[This is Part Two of a Three-Part Series on the singleton child in a family of twins. This part focuses on the twins’ perspective on having a singleton sibling. Part One focuses on how a singleton views the experience of having siblings who are twins. Part Three will offer advice for parents so they can avoid and resolve conflicts between the singleton child and her twin siblings.]
From the Twins’ Perspectives
Some twin interviewees told me that their parents spoiled their non-twin siblings. They thought that their parents were trying to make up for the fact that the singleton child might not feel as special as the twins. The parents might, for example, allow the singleton child to have two desserts or stay up later than the twins. Some twin interviewees told me that their parents would give the singleton child a gift on the twins’ birthday so that the singleton doesn’t feel left out. Meanwhile, the parents would not give the twins each a gift on the singleton child’s birthday.
Often, when the singleton child is given special treatment, the twin children take note and feel resentful. As one twin interviewee explained, “‘Fair’ means ‘the same’ to a child, so when something is done differently for one child, it feels unfair to the others.” Triplet interviewees reported their parents seemed to give special treatment to the singleton child in the family. They thought the special treatment was to “compensate for the fact that he wasn’t a triplet and getting all the attention we were getting.”
For family vacations, some parents of interviewees allowed the singleton child to bring a friend, while the twin siblings were presumed to “have each other” as a companion. This has two negative consequences. First, the twin children feel they are receiving unfair treatment (each twin was not able to bring a friend on the outing, while their non-twin sibling was). Second, allowing the singleton to bring a friend eliminates the opportunity for the singleton child to bond with the twin children.
There were also twins who envied the singleton child with respect to her opportunity to go through life solo. A good example of the benefits perceived by twins is the singleton’s experience engaging in extra-curricular activities. The singleton child is able to partake in activities alone without a family member sidekick. This enables her to be successful in her own right, to not be compared to another family member, and to have 100 percent of the attention at games or performances.
The singleton child is also almost always given his own bedroom and doesn’t have to share with siblings. It is rarely presumed that the singleton share his bedroom, but there is a presumption that the twin children share a bedroom.
Many parents simply lump their twin children together and thus give more — opportunity, privacy, space — to the singleton child in the family. And the singleton child can often feel isolated from the special relationship and experiences that the twin children share. So how can parents strike the proper balance among the needs of all of their children? We’ll explore this in the next post, Part Three.