more information about the Twin talks club visit our website www.newmommymedia.com .
SUNNY GAULT: Okay it's time for a fun segment on the show it is called “We are expecting what”. It is where you guys can share your stories of how you found out that you’re pregnant with twins. This story comes from Charlene, Charlene lives in Georgia.
She says “I have left in Augusta Georgia my whole life, I have a 4 year old and 2 year old, they are both girls. So February and March I had my own menstrual period when April came my periods didn’t come. I immediately took a home pregnancy test and was shocked when I didn't take a minute before the positive sign came out. I started to have to worst vomiting in the world. I have been pregnant twice and have never felt this bad. So I went to the Emergency Room because after days of not holding anything down I became scared. The emergency staff immediately gave me an IV with fluids, right before they were about to discharge me the doctor decided to do an ultrasound just to make sure the baby was in the right place. Not even a minute into it the doctor’s face was surprised. He looked at me and said “no wonder you are so sick, it is twins”, the only response that came to my mind was “Ahhh there is 2 in there”. Now this just happen a few days ago and I am still waiting for my initial appointment and according to the Emergency Room sonogram I am about to head my second trimester”
Oh my gosh how exciting for you Charlene, thanks so much for writing this in and we certainly wish you the best of luck with your twin pregnancy.
CHRISTINE STEWART-FITZGERALD: Well, that wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to Twin Talks.
Don’t forget to check out our sister show:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• The Boob Group for moms who breastfeed their babies
• Parent Savers your parenting resource on the go and our newest show,
• Newbies for new parents.
This is Twin Talks. Parenting times two.
This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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