“To be loved equally is somehow to be loved less. To be loved uniquely – for one’s own special self – is to be loved as much as we need to be loved” ~ Siblings Without Rivalry
I think one of the lessons that has made the greatest impact on my parenting is one I learned from Dr. Joan Friedman who taught me the importance of seeing my children as individuals. Perhaps that seems like a no brainer to those of you with children of different ages, but for many with twins there is often a societal expectation that twins love being together all the time and prefer to do things together. Then, because it’s simpler for parents, twins end up sharing just about everything from rooms to after school activities.
Over the years I have done a lot to help my children feel that they are known for their own individual selves, not just as part of a set. Although we place a good deal of importance on time spent together as a family, we also make it a priority to make it possible for them to have time without each other.
I know this isn’t a simple task for everyone and we have chosen to make sacrifices in certain areas so that we are able to make this a priority in our family. But nurturing your children’s individuality doesn’t have to be complicated or involve a slew of extra help. Of all of the things we do to focus on their uniqueness and encourage their sense of self, what has seemed to make the greatest impact on them was having separate birthday parties.
We always had two birthday cakes and sung “Happy Birthday” to them separately, but last year, for their 5th birthday, I offered them the opportunity to each have a party of their own and they jumped at it.
Over the next couple of months the excitement built, they told everyone about their respective parties, what the theme was going to be and who was coming. Most of all, they told everyone that they were having their own party, just for them. I began to realize that it was a different sense of excitement than in previous years, this time it was a chance for each of them to bask in the glow of their special day when everyone is there for them, without having to share that experience with another person.
Most of you who have a sibling know the feeling of having to share toys or clothes or maybe a room. But few siblings of different ages have to share a birthday. It is just obvious to most parents that each child would get his or her own birthday party. Yet the reaction from many people was one of surprise when I said I was doing this for my children.
Although throwing two birthday parties in one weekend is more work (and a greater expense) for us, seeing the joy our children had in being able to experience their special day just for themselves was well worth it. On top of this, the experience also allowed us to teach them lessons about being gracious when it was not their day, about being aware of their own feelings as well as the feelings of their sibling, about exercising patience and most importantly, about having the awareness that they were each being honored for who they are, as individuals.
This year, for their 6th birthday, we again had separate parties. Because the kids no longer share a class I got less surprised reactions from parents, but some people were still shocked that I would go through the effort of throwing two parties. I know individual parties aren’t possible for everyone and although I actually hate to entertain and today, the morning after, I feel as though I have been hit by a 5-ton truck, it was honestly still worth it.
Our children have such different personalities, many different friends and different sensibilities when it comes to socializing. To me, the value of having that acknowledged and recognized far outweighs what I would have gotten out of making things easier on myself by having a shared party.