Jack Spratt could eat no fat,
His wife could eat no lean.
But together they licked
The whole plate clean.
As both a Mum and an embryonic Brainologist, the girls’ twinness is fascinating. I have constructed a small table below to highlight what I mean.
|Condition||Ears (glue ear)||Eyes ( photosensitivity)|
|Aches and pains||Knees||Toes|
|Colouring||Thick brown hair||Fair and fine|
|Favourite hairstyle||Pony tail||Bunches|
|Bravery level||Zero||Death wish|
|Possessiveness (toys, me)||MINE!||There you go!|
|Maximum amount of cuddly toys that need to be carried around at all times||6||1|
|Best friends||The cool, older kids||Babies|
To the outside world, they are a unit, and I still get asked whether they are identical. To me, this is bewildering, as they’re as different as cats and dogs, and it’s almost as if they have made a conscious decision to force distinction. In a way, that’s a good parallel. Romilly, on the whole, has feline self reliance, whereas Charlotte has an eager puppy’s desire to be permanently next to/on/in you.
Medically they have their different peccadillos. I’d been worried for a while about Charlotte’s ears. I think she’s been doled out antibiotics SIX times by the GPs, and I wasn’t happy about that. On the last two occasions her eardrum burst, which must have been agony for the little love. I’d got myself into a tizz reading A Million Little Pieces, where the Fury that drives the author all his life and which he turns off with Crack is the result of the noisy agony he had as a baby from untreated ear problems that left him with only a third of his hearing. I naturally decided that if Charlotte’s problems weren’t addressed she would be on Crystal Meth by her tenth birthday. We’re still waiting for her NHS appointment to come through, some six months after asking (gnarr), but fortunately were able to use insurance to go private. Her hearing tests have been fine, which is unsurprising given her language is excellent (I got ‘look Mummy nice day’ this week when she came down to breakfast and the sun was shining; she’s also very adept at copying even my least thought through phrases, womanfully trying to get her mouth round ‘Jesus Christ on a bendy bus’). But they passed waves through her skull (technical, me) and the ‘bump’ revealed the blockage caused by Glue Ear. She’s just had blood tests as the hope is it’s because one of her baby immunisations hasn’t taken, so the solution is a simple booster. Else grommets beckon.
She’s been so good about it, compared to the screaming abdabs that every poor doctor used to be greeted with. We bought her a book about going to the doctor, and they each have a toy medical kit, which we routinely take along to appointments in case the doctor’s forgotten his stethoscope that day. In fact, she’s so into it that every time someone says they’re heading off to the car, she asks ‘ear?’, wondering whether it’s because they’re getting checked out too.
For Romilly, it’s all tied into her celestial fairness. She’s lacking a bit of pigmentation behind her eyes, which means bright sunshine is an issue as she’s photosensitive. There’s not a lot that can be done about it, as sunglasses never stay on, but it’s something to keep an eye on, boom tish. She had a bit of a lazy eye too but that seems to be disappearing. She has eczema, but has only really had one bad flare up. We’ve got steroid cream for if and when that happens, and have then just been using a generic skin emollient as she gets dry and bumpy skin on her arms and face, and a hypoallergenic sun cream and bath foam. We’ve just been sent some Oilatum Junior Lotionby the kind folk at GSK so will see how that works out. She also has a bit of cradle cap (Charlotte has a bit less, and hers is disguised by her unruly mop, whereas Romilly’s hair is still very fine). GOD it’s hard to resist peeling it off! But I have heard horror stories of infected scalps so I am keeping my fingers to myself. We’ve been using Dentinox shampoo, but it’s maintaining rather than removing, so I think it might be onto more traditional methods ie smothering her in olive oil of a night. She’s very snivelly at the moment, without having a cold, so I think she may have hay fever too. Romilly is definitely Little Miss Atopic.
And then there are the general aches and growing pains. Charlotte moans ‘oh, my KNEES!’, like an 80 year old with rheumatoid arthritis after a hard morning’s bowling. I suspect this is because she’s developing knee caps now she’s not crawling (babies aren’t born with them, for precisely that reason – hats off to Mother Nature and the way she thinks of everything). And Romilly goes ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ when she gets up or sits down, like an, er, 40 year old Mummy getting up off the sofa. She also gets blisters on her feet, but I think this is because she is obsessed with taking her shoes on and off, a task she managed magnificently in front of the Health Visitor at their recent 2 year development check. She actually slightly freaked me out. The HV had just asked ‘and how are her fine motor skills’ to which, unprompted apart from that, Romilly proceeded to thread her shoe strap through the buckle and put on her foot. Go girl! But what else is she understanding? There is a mole in our midst!
Mummy is not immune to aches and pains either, though sadly mine are not linked to growing. Well, not upwards anyway. Oh, my BACK! I am really bad about scooping them both up and not taking time to ‘lift with the knees’. Life’s too short and theirs are too precious; if they’re toddling towards the road I’m going to catch them. Upshot is I was gradually becoming immobilised with pain. But as luck would have it there’s a Chiropractor two doors down from us. Gosh that stuff is white magic! And how satisfying to hear the clicks! It’s only taken two sessions to feel normal again. And doing my exercise sheet, which the girls join in with, to amusing effect. We like the yoga on Waybulloo too. Charlotte now regularly scuttles sideways round the room like a crab, though has decided that crabs ROAR.
Romilly is a stuntwoman in the making. Turn your back for a second and she’s heading to the highest slide in the playground. She squeals with delight the higher you push the swing, whereas her sister cries if you suggest her even going in one.
Tied into that is the biggest difference of all – personality. Charlotte to the outside observer seems extrovert and dominant. She’s bigger, noisier, more ‘present’. But underneath she’s a little flower. Jon says he finds it heartbreaking when she insists on carrying all her worldly goods round with her (which often means she can’t actually move anywhere or do anything, weighed down as she is; it’s getting like Crackerjack – the other day she had her spider, her best label, two teddies, her juice, and then was trying to carry an entire tea set too). He says she looks like a war refugee. I wonder though how much of it is simply because she doesn’t want her sister getting her mitts on anything. Which is silly, because Romilly, in a striking display of maturity and altruism (which actually upsets me more) is always fetching things for Charlotte and knows exactly which labelly thing to give her whenever she’s crying.
I worry to what extent I am (and Romilly too!) guilty of negative reinforcement with Charlotte (certainly their Giant Brother lectures me about this, thanks Joe). It’s very difficult though to ignore this little body wailing and hurling itself at your ankles demanding to be carried because – gasp – they have a crumb on their toe. And I have distinct memories of someone else doing exactly the same eighteen years ago whenever I was leaving for work…
But, yes, I worry. To what extent am I exacerbating the distinction? Romilly is just so much EASIER. But in letting her get on with life am I teaching her that she doesn’t matter as much? That she doesn’t deserve as many cuddles? Is she in Charlotte’s shadow? Does she think I love Charlotte more? Am I effectively pushing them into high and low maintenance positionings? It’s bringing back memories of a heart rending book I read when I was young called Jacob Have I Loved, in which the healthy twin thought she was the black sheep and spent her time paddling alone through the creeks of Chesapeake Bay, when in reality it was simply because her parents had to devote more attention to her poorly sister. That cannot happen.
Sometimes I am reassured though. Romilly occasionally bares her teeth. There is a steely core to my willowy girl. Toys aren’t always handed over. Her favourite word is an emphatic ‘NO’, accompanied by a glare, and a turned back, and most often employed when Charlotte is suddenly interested in a toy she has forgotten about for weeks but sees Romilly playing with.
I think the solution, as I have said before, is to ensure we’re spending individual time with them. But that’s difficult to achieve as, by definition, there needs to be two of us there, and that is a rare occurrence. But it is definitely a stretch goal. A few times Romilly had woken up from a nap earlier than Charlotte and so had a Mummy and Daddy bedtime snuggle. This is now a regular occurrence. Doh. Of course she’s doing it on purpose because it’s Romilly Time!
But if any of this gives the impression that they’re deadly rivals, that’s not the case. Well, not all the time. Again, from a developmental perspective, it’s like they’ve fully clocked each other now. They play together, probably a quarter of the time. ‘Row, row, row the boat’ is a favourite, where they sit opposite each other holding hands. They’ll serve each other pretend tea and biscuits, and will conduct complex transactions involving actual food at the dinner table (this is mostly Charlotte giving Romilly all her healthy food in exchange for anything that resembles pudding). There is some very detailed game involving rushing round the car tent which is allegedly HILARIOUS – they are doubled over and shrieking with laughter – but I am still to grasp the rules or even objective.
There are snatched cuddles. Concern and ‘aw’ when their twin is sad or poorly. Or when they’re absent; helpfully I always get reminded by Charlotte to put ‘Momree’ in the car too. And most toe squidgingly cute of all, they always hold hands when they go through the nursery door. They haven’t developed the secret twin language that some multiples have. Maybe that will come later. But I listen to them each evening and morning on the monitor chuntering away to each other. This usually involves Romilly telling Charlotte to shush. I am SO going to leave the monitor hidden in their room until they are, oo, about 18. I think eavesdropping is a perfectly legitimate parenting tool.
Right. I must dash. Jon is on his way back and I need to hide the small mountain of emptied Phish Food ice cream cartons that stands in for him in his absence. He’s been circumnavigating Anglesey for a whole week and allegedly is returning with PIRATE TREASURE. Hopefully he’s got something for the girls too.