Three’s a Crowd

Elsa has always been out in front when it comes to gross motor skills. She rolled over before Clio. She sat up first, crawled first, and walked first. She’s the bolder climber, jumper and dancer. (Though Clio can shake her groove thang quite groovily, too.)

We’ve been doing swim classes with the girls this summer—a class with parents, as the last time we actually did swimming with them was when they were barely two. Elsa was dog paddling on her own (with flotation device) by the second class. Clio is making progress, but is nowhere near Elsa’s level.

It’s not just physical stuff, either. Elsa is a bit ahead when it comes to things like representational drawing and reading and math skills. Although, I hesitate to say “ahead” when it comes to these things, because while it may be true that she is more advanced intellectually/cognitively/whateverly it is that controls this stuff, it’s also possible that she’s just more interested in it. (Not to mention the fact that abstract expressionist artists might have a serious issue with my saying that representational art should be considered “ahead.”)

In any case, between these things, Elsa’s slightly taller/larger size, and her tendency to be outgoing with people she’s just met, it’s not entirely surprising that people sometimes mistake her for Clio’s older sister instead of her twin.

But it is a bit surprising that in general — and especially of late — Clio seems much more emotionally and socially mature than Elsa. Sure, she is slower to jump in when in new situations. But increasingly I see this not as fear, but caution. She observes, assesses and analyzes before she takes any chances.

And when it comes to interactions with other kids, Clio is much more able than Elsa is to share, compromise and cooperate. She’s willing to follow instead of always trying to lead. As a result, unfortunately, if the girls are hanging out with a friend, Elsa, our alpha gal, often ends up being the odd one out.

I feel like I’m walking a fine line here, and maybe saying too much, at the risk of invading the girls’ privacy. They’re not babies anymore, and I’m not sure how they would feel about my analyzing their social lives here if they read this a few years from now. (Once, you know, they have any grasp whatsoever of the Internet.) So I won’t say any more on this topic, except to say that it’s very hard for me, as a mom, to see the “three’s a crowd” dynamic happening. My heart breaks a little for Elsa.

And I see now that for the next who-knows-how-many-years, this will probably be an issue: how the girls navigate their friendships with other kids and with each other.  Ultimately, of course, they need to figure it out on their own. But it does make me appreciate why many parents choose to separate twins once they’re in school.

I’d love to hear from other parents of twins (or people who are twins themselves) on this one. How do you help (or not help?) your twins manage “three’s a crowd” or other tricky social dynamics with other kids in the preschool / early school years?


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