This summer, we bought our identical twin boys scooters for their 3rd birthday. At the time, I didn’t realize that they had already been using scooters at school. I thought I had months to teach them, months for my heart and my nerves to prepare for them zooming off down the street. I thought I had all of this time to mentally gear up for this, but instead, I got a crash course. As soon as they suited up with helmet and pads and more pads, one of the twins took off down the street at warp speed. As I’m running behind him, screaming, “Slow down! Slow down! Oh god, slow down!” he’s yelling back, “Don’t worry, Mommy, I won’t crash.”
In the last couple of months, my little speed demon, D, has become even more fearless. But it’s clear he knows what he’s doing. He’s got total balance and control. He’s aware of what’s around him. And man, he’s got guts. The other twin, M, is much more cautious though, much more tentative. He wants so much to keep up with his brother, but he’s scared to go as fast as him. So what often happens is that while D is already down the block, M is pouting on a neighbor’s lawn — plopped on the grass with arms crossed and face scowled.
“I want to scooter with my brother, but he not wait for me,” M pouts. Meanwhile, with a wide smile, D is telling whoever it is running alongside him, “I’m so much faster than my brother.”
He is so much faster than his brother! And I have to say, I’m happy about it. I am. Because the irony is that this is the twin who tends to be quieter, who is usually more cautious, and will relinquish many things to his more dominating brother. When he’s scooting though, it’s his moment and it’s awesome.
My less-skilled scooter, M, tends to be stronger, louder, and more aggressive in all other areas. He’s the one who introduces himself and his brother to strangers. He’s the one who pushes himself into first position. He’s used to coaching his brother along, not trailing behind him. In fact, at just 3-years-old, M sometimes even patronizes his twin. When D is struggling with a puzzle, M will sit down next to him and ask if he can help, even throwing in a, “You did it!” when his brother successfully places a piece.
Of course, when I’m watching one twin struggle more than the other, it breaks my heart. I don’t want things to be hard for either one of my boys, and I certainly don’t want them made harder because they’re constantly comparing themselves — and being compared — to their identical twin. No, I don’t want them to be the same, but I kind of wish they were equal.
That being said, it seems like they each have their own unique skills, and I think they need that. I can tell that each likes being “better” at something, or having this one thing that he alone is good at. I think it gives them each a sense of identity, but I also think it gives them confidence.
And the truth is, this is life! You’re never going to be the best at anything. And what is that anyway? The best? Some kids are better at some things than others. We can gold-star and high-five and “good job!” as much as we want, but at the end of the day, you can’t be A+ at everything. Your kids are going to be great at some stuff, and legitimately suck at others. There are going to be many, many kids who exceed them in soccer, music, math, frisbee-throwing, whatever. And for my boys, sometimes the kid kicking his butt is going to be his own twin.
As a parent though, I think I just have to teach them that it’s never about being “better than”–it’s about doing your best and continuing to try, even when it’s hard. Not to give up if things don’t come easily, and definitely not to give up because it comes a little more easily to your twin.
So when M is pouting on the grass, watching his brother speed down the street, I lean down and tell him that it’s because he’s being more careful, and that’s a good thing. I tell him that as he gets more used to the scooter, and less afraid, he’ll start to get faster too. He just has to keep going. Then, I encourage him to get back on his scooter and catch up to his twin brother, who is always, always, waiting patiently for him on the corner.
Photo: Jennifer Teeman