When I was pregnant with my identical girls I heard more factoids and snippets of advice regarding raising twins than I could possibly mentally digest in my entire lifetime. Everyone loves twins. EVERYONE knows someone…who knows someone…who has a second cousin with twins.
One thing I heard often from friends, family, and strangers alike was, “Oh, they’ll have such an incredible bond. Identicals are amazing little humans and the love they have for each other is overwhelming.”
I couldn’t wait to experience this miracle of love between my girls. Birthing identicals is rare and here I was, so incredibly blessed to be on this twin journey. When the babies were born I sat and watched them like a hawk, waiting for it…the magical moment of twin bonding. Every time one baby flailed her arms and slapped her twin out of hunger or a need to be changed, I couldn’t helping thinking that maybe they were not in fact in need of my intervention, but rather seeking out their other half.
(Turns out this was never the case. The flailing newborn always means, “I need mommy.” Nonetheless, I continued to wait and watch.)
Nothing. They did not have a clue that anything existed outside of a boob.
When they started crawling, babbling, and laughing, I thought, this must be where the intense love and bonding starts.
Nope. The twins loved their big sisters, their daddy, their grammy, me, the dog, but seemed quite indifferent to each other. Hmmmm. Maybe when they get a little bit older they’ll bond more. Perhaps then the magical moments will begin.
So the twinnies did grow and soon turned one…then eighteen months, and change they did. They took a sharp right turn at Loving Bond and headed straight for Toddler Twin Fight Club: they started biting each other.
I had two older daughters and to my knowledge they had never bitten a soul, not each other, no kids at daycare, definitely not me. Now we had these beautiful little genetic mutations who were supposed to do all that cute crap you see on YouTube and they were one bite shy of being certified baby vampires.
Just about every chance they had one was sinking their tiny, sharp teeth into their twin. Interestingly, they never bit anyone but each other. This love-bond between my identicals was not happening and I was starting to freak out. I Googled, I asked the pediatrician, I found other twin moms and poured my dilemma out them. Everyone said it was developmentally normal for twins to engage in this behavior and they would eventually grow out of it. But when?
Unfortunately I often had to tote the twins around in a side-by-side stroller, not exactly ideal for biters. Here we would be, strolling through the local grocery store or department store and the twins would be attacking each other over a graham cracker crumb or rogue Goldfish cracker that they scored in the stroller’s underbelly.
People would gawk. Some would smile awkwardly as I pried one toddler’s teeth from her sister’s arm. Then came the howling. One screams in pain and one screams because I just intervened in her master plan to eat her sister. How dare I!
I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad and frustrated at the lack of love between these two. Friends and family continued to send me viral videos of tiny twins cuddling and soothing each other. Meanwhile I was raising little Hannibal Lecters.
The days dragged on and we endured the biting, the pinching, the hair pulling. Nap time was an absolute nightmare considering they roamed their nursery freely. One little climber would catapult herself from her crib, scale the other baby’s crib, climb in, and bite her right in the back. No amount of time-outs, scolding, or reasoning worked. Had it not been for my mom village of support (and wine) I don’t know if I would have ever made it though this phase.
Then one day the biting magically eased up. The girls were no longer covered in welts from their twin and I started to worry less and less about someone calling Child Protective Services fearing for the their safety.
As they approached the two-year mark their reasoning skills grew and their understanding of right and wrong began to emerge. Finally there was a light at the end of the bite-riddled tunnel. In the months following their second birthday the girls did start interacting and playing.
They seek each other out and one twin clearly follows the other all day long. They answer for each other and tell me what their twin wants when they are upset. They think they’re hilarious and will laugh at each other doing whatever goofy little toddler thing the other does. Sometimes when they’re supposed to be napping, but are really just running around their room creating chaos and insanity, I hear them singing “Rock-A-Bye-Baby” to each other.
In the back of mind I know this is an oasis in the world of parenting, though. Having been through two older girls already, currently ages six and eight, I know that these few months are just a breather until age three hits. (The three-nager is my least favorite age by far.)
I’ve yet to witness the cosmic twin bond that I had heard all about, but right now I’ll settle for the girls not trying to eat each other.