Twin Sons Have No Relationship
My fraternal twin sons are 17 and in their last year at different high schools. They have a 13 year old sister.
I realise in hindsight that my husband and I have made loads of mistakes over the years in terms of parenting, despite being reasonably intelligent and certainly very loving parents.
Actually, I think many of our mistakes stem from us being too loving, in that we were not as consistent or firm as we should have been. I lose a great deal of sleep over that as I can now see where we went so very wrong. That said, they're healthy, intelligent and good young men overall so we're pretty lucky.
My question has to do with the boys' relationship with one another, which is pretty much non-existent these days. I find that very sad as they were good mates when they were babies and small children. Over the years they've shared obsessions with Lego, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, for example, and usually played together well.
Now, if you ask them, they'd say they hate one another. They have some friends in common and sometimes go out in a group together but they rarely address a word to one another voluntarily and, if they do, it often ends up in an argument or put downs, at least at home.
The thing is, the boys are very different in every way. One is quiet and a bit of an introvert, the other is very much an extrovert, strong-willed, opinionated, etc. The extrovert has always been good at sports, while his brother played but lacked confidence so never did all that well.
Both boys were assessed as being academically gifted when young but my extrovert was difficult at school, disliked by teachers and ended up being bullied so badly in high school that we moved him to another school. He does OK at school now but his social life and sport are his priorities so he doesn't put in nearly enough work. This worries me because I did well at school. His brother is quieter, wants to do well and works hard at school.
The thing is, my extrovert son started being quite uncaring and rough with his brother when he was about five or six. He was bigger than his brother, more physically adventurous and in a real hurry to interact with the world but was careless of his brother's feelings and often hit him if he got in the way. This got worse as they got older, especially with verbal put-downs, with Mr Extrovert often telling his brother that he "sucked at sport".
I now realise I handled all this very badly, usually rushing in to protect my quieter son and blaming his brother.
In hindsight I think that early on Mr Extrovert was acting out his frustrations with school at home and I didn't see it.
Challenging For Parents
Through all this, my husband and I had no idea what to do. We wanted to spend more one-on-one time with each child but this was hard to do with money issues, work and three young children. We did always try to show that we value each boy for their unique selves and their different strengths (which we genuinely do) but we obviously didn't succeed in convincing the boys of this. They had to share a bedroom for longer than we would have liked but now have their own rooms.
Mr Introvert never really hit back physically but, as they got older, he fought back verbally. Not surprisingly, he now dislikes his brother and reacts badly to anything he says. He has been so brow-beaten over the years he wants nothing to do with his brother.
Mr Extrovert often still puts his brother down for being unsociable. He feels we always favour(ed) his brother because he does better at school and that we blame(d) him for all the conflict in the house. He says he tries to be nice to his brother but his brother is horrible to him.
So, they are stuck in this cycle of speaking to one another as little as possible and, when they do have to, they're abrupt or rude so the other boy responds in kind.
I have heard many stories of siblings who didn't get on as children but became friends as adults and obviously I'm hoping this will happen with my sons. On the other hand, many adults don't see their siblings at all and I'd hate this to happen with my boys.
There's very little written about sibling rivalry between twins and advice about siblings of different ages never really seems to fit.
Identical twins seem to get on a lot better but my girlfriend's fraternal twin sons (who are a bit older) also don't get on so perhaps it's not uncommon? I have another friend with fraternal daughters and they're good friends but they have been at different schools since the age of 11 (they're now 19). The girls have always had their own rooms but the other boy/boy twins still share so maybe this is a factor?
One of the few things I found about teenaged twins said that one of the main tasks of adolescence is for the young person to separate from his/her parents and find his/her own identity but that twins have the additional task of separating from their twin.
Can you suggest any strategies we could try to help them interact in a positive way or do you think we just have to leave them to it and hope for the best, give that they're now 17? They have very different career paths planned for next year and one is considering moving away from home to attend university and I actually think this might be a good thing for their relationship.
I just can't help thinking that we've stuffed things up so badly with these two and it tears me apart inside when I realise how we should/could have handled things. They are so very different but so gorgeous in their own ways and I'd love them to appreciate one another and the special relationship they could have.