How strong and unbreakable is the twin bond?
I watched a movie called De Tweeling, per my father’s recommendation. It’s the story of twin girls whose bond was established at birth in the 1920s and sweetly cultivated in childhood. Then, at age six, they were separated. It was heart-wrenching to watch two sisters who had a seemingly unbreakable bond being literally torn from each other’s grasp. The underlying theme of the movie is whether the twins’ strong bond could survive physical (and, later — ideological) separation.
Studies show that for identical twins who were separated at birth and then reunited with their co-twins, about 80 percent reported feeling emotionally closer to their newly discovered sibling than they did to their best friends. Researchers conclude from this data that there’s a strong genetic component in the bond between identical twins.
Among the twins I interviewed (of which most were fraternal), many described an enduring bond. Some twin interviewees said that they loved their twin siblings more than anyone else, even their parents.
How early can the bond start?
For my daughters, in infancy, they didn’t seem to recognize that there was another baby competing for attention and sharing in the limited resources. At least, not until they could turn their heads and look at each other. Before that, they were physically next to each other most of the time, but didn’t seem to register the presence of the other despite hearing the other’s cries.
Some of the twins I interviewed, however, were so drawn to each other even as very young newborns. These twins were told by their parents that as newborns they would reach for one another when separated. Another set were told that their mother would try to keep them physically separate in one bassinet and one would inevitably roll into the other so they could cuddle with each other.
Twin bonds can bring together two very different people.
Twins Malcolm and Tanesha have been very close their entire lives. Malcolm was always in the advanced placement tracks in middle and high schools while Tanesha was in the less-gifted academic track. Malcolm became a professional in academia while Tanesha tried to succeed as a musician, but eventually ended up in sales. As adults now in their mid-forties reflecting on their friendship, they acknowledge how different they have always been.
They are still each other’s “best friend in the whole world.” But, Malcolm noted, “If we weren’t twins, I’m not sure we’d even be friends.”
Frequent is the story of twins’ ‘special language.’ Sometimes it’s toddlers communicating effectively to each other in what is otherwise indecipherable to parent eaves-droppers. Or, adolescent twins who make up their own language to the exclusion of other peers. And, humorously, the unintelligible ‘dialogues’ twins have with each other in their sleep.
And, yes, broken bonds.
But not every twin relationship is perfect, close, or even amicable. I interviewed twins who live thousands of miles apart and prefer it that way. There was bitterness, anger, or hatred between some of the twins. This rancor seemed generally to derive from conflicts they experienced in their adolescent and teenage years. In other words, whatever bond was developed in infancy or early childhood had become broken. And at the time of the interviews, it was unclear whether the twins had any clear intentions of trying to repair their previously close twin sibling relationships.
As parents, we can help foster a healthy relationship between our twin children. There are things we can do and things we should avoid doing. I’ll explore these in my next post…