I May Have Been Born a Twin but Now I Am One of a Kind
Jack & Jill Shoes
We took off the lids from the boxes and parted the thin layers of tissue paper below. The boxes revealed two small pairs of black leather shoes and tucked inside were two red balloons. Printed on the balloons were two small children and above them, were the words, Jack, and Jill.
So enchanted was I with the red balloons that I almost forgot about the shoes, until the following day, when accompanied by our Mother we found ourselves walking out of the house wearing them.
I don’t recall ever being prepared for that momentous day, but the memory of the Jack and Jill school shoes and the balloons are indelibly recorded in my brain, as being my first memory.
What happened prior to that day seems to me, to have been completely erased from my mind.
We walked so trustingly that day, hand in hand with our Mother. It seemed to me that she walked very tall that day and I could sense the pride in her step as she walked with us. It was not long before we found ourselves heading towards the pair of large open gates which seemed to beckon us forward and then we were walking through them.
My twin and I, we wore identical bottle green cotton frocks that day, with white Peter Pan collars, short sleeves, and white upturned cuffs. A row of white buttons ran down the front of the dresses. The gathered skirts to just below our knees. A soft, green fabric belt encircled our waist, fastened in the middle with a matching white button. On our feet, we wore the Jack and Jill school shoes and identical down turned white cotton socks. Across the front of each shoe was a bar which ended in a little chrome buckle at the side of each foot. In my mind’s eye, I can still see them and the punched out holes which culminated in a little flowery design on each shoe.
I felt my mother’s grip grow suddenly tighter in my hand, to which my own hand responded, though I did not quite understand why! It seemed to me that Mother was walking a lot faster now! We tried to match our steps to hers. Then we arrived at the bottom of some well worn wide grey steps and behind them stood a beautiful soft red brick Victorian building.
Standing at the top of the stairs was a tall, older looking woman. She smiled at us with such kind eyes and lips. It seemed to me, that she greeted my mother as if she were known to her, just as if she was expecting us! My mother introduced my sister and me to her as ‘the twins’.
Then quite unexpectedly and quite shockingly, we felt Mother release her tight grip on our hands and then she passed us over into the hands of this complete stranger! She turned then and began walking quickly back down the concrete path and not once did she look back at us. Soon she had disappeared from our sight.
We burst into tears. The tears fell unchecked down our little faces. The teacher led us into a vestibule at the top of the stairs. There we saw, stood against the wall, a row of very low white children’s wash basins. Then we were ushered into the back of a large classroom, where row upon row of wooden desks were laid out before us. A vacant double desk stood waiting to receive us, just as if it had anticipated our arrival.
Mrs. Cloete sat us down at our desk. Through our tears, we could see and feel the eyes of lots of children watching us. The teacher handed us some Plasticine with which to play and in a little while we felt the tears and the sobs gradually subside. And so, we settled down to play. We picked up the Plasticine and pulled it this way, kneaded it that way and rolled it between our little fingers. All the while, we tried to shut out the watchful eyes of our classmates, who had turned to witness our noisy arrival.
It was not long before we heard the sound of a large hand bell clanging at the top of the stairs. Over and over, the bell clanged and then we were all lined up and led off in one great long crocodile, to god only knows where!
We walked together, my twin and me, hands clasped tightly together. We passed through a group of watchful, amused and much older children and then I found myself stopped short in my tracks, by the biggest pair of female legs I had ever seen! They signaled to me, yet another reason, to begin crying and so, as should have been predicted, my twin burst into tears.
We were led into the school hall, with what seemed to me, to be, an alarming number of children already assembled there. It was not long before the headmaster indicated to the teacher, that she should remove the ‘crying children’ from the hall, to sit on an outside bench, until they had calmed down’ while the rest of the school continued on with the assembly and the daily prayer!
That first day at school would come back to haunt us for many a year.
In year three, an attempt was made to separate us. Once again, we found ourselves sitting on a bench and in tears outside a classroom. This time, it was our future which was being discussed inside. A passing teacher who we regarded highly, stopped to ask us why we were crying? We explained that there were discussions going on inside the classroom, which would separate us from one another.
Taking both of our hands into hers, she marched us back into the classroom to tell the teachers gathered there, that ‘This is not going to happen, I will not allow 'my darlings' to be separated from one another’.
How she achieved it, I will never know, but no further attempt was ever made to separate us during our stay at the Primary School.
Upon reaching High School, we voluntarily went our own separate ways. It came as a huge relief to me to realize that I could finally go it alone. Primary school was a painful period for me, prolonged and interspersed with ill health and poor sight; there were also long periods where I was unable to attend school at all because of it.
Parents of twins can try to do more to help them discover themselves and their own interests before they go to school so that they don’t develop a reliance or co-dependence on one another as we did.
Twin Separation Anxiety
The Good and the Bad
People sometimes say, ‘I wish I were a twin. You are so lucky. It must be so nice to always have someone your own age to play with'.
Imagine always being defined as ‘The Twins’ and forever being compared to your sister or brother. People sometimes assume that this happens more with identical twins but I can assure you, it happens to fraternal twins too. Growing up as a twin can have a huge impact on their independence and also on their individuality.
My sister and I looked different, but a lot of effort was put into making us look the same. Our strong bond made it very difficult for us to have a clear sense of our own self or self-worth as we were growing up.
Unity came with a price and the constant fear of a forced separation weighed very heavy on me.
We were ‘the twins’. It was both good and it was bad.
To Share or Not to Share
People sometimes say:-
Twins should always share!
Correction – Twins should have the right to share but only if it is their wish
Twins should never get angry towards one another!
Correction - Twins are no different from other people. It should be expected that they will have a range of feelings for one another, just as anyone else does.
On being together
Twins should always want to be together
Correction – Personal space and boundaries should always be dictated by the individual needs of both children and not by others.
Being there for one another
Twins should always want be there for one another!
Correction - Twins should be taught that their own care is just as important as is it to care for their twin. Parents and siblings can and should model this care
Developing at the same pace
Twins develop at the same pace and need the same things!
Correction - Twins are no different from other children. They will develop at their own pace and each child will have their own needs and ambitions.
On being a Twin
Being a twin is everything!
Correction - Being a twin is just part of who we are. It is not the only thing that matters
I know what you are thinking
Twins always know what the other one is thinking!
Correction – Occasionally they do, though, for the most part, their feelings and also their thinking is as unique to them as yours is to you.
Equal treatment for all
Twins should be treated in exactly the same way!
Correction - Parents should treat each child as the unique being that they are. They should be taught to face the world as individuals. Twins do sometimes attract attention but seldom do people take the time to discover the individual people which they are.
- Take photos of your twins as individuals.
- Take photos of them wearing different clothes.
- Take photos of them in different situations or places, both doing different things.
- Take photos of them with their own friends and even sometimes with just one parent at a time.
- Try to think of them as Individuals and allow them to have separate time with different members of the family and their own friends and take photos of them with these people.
Choosing Names for Twins
On choosing names for your children!
Give your twins names which make them the unique person or Individuals that they deserve to be.
If you do something with one twin, make an effort to do something different with the other.
Allow them to follow their own paths in life
Happy twins are the ones who are encouraged to meet their individual goals - even if they began life together and on the same path.
© 2014 Sally Gulbrandsen