Monday, 25 July 2011

Playing Favourites

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.


  1. I love your posts! That is all.

    Okay, that's not all.

    1. so glad blue attached to you - is that the correct terminology?

    2. we have the same thing over here when d is around. if it's just me with the kids, K is very happy to be a mommy's girl but I all but disappear into the ether when he arrives. He brings the sun and moon and everything with him :)

    3. I'm too tired for all this so I'm happy to do C and D can do K but D is not happy about it. So then I insist on helping K and she screams blue murder. "NO MUMMY, Daddy pick up!" (and she screams loud).

    4. I would have taken the two to church on Sunday but I didn't want K screaming at me in the parking lot or at children's church. That's not the whole reason but still.

    I think it's okay for now with you guys but don't exclusively be with Blue/ Pink and it will even out over time, at least I hope so :)

    thanks for the book recommendation - I'm going to check if there's a kindle version available and I'll order it right now :)

  2. Beautiful post. Life actually does get easier. Seriously, when they are wiping their own butts and they can read a novel it's easier. Our oldest is 8 and other than the burping and farting without shame he's positively civilized and a dream. Our four year old who just came home from Ethiopia is a four year old. Not civilized but thinks he is. It's a lot of work, sometimes lovely but always hard.

    Our older son has gone through phases with who is his favorite. I've worked outside of our home with a long commute for most of his life so his dad was his go to person. Sometimes he needed dad and sometimes me. Phases could last a year or more. Now at 8 I can look back and see different transitions he made back and forth. Our 4 year old started out preferring dad and has switched to me. I wouldn't worry about getting them to be together all that often. If it were me I would keep it simple and doable. If they are not getting along keep them apart when possible even if that means you are not doing stuff together as a family. When they are approaching 4 years old and are much more able to think (and also see the upside of cooperating for more than 5 seconds) it will be much easier. The cool thing about having an 8 year old and a 4 year old is no expects them to hang out together. They have breakfast and dinner together and play for a short time around those hours. They adore each other because their time together is short. So perhaps a little time apart is just the perfect thing.

  3. Our daughter, when handed to us in China, clung to my husband for dear life. For a short period of time she would only go to him. She screamed if I came near her. This was her survival strategy.

    Then, when he went to work and I was with her all day, she tolerated me and ignored him.

    Later still, she attached to me in her own peculiar way and treated him with a rudeness that was sort of pointed, as if being nice to him would weaken her insecure attachment to me.

    Now, six years out, she is finally coming into a calmer attachment to me and a relaxed relationship with him.

    It's been a long strange road.

  4. It does make it hard. Their preference of parent and all our childrens preference in each other, something that changes minute to minute, keeps us on our toes.
    I swear if Beatrice could figure out a way to comfortably insert herself under my skin she would do it. It is sweet and exhausting.
    No great ideas since we are still in the thick of it...just (((hugs)) and understanding.

  5. With both of my children their "preference" goes back and forth, though I would say it's probably 70% me since I tend to be the one here. When they are both "on" me it can be overwhelming so I prefer the split.

  6. I feel like I do have a favorite twin (gasp!) but that it changes weekly. One week I am so in love w/ F I can't see straight and then the next week it's G...It used ot bother me but now that I see it really does flip constantly I'm ok w/ it. I figure it all evens out. As for who they prefer. G is definitely mama's boy. Since the beginning he has needed more whereas F has been pretty independent all along. I have had to make a conscience effort, like you, to hold her even when she isn't asking or else I will end up only holding G all the time. And actually making that effort has evened things out a bit. G goes through crazy mama/separation anxiety phases...but it does seem to come and go every few months. I know my twins are a bit older than yours so it will be interesting to see if BLue also lets his 'must crawl into mom's skin in order to be closer' phase will fade in and out.I'm with you--I love it and I hate it. I love that I am his one and only (his sister is actually his one and only, i'm second to her) but sometimes I'd like to be able to enter a doorway with out him trying to crawl inside my pants! As for which parent they prefer--dad for the fun, mom for injuries and snuggles.

  7. Right now I am the favorite of both and it is exhausting. (I have no right to complain - but I will anyway.) They are, of course, not technically twins. But at 11 months apart, are often in the same place developmentally. It is only in the last two days that they have actually started fighting over me. Trying to shove each other out of my lap. Trying to get between me and the other while laying in bed. I hope that this is a very, very short phase and can't wait to see if any of your readers have advice that I can use.
    Wait, this isn't my blog? Sorry.

  8. Hi, I have been reading your blog for a while and I love it, I just have not commented because it still scars me :). Anyway I have a brother with RAD who is very vocal and amazing at putting his feelings/thoughts into words. He actually thought that for him to be nice or to love one person he needed to be mean or completely ignore everyone else in his life. He was shocked when mum told him it was OK for him to love more than one person. He is nine now and is nice to most people and can love all his family members without too much trouble. So it gets better but it does take time and a lot of work. Ali

  9. A ha! We have Team Parent going on here too, thank God. We look at each other daily and say how grateful we are for each other and that we'res till a united nice to read that in your household too. No favorites here yet because it's all so new, but I have no doubt you guys will sail through this just fine like you always do :) Cut yourself some slack since you've been feeling poorly!


  10. I am also sure that things will fluctuate back and forth over time. And yes, it might take some tricky rearrangement, but I think it is best to feel good before you take on anything new . . . it might feel like you are putting off something important, but everything goes so much better when you are rested and well!

    Have you done any bonding work between the twins? Having them want to be around each other might help out the situation too, but perhaps that is too much to ask?!

  11. I don't have any advice except to say my little girl (bio) went through the same thing with her daddy- she tolerated me because I'm the one at home all day but definitely preferred him- asked about him all the time and if he was around and she got hurt or upset, she wanted only him to comfort her. It did hurt my feelings a little. That was when she was around two years old. She seems to have grown out of it now- so maybe it's a developmental thing?
    Amy x

  12. We adopted a son and daughter at the same time. My so has always been more attached to his father and my daughter more attached to me. We just go with it for the most part. There are times when only I can make my son happy and times when Dad is my daughter's hero. We do some things as a group and some independently.

  13. My mom had two kids (not twins) and she said she loved us both equally, but differently. Which I know to be true. She loves us both, at our essence, uniquely, but she gives us both her all. And, I think, that this loves spreads out over a lifetime, so if you find that right now the twins seem to be dividing and conquering, that's okay, it will even out. For the first four or so years of his life, M preferred me so much, and in some ways he still does, but it has evened out so beautifully. He loves my husband very differently. We are all just people finding our way, thankfully, every love between each two people is unique. Beautiful writing, as always. You could write about dryer lint, I would read it.


Over to you!