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.
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