A couple of months ago we went through a tricky time with our twins.
Okay. I'm laughing at myself now. Flashback: I am juggling a giant u-shaped pillow on my lap trying to feed two babies at once in a football hold...two babies in high chairs throwing food on the floor and laughing hysterically...one toddler standing on the back of the other to open the lounge door and escape...both toddlers ripping the wallpaper off their bedroom wall because that too was hilarious...
When is it ever not a tricky a time with twins? It gets easier but it never gets less tricky.
I'll try again...
A couple of months ago we went through a VERY EMOTIONALLY tricky time with our twins.
The root of this tricky time was that since moving to a new school, they had been sharing a special little friend. At first the sharing of this friend seemed to work beautifully. All three of them had their roles and they sat together in the classroom, played happily together at lunch and enjoyed playdates together at each others houses. Together. I watched carefully, having seen little girls and their power plays at work in the classroom, but there was no cause for any alarm bells.
And then one day their desk groups were changed in the classroom and so one twin stayed with the special friend while the other ended up sitting with a group of boys.
A GROUP OF BOYS! What was the teacher thinking?!
Anyway, we counselled the heart-broken girl as best we could and watched with baited breath.
Cue power plays at lunch time and morning tea. Suddenly, our heart-broken little girl turned into mean-spirited little girl. And it didn't help at all that her sister is sensitive. When those big blue eyes of hers start to well up you end up swimming in the tears along with her. Trust me. I have swam in many oceans of her tears. But her sister seemed to have developed a taste for making her cry.
It all culminated in an incident at school where the mean twin wrote on a piece of the sensitive twins artwork, "I hate you."
Of all the things she could have done or said, she chose the H bomb. We do not say the H bomb in our family and above and beyond anything else in this life, WE ARE LOYAL TO ONE ANOTHER.
But before we could deal with the H bomb, the hater denied all knowledge. It was someone else that wrote it. It wasn't her. Except that...she had already confessed to the teacher that it was her.
Logic doesn't always compute in the brain of a 9 year old and so still she maintained her innocence despite her already noted confession. Which naturally led to tears and exclamations of "YOU NEVER BELIEVE ME."
No, we don't believe you little one. Not this time. We love you, but we don't believe you.
"THEN I'M JUST GOING TO RUN AWAY."
And so she did.
We heard the front door open and shut with a bang. It was early evening and very cold so I knew she wouldn't go far. I looked out the window and didn't see her walking in either direction so assumed she had camped outside by the garage or perhaps under the rocks which landscape our yard, hoping for some attention. We gave her fifteen minutes until it was starting to get dark and then went outside to give her the attention she wanted and bring her inside.
She wasn't there. We looked up and down the street and couldn't see her anywhere. With the sky darkening as each minute passed, we got in the car and drove what we thought was the most obvious route.
Luckily it was the most obvious route and as we descended down the road towards a familiar place, we saw a shock of bright pink in gumboots trudging along the footpath. When we pulled up beside her she turned and started walking in the other direction. We tried again with the same result. Clearly this wasn't an attention-seeking ploy. She really was running away.
When we finally got her in the car and asked her what her plan was, she said she was going to go to her hut she'd built not far from there and sleep over night. When we asked her what she would do if she got cold she said she'd bury herself in the leaves. She'd thought it through.
And when we got home and wearyingly got our kiddios to bed, Paul and I had a massive debrief. We realised we'd reached crisis point in our family. It was not an easy time. Our man-child was unwell with CFS and painful headaches and the stress and anxiety of his condition had taken it's toll on all of us. We realised we had asked a lot of the girls without giving them much in return. And that made us terribly sad.
A few nights later when the man-child was well enough to have a family meal we talked it through with all of them. We talked at length about our relationships with each other, ways we can show our love and most importantly, all of us remembering to use kind words. And then we practised. We also told our little one that we do and will believe her from now on. Unconditionally. It was a gamble because we knew she had been lying a lot lately, but we knew we needed to try something different. And in that moment, I saw something click in her eyes. That affirmation was exactly what she needed to know she was loved and respected and appreciated.
It was a turning point in our relationships. Since that family conference we no longer have a mean-spirited twin and a sensitive one. We have two cheeky girls who appreciate a good laugh but have learnt to not step over the boundary into meanness. Our family is now defined by laughter and love letters rather than hateful words and tears. Just the other day the girls' teacher confirmed that there has been a dramatic change and she no longer has any issues between them. And while still loving their special little friend, both of them are making efforts to be friends with other girls at school too.
So the other night the girls were cuddled into our bed watching a movie while Paul and the man-child played XBox. I luxuriated in a book on the sofa. I can easily lose myself in a book on the sofa but I eventually became aware that the movie was long finished and that the girls should have been in bed but weren't. I went to investigate and found the twins were just finished tidying their room. They took great delight in showing me the dolls house, which instead of being a storage place for every spare sock, pair of nickers and loom band they could find, was all set up with the furniture and dolls in action. One was brushing her teeth. Another on the toilet (they are nine after all). One asleep while another cooking at the little plastic stove.
Amidst hugs and "I'm so proud of you" and exclamations of satisfaction from all of us, I reminded them that it really was time for them to go to bed. I wandered off to my own room and gasped.
Not only had they made my bed after their movie had finished, they had folded all the laundry I hadn't got around to from earlier in the day and stacked it in neat little piles. There beside the piles was this note:
To Mum and Dad
We wanted to help you guys out today So we made your bed and folded the clothes. We hope you appressiate it we even tidied the bathroom bench and tidied our bedroom.
WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH MUM AND DAD
There were tears again. But this time good ones and all my own. We all had learnt a valuable lesson together. And the payback for that lesson is priceless.