Henry and Eleanor are always together. They’ve moved through life side-by-side since they hung out in the petri dish. They share a room, are in the same preschool class, share their friends, are out in the living room playing Star Wars together as I sit here typing.
I don’t always understand their twin bond, but I wholeheartedly respect it. Henry and Eleanor get to have something that a vast majority of us don’t, and I want them to enjoy and develop that bond. But at the same time, they are individuals, and Andy and I thought it might be a good time to encourage each of them to try something that’s just for themselves.
So we’ve signed up Henry for tae kwon do and Eleanor for gymnastics and ballet. We thought Henry might enjoy the fun “punching and kicking” aspect of martial arts, but could also benefit from lessons in respect and self-discipline. Eleanor is very physical—you should challenge her to a running race sometime, if you enjoy losing races. But she hasn’t shown the greatest aptitude or interest in ball sports yet, so we thought Eleanor might prefer sports that challenge her physical abilities.
The results have been…interesting.
Eleanor’s classes don’t begin until Saturday, but Henry has now had two evenings of tae kwon do. Both nights Eleanor has sat with me, watching Henry, because she has a breakdown at the mention of going to the Y’s child watch area by herself. And I haven’t had the mental fortitude to confront her about it, since I’m too busy reassuring Henry that it’s okay to be scared, and encouraging him to get back in line when he runs over to me three or four times during the class.
Henry has asked me when he gets to take gymnastics, and Eleanor has asked me when she gets to take tae kwon do. My standard answer has been, “Well, you can certainly try it if you’d like. But you’re together ALL the time, and Daddy and I thought you might like to have something that’s just for you.” And I get these blank “are you a crazywoman I have never heard of such a concept” looks from both of them. They think I’m strange for suggesting they can experience things outside of their twin unit. I can’t comprehend being okay with spending every! waking! moment! with someone. Like, Andy is my best friend in the world and I love him unconditionally with all my heart, but I still want my own end of the couch when we’re watching Downton Abbey, know what I mean?
Thankfully, Eleanor has asked daily, “How many days until gymnastics?” And Henry is excited to show off his moves to Daddy, and beams with pride when we praise him for how much he’s remembered after two classes. But I’m realizing that as parents, Andy and I have the childhood-long job of nudging them out of the nest, and as parents of twins, we also have the job of nudging them apart a little on their way out. It’s a strange and delicate balance, and one we’re navigating blindly.
Man. Who knew preschool sports were fraught with such existential drama?