Six months after we came home from China with our first daughter (Gwen), someone on our Agency's message board announced their 2nd referral: A cute baby with a beaming smile and a very minor cleft palate. A few days later, they updated to say that they'd refused the referral because she was only 2 weeks younger than their first daughter.
I called our agency to find out more about Special Needs adoptions and got a referral right on the spot when they offered us this same little girl. Now we had our own questions about adopting a toddler who was just 5 weeks younger than our (newly adopted) Gwenny. We spent the weekend searching our heart and the internet about the merits and perils of virtual twinning (aka artificial twinning) and we got plenty of advice. More than we could actually process! But, in the end, we weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided that having virtual twins wasn't that much different than having actual twins. We understood that all children require a leap of faith so we took the leap and called our agency back and accepted her. Six months later, she was home with us.
You can see pics from Maddy's adoption <here>. That was summer of 2006 and here's a picture from just a week ago (that's Gwen "helping" Maddy clap her hands). This is the only life they know and even though we remember what life was like before our "twins", they can't remember a time that they weren't sisters.
Obviously we can't imagine making a different choice and wouldn't ever wish to go back and do things differently. But that doesn't mean we've not learned a thing or two.
Here's what we've learned:
- We thought it would be cool to have twins.
Wrong. It's interesting but it's not cool. It's not even, especially, fun.
- It's annoying when people ask if they're twins because it either requires that we lie (and say they are twins) or explain that they're adopted and not biologically related. That's more information than we're comfortable sharing with strangers but we don't like to lie so we're stuck. The other option is to say "No, they're not twins" and walk away before they can ask the obvious follow-up question.
- Even though it's fun to dress them alike, it makes the twin question come up even more so we don't usually do that. At age two, they were the same height and weight but now they're five years old and Gwen is 25 pounds heavier and four inches taller than Maddy. But people still ask if they're twins -- and it's still annoying.
- Every child deserves to be the baby of the family but Maddy never got that and I feel bad about it. I think she'd have been happier if her "big" sister was at least one or two years older instead of just 36 days older. I think I would have cut her more slack too. This isn't a minor point -- it's HUGE.
- Bonding with Maddy was harder because she was the same age as our Gwen. Love isn't something that happens immediately so there was a gap because I already loved my other kids. I was, understandably, very protective of them and that interfered with bonding because Maddy was frequently mean to her "twin" (biting, hitting, etc). Oh boy -- we had LOTS of that! I found that many of my maternal instincts were working overtime against eachother for the first six months that we were together. When I wasn't actively angry at Maddy, I was consumed with guilt over ever having been mad at her in the first place.
- For better or worse, I find that I'm constantly comparing the girls. My expectations of what one "should" be able to do is based on what the other is doing. Whether it's coloring inside the lines or knowing her ABC's or reading words or riding a bike or being dry all night - the skill comparisons and expectations are there so I have to constantly struggle to not send signals that I'm disappointed when one can't do what the other is doing. They each have wonderful strengths that are uniquely their own. But they also have shortcomings that are amplified because their sibling is a living breathing walking measuring stick of what a kid that age can do. Even though I'm very aware of this "comparing the kids" trap, I fall into it often.
- It's really convenient to have the kids in the same grade at the same school and in the same age league for sports (even if they're not in the same class or on the same team). It's soooo nice not to have to run all over the place to get a kid to school (or home) at different times.
- I don't think I'll ever put my virtual twins in the same class or on the same sports team and their teachers and coaches will thank me for that.
- It's fun that they are the same age because it's easier for them to share interests and play together. Although they fight pretty constantly at home, they get along better when we're away on vacation and that makes it really fun to go places with them. This is in sharp contrast to our son, Michael, who was an "only child" for almost all of his childhood and was bored to death on family vacations.
- All the stuff we thought they'd share, they don't. They don't wear the same size clothes or shoes or want to share a room and they have polar opposite personalities and interests. Even so, if we buy one of them a toy, we'd better buy the other one the same toy or they'll fight over it until our ears bleed and we weep for mercy.
- When we buy two identical toys, they usually show no interest in them at all. I think the battle over the toy is half of the fun? Hmm... well I guess that makes them more like SIBLINGS than twins, huh!