I have anything but typical twins.
Yes, they are individuals, and yes, we treat each of them differently. But for me and lots of other families, one of my twins is typical and one of my twins is not – in a much larger sense.
In our case, one of my twins, Cici, has a severe brain injury due to a choking accident when she was 11 months old. That means one twin, Penny, runs and jumps and eats and roughhouses with her older brother, Max. Cici is in a wheelchair, fed through a feeding tube, legally blind, and without too much control of her body to communicate with us or even move on her own. We also struggle with medical issues, like seizures, scoliosis, breathing issues and oxygen, and we pursue various types of traditional and alternative therapies to help the brain heal and for her to develop function and health in her body.
Needless to say, sometimes I don’t feel like I have twins at all. Cici really functions at close to a newborn level. Penny is a typical two year old, and Max is a typical four year old. So, even though Penny and Cici are twins (identical, on top of that), they really interact with each other like siblings. The day of the accident, I really feel as though we lost the “twins” in the traditional sense. I may not ever see them grow up on the same developmental level. I may never see them “play tricks” on their teachers with their identical-ness. I may never have the trouble of potty training two kids at one time or managing two of each kind of toy or struggle with paying two preschool tuition’s or saving for two college educations.
There are days I’m so very sad about this. I was really looking forward to raising twins in the “typical” way. I’m still a member of our local twins group, and it always makes me a little bit sad to watch all the twins run around and interact with each other, always having a playmate. And, it’s very obvious to me that I am the only one who has a special needs twin in our group. The sad thing is, that I know I’m not the only one out there. Since the accident, I have made contact with lots of other twin moms, where one has down syndrome, or one has a seizure disorder, or one has brain damage from an infection, or one has long term effects from a premature birth, or other various syndromes – including developmental delays or somewhere on the autism spectrum. But, like me, they don’t feel like they have twins most of the time either, and therefore, don’t feel like they belong in a twins group. It’s probably, that, like me, they see in all the other kids what they don’t have. Typical kids. Beyond that. The “twin connection” that twins have and that I may never get to see in my own kids. We special needs moms see typical kids all over the place, but typical twins strike a different chord with me. It’s what I had, and in an instant, I lost.
But I keep going to the meetings. I keep participating. I want other special needs moms to feel welcome in our group. I want us to be able to talk about physical or speech or cognitive delay with understanding and openness. I want to be part of a community outside the special needs world. I would like to think that my girls still have a special bond, after all, they look exactly alike! And, I still need double the clothes in a size – I still have two kids to clothe! Max and Penny have learned how to play with Cici, being gentle and showing her things and talking to her and waiting for her to respond. They also act like normal siblings, they steal her toys, and touch her too hard, and sometimes poke her in the eye by accident. They squabble when she gets too much attention, but they are also fiercely protective of her, and they really want to include her in our family. And I think this is something that is valuable for everyone, kids and adults alike, to see – how to explain and talk about disability with dignity and integrity, without avoidance and not with hushed whispers and stares. They’re still twins, even if it seems like they’re more like siblings that were born on the same day, and that’s still special.
So, come out, come out, wherever you are! If you don’t have typical twins, or even if you do, how do you feel about having twins?
Follow me (and read the whole big ugly story) at The Fisch Tank (http://colofisch.blogspot.com)