Twins…aah! Double the trouble or double the love? As the live-in nanny for 8 years to 2 sets of male-female twins, I’ve had my fair share of challenges. However, I was also fortunate to witness what very few have seen. This is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
Expectations vs. reality
While I’ve read many articles and books on twins, this particular time in my life was a bit more unusual than what I was used to. I had to bring out a slightly more advanced set of nannying skills than I would probably need with the average set of same-sex twins. The expectation of what was to come and the reality of it were very different from what any amount of reading can prepare you for.
I was about to have my hands full. Naturally, I asked myself, “How was this even possible?” I imagined Mother Nature was in a very particular mood when they were conceived. Do most of us out there know what types of twins exist and what the chances of conceiving them are?
Studies show that 32.6 out of every 1,000 births in the United States are twins. I set out to find as much information as I could on male-female twins, hoping it would somehow prepare me for what lay ahead.
Set 4 years apart, two sets of male-female twins were going to keep me on my toes, not because they were different in any particular way (which I was still to discover) but because it was double the work. Yes, what nobody can prepare you for is that, even as teens, when siblings are the same age, identical or male-female twins, the amount of attention, patience, and physical interaction doubles.
Let’s start with something everyone knows yet tends to forget: each child is an individual. That holds true whether you have 1 kid or 7, twins or not. One must remember, especially with twins, that nowhere in the “handbook” will you find a copy/paste structure. Unlike machines, twins, even when they look the same, can develop and mature at vastly different rates and in quite different directions.
Meet the twins
Set 1 – Mary* and Tom*
Set 2 – Lyla* and Fred*
A late bloomer. After they were born, doctors ran several tests to make sure everything was medically fine because the twins were premature. Thankfully, things were all right. (It was later revealed to me that the elder set was born at 29 weeks.) Mary, however, suffered in a different way. She struggled to cope socially, and when I met her at age 11, she was already a tween.
I immediately got the feeling that Mary and Tom weren’t very close. She simply didn’t care much for looks, fashion, or boys and preferred to stay home on her phone, shutting herself off from the world. I felt sorry for Mary because I often wondered if others pitied her merely because she is a twin. I felt that she wasn’t “seen” as a person of her own.
While Mary’s body developed faster than those of her peers, she was emotionally behind through no fault of her own. Being a twin, she was often compared to her brother, and I can’t help but wonder if this would have been different if she wasn’t a twin.
Well-liked and always considered the cute one. He paid a lot of attention to his appearance from a young age and was always invited out with friends. I noticed that Mary and Tom didn’t move in the same circles or have the same friends. They were only invited to the same social events because they were in the same year group at school.
Though Tom wasn’t very sporty and didn’t excel in any particular field at school, he won over the hearts of his fellow students and teachers with his wit and charisma.
Lyla developed at lightning speed. Before she was 12, she had developed physically and emotionally far beyond her siblings at that age. Lyla was the cool one, well-liked, and constantly asked out by boys.
She started dressing differently and was aware of her popularity. She had nothing in common with Mary, yet as sisters, they shared a room and got along but only because they had no other choice.
Lyla wanted to be older as fast as possible and was exploring her sexuality in no hidden way. Being sexy and wearing provocative clothes was at the top of her priority list. She often used her artistic flair to remodel existing items if she wasn’t allowed new clothes. Lyla tested every possible boundary and kept me on my toes.
Fred was dubbed the nerdy one. He also performed very well academically, but as it often is with boys, he was shorter than his sister for a few years and was ridiculed for this. As a twin, people expected him to grow at the same pace as Lyla (which is utterly ridiculous), but people are weird.
He suffered in her shadow socially but was academically the stronger one. Musically talented, he got lead roles in the school play. Lyla couldn’t understand how his lack of popularity still made him popular in the academic and extracurricular fields.
Twin sibling relationships: Shared genes don’t mean shared everything
Mary and Tom never had any genuine interest in each other, and people were often surprised that they were twins. It was always assumed that Mary was younger because she was socially awkward and that Tom was older because of his masculinity and charm. Lyla and Fred fought a lot, but they also fiercely defended each other.
So, why were Mary and Tom so different? Why did they care so little for each other? Despite being 4 years apart and sharing a room most of their lives, Tom and Fred had very little in common other than their love for computer games.
Looking at the differences in this unique case, these 4 children may as well not have been related.
One would imagine that a double set of male-female twins who are 4 years apart would at least defy sibling rivalry, but they didn’t. The relationship among these siblings wasn’t the best.
There was no clean-cut method to help them get along. These are siblings with different personalities, temperaments, and issues between them, hence they may not have really liked each other or be able to get on.
Despite their being twins, each teen still grew and matured in their own way and interacted with the other as if they were singletons.
To split or not to split?
At 12, Mary and Tom were sent off to boarding school. They were separated because it was believed that socially struggling Mary (no official diagnosis) needed to attend a different school from academically popular Tom. Unfortunately, this didn’t improve their relationship.
Everything the family arranged was based on Tom’s highly academic school with strict rules and guidelines, while Mary’s school, which was more “relaxed,” always took 2nd place. It’s hard to confirm, but I think Mary adopted an attitude of “I love my new school” in order to fit in socially and be accepted by her parents for who she was despite being so different from Tom.
Four years later, a different decision was made for Lyla and Fred: they were to attend the same boarding school. They would travel together and move in the same circles, not because they are twins but because they are the same age. To this day, I can’t quite understand why Mary and Tom were split up, but my observations over the following 5 years lead me to believe that this separation strained their relationship.
Lyla and Fred used to secretly creep over into each other’s beds at night since age 11, and moving to a school with girl and boy dorms was slightly challenging. Luckily, they had so much peer support (and pressure) that they soon forgot about sharing a bed. They looked out for each other and often covered for each other. I do believe-not because they are twins but because they are siblings-they were given a chance to grow separately as individuals yet simultaneously strengthen their twin bond.
Why did the relationship between Mary and Tom take such a huge knock when they were growing up in the same household, and why were Lyla and Fred able to become friends towards the end of high school when they all grew up under one roof (except for boarding school)? Was this an influencing factor?
As with any siblings, gender and age differences do influence the development of a relationship. With twins, we often forget that each child is still their own person, and we convince ourselves that parenting methods are suddenly different because a son and daughter were born on the same day.
Studies show us how difficult or challenging the early years can be but fail to note that the teenage years are equally important. Teens and tweens, whether twins or not, will naturally drift apart from each other (as is evident from my observations). Despite the fact that each child is still an individual, parents or guardians should perhaps remember that just because they are the same age chronologically speaking, they can differ in mental age and maturity.
They should in no way be compared to each other as we already know that male and female teenagers grow and develop at different rates.
How it turned out in the end
With a global adolescent population of more than 1.2 billion, it should be clear that we’re determining the future by nurturing and raising these teens. Transitioning from childhood to adolescence takes many shapes and forms.
I can confirm that these 4 healthy children all reached the intended milestones, both those set by their parents and by Mother Nature. Although things don’t always go as planned, they had all grown up to be successful students by the time of my departure.
*The names have been changed to protect the children’s identity.