Šį kartą - Mylu.lt tinklalaidės „Pagarbi tėvystė“ pokalbis su viena reišmingiausių dvynių eksperčių pasaulyje apie tai, kaip užauginami emociškai sveiki dvyniai.
Dvynių tėvams gerai žinomos knygos „Emotionally healthy twins” autorė psichologė, psichoterapeutė, dr. Joan A. Friedman pokalbyje dalinasi dešimtmečiais kauptomis profesionaliomis įžvalgomis. Joan sekti ir daug įdomios informacijos apie dvynius sužinoti galite ir Instagrame.
Naujame Mylu.lt tinklalaidės „Pagarbi tėvystė“ pokalbyje sužinosite:
Ką svarbu žinoti tėvams ir kaip turėtų būti auginami emociškai sveiki dvyniai?
Asmeninė Joan patirtis, augant su identiška dvyne,
Asmeninė Joan patirtis auginant identiškus dvynius.
Beje, kad įrašytų šį tinklalaidės epizodą ir pasidalintų su mumis savo įžvalgomis, Joan nepatingėjo atsikelti 4 val. ryto.♥ Nuostabu, žavinga ir neįtikėtina, kai pasaulinio lygio ekspertai sutinka įdėti tiek pastangų, kad įrašytų pokalbį santykinai mažai auditorijai Lietuvoje. Tai yra geriausias jų aistros ir atsidavimo temai įrodymas.
Kad pokalbis pasiektų jus, prisidėjo „Yes for skills” - Montessori įkvėptų lavinimo priemonių kūrėjai www.yesforskills.lt.
Dovilė: Sveiki. Čia Dovilė Šafranauskė ir naujas Mylu.lt tinklalaidės „Pagarbi tėvystė“ epizodas. Epizodas, kurio, man atrodo, aš laukiau nuo pat tada, kai tapau dvynukių mama. Žinoma, tapti mama yra didžiulis virsmas. O jei mama tampame dviem vaikams – išgyvenimų gerokai daugiau. Todėl man labai reikėjo ir palaikymo, ir žinių, kaip gi gyventi su dvyniais.
O šios laidos pašnekovės daktarės Joan Friedman knygos buvo mano pirmasis langas į dvynių pasaulį. Man ir daugybei dvynių tėvų tai buvo galimybė sužinoti tuos atsakymus, kurių kiti tėvai, auginantys vieną ar net daugiau vaikų, sau niekada neužduos.
Tačiau prieš keliaujant į pokalbį trumpai aptarkime labai dažną klausimą, kurį girdi dvynių mamos - ar visko reikės dvigubai? Ne visko, tačiau daug ko tikrai reikia dvigubai. Ypač įvairiausių knygelių, lipdukų – na, to, ko niekaip neišeina pasidalinti. Prisimidama, kaip man būdavo sunku išmesti tas greitai suklijuotas ir suspalvintas knygeles, o tiksliau – dvigubus jų kiekius, net aiktelėjau pamačiusi daugkartines „Yes for skills“ Montessori filosofijos įkvėptas lavinimo knygeles.
Čia yra klijuojami ir atklijuojami lipdukai, čia yra nutrinami žymekliai tam, kad mes tas knygeles galėtume panaudoti dar ir dar kartą. Na, tiek, kiek reikės dviem vaikam (o gal ir daugiau), arba tol, kol mažieji išmoks ir raideles, ir skaičius. Na, o jūs sutaupysite ne tik Žemės resursų, bet ir visa krūvą pinigų.
Tokios knygelės yra super naudingos auginant vieną vaiką, o auginant dvynukus – tikrai neįkainojamos. Pasidairykite patys www.yesforskills.lt elektroninėje parduotuvėje ir pasirinkite tai, kas labiausiai patiks jūsų mažyliui. Yesforskill.lt, o kad nesuklystumėte, nuorodą taip pat rasite ir pokalbio aprašyme.
Na, o dabar keliaukime į mano ilgai išlauktą ir išsvajotą pokalbį apie tai, ką svarbiausia žinoti, auginant dvynukus.
Dovilė: I’m very, very happy to announce that today with me is dr. Joan Friedman. She’s a number one twins expert in the world and mum of five kids, among which there are twin boys. She’s also a psychologist and author. Joan, I’m thrilled to have you here. Thank you so much for joining us.
Joan: Thank you for inviting me and for that lovely introduction. Seriously! I also want to add that I’m an identical twin myself, so that’s an important part of this whole thing, too.
Dovilė: Yeah, I can imagine! Let’s start with your personal story. What is your story in this topic?
Joan: My identical twin sister and I were born in the early 50s and there was very little information out there about what do twins need to grow up with a healthy sense of their own self. We were brought up as a couple. We shared a room, we had double beds, double sinks in the bathroom, we had the same towels, closets, desks. We were together the whole time. There was plenty of room, they could have given us separate rooms in the house, but it was just never a thought, because twins are supposed to grow up together and be together.
So by the time we were ready to go to college, which is 17 or 18 here, we were so sick of each other and we just wanted to be away. We both went to different colleges. We grew up in California, so we went to the Mid-West, Michigan and Wisconsin. My sister Jane went to school and the roommate she got her first year is still her best friend today. And when I went to school, I made friends, but I had a very, very hard time being alone.
You don’t realize any of these things until hindsight, but I didn’t realize it. I had never been on my own in a social situation or in an academic situation. Going to college for most children, young adults is very overwhelming anyhow. But if you’ve come out of a twin bubble, you’re accustomed to having anybody and everybody around you all the time, then you find yourself really alone, really on your own. And I found out I had no coping skills. If I couldn’t attach myself to somebody and find another person that I made info a twin, that I couldn’t find myself and I didn’t know how to be the person that I was. Because I didn’t have a way of connecting.
So that was the beginning of my recognition that I needed to understand more. I graduated, then I went to undergraduate school. When I decided to become a therapist, everyone has to have a lot of therapy, which I still have and love. I’m one of those believers that therapy doesn’t terminate. It’s just such a special relationship. So, I tried to understand why growing up as a twin has impacted me in such a difficult way. Not that it was anyone’s fault, but people and parents didn’t really understand how growing up as a twin is very different from growing up as a singleton. I was working on myself and I had three children under 8 at that point, and I decided I want to have one more because I came from a family of four.
I was 40 when I got pregnant with my twins Johnny and David, who are now in their 30s. I thought: “Oh, my God, I don’t want to have twins!” I was so upset! Well, they’re not identical and they’re not girls, so it’s a little bit removed from my own experience and I could have a better grip on things. Now, I’m so grateful to that twin pregnancy and to Johnny and David because that’s when I decided to use the knowledge that I’ve learned inside me and outside in terms of parenting so I could try and help other people be educated in a way and wished my parents had been.
Dovilė: It really shows how much energy you have in this topic. From personal experience and as a mother, and a therapist. It’s such a multidimensional story which is really nice. Your book “Emotionally healthy twins” is my lighthouse navigating twinship because I’m an only child in the family and then I happen to be mother of twin girls! How to navigate that? So this book was my life saver. I recommended it multiple times on various Facebook groups here in Lithuania. You might be famous here as well!
One thing that really stood out in this book for me was a section about twin mystique. When I was reading it, my girls were just babies and I thought to myself: “Do people really believe those things?” My girds were growing up and I realized that they do! Maybe you could tell us more about what it is and how it’s been accumulated to that extent?
Joan: I can't really attest for exactly why, but I know that it's true. And it goes back to, I don't know, all these Roman and Greek myths. It goes back to everything in movies and media and athletics. It's, it's just... Everyone talks about twins and it's kind of related to the fact that everybody wants a double.
I have a hard time understanding it because I have a double, but I think non twins think about this idea of having a twin and it's a lot of very positive fantasies about, oh, there's going to be somebody like me. It's an imaginary friend. I won't be alone. I'll have a soulmate, you know, I’ll never be abandoned.
It is something this twin mystique just kind of permeates. Everything here in the U. S. in terms of culture, always books, movies, music, you know, every time I have my Google alerts, it's twin athletes. There's something in a very positive way, very compelling, but in a negative way, in terms of when you're trying to raise children to be individuals and lots of times you don't have support from even grandparents and siblings and teachers, and coaches.
They will be so enraptured with the twin mystique that they don't make good choices for what twins may need in certain situations. So, I always also share a joke. My sister and I are quite old and we will take a walk together from time to time and we kind of still look similar, so someone will stop us and they go: “Are you guys twins?”
And we go: “Yeah.” And then they go: “Oh, are you best friends?” And my sister will answer quickly: “No, no, no. We are sisters and we love each other, but we have our own best friends.” And so the people leave very crestfallen because we have not given them the answer that they want. So, I'm telling you from birth until you're in your later years of your life this thing still goes on. And it's very strong and it's embedded within hearts and minds of other people who are not twins.
Dovilė: Yeah. When I was walking on the street with my twin girls when they were babies... Oh, my God. Everybody would stop and say: “Are they twins?”
So, the most strange question I got was like, if they are twins, why they are not dressed in the same way? But they are two different girls, and in Lithuania this is still very, very popular to dress twins exactly, exactly the same. So you could see from far away - these are twins walking and also this kind of believe that they should be similar.
They should be kind of two of the same.
Joan: Do you know or have any idea why in your culture that's been, I mean, it's everywhere, but sometimes it's stronger than in other places is, do you know why that might be in Lithuania or in your culture, your history that would kind of cement that idea for people?
Dovilė: No, I wouldn't have any narrative for that. Like something in particular would be standing out. But I think that for many years there were really little of twins in society in general, it's just in recent years, like everywhere in the world, the number of twins has increased.
So it's more and more natural to see twins. Some years back, it was very exceptional. So, somebody who is a twin is always regarded as something mysterious: you can exchange in the exam, or you can do these funny things. And that was like the emphasis that it's fun.
And everybody would say: “Oh, I've always dreamed about having twins.” Yeah, it's fun, but it's not easy at the same time.
Joan: Exactly. And those people that think it's fun and it's easy are the people that miss these very important kind of things that we wan to talk about. You know, the first question, that women here are asked if they're pregnant with twins or they see twins on the street: “Was it IVF?”
It’s unbelievable that strangers feel entitled to be so intrusive with these personal questions, but they do because they see a twin stroller and they just get caught up wanting to know all sorts of personal information. That's unfair, I think. So, it's so funny because growing up as a twin, I got so much unwanted attention.
Because, of course, we were dressed the same until, if you can believe it, we were 10 years old. Until my sister and I finally told our mother that we weren't interested in doing this anymore. So, I have, you can imagine, I have such a personal distaste for something like that.
And when my boys were born, of course I did everything exaggerated to undo the experience that I had. I wanted them not to be known as twins. And that's why in my book I talk so much about being alone with each twin as much as I can. So, shall we get into that right now?
Dovilė: Absolutely. Let's get into that because I know you're a big proponent about separating, about having alone time with the twins, separate rooms, even separate birthday parties, which I don't do, I must confess. They still have the same birthday party. But this year, my girls are signed up for school, so they will go to different classes.
And if I would get a euro for each time I'm asked: “How come you separated them in different classes?” I would be close to millionaire now. So, let's talk about this individuality thing, about separation and why it's important.
Joan: Okay. I think this is the most important topic because, as you say, people don't understand why you want to do this.
And if you do do this, you're crucified. The first group that I ran and I was introducing this idea of alone time. One woman came back from the group and goes: “My grandmother wanted me to tell you that this is absolutely a no, you cannot do that.” This is something that goes against people's fantasies and ideas that if you separate twins, you will break the twin bond, and they will no longer be close.
Instead of thinking the way you and I think that it strengthens the twin bond when they can have some time away from one another. It's this idea that separation will ruin the twinship. So, I had growing up a personal feeling that my twinship rendered me really incapable of so many coping skills in the world, that I had not developed because of having too much of a dependence and a reliance on my sister.
So, I realized early on that that's a part of having sort of twins who end up kind of parenting each other because there's not a mom or a dad that's zooming in on the relationship and becoming more important than the twin to each other. With a singleton, there's always a parent-child relationship pretty much because it's easier and there's not two children that the parents have to be attached to.
So, parents of twins really have to work doubly hard to try to make an individual attachment to each child. Because, as we know, in attachment literature in Europe - there's no one more important in a child's life than a parent because the parents are the ones who create boundaries and limitations.
And the attachment starts there early on at birth or before birth. And that's the most important person in that child's life. So, the parent has a big task and I understand why many parents sort of don't think about it or they rationalize that the twins are happier being by themselves because they like being together. And then I think when they see this that they feel, again consciously or unconsciously, a little bit rejected because they haven't figured out a way to get into the connection with each child and they may feel left out.
And if they feel left out, then they kind of recede in the background, and then they celebrate the twinness more than they would celebrate the individuality.
Dovilė: Yeah, then comes this twin mistake when they say: “Oh, okay, they have each other. I'm so happy they will have each other. I can be aside then.”
Joan: Right. Which we know you can't really be. I mean, children need parents. First of all, it is so overwhelming to have two babies at one time. I am so compassionate and especially if they're your first children. Nobody knows what to do with their first children. Nobody does whether you have one or five.
It's just an overwhelming experience. It is. So, I was so lucky to have had three other ones before, because if I had been an inexperienced mom, in addition to having twins, I think it would have been just absolutely… I don't know, I don't think I could have done it. But so I'm very compassionate about things I tell mothers of twins to do, especially if it's their first kids. And it's especially hard, but the payoff in the end, it's so worth doing like what you're doing or doing what I advocate other moms to do, which is just to really understand that twins need their mom and their dad and the twin will always be there, but they need the mom and the dad to be the primary attachment and the twin secondary.
And again, how do you go about doing that when you're trying to take care? How do you bond with 2 babies at the same time? Difficult. However, there are strategies and I think the best strategy is thinking about how you can spend one on one time alone with each child.
And everyone's circumstances are different. You might not have any help. You might not even have a partner. You might be working. So, it's not how much time or what you do exactly. It's more like a psychological investment in the idea that you feel that one on one time is really important. And when you have that in your mind, you will find things to do and also make it more of a priority, like some mom's saying: "I have five minutes before, you know, they go to bed. I can read separately." Great! "I can walk one down to them to the mailbox. That's all I can do." Great. Then you can kind of go from there: “I can take one to the store. I can take one to the library. My partner and I on the weekend, we can sort of trade off and my partner can take one to the store and I can spend time alone with one here.”
It's a sort of thinking about one on one time, how you can incorporate it in your schedule and make it a priority. And that's what's so important.
And when people realize, they're often afraid to do this because they might encounter protests and you will encounter protests. If you do this when the kids are, I don't know, maybe a year and a half or two because they're not accustomed to this at all.
It's a new wrinkle in their routine, but people understand this not as a part of their being a toddler, but they're going: "Oh, my God. He's crying. His twin is leaving. He's so upset. We can't separate them." I mean, you really have to be able to understand dynamically that it's not. I mean, maybe part of it is, but that twin is much more worried about, where they're going and what the twins going to be doing when they're not there. So, you have to be able to work through this slowly.
And this is what's given separation of very bad name. People think: "Oh, my God, the twins were separated. They're traumatized." I think in many cases, if you don't hear the whole story, they have been traumatized because if you take twins, that have been together for five years, and all of a sudden, they're now going to be in separate classes. That's traumatizing. You have to prepare for separation, whether it's one on one time when they're two years old, whether they're four years old, and they're going to go to preschool, and they're going to be in separate classes.
You have to be very sensitive to the fact that you must prepare children, talk about it, take baby steps. You know, kind of talk it up like: "Oh, you're going to have your own room, your own classroom, your own teacher.” It can't be done precipitously because you want to tear them apart, or the school tells you they have to be separated.
So, it really is a parental responsibility to think about separation in the most sensitive way so that you're giving these children a gift of separation, not a trauma about separation and needing to understand why separating them sensitively is really a gift.
Dovilė: That's very nicely said, actually. And I agree absolutely with you that if you say: "Oh, we are separating you and I've decided now you are going to be separate." I was also introducing this idea of separate classes for quite a long time. But the girls now have their separate rooms. They have pretty often one on one time. So, it's not about like, really, we are punishing you while separating. It's like you said, it's a gift. You can create your own personalities in a sense.
I was just thinking, , the bond that they have is there. It's very natural. I remember a conversation with one twin mom, and she said: "I have a problem because I cannot leave anywhere because nobody agrees to take care of two babies." and I suggested her and I said: "Why don't you just take one with you and you ask somebody to take care of another one?" And she was like: “Can I really do that? I've never even thought about it, that I can do it." I said: "Oh, of course, the granny
would agree to take care of one. And if I go with one kid, I can do things because I can put him in the baby carrier. And that's so much easier compared to two."
So I think that in many cases this has to be legalized in the parents mind.
Joan: Exactly. Yes, this is a great thing. Not that you're tearing them apart from each other. Right? And it's so funny. Once you do that, it's so great that you put that light bulb in that mom's head.
People will say this is great. This is so much easier. There's no fighting. We can go to a better restaurant (one mom told me) and they get to be one child one on one. And it's the most wonderful experience, not only for the mom, but for the kid.
What does that kid want anyway? All he's doing all day is sharing his mom with someone else, sharing everything. Mom, dad, toys, love, attention. The one-on-one time means this is for me and I don't have to share my mom or my dad right now. This is so incredibly special. And I've worked with so many adult twins who told me that they never had any time alone with either of their parents and what a sadness and what a dearth of what could have been possible had that happen. And also what that really helps with too is the whole subject of can you really love twins the same. People always ask me: "Oh, you had five children. You love them all the same."
And I said: "Absolutely not. I wouldn't even want to do that?" Why would I do that when I just make them generically all the same and not have the fun of discovering their differences and their personalities and who they are and how they are in the world. I don't love my children the same and I wouldn't want to, because that is such a detriment to all of them. Because I think moms of twins feel like if they don't love each one the same that they feel guilty and then they may cover that up by really emphasizing the twinness as opposed to being able to self-reflect and understand that a) it's not great to love them the same and b) to be more aware of the issues of that child or that twins personalities that they struggle with.
I'm a very big advocate of talking about motherhood with a lot of good and a lot of bad and a lot of love and a lot of hate. And I did this early on in my career and got so much bad feedback because people don't normally talk honestly about what it is to come to motherhood.
With my first son, it was such a shock. I went to a baby group and I go: "Oh, my God. This is so hard. I'm so bored. I never loved babies. I'm so bored taking care of this baby. I left my work and I'm bored and I'm home and I'm just having a hard time." And these women looked at me, they said: "Joan, don't you love your baby?" I go: "What does this have to do loving my baby? I'm expressing my ambivalence. I'm expressing the part of me that's having trouble. And in case none of you know, it's healthy."
Anyway, it's the same with a mom of twins. Let's just say you bond more with one because you have more of a personality compatibility. So instead of feeling bad about that you have to think about what is it about this other twin that I'm having trouble with.
So, moms may bond more with the one who's a better sleeper or a better eater, or maybe the mom likes to be needed. So, they bond more with the twin who's needy and they don't feel as bonded with the twin that isn't. What they need to do is to try to be as honest as they can with each other. And then when they have the alone time, when you have that connection with each child cemented, you're so much more able to deal with the ambivalent feelings that you have about both children. Because you can discipline a child that you feel very connected to, but you can't discipline a child that you feel guilty about not loving as much as the other one. It really seeps into your capacity to parent healthfully, if I'm making sense.
So that's another thing that the alone time does - gives you a sense of each one's personality, gives you more of a way as a mom to understand your connection and then it does in the long run really help you to be a more effective parent when you need to be it. Because you're not doing it out of guilt.
You're doing it out of a sincere recognition that you understand who each of those children are and who you are and what the whole thing means to you.
Dovilė: It reminds me when my girls are asking me sometimes: "Do you love us the same?" And I say: "No way. I love you as you are and I love you as you are. It's not something to compare."
But at the same time, I think that a very big topic in the twinship is comparison. Everybody's trying to compare them: "Who is more active and who is reading better?" And it always comes from outside. So, sometimes I even catch myself that when I'm talking about them, I'm really unconsciously comparing them.
Joan: It's natural. There’re two same age siblings in the room side by side living life pretty similarly. And it's just a conscious or unconscious way that we think. So, that's okay. That's just a byproduct of having twins, but it's what we do with it that's important.
I don't think any of us can stop comparing. One of the things I say in my book is, and this is easier early on, is when someone comes up to you and says: "Oh, who's the more athletic one? Who spoke first? Who's more social?" And the way to kind of get away from those labels is to kind of describe each of them by saying: "Oh, Johnny really likes to have alone time or be by himself. And David is somebody that likes to be more engaged with people." Try to make sort of a description of their personality traits rather than labels. And of course, I know that's hard in the moment because everybody labels but, that's just a way, maybe some tip or strategy to deal with it in the moment.
But you're right. Everyone and us as parents do label. And I guess the important thing is to try to be okay with the fact that each of them have their strengths and their weaknesses. And we do that with our single children. We compare our singletons to other children all the time.
But with twins, it's a little bit more intense. So, I have the biggest issue when teachers and coaches don't understand that when they compare or they're seeing somebody's skill sets that they feel uncomfortable recognizing that one may be more ahead than the other, like soccer coach says: "Well, one made the team and the other one didn't. I can't take either one of them because I can't split them up." And I have adult twins who went through this who still are not over it. And the fact that they had a lost opportunity for their own sense of self and well-being because some teacher or instructor felt that it was too dangerous to allow him or her to shine or to do or to exhibit what he could do that would make the other twin feel bad.
I always talk about this. I feel it's really important that life is not fair and twins are not equal. And if you're raising twins to try to give them everything in life, that's fair and equal, you will raise twins that when they reach adolescence or even adulthood and figure out: "Huh? I don't have a boyfriend like my sister. I'm getting paid as much. I'm dating. How's there this discrepancy because we are supposed to be the same." It's something that creeps up. And really manifests itself in life as adults get older and they're interacting more in the world and they're not in their little bubble at home where mommy and daddy are trying to keep everything the same.
I think that starts with comparison that we do all compare. And I do feel when you have a really solid individual attachment to each twin that you're able to be happy for the twin who's succeeded and to have real empathy for the twin who's struggling. And I use empathy and not guilt.
And I know this is hard and believe me, I don't think I could have done it had I not had my other children, knowing that things are always different with kids. But I'm not saying this is something that's easy. It's something that you cultivate really by trying to have an individual relationship with each of them, but that is kind of the name of the game. Happy for the one who is successful, empathy for the one who's not.
And that's what you want to teach them. And that's what they're going to find out when they go into the world. They're going to have empathy for themselves if they see their brother or sister getting more, but not going to become enraged and depressed and angry and accusing the twin of making her life miserable because she has something she doesn't have.
And this is what I see all the time with adult twins is this idea that how can my sister has what I don't have? It starts so early to try to take the comparison and make it more palatable in some way. I'm not saying it's easy, but if you're aware, you can do some of it and set really healthy groundwork.
Dovilė: Yeah, I think this idea of making it all equal for all kids is alive and even raising different age kids. If you bought a toy for one, you definitely would buy a toy for another one. Sometimes I consciously tell myself like that time when I was buying a jumper. One needed a jumper, but another one didn't need one because one lost her jumper.
I was particularly buying this one and I could feel myself like my hand was taking the one for a sister. And then I said: "Okay, I'm going to empathize at home. But she doesn't need that jumper. I shouldn't buy it just from the guilt or from this uncomfortable feeling when I'm walking home with only one jumper and I say: ”I bought only one because only she needed it."
So sometimes it's hard, but it's life. I think we shouldn't play unrealistic life where everything is equal, everybody gets everything by portions because that's not life. No, it doesn't work like that.
Joan: Well, good for you because that's a beautiful example. It is so hard just not to get another jumper.
Oh, you could rationalize: “Oh, big deal. It doesn't matter. I don't know what she's going to do when she doesn't have her jumper. I don't want to deal with this.” I completely get it. It's so much easier just to give in to: "I don't want to have to fight this battle right now. It's not worth it."
But yet you understand it's a bigger issue. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor for teaching them this crucial lesson that they're not always going to get what each other has. Did anything happen when you came home with the one jumper? Did you encounter a lot of anger?
Dovilė: Well, it's not so untypical in our house that they have always different things.
So, for example, I buy two different pairs of sneakers and then I come home and I say: "You just decide who is getting which which pair." So, it's not unusual in our house. So, there was not such a big protest, but there was some. You know, whining. Even because of that, as you said, it's just so much easier to spend these another 10 euros and have a peaceful life.
Joan: Yeah, it's an interesting example, because maybe somebody who's not as evolved as you in understanding and already has sort of implementing this strategy at home, maybe for someone who's still at the cusp of learning this, that would not be worth it. But maybe there's something else the mom is working on. Does that make sense? Because it's like this idea of picking your battles. For you, it was like: "No, you know what? This is not going to be such a big deal because they're accustomed to it and I'll deal with it." But for another mom who's never instituted these kinds of things, she's got to say: "Okay, is this really worth what I'm trying to teach them?"
It's sort of in different radiations of what and how you're going to do that. But it's a beautiful example and I love it.
Dovilė: Thank you. I have a few questions from fellow moms who are also raising twins. And one of the concerns was about again - separation. Very often it happens that one twin is more active, more outgoing.
It's the twin who always finds friends in the playground and then invites another twin to join. Moms are really afraid. They say: "How can we separate them? One is so shy. He wouldn't make it without the brother or sister." What would you say in that kind of situation?
Joan: Well, it's a very common situation. Because if you have two babies being born, their personalities aren't going to be exactly the same. And one often does evolve into the more dominant role. And the other one ends up being maybe more dependent and allowing the dominant twin to kind of take over.
Sometimes it's interesting how people read that scenario. They do see it, as you say, that they have to stay together because the more dominant twin is taking care of the other one and they wouldn't possibly be able to function. And if you think about that as a lifelong kind of dynamic, it really… Again, no one when you're stuck with little kids thinks about later on, but I'm saying that when you don't kind of understand and try to work with this dynamic when they're younger, you run into a huge amount of emotional problems later on as twins get older.
So, how do you deal with this? Well, the first idea, as you say, is to recognize it and yes, it's true. And then you say to yourself, well, do you want to help the twin who's seemingly not able to function on his or her own yet? Do you want to help that twin find her own way without needing her twin all the time? And you would intellectually say, well, yes. So ,what that's going to entail is figuring out ways that you can have each twin in some sort of separate situations where they're away from each other. And that, of course, involves what we talked about in terms of a sensitive separation. Because the longer you wait to separate them, the harder it's going to be. And the twin who's under the dominating thumb of the dominating twin is not going to develop into a more of a kind of a functioning person if he or she doesn't have the space to be away from the twin to find these strengths inside of herself.
It depends on the parent and it depends on how willing they're able to take these baby steps towards separation. So, I don't know what that's going to look like for each mother or father or family. Maybe it starts with mom and dad taking them out alone saying: "I'm with you a half an hour. The other one's with another of the half an hour." I think it sort of starts with that. And then it starts with the parents also saying: "We need to work on this dynamic together. How can we help the twin who feels as if she needs her twin so much? How can we help her find more situations or more activities where she can feel that she can function on her own?"
And I guess it's a consciousness of recognizing that we need to help the one who's not using and getting her own voice to find her own voice.
Of course, Johnny and David were separated in ridiculous ways because of my craziness. All right. And they both hated it. David was really homesick and Johnny was really shy and they hated it up to the time they went to college. And I did tell them that they were going to separate universities, because that was what the rule was. And that was what all we did with all these separate opportunities or separate things we created.
This is why they were important. Okay. They get to college, a university, David is fine, fine socially, but academically, he'd had some sort of learning difficulties. So, he was sort of struggling, but okay. Johnny, who really still spite of all our work, very shy, hard for him to engage. That's just who he is. And he gets to college and has a roommate who only speaks Chinese. For a shy kid and a kid socially struggling it couldn't have been worse. Right. So, he calls me, and I'm convinced he's just falling apart. And I said: "Johnny, you remember you had all those other things that you did that you hated. You went to drum camp and you were away in a foreign country. You went to this camp. You went to sleep away camp. You hated every single one of those experiences, but you survived, didn't you? You found a way to get through it, even though you were miserable." And he goes: "Yes, I did." And so he found a solution.
He joined a fraternity. I didn't change. We haven't changed his personality. But what we tried to do was give him a sense of resilience. And the resilience is what allowed him to find a way to function in a situation where he really was lacking a lot of skills, but he found a way.
And that's the whole thing. It's a poignant story because the little twin who doesn't want to speak for herself needs to find a way to be in a situation, to be put in a situation where she can figure out: "Oh, I can do this. I can take care of myself. I can speak. I don't need my sister to tell me what to do. Well, I can do this myself."
So how do we create opportunities for a child who's dominated by a twin to grow into that situation? If she's not separated from her twin, I mean, she's living with her twin, not going to be separated a lot, but if she can't find something in the outside world where she can work and practice with that, how is she going to find it? It's not just her that's finding her voice, but the dominating twin. I hear this all the time with adults, comes into therapy and says: "You know, I've taken care of my sister my whole life, and now she doesn't need me anymore. She doesn't understand the sacrifices that I've made for her."
And so the dominating caretaker twin, as I call him or her, is enraged because so much of their well-being is based on having been that function. And a function is not a self. If the twin that they've taken care of leaves her, and now her functions are no longer necessary, that function has to be replaced, and it takes a long time to find a self, because a function is not a self. It's a functioning of something, but it's not finding an internalized sense of who you are or were.
And that's what my struggle was, is I was the caretaking twin. I get to college. What do I do? Oh, it's my function. I've got to find somebody depressed to take care of, which I did. But then I became so depressed. It really wasn't very functional after a while, but it was my journey to understand this and to understand why twins have the same issue and it makes so much sense to me that they do if they've grown up in that diet like I did, and they have to kind of go and figure out who they are, other than taking care of somebody else. This happens to singletons, too. There's a lot of people that grow up feeling like the only thing they can do is to take care of somebody.
You know, that happens in a lot of dysfunctional situations with parents or children who are taking care of parents rather than vice versa. It's not that it's such an uncommon dynamic, but I think people don't understand that dynamically this is a very common situation that happens in twins, because the twins are a dyad growing up together.
So it's not a parent child thing, but it's a twin-twin thing.
Dovilė: And you talk about those situations quite a lot in your book "Twins in session". I absolutely loved that book. And I was saying to my husband: “I don't know if it's good that I've read this book because I really saw a lot of these therapy type of situations that really start from very kind of innocent things.” They start from our belief that if one is a follower, so we cannot separate them. It really starts in those things. It's like: dividing everything in equal parts because they are twins and then they grow up thinking I should have everything the same.
I think it's a very inspiring book as well. To see from this grown up perspective. To really see what can happen when they are grown up and then to dive into that like in a childhood where it has all started.
Joan: Yes. Yes. No, absolutely right. But a lot of times, unlike you, people don't want to read those things because they get too frightened.
They don't see it as helpful or educational or understanding how it all kind of falls down and how you can do something at the baseline. I think they get very scared. And it's understandable. It's denial: "I don't know. I don't want to know about that. I don't want to hear about it. I don't want to read about it."
When I speak and I talk about all these things that are negative or difficult or problematic: "You're so negative!" People always raise their hand: "You're so negative." And I go: "Yeah!" Because my passion is to talk about what can be problematic about raising twins. And if you have an awareness of it, maybe you can start early on to kind of switch some of your parenting strategies. There is a reason for my being because also it's like drilling into people's heads that some twins are best friends and they really are.
And they love each other. But there are a bunch of twins who are not and for good reasons. And we need to understand what those reasons are.
Another thing you said that made me want to talk about that was this whole idea of friendships. So many adult patients who come in and say: "I never had my own friends. I never made any separate friends. We always shared a friend. And then if there's something that went on in this triad and the twin, then that the friend got upset. Well, then we were back together and we had no friends." If twins aren't in some way put into situations where they have the opportunity to make friends, other than being with their twin all the time, that that's really being left out of a crucial part of social emotional development.
That's what growing up is so much about: how do you make friends? How do you get along with friends? How do you deal with conflict? How do you deal with being excluded? How do you deal with not, you know, being your someone's best friend? These are all these horrible middle school adolescent angst that everybody goes through.
And it's a disgusting part of development, but it's something that you have to go through that makes you be able to function in the world as a strong individual person. And if your twins just grow up with each other, and then they get into the world and they don't even know what that's like.
They stay with their twin forever, because that's really the only friend that they've ever had. And the twins that end up having problems often, don't know how to handle conflict. People will say: “What do you mean they don't know how to handle conflict? They fight all the time.”
Yeah. Twins do fight all the time.
Dovilė: At least my girls do. I sometimes I feel like they are fighting all the time. Please tell me it's normal.
Joan: It's totally normal. It is people go: “Oh my God. They fight like they shouldn't." They fight more. They're more to fight about because they're feeling so much stuff.
So, yes, fighting is a part of life with twins and it's a part of getting toward another kind of road, toward individuation. But you don't learn any of those fighting conflict and you don't learn how to get through that. So, then you've gone to college together.
You live together. You're 22. You have no other friends and you don't know how to fight. And you either stay together forever, or you fight and you never see each other again. I'm exaggerating, but what's the alternative: enmeshment or estrangement? In these very severe cases, there's nothing in between because they haven't had the chance to develop into their own individual selves.
Dovilė: And I think it's very different to be friends with your twin sister because you know that your twin will not go away. You live in the same house. You don't need to play this friendship, to be in this friendship dance, I would say, where you say: "Okay, this is not okay with me, but maybe this..." Because you know, it's there.
Tomorrow, she will be there again. You can fight today or you can be friends. So, it's a very different set up from the normal friendship relationships.
Joan: Exactly. And it's wonderful. That security net that they have. It's wonderful. However. It can be too much. And I think most parents would have no understanding about why that would be too much.
It's great. They're so lucky. They have each other. They don't need anyone else. So that just feeds into everything you've expressed to me and shared with me that, God, what could be better than having a twin? They don't need anything else. They're so happy.
Dovilė: And it was very interesting from the book "Twins in session", where you were telling about a romantic relationship, when they are grown up, that they kind of try (if they haven't developed this individuality), they kind of try to replicate the same relations they had with the twin with their loved one.
And that is not working this way.
Joan: No. And that third person who comes between the twins, God help him or her.
Dovilė: It's not about your husband, isn't it?
Joan: No, my husband, well, he is an only child. And so. He loved having all these children, but initially goes: "Why are they always fighting?" Because that's what they do!
He definitely has had issues with my sister. And it's because we're so different. My sister and I are so different. I didn't realize this until very late in my life that we were so different. But what brought it to my attention kind of outside of me not inside of me was that we parent very differently.
When you parent, sometimes when you make friends at school with the other parents, you gravitate toward people that kind of parent in the same way, because it's kind of a shared value or ethics or an outlook of looking at things. You sort of gravitate directly toward that. And my husband was so surprised that my sister parented so differently than we did.
He saw that difference as in some way not liking her as opposed to going… Well, she just has her own way of doing things, but it bugged him. It bugged him kind of like as an outsider, as opposed to, well, she's your sister in law, maybe you could be nice, but no, no. So yes.
It's fascinating how when twins marry or have a relationship, it creates so many difficulties, not only for, as I say, for the interloper into the twinship, but the twin being shoved into loyalty conflicts - who am I loyal to: my twin or my husband or my boyfriend. Isn't that sad? It's so sad that at a time in your life when you want to be happy for someone you love who's finding love and romance and maybe even marriage that you're so ambivalent that you're so angry and you're so jealous and you're so bereft because you're betrayed and abandoned.
And if you have to have a very healthy twin who's able to approach her twins wedding and be aware of her ambivalence, right? Ambivalence is holding love and hate at the same time. So that twin has got to say to herself: "God, I'm so jealous. I'm so jealous. I wish I were getting married. When am I going to get married?" And be very happy because the person she loves most in the world is getting married and she's happy. That's a tall order. If you haven't been rear to understand that it's normal to have all these feelings and it's important to be able to be aware and keep the ambivalence inside, to know the ambivalence is healthy and understandable and to be happy for the other. It's a tall order.
Dovilė: Yeah, that's really requires a lot of consciousness. And I also love one phrase from your book where you said that in therapy twins should always be regarded not only as a single patient, but also from the twins relationship perspective as well. So, it also tells how important it is.
So just the very last question. You mentioned a few times that you were very precise about separating your sons. With all that you know, with all the experience you've had through all the years, would you go to the moment when they were little and would you do something differently?
Joan: That's a very good question. I don't know. Isn't that terrible? I don't know. I'm going back to their struggles more than anything else. And they definitely had struggles. Alone in the family and also with each other. I don't [00:51:00] know if I would have done anything differently in terms of the decisions I made about separation.
It was hard for me because they both were so miserable. And I wondered if we were doing the right thing because that was really hard for me. I would feel terrible. They call on the phone and they were crying (thankfully didn't use the phone too much), wanting to come home.
Well, how was it? They don't share, kids don't share what's great. They share what they want to try to make you feel bad. That's just what they do. So, I don't know, maybe one thing I would have done differently. From the time I took them, from the time they were toddlers, to different activities.
Nobody knew they were twins. I never said they were twins. Again, this is based on my craziness about no one ever knowing who I was and only being a twin. So this twinship label wasn't on them all the time because I was so careful about it not happening. So, they went to preschool, which from here starts at three years old.
They were at the same preschool, but they were always in different classes and they didn't have any trouble being separated because they'd been separated so early on. And we went to elementary school. The same school, but different classes. Then it was time for middle school and we asked them separately if they wanted to be in the same middle school slash high school, or to go to a different one.
They decided that they wanted to go to the same one, knowing, of course, that they'd be in all different classes. I think, from a social perspective, given how much trouble Johnny had because of being shy and being compared and overwhelmed with David, who's excessively outgoing and social, that I wished that maybe my husband and I had made the decision ourselves to put them in different schools at that point.
If I could go back and redo that, I would. But in the moment, it didn't seem that that was going to be an issue, but it was. As they became older and they were in adolescence and they were teenagers, it did become an issue, but it wasn't something I could have foreseen.
But that's really the only thing I would have done. And I just wasn't prepared or I didn't see what I needed to do. But I have to say they're both great. They are great friends. They're both married. They're still so completely different. David, who's very outgoing, is a salesman, of course, and Johnny, who's more [00:54:00] pensive and thoughtful and kind of on the shyer side, he does real estate.
So, they found their ways and they found professions that fit. They know who they are, not to say they both haven't had struggles along the way - they have, all my kids have. I do not profess to do any perfect parenting at all. The best way to learn is the mistakes that you made. And I made plenty of mistakes.
But that's part of parenting. I mean, ridiculous. You do the best job you can and there's going to be mistakes and hopefully you can afford a therapist for each one of them.
That's my solution. So, yeah, it's a very good question. And thank you for asking me that. And I've so enjoyed speaking to you because you ask the most wonderful questions because you're so interested and involved and up to date on what I've written and what I think and what I feel and I'm so appreciative. Even though it's 5:30 in the morning here, it was worth getting up so early to speak to you. It really was!
Dovilė: Thank you so much. It was a very, very insightful conversation. I truly believe that many parents will find something for themselves in this conversation and for their kids. And maybe they will just look differently to the separation and will encourage their kids to find their own individualities, which is probably everybody's goal in life - just to find out who I am.
Joan: Exactly! Well, I think I have like 500 blogs on my website and the blogs answer a lot of questions.
Dovilė: I will put the links to your blog and to your Instagram page so that people can follow and be in the flow with all the insights.
Joan: If they have a question I can answer by email. I'm happy to do so because, as you know, I'm very passionate about this and I do understand that so much people don't understand about this. And I feel compelled and passionate to share what I can hopefully in a helpful way, but not a critical way.
Dovilė: Thank you so much for getting up that early and sharing all your wisdom with us. Thank you. Thank you a lot.
Joan: Thank you for contacting me!
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