April 20, 2008

Book Review: Where twin is a four letter word

As a parent of twins I was interested when asked to review a new book about parenting twins. I’m a big believer in knowing as much about parenting as possible.  (This parenting is hard work!)  In fact, upon learning I was going to have twins, I went out and purchased at least four or five books about parenting twins – so I’m well versed in what makes a good twin book.

Now that I have a little experience under my belt, I was looking forward to reading a twin parenting book with that experience fresh in my mind rather than reading everything and wondering how the book would apply to me.  Now that I know what I know, any advice given can be compared to my own personal experiences.

About a month ago I received Emotionally Healthy Twins: A New Philosophy for Parenting Two Unique Children, written by Joan A. Friedman – a psychologist who is an identical twin and parent of her own identical twins. With a background like that, Ms. Friedman seems like she would be a natural when discussing parenting twins.

Unfortunately, the book takes a hard-line stance on how to parent twins that is not only very narrow, but doesn’t exactly fly with all twins – particularly those twins who are boy/girl. The premise, however, is a strong one. Treat your children as individuals. Don’t buy into what Ms. Friedman calls “the twin mystique” – that all twins are alike and that they must have a bond that should never be broken. Ms. Friedman advocates very strongly that twins should not be given any special treatment or parented in any way that celebrates or brings attention to the fact that they “happen to be born on the same day.”

On the surface, Ms. Friedman has a good point. Definitely, spend time alone with each of your twins. Definitely don’t compare them. Definitely encourage them to explore their individuality and uniqueness. That is hard to disagree with.

It’s the extremes that Ms. Friedman advocates that really bugged the crap out me. For instance, she suggests telling people that you are pregnant with “two babies” rather than twins – so as not to reinforce the “twin mystique.”  She even goes so far as to tell you to purchase separate dressers in the baby’s room so there’s no confusion about their sense of self.  I could go on and on with examples such as these.

There is an entire chapter devoted to fathers and twins. Unfortunately, this is the point of the book w

here I wanted to throw it into the nearest trash receptacle and call it a day. At one point she tells the reader that “fathers of newborns are generally pleased to have an assignment and to feel useful and effective.” Give me a friggin’ break. She clings onto stereotypes of the ignorant father and the controlling, overwhelmed mother who needs to give the father assignments or LET the father have alone time with the kids. And while I realize that many fathers need a little push, I felt offended reading the entire chapter.

On the whole, I get the feeling that Ms. Friedman has not fully worked out her issues surrounding her own childhood and growing up as an identical twin. Her theory of raising strong adults by separating twins as early and as thorough as possible screams loud and clear that she felt her own childhood would have been different if she had not been a twin – or, at least, treated like one.

As I said earlier, I feel like this book is not nearly as relevant to boy/girl fraternal twins. My own experiences have shown that it is a lot easier to separate interests and comparisons when the twins are opposite genders. I see how being an identical twin could present problems of identity but I feel like her hardcore stance is a bit much.

Finally, I think this book might have worked better as a memoir rather than a definitive way to raise twins. It is one person’s perspective that I don’t think many twin parents would be comfortable adopting. Like I said, the overall message of spending alone time with each twin and helping them create their own identity outside of being a twin is an important and necessary aspect of parenting twins. I just don’t agree that embracing your twins and all that comes with it and raising emotionally healthy children are mutually exclusive.

5 Comments

  1. Yep, sounds like that author may have some twin issues herself. Although Da’Gorgouses are alike in some ways, they sure let us know how they are very different and unique. As for the father thing, DrillSgt fell into his role very well, no need for an overwhelmed mother to prod him any (as a matter of fact, he sometimes does a much better job at this parenting thing than I do).

    Comment by MamáChanga — April 20, 2008 @ 11:29 pm

  2. Not having twins, I can’t comment on some of this, but the father thing really was bad. These days, lots of guys are more aware of needing to take more of a role in helping with their kids. My husband is great with my kids and doesn’t need any prodding or prompting to do stuff. That’s just insulting to many men I know who are great fathers.

    Comment by Julie — April 21, 2008 @ 5:49 am

  3. Hi…
    I have come to the conclusion that there are twins and then there are TWINS (ie identicals). I don’t have identicals either but I have to suspect that it would be a very different experience to raising fraternal twins. I don’t have to ponder on the issue of treating my girls differently, they are already different. We responded to them differently from the moment we first held them, it is impossible not to. To my mind are really better thought of as “same age siblings”. All of the hardwork comes about because there are two of them at the same stage of development and they have a more “intense” sibling relationship but it is not to do with being alike any more than it would be for regular siblings. With boy girl twins your concerns may be focused on implications for them arising from the very fact that they are not alike.

    I tend to think twin specific parenting books really ought to be further classified according to the types of twins being cared for – identical, same sex fraternal, opposite sex fraternal. I would also suspect that male identicals and female identicals experience different issues as they mature.

    As for the special bond- I am all about encouraging as strong a bond as is possible between all of my children- it’s about the Sistas. Twinship or closely spaced siblings-there is no guarantee of love between siblings, it has much more to do with everything else and little to do with birthdates.

    Comment by twinshere — April 22, 2008 @ 8:14 pm

  4. Hmmm…I onder what she would have to say about Dusty and HOney, 70 year old sisters (not twins) who live together, dress alike and do nearly everything together? I heard their story on This AMerican Life, “Matching Outfits Not Included, check it out it’s worthwhile.

    Comment by Grandmother — April 23, 2008 @ 11:35 pm

  5. I have to say – I would violently disagree with that as well. While we raise our children as individuals (they are in separate classes and have different friends) – they also have an extremely uniqure relationship and they are very proud of being a twin. They have always finished each other’s sentences, and while they fight like cats and dogs – they also protect each other, too.

    I agree – it sounds like the author may have issues herself!

    Comment by Stacy — April 26, 2008 @ 6:41 pm

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