Banana ice-cream was what you wanted. ‘Isn’t it a bit cold for ice-cream?’ I asked. But apparently not. You were adamant – chilly day or not, you would absolutely love an ice-cream.
You declared it the best ice-cream you had ever had. I’m not sure it was really, but perhaps the happy circumstances made it seem that way.
You were out with mummy. Just you. No big brother and no twin. No-one influencing your choices. No-one telling you not to interrupt or asking you to wait your turn.
Just you and mummy on a cold day in the park cafe. A good tempered, calm mummy for once, because she hadn’t gone through the trauma of getting three boys out of the door.
We have realised, perhaps a little late, that regular one-to-one time has become very necessary…..for you twin boys in particular. It is important for your big brother too, but he tends to get this naturally as a result of being a different age, having different friends and taking part in different activities. It’s not that there aren’t huge advantages to being a twin. I often look at the two of you and think how lucky you are to have each other – a buddy who is there with you at every milestone. But equally, I know that being a twin brings challenges and that there are things you miss out on as a result of being one of two……mainly, attention.
If you read anything about parenting multiples, the standard advice is to separate them every so often; but for us it just wasn’t a priority in the early days. Perhaps we were wrong, but it just didn’t really occur to us at weekends to schedule time to split everyone up. You boys were generally happy together, so we were happy to let you be together.
And then we realised that regular time on your own was something you desperately needed, and that we needed to ensure you got. Time to be yourselves. To remember that you are important individually and not simply as a unit. Space to make your own choices. To be listened to properly rather than by a parent who also has an eye and ear on what the other two are up to. It wouldn’t be anything grand, just time. And I really mean nothing grand – for Twin 2’s outing, we went to Tesco. I know. We chose Halloween hats and had a coffee/smoothie and a pain au raisin. It was such a treat (it really was).
And then last weekend, Twin 1 and I went to the park. It seemed strange seeing you racing around on your own; but I don’t think it occurred to you to be lonely. Mummy wasn’t distracted. You climbed and mummy watched. You spoke and no-one interrupted.
I wasn’t surprised you were sad when I said it was time to go home. But then the joy on your twin’s face when we got home made the brief separation worth it too. It was as though you’d been apart for days. And, surveying the calm atmosphere at home, it occurred to me that actually, this is special time for everyone……not just for the boy who is taken out. Taking one out of the equation means those left at home also get more attention. There are fewer siblings available for a squabble. There is less noise. The parent left at home is less stressed. It is a win-win situation.
It feels like we have had a hard few weeks, but being out with just one boy helps me to remember the things I love about being a mum. It has made me realise that around 90% of what I do when I’m in charge of three children is crowd-control, only about 10% is actual parenting. Please don’t do that. Please get off him. Why have you taken that off him? Is that a kind thing to do? Why are you poking him? If you get your hands off him, then he won’t get irritated. And I know all about the benefits of having siblings; but still, sometimes children need a reminder that who they are and what they have to say is important. They need to choose their own ice-cream without a sibling’s input. They need to see a parent enjoying their company; without being distracted by cries of ‘He is talking to me in a MEAN way‘ and ‘He stood on me‘ and ‘I’ve lost Spiderman’s head AGAIN, mummy‘.
It’s only for an hour or so. But what a happy hour it is.