Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony’s twins arrived three weeks after mine were born. I remember buying the People Magazine issue with the first photos of Lopez and her twins in it. There was a nursery filled with white bedding and an enormous chandelier, there was Lopez bottle-feeding a twin while wearing a cocktail dress and a smile, and there were both parents running down a gravel driveway while pushing baby carriages and laughing. I wiped some baby vomit off my shirt, fixed my oily ponytail, and said, “You lie, Lopez. You lie.”
It is because of stories like that that I love and adore some Julie Bowen. Bowen is the actor who plays Claire Dunphy on Modern Family. She has three boys, two of whom are twins. Bowen does not try to blow sunshine up our collective asses when she talks about what it’s like being a parent of twins. On Tuesday’s Huffington Post Live, when she was asked what it’s like being a parent of twins, she said:
“It’s really hard. I’m learning as we go — everyone says they’re different people, they really are different people! But they’re also siblings who want to be together, but they compete. Everyone says to take them on separate playdates, and really encourage their separate interests. I’m like you take them on separate playdates. I don’t have two ‘me’s’ to split in half and drive in cars.”
I used to feel really bad about the fact that my twins never really had any time apart unless it was a total fluke, like one of them had to go the emergency room and by some miracle on that particular day the other one didn’t. My twins spent (and still spend) almost every hour of the day together. I have friends who were really good about having those separate “dates” with each twin. I just couldn’t manage it. When my husband was home on evenings and weekends, and there was an opportunity to split them up, it didn’t seem fair to do so. If I was going to go out with a kid and not my husband, I was going to take both kids so that he could take a nap and vice versa. Their identities are going to form no matter what. But right now, Daddy go night-night.
Sometimes there is pressure, usually self-inflicted, on parents of twins to make sure that we honor each child’s individuality much as possible. There’s a worry that if they are always grouped together they won’t feel like they are being seen as their own person will have trouble individuating themselves. Like Bowen, I think that’s a bunch of hooey. As she put it on Tuesday:
“They’re going to become their own people because I’m going to talk to them and I’m going to interact with them, not because I necessarily drove one of them to pottery and one of them to karate. I try to do those things but sometimes time just doesn’t allow for it.”
As I have told my kids over and over again since they day the were born, I am just one person, and there are two of them. I can’t change two diapers at the same time, I can’t listen to two stories at the same time, and I can’t always nurture individual interests at the same time. I can only do what I can do, and that’s just fine.