Sometimes, when people are talking to me and they have have run out of things to say, they ask so, which twin is your favourite?
That question always makes me do my "seriously?" face. My seriously face involves eyes squinched, eyebrows raised and head on the side, which is not a very attractive look so I do it as little as possible - but sometimes there's just no other option. Asking which twin is my favourite is sort of like asking which foot is my favourite - they both have their good points, but I wouldn't really want to be without either. Once I've got my twitching under control, my answer is usually an eye roll and whichever one isn't screaming which seems to be a pretty standard response among twin-mums to that surprisingly common (if astonishingly dumb) question.
Because who would have favourites, right? They are both my favourite. Now that I have kids, I love watching just how transparent parents are about their favouritism for their children. And that's a really big reason why, except in the most exceptional of circumstances, I will always favour families for children over any kind of group home situation, no matter how wonderful. Everyone should be someone's favourite. Everyone should have someone in the audience who thinks that they are the smartest, the prettiest, the best company, who secretly feels sorry for all the other parents because their child is not cut from the same magical cloth as my fabulous child, or children. Because the strange thing is just how true it is that I really do have two children who really are my favourite. I never understood how that could be true, but it really is. In a family, who would have favourites?
Ahem. Here's the embarrassing thing. Two people in our house do have favourites, it turns out. But it's not us, it's the kids. I'm not sure whether they discussed it between themselves and decided okay, you get Mum but Dad is mine but there is some serious parental preference happening. Pink has decided that her heart belongs to her father. And Blue, it seems, is mine.
All day when I'm at home alone with them, Pink turns her soulful little eyes on me and says Diddy? Diddy? I don't think she's asking after Sean Combs so I sigh and say he's at work, honeybun. Won't it be lovely when he gets home? and she's happy for about five minutes until she comes up to me again, forehead creased in concern and asking Diddy? Diddy? She loves me, but she really wants to know where he is at all times. I've turned the front of our refrigerator into a family photo album and when she gets really worried I walk her in there and point at him: There's your lovely Daddy, Pink, he loves you so much! And she relaxes and points and says, joyously, Diddy! Since he is usually home from work after she goes to bed, I think she's decided that he spends Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays actually living in the fridge. But hey, she seems happy about it so I'm not concerned.
Blue's preference takes a more - um - assertive turn. Remember all that attachment work I was doing with him so diligently? Well, it worked. Oh boy did it work. He's not worryingly clingy - he can play without me and occasionally he still likes to hug strangers - but if he's hurt or worried or hungry or tired or cranky (or, frankly, breathing) and he wants someone it's got to be Mama. Mama. Mama. Mama. When he's with J, if he can see me, he roars for me. I wanted this for so long, from him, and it seems so strange now that it is finally happening. Now I have a knee-high boy wrapping his arms around my legs and saying Cugga! Cugga! Cugga! because he wants a hug from me, only me. If I don't do it immediately, he cries. It's been happening for months now but it still feels a little strange, like he has decided after close to two years that he hasn't been making the most of having a mother and suddenly wants his money's worth out of this tall woman who lives in his house. Sometimes I think I was here the whole time, sweetheart.
I'll be honest, part of me loves it.
But the other part of me is driven crazy by it. One of the good things for us about adopting two kids at once (and there were plenty of horrifying things) was that we never got confused about who was on whose side in our family. J and I have always been a team. Our first loyalty is to each other, and we've always been united in how we manage the kids - and maybe there's the occasional high five when Team Parent wins a major victory. Does that sound terrible? I don't mean we're against the kids, obviously, just that there hasn't really been any triangulation. Even when I was really struggling with Blue's attachment (classic triangulation risk right there), J was nothing but supportive. I've observed lots of families where the arrival of a child means a solid Husband+Wife team quickly becomes Team Wife+Baby and poor old Team Dad is the competition. Whereas with two kids coming at once, there was no exclusive mother-baby bond because you just can't do that with two kids simultaneously. Dad was definitely not on the sidelines, he was up to his ears in wee and poop and sleeplessness, just like me. I don't think this is particularly an adoption thing - lots of people with twins say that an unexpected benefit is just how much more involved the Dad becomes than when there is only one baby. I'm sure it's possible to share a baby when there's only one, but I'm also sure it would be harder.
So Team Parent has always remained strong in our house. But now, I feel like the preferences that the children are showing are beginning to divide us into Team Blue and Team Pink, and that's what's driving me crazy. We don't like each other any less than we did, but since Blue wants to be with me, and Pink wants to be with Diddy, and Pink and Blue can barely stand to be in the same room with each other... we end up taking the easy way out and gravitating to the child who wants us. We know that we should be making an effort to spend one-on-one time with the child who prefers the other parent (ouch) but that isn't really happening. We're all so exhausted at the moment - I haven't been well since we got home, and J is picking up a lot of slack - that being deliberate about this kind of thing just feels too hard. And shutting the door on a child who is yelling for me, while holding a child who is yelling for their other parent... also too hard.
I feel a bit lost, people. Has anyone else dealt with child-induced favouritism? I worked so hard to show Blue that it was safe to form secure attachment to me, but I didn't want it to be at the expense of his relationship with his father. Or at the expense of Team Parent. How do I keep his attachment to me secure while nurturing the other ones, too? Maybe the real problem is that I worked so hard to get here, I'm a bit frightened of losing what I've got now. Maybe I should just take a Valium and not think about all this so much.
Like I said to someone else earlier today, life never gets easy, does it? It just gets different.