sibling rivalryHaving twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.

“I’m not talking to you for the rest of my life!”

“You’re the worst sister in the entire world!”

“I’m telling Mommy on you!”

These are things I hear shouted in my house at least once a day. My 6-year-old boy/girl twins are either best friends or mortal enemies, and lately they seem to favor being the latter.

It wasn’t always like this—from the very beginning, Allie and Nick were built-in best pals. When they were only minutes old and being cleaned by a nurse, they linked arms and legs while they yelled in unison. When they were infants lying together in a crib or pack and play, Allie would always reach out for Nick and tuck her hand under his arm before they fell asleep. As toddlers, they were twin room-wreckers, laughing with glee as they emptied bookshelves, pulled pots and pans from cabinets, and scooted around the house on little ride-ons.

The twin-love got a little weird in preschool when Allie was telling me a story and said, “When I grow up and marry Nick…” Whoa, wait a minute here. Where did she get that idea? I tried not to look creeped out when I told her, “You don’t marry your relatives. Nobody marries their brother or sister.”

Allie was surprised and a little concerned about who exactly she was supposed to marry, but she dropped it when I changed the subject. My friend with boy/girl twins who are two years older than mine reassured me that her kids used to say this too, for no other reason than that they didn’t know any better. A few months later Allie told me, “I think I could marry my friend Jack if I can’t marry Nick,” and while it was reassuring, I assured her she had decades before she needed to worry about that.

All through preschool my two got along beautifully—they played nicely together and rarely argued. They loved to draw together, often sketching and coloring for an hour or two at the kitchen table. They were both very social and enjoyed playing with other children too, and I had none of the issues that some twin moms experience, such as having your twins “gang up” against other children, or having one twin exclude the other by teaming up with another child. Like all 4-year-olds, they bickered occasionally, but it was never serious, or anything that lasted too long.

It wasn’t until they were five years old that my twins started physically fighting with each other—wrestling, punching, kicking and hair-pulling. I was surprised because we’d peacefully sailed through the stages that my childrearing books predicted twin arguing would occur in. What was even stranger to me was that they often seemed to enjoy fighting—it was more like “rough playing” between bear cubs. I’d say about 80 percent of their “play” involved some kind of physical fighting. If they were within a foot of each other, they’d hug/grapple, then fall to the ground and kick away at each other. They’d kick, roll around and laugh the whole time. Since they weren’t actually having a fight, there was nothing for me to settle, and so splitting them up was harder than if they were really fighting.

But even if their physical arguments didn’t always involve an actual quarrel, they almost always ended with someone getting hurt. I saw more bloody noses that year than a boxing trainer. There was no way to stop the fighting without separating my twins—one in the living room and one in the family room, etc. Surprisingly, after five minutes or so of separation, they would seem to forget about the huge wrestling match they’d just engaged in and would whine to be allowed to play together again.

Suddenly I was the bad guy for keeping them apart.

I’m the type of mom who learns as she goes, so initially I gave in—“Okay, you can both go upstairs if you promise not to fight.” (Yeah right.) And two minutes later, someone was complaining about being kicked or punched in the nose. This behavior got so bad and was so constant that I actually instituted a “No Touching” rule—prohibiting them from even hugging, which was so easily turned into a grapple by my twins that I almost forgot it was a sign of affection.

My twins are six now and while fighting is still a problem, the arguments are more frequently verbal than physical. Both Allie and Nick understand their own strength, and how much they could hurt the other one. They’ve taken enough punches from each other to know they’d like to avoid them as well. While they’ve gone back to playing together, drawing together, and now reading together, they’ve also taken to ganging up on me, as they realized that it’s easier to get away with things like flinging peas around the kitchen if they’re both doing it. These are certainly not my favorite moments, but for now, if nobody’s getting punched in the nose, I’m not going to argue.

(photo: OKSun / Shutterstock)