Friday, 24 August 2012

We are family

G&T - 2 years, 9 months   M - 10-and-a-half months

As soon as people see you have twins, their first question is always: 'Are they identical?' It has nothing to do with what they're wearing, their hair or eye colour. I've even known mums of boy/girl twins who've had the same question. It's just one of the things people say. And I don't mind. I like how the fact the girls are twins makes them stand out. But they don't look anything alike. Not even remotely. Willowy G is a mass of long limbs, with a headful of blonde curls and big brown eyes. Powerful little T is shorter and stronger, with long brown hair and bright blue eyes. Their personalities too are poles apart, and I've been very careful never to treat them as a pair. They don't have 'matching names', they don't dress alike and I never buy identical toys unless they both fall in love with the same one. They're twins simply because they happened to share my womb. Above all, they're sisters.
Since I moved back to my hometown from London nine months ago, I've had to get used to hanging out with my own sister again. We've always been close, irrelevant of geography, as we both are with our big sis. But I'd forgotten what it was like to live in the same town. I am forever getting funny looks from people in the street. Sometimes they seem curious, confused. Sometimes downright offended, as though annoyed I haven't said hello. It only clicked when my sister and I started going to the same Zumba class.
'Are you two twins?' asked the lady dancing next to us. Of course! Everyone here thinks I might be her!
My sisters and I are all carbon copies of our mother, who's a double of her mum before her. We have some pretty powerful genes. My eldest sister has the advantage of extra height to set her apart but, although I have darker hair, my little sis and I are similar in height and build, and always being mixed up. We don't mind being mistaken for twins (well, I don't, as I like to think it means I look younger) but it does make me a little sad that my husband's genes managed to break in on my three.I've mentioned this before, but T, and now M, are following in their mum's family tradition. Comparing pictures of the two of them to each other at the same age, then to my sisters and I is quite breathtaking. But G fell from a different tree. She is the image of her dad. I love how my twins have each other. They are confirmed best friends and, although they fight, a lot, I know that they are always there for each other. But will they be missing out because the rest of the world doesn't know they're sisters?
My family complain about being mixed up but we all know we love it really. It's tribal, I guess. We're family, and everyone knows it. T and M will doubtless spend their lives being asked if they're twins. G won't. Who knows if she'll mind or not. Perhaps it'll make her stronger, more independent. Or perhaps this is just another imaginary problem that no one will care about except their exhausted old mum. G and T are twins and will forever share that bond, but all three of my girls are sisters, first and foremost. They're so lucky that they're going to be facing the world together, no matter who looks like who.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Playing favourites

G&T - 32 months  M - 10 months

When a good friend of mine was pregnant with her second child, she tearfully confessed to me a secret shame. She was terrified that she wouldn't love her new baby enough. After all, how could she possibly love anyone the way she loved her son? When her daughter arrived, she snorted with laughter at the very suggestion of favourites. Asking which of my girls I love best would be like asking if I love my heart or my lungs most. If I prefer breathing in or breathing out. If I'd rather have Haagen Dazs or Ben and Jerry's... Ridiculous. I'd lie down in front of a train for any one of my girls. I love each of them more than I ever thought was possible. Sometimes, though, it's harder to like one as much as the others...
We've had a diva in our house this week. G has been always been the more prone to tantrums and drama, but this week she crossed a line. Yes, the tantrums multiplied, and she spent many a fraught few minutes screaming bloody murder from the 'Time-out corner'. But I understand tantrums. Fun they might not be, but I get them. She's exerting her independence, trying to gain control. As my parents will delight in pointing out, I was the tantrum queen, and G is my karma. But that means she doesn't know who she's messing with. There isn't a strop she could throw that I can't out-stubborn. This week, however, she went from tantrums to hitting out. At her baby sister. Out of nowhere, she suddenly started grabbing M's ears, and gave her two scratched cheeks. It was all I could do to stay anywhere near in control. She seemed so vicious. It was horrible to see and really put a strain on our relationship as she took trip after trip to the corner, and my throat became raw from shouting. It was hard too, to avoid the impression that she was 'the naughty one' to T's 'good girl'. That is something I always fear - making one of the twins feel less loved. But as G first had treat privileges removed, then snacks, then puddings, I couldn't punish T too, and had to tread a fine line of emphasising T's good behaviour without branding G 'bad'. It was one of the worst days I remember having since becoming a mum. Even bedtime didn't bring relief. Having calmed briefly with Daddy's arrival, the volcano erupted once again when it came time to go upstairs. An argument over a straw escalated to her refusing to walk up and being carried, screaming like a banshee, to her bed. There followed five minutes of chaos as she sobbed and roared and tried to climb out of her cot. Then... silence. I went upstairs to check T and M were calm enough to settle, then gritted my teeth and headed over to G. She was lying on top of her covers, fast asleep yet emitting pathetic tearful gasps, clutching the all-important straw in her little hands. I almost wept with love. She was so sad and beautiful, it was all I could do not to scoop her into my arms. I didn't, obviously. I ran. But I couldn't believe the change. That sleeping beauty was my real G, and I knew that nothing she threw at me could change that.
We've had two more hard days, but slowly, my cheeky charmer is on her way back. M is still a little wary, pushing her away if she gets too close, and that breaks my heart. G was by far the more enthusiastic about M from the start. T was indifferent and a little irritated by the screaming bundle that had invaded her life, until M became the interesting playmate she is today. G however, adored her from the beginning, and the main problem we've had is her being a little too keen to cuddle and kiss her. I can only imagine this phase is G trying to hang on to a bit of being a baby. With T pretty much fully toilet-trained, I'm once again trying to get G interested, but she's still resisting. I think anxiety combined with a few disturbed nights thanks to M teething combined to cause the pressure cooker to boil over. I just hope that's the worst of it over. I want my bright little button back. I hate feeling nervous when she's around M. I hate getting angry. I hate not trusting her. I hate not liking her. But just as T's tired whining can drive me crazy and M's tooth-induced refusal to sleep has nearly brought me to breaking point, they are all my babies and I love each one as fiercely as the next. Especially when they're asleep.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Games girls

G&T - 32 months  M - 10 months

I fear I may have damaged my children. They have developed an uncontrollable compulsion, and it's all my fault. Whenever I turn on the TV, they start to scream... 'Go GB!' Yes, we have Olympic fever!
I love The Olympics. Adore it. Get so caught up in it. But last time it came round, I was a young newlywed with no responsibilities and all the time in the world to get completely addicted to sports I didn't even remotely understand (fencing anyone?). Now, with three small kids around, I feared I wouldn't have time to enjoy it, but the girls have turned out to be addicts too. Usually, the TV stays off all day, save a little news for me, and a CBeebies hit for them to give me space to make tea. For the past week, it's been on constantly, as athlete after athlete reduces me to an emotional wreck. And I've dragged the girls down with me.
'Is he a GB one?' 'Where's the GB lady?' 'Go GB!' 'Mexico!' (I think with the last one, they just like the word...)They don't have a clue what's going on, but they love it anyway. T announced that she wants to do running when she's bigger, 'like that GB lady' (Jessica Ennis), while G fancies spinning and tumbling like the gymnasts. Even little M has been getting in the spirit, proudly wearing her cute GB flag nappy!
I remember having my own sporting dreams as a young girl. I was never the fastest or the strongest, and my sporting achievements were limited to a few hockey games for my school, but I always dreamed of being a dancer. I can't say I really regret never properly pursuing that West End career. After all, I wouldn't trade my girls for the world. But I do get wistful, imaging a life of bright lights and high kicks. The twins are both great little movers already, so I'm going to take them to dance classes when they're 3. Not to live out my fantasies through them, just because I know how much I would have loved it if such things had been around for me, and an innate shyness hadn't stopped me pushing myself. If they don't like dancing, fine by me. We'll try something else until they find their own dream.
I don't mind if they become dancers, or gymnasts, or heptathletes, or doctors, or shop assistants. I just care that they don't want to be reality TV stars famous purely for the sake of it. I love that they're getting to see strong female role models celebrated for their achievements and hard work, rather than the size of their cleavage or how many footballers they've bedded. Some people complain there is too much sport on TV, but if it inspires our children to forget about Peppa Pig and rush outside to race their twin sister round the garden, it's done its job. Who knows, it might even inspire the not-so-young amongst us to get up and move. Now, where did I put that dance school timetable...