Dulce loves people. When she was younger, she would run up to strangers and ask to be picked up. She is constantly looking for ways to involve you in her life. She’s a social maven. She doesn’t like to be alone.
Oh, you don’t want to get on the ground and play with me? That’s okay, we’ll just cuddle. I’ll pet your head and you tell me how much you love me, and we’ll do this until you need to make dinner, which I’ll help you with because I want to be with you. Going on a long (or short) car ride? Don’t worry, I’ve got things to say, lots of things. I will say things to you and fill up every second of this trip with the sounds of people’s voices. I will require you to respond appropriately. We are having a conversation here because I am a kid now. I’m not some babbling toddler. We will converse like people. I love people.
Natalina likes people okay, but she needs her own space. When strangers coo at her, she gives them what we affectionately call “the piranha face” and those people back up a step. Unless you have something for her, don’t waste her time. She’s busy exploring, thinking, being. By herself.
Hey, look, I know I’ve woken up from my nap, but that doesn’t mean you have to talk to me, and for the love of God, don’t touch me! I’ll be over here playing with my toys. Don’t try to play with me. You’re annoying. Let me be. But don’t go too far. I have to be able to see you, after all. Okay, good. No! Don’t talk to me! I am independent. But you’re still right over there, right? Car ride? I’m looking at stuff. I’m talking with myself, not with you. Don’t answer back, please, you’ll interrupt my important train of thought.
The combination of these two severely different personality types is sweet and touching and unbelievably hard to reconcile. It throws me for a loop.
Dulce will not do a thing without Lilly. She won’t play unless Lilly is playing the same thing. She won’t walk into a room without making sure Lilly is coming, too. She wants to talk to Lilly, pretend with Lilly, read with Lilly, watch videos with Lilly. She’s concerned about Lilly. Is Lilly sad? Is she angry? Does she need a hug? Maybe she is hungry? “Don’t worry,” Dulce often says, “I fix it for you, I fix it.” Lilly is Dulce’s lifeline. Dulce is a twin through and through.
Lilly loves Dulce fiercely. She will often give in and play with her sister for long periods of time, but just as often I find her closing the door to her room or hiding with a few toys under the table. If Dulce tries to join in, she tantrums immediately. God, can someone in this family please give me a little space?!
As a parent, how can I respond to these varied needs? How can I put out the ever-going, power-filled, disgruntled fires? I’m embarrassed to say it’s taken me months to figure out that I can’t.
Nothing I can say or do will make Natalina want to hang out with Dulce (or myself) every second of every day. Nothing I can say or do will stop Dulce from craving social interaction from Lilly, myself, her father, the door post, whoever. By trying to force actions into channels where they would not normally go, I put myself in line for multiple (deserved) tantrums a day. The kids cannot be who they are not.
I’ve found recently that working with them, treating their needs separately instead of tossing them in together as one whole, works much better. If Natalina needs some alone time, well, then I can play with Dulce. Through playing with Dulce (in the same room as Natalina), I can convince her that Natalina is soon in coming, or that we’ll play with her next, while giving Dulce the attention she requires at that moment in time.
Twins is a delicate balancing act always. The key is to sway and move with the objects you’re trying to hold, not to stand rigidly still and pray they stay up on their own given your strict guidelines.