Raising twins is stressful.
It’s double the diapers, twice the tantrums, and double the mess. Along with the stresses of raising twins though is something that’s commonly overshadowed: the stress of raising a sibling of twins.
Twins get a lot of attention from birth to adulthood. I’ve witnessed it all my life. Not only am I a mother of twins, but I am older sister to identical twin brothers and also married to a twin.
Things have come in twos all my life, which is the reason I have always been sensitive to how my oldest daughter would be impacted by being the sister of twins.
When we found out we were having twins, one concern (of many) was how my oldest daughter would cope. Being our only child and as well as only grandchild on both sides, my fear was that she would feel overshadowed and / or not respond well to the shared attention.
One of the things we did to prepare her was giving her twin baby dolls.
It became one of the best things for her to understand how life was about to change. For six months, these baby dolls went everywhere with us. The grocery, daycare, errands, you name it. She fed them, bathed them, and tucked them in next to her every night.
The twin baby dolls became part of our everyday and I believe truly helped her transition. So much so that when one of the twins had to go into a transition room after delivery, she asked “where baby?” when she saw me only holding one baby in the recovery room.
Bringing the babies home revealed the next hurdle: twins get a lot of attention.
Every time we left the house as a family, we would be stopped multiple times with the famous question, “OMG, are they twins?” This simple question shifted the focus solely on the twins and excluded my daughter from the conversation. I would feel anxious and heartbroken as I saw her shoulders slump forward. Thankfully, I had my mom’s wisdom and experience to lean on.
My mom was always very conscious of how much attention my twin brothers received and did small, subtle things to include me. When someone would stop and ask, “Omg, are they twins?” her answer would be “Yes, and this is their big sister.” This response included me in the conversation and made me feel special.
It was a small gesture with big impact. And now, I do the same thing for my daughter.
Along with making sure she is part of the spotlight, I am also very conscious of her role as big sister.
Since the day the twins came home, she has been Mom’s Helper. If I need diapers, she runs to get them. If a baby is crying, she finds a pacifier. If I have a problem, she tries to fix it.
As her mom, a small part of me analyzes those moments of kindness and thoughtfulness and worries that her self-worth is tied to being a big sister or mommy’s little helper. It’s not all I want for her though.
So, we set aside special one-on-one time where she doesn’t need to fetch diapers or share the spotlight. We bring her to the movies. She does special errands with Dad to get donuts. She plays hooky from daycare and spends the day with grandparents. In those moments, she gets to be just Norah, not big helper, big sister, or any other label.