At 3-years-old, my twin boys are becoming their own little people, with individual tastes and interests and personalities. I’ve noticed that in the last couple of months, they’re really starting to “play” with other kids, at least more interactively. Even at such a young age, they have some friends who they like better—kids they ask about later or who they are always psyched to see. With some friends, they just jump right into the fun and games, and with others, they seem a little more eh, whatever. I find it fascinating to watch their social selves grow.
My identical twins are making friends side-by-side, so I sometimes can’t help but compare their different ways of interacting. One of my boys is more outgoing, kind of like a class clown, going all zany to get the laugh. He’s the initiator of games, the guy who jumps right in, and the one leading the wild charge. While my other boy is usually right there enjoying the fun, I’ll occasionally see him slip away for a break. He might retreat to a corner to play with some trucks or eat a snack or simply just sit down, watching the action from a distance.
My boys are alike in so many ways, but they are also different in many ways as well. The twin who is quieter also tends to be more sensitive and self-conscious. His feelings get hurt, and he expresses it both with tears and words. He’s my son, for sure. I’m starting to realize though that this sweet, emotional side also makes him more keenly aware of his brother’s social sway.
A few weeks ago, they were playing with a friend, chasing each other back and forth along the porch, screaming in their loud boy way. My sweet little guy hurt his finger and came in to get some ice. When he went to rejoin the action with his brother and his friend, he couldn’t quite figure out how to jump back in. I watched the way his lower lip started to quiver, that look on his face, like he was feeling rejected. He came in and said to me, quietly, sadly, “I want to run with them too.” And my heart broke for my sensitive boy who suddenly felt left out, overshadowed by his boisterous brother. Maybe replaced by his equally boisterous friend. (By the way, this was my grown-up interpretation, which doesn’t make it real.)
Of course, the boys were just busy with their running game, not even noticing that one was down for the count. So I told my guy, “Then go run with them. Go, go, chase your brother. Go get him, go, go,” hoping the encouragement would erase his self-doubt. And, of course, once he started running with them, the game was back on and he was squealing and laughing all over again.
I’m a mom though and, as I mentioned, a pretty sensitive one, so I worry. Is one boy always going to be more “popular”? Will he have more friends? Will other kids like him more?
Will my sensitive boy feel left out? Will he feel that he’s in his brother’s shadow? Will he retreat and become shy because he feels that is his role?
I know, I know. They’re still so young and there’s no way to know how their social development will go from here. And even if this is sort of a sign of things to come, it’s not worth worrying about. Right now, other 3-year-olds seem to find my dominant boy’s crazy antics hilarious. Maybe when they’re older, they’ll think that my laid-back boy is really cool because he’s into music and has an active imagination.
My twin boys aren’t the same people and I wouldn’t want them to be. Where’s the fun in that? I’ve embraced their differences from the beginning, and I think I need to trust that others will as well. Both of my boys are sweet and fun and funny. I’m sure they’ll find their own friends—or the same friends—who appreciate them for who they are. This is yet another one of those things that I need to let be.