In this social media world, we are prone to “tell our family story” through pictures and posts. We celebrate our child’s first birthday with a “smash cake” and the quintessential cake all over the face snapshot uploaded to Instagram. We tweet the clever and hilarious things our toddlers say and do. We applaud our children’s accomplishments with a photo of a certificate earned, or a victorious pose on the soccer field posted on Facebook. We ask our friends, family, neighbors and acquaintances to notice how smart, athletic, popular, cute, etc. our children are by liking and commenting on our posts.
I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, or that it is even appropriate that my daughter, after catching her first fish, said “mom, be sure to put that on Facebook,”. The reality is that I am very guilty of communicating with friends and family almost solely through social media these days. Recently, though, I realized that the story I’m telling is perpetuating something that drives me crazy. Since my twins were little, people have tried to label them. They attempt to identify the good one/bad one, the smart one, the funny one, the friendly one, the athletic one – as if they both couldn’t be good, or smart, or funny. And the truth is, one IS more athletic. One IS more “popular” (in the 3rd grade sense of that word). One is more academic. One is more of a “rules follower.” They are different people, with different strengths and weaknesses.
What I noticed, though, is that in my social media posts (the only way I honestly keep their grandparents and friends and other family apprised of what is going on day to day) I celebrate that one twin was the MVP at a basketball game and exclaim about the other’s straight “A” report card. I comment about yet another sleepover for one, and time spent one-on-one with the other. I joke that one has spent an inordinate amount of time in “time-out” and ask for discipline advice. I post pictures of one intently reading and the other flying down a hill on a bike. Why wouldn’t everyone think that one is the smart one, the introvert, and the other the outgoing, popular athlete? I, clearly (unintentionally), have played a big role in shaping those labels in the way that I have culled the “story.” I didn’t post that the other scored the game winning shot (didn’t have a picture of that), or went to three birthday parties in one weekend for three different friends (too busy playing taxi driver that day), or got caught telling a whopper of a lie that time-out wasn’t appropriate for (didn’t need advice other than maybe to calm down), or the myriad of things that defy the stereotypes of the labels they’ve been given.
The good thing is – that is not the story we tell within our family. They know that we are proud of each of them for who they are and all that they accomplish. We have helped them recognize that one enjoys being the center of attention, and the other developing close friendships with just a few – and that’s okay. They realize that while one may be better at spelling, and the other math – they are both smart and that we are most proud when they give it their best effort, no matter the academic result. Twins naturally compare themselves to each other and I think it is our job, as twin parents, to not let them label themselves. No good can come from one thinking the other is smarter, or better in any way.
We will continue to encourage our kids to celebrate their strengths, be proud of their individuality, and recognize that for the things that matter – it’s not an “either/or.” We want them to BOTH be good, kind people, who are polite and respectful. We want them BOTH to try their hardest at everything they do, and they are proof that it is entirely possible for BOTH of them to be smart, athletic, friendly – whatever they want to be. So, from now on I think I will try to be more aware of what I am posting on social media. Or better yet, we’ll call their grandparents and tell them about our day instead.
Shellie Fossick is “mom” to school age boy/girl twins. She is also the Development Director for a non-profit organization that provides high quality early care and education for more than 400 low-income children in Middle Tennessee. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two children. To read more of Shellie’s Twiniversity articles, click here.
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