There is Rivalry, there is Sibling Rivalry, and then there is TWIN Sibling Rivalry.
Despite being a fairly old (and feeling it now!) hand at this parenting business, the strength, depth and emotional energy invested in the rivalry between my twins never ceases to stun me. Don't get me wrong, they love each other to bits, and in fact are probably closer than many sets of fraternal twins but born of that closeness and intimacy is this effervescent, almost explosive competitive urge that exists between them.
In September, we asked a great deal from them. They moved house, moved from Nursery School to Big School (and a new big school at that) and gained their own bedroom each for the first time. The house move was fine, incredibly positive and enthusiastic about most things they took that in their stride. The separate room issue wasn't in fact an issue after all. Separate classes at school has proved a little more problematic though, and curiously not for the obvious reason! Yes, they do indeed miss each other - for the first few weeks they would peer through the glass of the door linking both Reception classes and occasionally burst through for a cuddle. They play together most of the time at playtime, although our daughter is making a few tentative friendships much to her twin brother's disgust! What surprised me was the nature of the BIG issue about being separated at school! They are both incredibly concerned that they might be missing out on something the other is doing!
Obvious really, and I should have twigged that one I guess, but I was thinking more needy, cosy emotional thoughts rather than harsh, bare faced competitive "my day was better than your day" stuff and "our story was absolutely the best too!" Even after over a term they compare notes first thing after school and God help the innocent teacher who has deviated from the identical parallel class lesson plan - be sure you will be found out and reported! They are currently learning about Space, an exciting topic which has totally grabbed K and A. They have raced to learn the planets in order, both pointed out that Pluto is NOT a planet and fought (hard) over who takes which book in to show....
The arguments are wearing, frustrating and continue over everything possible ("My soap has nearly runned out, your's hasn't so you can't have washed properly!" until bedtime when I don't even ATTEMPT to attain consensus on a story. I just read two, whatever. Separately. With one page turner at a time. Thank you.
But I guess what I find most interesting about their competitiveness is that it is ONLY about the trivial, the mundane, the almost meaningless at times. When it comes to the REAL differences they never, ever comment. I wonder sometimes whether this is because it really doesn't bother them - that A reads well whilst K has barely started, that K used to swim fantastically well whilst A wallowed and splashed - but now he's overtaking her in the physical stakes too - or whether it is because those things are non-negotioable. You cannot argue black is white on something there is little room for opinion on. Subjective topics lend themselves far better to competitive rivalry and useful blame culture opportunities. But it does concern me a little that there is never any mention of the *real* issues when striving for twin supremacy.
I would think it would be really, really annoying and not a little frustrating to have a twin sibling excel at pretty much everything and we have always made a HUGE effort to praise across the board, for all achievements in all areas with our four, very different children. What I would really, really like to believe is that the reason there has never been any verbal competition on such issues between the children, not even the twins is that we've succeeded. At least a little bit. That the kids are pretty self confident on the whole, and sure of themselves and what they can do and where they are going without endless comparisons between themselves. I would love to believe that, because sometimes this parenting lark is pretty tough and it would really help, quite a lot actually if I thought I was doing something like that well.
I'll hang on to that thought... it's been a tough month.