The Birthday Dilema

My twins are boy/girl twins.  They love each other, play well together, plot schemes together and all other sorts of twin things.  They even sneak into each others beds at night so they don’t sleep alone.  They are not identical, but they still have a connection that is all their own.  They love bragging that they are twins to people.  They look nothing alike, and sometimes people don’t even believe them, but my kids don’t seem to notice.  Instead they enjoy every moment of being special.  I am sure this is my fault.  I have always wanted to foster a sense of being something special because they were twins, but also a strong sense of self.  I think it’s important to see all aspects of ones self.

When the twins were little I decided that they needed to have individual birthday parties every other year.  As I said, I wanted them each to feel like they were important as individuals as well as having the special status of being a twin.  I read many things that supported the idea.  Coupling that with the fact that I also grew up having my birthday combined with Thanksgiving meant that I wanted them to have a day all their own at least every other year.  The idea seemed brilliant.  When the twins turned 4 they each had an idea of what they wanted.  Cora wanted a tea party with princesses.  Trevor wanted Spiderman.  Combining such parties seemed impossible.  Again the idea of separating birthdays seemed to be supported.

The problem with this idea was that while it was just an idea it was wonderful but, when it was reality it meant I had double the birthday parties to throw.  Two different sets of invitations, and two of everything else that is involved in a birthday was now on the ‘to do’ list.

The twins loved it.  I finished cleaning up after both parties (which I foolishly did on the same day in a row the first year) and wanted nothing more than a stiff drink and a nap on the couch.  Meanwhile the twins wanted to open all the Lego sets, Barbies, and everything else they’d received.   And so began the lessons of having multiple birthdays for my twins.  First lesson: never again on the same day if the part was separate.  It was just too much for me.  Instead we plan one for the weekend before and one for the weekend after.  This gives me a little recoup time.  If it’s not possible to put a whole week between parties I at least do different days.  A Friday and a Saturday are not too bad.  It gives me Sunday to recoup before I have to go back to work.

The most interesting thing to me about the separate birthdays one year and combined birthdays the next is how they each choose something completely different, but they are able to settle on a theme and activity that suits them both the next year. It’s more than the boy/girl difference at work here.  It’s such an interesting study on personality.

Cora wants a big party every year.  She is blessed to not only have many friends but to also have a giant family.  This way she can be sure to have a large turnout and fulfill her social need.  She is overjoyed with every gift she receives.  It’s funny to watch her.  She doesn’t want anyone to be left out of any activity during the party so she spends a large part of her time checking on guests.  I have had to explain the social rules about mixing groups of people and the potential issues that can happen with one combines people who don’t know each other.

Trevor would prefer to have just a couple guests.  He always wants to have a party at home.  He dislikes when everyone sings happy birthday to him.  A couple years ago he asked me if he could just tell people it was his birthday so he could get gifts, but instead of a party he could just stay in the office and play video games without anyone ‘buggin’ him and he wouldn’t have to take turns.  I had to explain the social rules regarding gifts, parties, etc.

When they have a party together Cora usually has the first plan.  I have learned to have her present her idea to Trevor but then she has to walk away and give him a chance to absorb the plan and even see if he’s interested.  She would prefer to plan their combined birthdays all herself.  But, I really want it to be combined effort.  For that to work Trevor needs time to sit back and consider.  Generally speaking he cares much less than Cora does.  But, he will refuse to have princess themes, add a few ideas of his own, and really make it less of a Cora party and more of a their party.

All this to say, yes – the downside is having multiple parties every other year.  But the upside is a chance for them to learn to compromise, to be considerate of things that are important to each of them,  and to learn to share the spotlight whether they want to be there or not.

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