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The Space Between

The space between the twins’ beds is called the “We.”  They named it that when they were around two.  They would drop things in the space — binkies, stuffed animals, lovies — and ask us to fetch it.  “In the We!” they’d inform us, as we stretched our arms into painful angles to grab the binkies/stuffed animals/lovies.  There was “I” and there was “he” or “she,” and between their two beds was a space called “We.”

The twins are splitting into two rooms.

They have shared a room since the first day of their life.  First they shared a room at the hospital, and then they moved to a single crib in our house.  Later on, they moved to two cribs, side-by-side.  Finally, it became two toddler beds that ran the length of their wall.

Every time we broached the topic of separating, they would beg us to let them stay together, and there was always a reason that we let it go; some other current stressor or looming situation that would make us shrug our shoulders and let life go on as is.

I knew all summer that they needed new beds, and we told them that by the end of August, we’d need to split into two rooms.  There were a lot of tears when we talked about it, but they knew it was coming.  When I told them that it was time to go bed shopping, they came willingly.

While the activity was bouncing on beds and testing out pillows, they were all smiles.  But when the time came for me to sign the delivery slip with the saleswoman, they started crying, the reality of the situation hitting them hard.  I took the Wolvog into the corner of the store and sat on a random bed, stroking his head and telling him that we could fall apart at home, but we needed to hold it together in the store.  I sent them down to another store with my mother and niece, and I signed the credit card receipt in relief, happy to have the task accomplished.

Afterwards, I chose an armchair in a random part of the store and called Josh, my hand over my face, like I was trying to hold my grief against my skin, keep it from spilling out into the ether.  I wanted us to be past this moment.  I don’t want this moment to come at all.

By the end of the week, we will step into two separate rooms.  I have taken down the nursery decorations and packed them.  I have gutted the drawers, throwing out baby items.  We have bought new sheets, blankets, curtains.  They are slowly making their rooms their own.  If we try to talk about it with them, they cry.  If we don’t talk about it but rather look at the reality out of the corner of our eyes, they’re fine.  They will get through the transition; we will get through the transition.  There will come a day when being in two rooms feels more right than wrong.

“If I had been a singleton, this wouldn’t be so scary,” the ChickieNob told me.  “I think singletons must like being alone.  But I’m not a singleton; I’m a twin.”

Well, no, singletons don’t really love being alone.  Some do, some don’t; just as some twins love being with their sibling and some would rather be apart.  But I think what she is trying to ask of us is to not treat them as we would singletons.  To recognize that there is a different relationship there.

Just as she can’t imagine life as a singleton, I think only those who are multiples know what life is like as a twin.  The decisions that affect them should be made by them, since the adults in their life make decisions from a singleton point-of-view.  So I really struggled with taking this choice away from them simply due to logistics.  It happens all the time — that life gets in the way of letting them lead their own life.  But just because it happens all the time doesn’t mean this situation hurts any less.

It feels like one more end to babyhood; a letting go.  A moving forward, which also means by default moving apart.  It’s a step away from Josh and myself as well.  The ChickieNob is taking over the room that has always been held for our not-yet child.  There is a brother or sister-who-isn’t who was supposed to take that space.  If that comes to be, we’ll shuffle things around.  Until then, it feels silly to hold the room for someone who isn’t here when we have such little space.

Josh and I need to mourn.  And the twins need to mourn.  I’m really grateful to the people who saw we needed the support and stepped in with kind words or distractions for the twins or help in getting the rooms ready.  I’m less grateful to the people who shrug their shoulders and say, “what’s the big deal?”

I guess the big deal is that it’s a big deal to us.  And with that as an answer, it sort of doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t see it as such; which is true for so many places in life.  It’s a big deal to our family and that is all the listener needs to know.  And if they don’t understand why, I’m not certain I can explain it.  The truth is that the twins and I spend more time not talking about it but simply rocking back and forth in the glider, my hand stroking their back or their hair.  Sometimes it’s less about words and more about acknowledgment.

Isn’t that true for so many areas of life?  Don’t we just need someone to stroke our head for a moment and acknowledge that we’re struggling, even if they can do nothing to remove the problem?

As I tucked them in on Thursday night, I slipped my hand into the space between their two beds; only a few centimeters of width.  “What do you call this space?” I asked, knowing the answer even though it has been many years since they’ve dropped something in it and asked us to fetch it.

“The We,” the Wolvog called out.

For each of them: there is an “I” and there is a “he” or “she.”  And there is also a space between them which is owned by neither of them but invisibly attached to both of them.  And even slipping into two separate rooms can’t take that away.


1 BigP's Heather { 08.22.11 at 11:26 am }

This brings me back to your Reframing Success post. It is all relative. If it is important to you, it is a big deal. I understand that my stuff isn’t a big deal to everyone else. No one else is nearly as invested as I am in getting Katherine potty trained, and that is ok. It is my whole world right now, this day…

2 serenity { 08.22.11 at 11:37 am }

I made some changes to O’s room this weekend, now that he’s potty trained we don’t need the changing table/pad. As I was putting that away, I decided to move some things around, get rid of the remnants of baby stuff in his room so that he could start making it HIS.

And I couldn’t help myself, the tears fell as I put the boppy, the changing pad, the tiny diapers we kept from his newborn days.

I am so inspired by how you nurture and respect emotion in your family. I’ve never been good at that, and I’m starting to find that it’s really, really important.


3 Denver Laura { 08.22.11 at 11:51 am }

As my pre-adoptive daughter moves into the nursery I painted so lovingly before TTC (and a year before IF), I smiled knowing that I had painted it for HER. We will still foster, but there won’t be another baby in HER room. She will not ever move again, until we kick her out to go to college. She’s been moved enough.

When I was little, my parents bought my brother and me a toy phone that ran through the closet wall so we could talk to each other any time we wanted. Do they make those any more? Maybe walkie talkies might help the transition?

4 HereWeGoAJen { 08.22.11 at 1:25 pm }

It makes me a little sad too, to think of them moving into different rooms. I hope the transition is smooth for all of you.

5 Becky { 08.22.11 at 1:38 pm }

Oh! My heart is breaking for your kiddos. I can only imagine how sad -and scary- this must be for them. And, how I love that they named that space the “We”. Littles ones are so much more intuitive and smart than we give them credit for being.

6 Kate { 08.22.11 at 1:40 pm }

Oh – my. I dread this day – the day my boys move into two rooms. We are still so far away, but I just get the rock in the bottom of my stomach thinking about it.

7 Julie { 08.22.11 at 1:49 pm }

This is so interesting to me… I’m one of many kids in my family, but I’m the oldest and only girl, and not a twin. There are a lot of “we”s in my life from having a big family, and a lot of “we”s I have to explain to my only-child husband, and also a lot of “I”s because sometimes my brothers and I just won’t see eye-to-eye on things only a woman or man would really understand, and I spent a lot of time as a kid hiding from the noise in my room with a book. And now I’m having twins who will, of course, be sharing a nursery, but not a big-kid room unless whatever house we move to has much bigger rooms than we have now (their cribs will convert to full beds).

Will their new rooms share a wall? It could be a We-Wall. They could stand on either side of it and try to pass messages through and see if they can hear what the other is saying. I remember doing that as a kid with my oldest brother, who I shared a wall with.

8 Erica { 08.22.11 at 1:50 pm }

Oh, this just seems hard. Thinking of you and your family and hoping it as gentle a transition as possible, and wishing I could bake you a casserole or a cake or something.

I used to step over to my brother’s room every night and we’d talk before going to sleep, often until we were told to be quiet and go to bed. We aren’t twins, just very close in age, but I still (as a 37 year old woman, even) sometimes miss that time. Now I wonder if my parents might miss it, too.

9 loribeth { 08.22.11 at 2:06 pm }

I think it’s sweet that they still want to be together. It makes me think about how differently kids today grow up, most of them with their own rooms & some even with their own en suite bathrooms. It’s good to learn to share. They will have great memories to look back on as they get older.

My sister & I shared a room up until we were 10-12ish… I was the one to push for my own room. Many of my friends had their own rooms & I read a book called “A Room for Cathy” that focused on one girl’s longing for her own room (she gets it & then loses it again) that stoked my own desires.

But, as I recall, there was a grate in between our two rooms & we still used to whisper through the grate back & forth to each other after bedtime, & tap on the walls when we wanted to talk. When we did share a room, we had bunk beds, and I have fond memories of hanging off the top bunk to whisper with my sister in the bunk below. I always thought that I was the writer, but she was the true storyteller. She had quite an imagination & would spin (completely) made up, ongoing storylines about what had happened that day at school for me — what an imagination!

10 magpie { 08.22.11 at 2:54 pm }

touching. sad, but also not.

i feel bad sometimes that my child won’t have that sibling thing, twin or not…

then again, she comes climbing into my bed almost every night.

11 Pam/Wordgirl { 08.22.11 at 3:03 pm }

I love reading these responses — my siblings were so much older I have no stories to share — but just wanted to let you know that I read this — and I know how difficult change is for me — how much it hurts — but as I adjust I always seem to be surprised at the gifts change brings with it — hard to see at the time and in the immediate though…



12 Chrissie { 08.22.11 at 3:54 pm }

Sadness for the kiddos. I am just curious why you wanted to separate them into their own rooms instead of getting bunk beds or something so they could still be in the same space.
I am not a twin, and there is a pretty large age gap between my brother and I but always wished and prayed for a sibling to share a room with. I was always jealous of my friends that shared rooms with their siblings. Even though we have extra rooms in our house, we intend to have our children share rooms. I believe it will help them learn to share – but I guess twins already have to share everything else. Enjoying reading your thoughts, thank you for sharing!

13 Lindsey Cota { 08.22.11 at 4:08 pm }

I really like Denver Laura’s idea!

If their rooms are next to each other, there is no reason why they can’t put their beds on the same wall and put a little phone between them so they can still chat before bed and stuff.

I think that would be so cute and help with the transition.

14 Sunny { 08.22.11 at 4:28 pm }

We think about this moment often in my house. It makes me sad to think about it and read your moment. Sending love your way.

15 Tigger { 08.22.11 at 4:44 pm }

I dread the day that I have to drop Cole’s crib down because he can stand, and then convert it to a toddler bed, and then to a full bed. He won’t move from the room he’s in, like, ever, unless we move houses.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for you and Josh, or for the twins. I like the suggestions that have been made in the comments thus far, of ways they can keep in touch. The vents in this house are only in the front, but you can hear through them. My husband and his sister used to talk to each other through them and their parents couldn’t hear because they were in the back with no vents! Kids are creative, and I’m sure the twins will find a way. Still, it must be terribly scary for them.

Those who don’t see what the big deal is obviously have no imagination. They don’t have the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the twins, or of you and Josh, and even remotely understand why it’s a big deal. No one will understand it who isn’t you, but other parents of other twins will come very close. *hugs* to all of you as you adjust to a new chapter.

16 Queenie { 08.22.11 at 4:45 pm }

Such a sad moment, but a good one, too. They will grown and change in positive ways you haven’t even imagined yet. But until then, I’ll be thinking of you and hoping this is an easy transition for all of you.

And I just love the walkie talkie idea, especially knowing how they talk to each other at night for so long before they fall asleep.

17 Louisa { 08.22.11 at 5:29 pm }

What a lovely post, so true, sometime all we need is the acknowledgment of the struggle not a solution.

18 Mo { 08.22.11 at 6:47 pm }

That just made me cry. You have amazing kids.

19 jjiraffe { 08.22.11 at 7:18 pm }

Oh, wow. Big hugs to you all. That is a HUGE transition and a very big deal. Just thinking of doing this with my twins makes me want to weep.

Thinking of you all and hoping the transition goes well.

Last year a woman came up to me at a museum when I was with the twins and told me, almost in tears, how much her twin brother has meant to her. They had just come back from traveling Europe together. She said: “I always like to tell mothers of twins that their children are so lucky: they will always have a special bond that most people will never experience.”

It made me very happy to hear that.


20 Quiet Dreams { 08.22.11 at 8:03 pm }

I am more than a bit in love with your family.

Endings and beginnings are all twisted up together, aren’t they? I’m thinking about that a lot today as so many of my friends are posting things about first days of school for their little ones.

I love getting a glimpse of your little ones’ lives, the joyful and the painful.

21 Michele Scott { 08.22.11 at 9:43 pm }

Thanks for sharing your beautiful words about this situation. You are so right… even when others don’t understand, they need to acknowledge our struggle and our hurt. You are helping your twins by mourning with them and supporting them (and blessing the world with awareness in the process.) Praying it goes well in the end. (Visiting from ICLW.)

22 Justine { 08.22.11 at 9:49 pm }

Such an incredibly beautiful post, Mel. I love the “space between” … and it made me look up the Dave Matthews Band lyrics, which seem to fit incredibly well here. That space holds so much … it’s the space that belongs to both and to neither at the same time. I know it will be a hard transition for all of you … and I’m sending you hugs. Your family is incredibly awesome.

23 luna { 08.22.11 at 10:01 pm }

beautifully written expression of yet another momentous passage.
holding all of your virtual hands as you pass through.

24 Emby { 08.22.11 at 10:08 pm }

That is a very touching story. It is so sweet that they want to stay together. I agree with you – something that is huge to you may seem small to someone else. But, that’s not the point. The point is that they should respect the fact that it is a huge thing for you. I hope they can still find “we” between their rooms.

25 Mali { 08.22.11 at 10:37 pm }

I love your last paragraph. And Denver Laura’s walkie talkie idea. (They’re not expensive, and the twins will have great fun with them.)

I realised how different twins are when my American twin nieces visited when they were 2 1/2. Their parents left them at our house for 2 weeks. They’d only met us a few days earlier. They were okay for most of that time. My friend who is a twin explained. Mom and Dad might not be there, but as long as the other one was, all was right in the world.

26 Rachel { 08.22.11 at 11:02 pm }

What a beautiful post. Truly. Thank you for sharing.

27 Hypnobirthing { 08.22.11 at 11:14 pm }

Reading that was like candy for my mind. I loved your analogy. Beautifully written. I am sure there will always be that connection. Wouldn’t it be great to be a twin?

28 Kate (Bee In The Bonnet) { 08.22.11 at 11:21 pm }

When we found out we were having same-sex twins, we were thrilled, because it meant that it would be more socially-acceptable to keep them in the same room for longer. We truly want them to share a room for the rest of their time in our house (though they are pretty independent kids, and they may have different ideas once they can actually share those ideas…). I just really want them to have that closeness for as long as they want it. Which is part of the reason why I read this and I wanted to cry, ‘WHY???’ Why do they have to move to separate rooms? Is it just because their room is too small for two real beds? It’s making my heart break to think of it! (I guess that makes me the opposite of a shoulder-shrugger, huh?)

I guess my heart break is probably also due to the fact that we have been moving things around in our house in preparation for a refinance-appraisal, and we set the boys’ cribs up as toddler beds in what was supposed to be their nursery (since they don’t sleep in them anyway, it doesn’t much matter whether they are cribs or beds, whether they are in our room or theirs), and their “new” room looks so happy and cozy, and my husband suggested that we start trying to let them play in there more often, to get them to think of it as their room. And I agree. They need their own room. They should have a nursery and eventual kid bedroom. But they still co-sleep, and I kinda don’t want that sleeping arrangement to end any time soon, and so thinking about them moving rooms is sad to me. It just breaks my heart thinking about separating them from us, much less separating them from each other. Time will come when they won’t want to have anything to do with us (or possibly even with each other), but until them, I’m hoping that my boys’ “we” still includes Papa and Mama…

29 a { 08.22.11 at 11:41 pm }

The We is just a bit larger now. They (and you) might have to adjust to the new space, but it will be OK. In the meantime, maybe an air matress that can travel back and forth between rooms, so that everyone is assured that the other’s room is functional and fine?

30 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 08.23.11 at 1:28 am }

I have been wondering when this day would come for you. Especially since my not-quite-2 year old twins so love sharing their room but I often consider when to stop. When one wakes up in the middle of the night or when they are sick, we split them up into separate rooms. The last time we did that, the remaining twin woke up early, distressed at the empty crib, and the moved one’s first words in the morning were the other one’s name, emphatically. They sleep longer in separate rooms, but they seem happier together. So many days when they are in the same room as they normally are, at the crack of dawn you can hear them “talking” and laughing together.

I also want to acknowledge how difficult it is for you to fill a room that was supposed to belong to someone else who has not come to be.

Your We metaphor is beautiful.

31 Mrs. Gamgee { 08.23.11 at 2:00 am }

Absolutely beautiful post, Mel. Praying that the adjustment goes as smoothly as possible for all of you. Thank you for the window into your family.

32 Janey { 08.23.11 at 5:17 am }

This sounds unbelievably tough. Acknowledging something is difficult and doing it anyway is very brave.

I kept the crib for my baby who was never born in my bedroom for nearly two years because it was hard to pack it up and put it in the shed. But when I finally did it I knew I should have done it straightaway, acknowledged it was hard but moved on to a better place. (Can you imagine? I was walking round that thing for months!)

Here’s to your family’s ongoing adventures, and to settling peacefully into your new normal : )

33 April { 08.23.11 at 8:48 am }

I remember when my brother and sister were separated. For them it was a huge deal, but was something to which they looked forward. Two days later, my mom found them sleeping together in the same room, one on the floor next to the other. They did this for a couple of weeks and then just stopped and moved into their respective spaces. They did it on their own terms, in their own way, in their time.

My sister will tell you that they still have a “We” in their lives, even though they are 27 and live on opposite sides of the country and that nothing will take it away from them.

34 Chickenpig { 08.23.11 at 11:42 am }

Poor babies 🙁 All of you. I wish you didn’t have to just because of spatial logistics. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could break apart naturally as a part of growing up? I’m sorry it had to be this way for you.

I cried when we broke down the twins’ youth beds and got them their ‘big boy’ furniture. At the time I moved them both into the dining room because it was the only room big enough to handle both beds. Now we have a big enough house so they could both have their own room, but I still haven’t broached the subject of separating them. Their beds are actually bunk beds, though, so I will be (finally) bunking them when they turn 6. I still have the ‘back bedroom’ sitting there…waiting. If I don’t have another child by the time the boys want their own rooms, and discover that ‘hey, there is another room just sitting there, mom’ I’m sure I will bawl my eyes out, too. For now I am lucky that I can enjoy the boys being ‘twinny’ in their room together.

I love the story of the We space 🙂 My boys don’t have a space, but they will curl up together on one of their beds or the floor and touch each other and talk just like they did when they were infants coming together from their separate cribs. If I come upon them or tell them it’s time to get up or whatever, they’ll tell me “we’re having our twin time”. I can’t help but wonder when they will stop having ‘twin time’. When they are 6? 7? 22? Who knows, but I’m not going to be the one to interfere.

35 MeAndBaby { 08.23.11 at 4:44 pm }

What a beautifully touching post. I teared up reading it. Thank you for sharing.

36 Natalie { 08.23.11 at 7:45 pm }

This is a beautiful post. I will never know what it is like to be a twin. I have always yearned for my own space (coming from a family with 6 kids and not enough rooms to go around). You write so elegantly about the twin experience. Your kids are so lucky to have a parent who observes and tries to understand their different combined experience and doesn’t discount it. Virtual hugs this week as you make the transition.

37 Angie { 08.24.11 at 7:31 am }

This post is the most beautiful post I have read in a long time. My heart wrenched with yours and theirs. I remember when we got separate rooms, my twin and I, we were so excited because we had always been together and then we were so sad because we had always been together. I don’t know if this will scare the crap out of you, or comfort you, but every night, we crawled into bed together. We couldn’t be alone. We couldn’t sleep alone. So we jammed into a twin bed every night, during the summer, we slept on the floor of our rec room, so we could be next to each other. This went on until we went off to college. Sometimes that first semester, I would wake up from a nightmare, be breathing hard, and the phone would ring.

“Are you okay? I just woke up from a nightmare.”
“Me too.”

38 Kristin { 08.24.11 at 1:44 pm }

This post captures so much of what I’ve been feeling lately. For the longest time I had resisted moving Joey out of the room with Marty and into Gabe’s room. After all, when we had our next and last baby it would make more sense for the youngest two to share a room. But, Marty’s entering high school and could use more privacy. Joey and Gabe love spending time together. And, as much as I regret the idea, it looks like that much desired 4th baby isn’t going to come. Switching room seems like the final nail in the coffin.

39 Tara (TIMO) { 08.24.11 at 3:04 pm }

Thank you for this touching post and glimpse into the future. My (almost) 22-m old twins still love to be with each other. They nap (and sometimes sleep) in different rooms and nothing calms them down faster than asking “Do you want to go wake up/say Hi to (other twin)?”. They are truly excited to see each other. We have no plans to ever separate them until the day they ask to be separated. A day I dread already.

40 Bea { 08.27.11 at 10:25 am }

A beautiful post.

But you’re right – it’s only physical distance. Separate rooms, though the transition is tough now, can’t take away the “we”.


41 coffeegrljp { 08.31.11 at 12:24 am }

i think it’s totally wonderful to celebrate their uniqueness. We all have different situations. My kids are likely to have a “we” (although a different experience of it since they’re 2 1/2 years apart in age). We encourage room-sharing both when we’re staying with our family in Japan in part b/c there isn’t really space for them not to share, but also because room sharing and co-sleeping is so common in a country with such limited space. One of the perceived benefits of all that sharing of space is that everyone has to learn how to get along with others and to keep the peace. I like that. Sometimes it gets a little frustrating for me since as an American I also really value independence, but overall, I think that’s a great thing for kids to learn. Lots of people asked us if we’d move to a different house when we had baby #2 (presumably something bigger with a 2nd bedroom for 2nd child). We said no, they’d share. Lots of strange looks ensued. I think it’s difficult sometimes for people here in the US to see the value in that. Hope the transition is going well for the kids.

42 Battynurse { 09.01.11 at 4:32 am }

Beautiful post. It’s so hard mourning changes and the things that should be but aren’t.

43 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.21.12 at 11:38 am }

I remember this post and I’m surprised I didn’t comment.

I do hope I was abiding with you during that transition, virtually stroking your head and acknowledging that you were struggling.

I love the idea of the We. And that the twins came up with it.

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