Thursday, January 10, 2013

Twins, virtual and actual

I'm putting all the Christmas stuff away today and it is not a job I enjoy. In fact, I've managed to put it off for nearly a week past when it usually all comes down. I also keep finding things to do in the middle of it so I can avoid it even more. So, why not write a blog post on a tricky subject while I'm deep in avoidance mode.

There are few subjects which meet with such strong opinion in the adoption world as that as virtual twinning. Now, my non-adoption-world readers are probably saying, "Huh? What in the world is that?" So, some definitions first. 'Virtual Twinning' is the name (or one of the names) used when a family adopts a child into their family who is the same or less than nine months different from a child already in the home. Thus, they are twins, but not in the biological sense of the word, just the chronological. By that definition, when we adopted TM, we created virtual twins with him and D., who is 8 months younger. When we adopted H., we created virtual triplets because she is only 2 weeks older than TM. And for us, when you throw in the actual, biological twins, we have a lot of children running around who are all about the same age. What you also need to know is that among social workers and adoption agencies, virtual twinning is frowned upon. Some have a blanket policy against it and some only do it in special cases.

And as I think about it all, I have come to some conclusions. (Imagine that.) I think that more and more I dislike the term virtual twins. Unless two children have been raised together since infancy (and even then I'm not sure... I really think it might go back to sharing a womb), I really don't think we help anyone by using the term 'twin' because they just aren't. I have watched G. and L. for the past 3 1/2 years, and while they are very different girls, there is something that they share, some intangible sense of closeness, that I just don't see in any of my other children.

We need to come up with another descriptor because I think it is the term 'twin' which gets social workers and agencies all in a tizzy. Twin implies a meshing on some level, which could mean a loss of individuality, but the truth of it is, we are not twinning anyone. We cannot artificially create that bond of closeness regardless of when birthdays fall. We are creating brothers and sisters, but we do that regularly in adoption and no one seems to mind that at all. Yes, two children may be close in age, but chronological age hardly begins to tell the whole story.

My two ten year olds and one 9 1/2 year old are very different. They have different strengths, different experiences, different hurts, different delays, different tastes, different ways of dealing with stress... they are different, different, different. Just because their chronological age says they should be lumped together, what poor parents J. and I would be if that is all we looked at.. They are individual children and we treat them as such, just as we do all of our children.

It is as if the infection of age segregation has infiltrated adoption placement as well as schools and churches. That is the idea that your chronological age is the determining factor in what you should be able to do, who you should socialize with, and how you are to be viewed. No wonder people are so hung up about their age. And because so much emphasis is placed upon your age, it is seen as one of your defining characteristics to the point that some people see it as unhealthy if a child has to share "age 10" with anyone else in their family. It is really the only reason I can come up with for the vehemence against the practice.

But, really I can come up with another. And that is the idea that parents only have so much to give and the ability to allow children to be individuals even if they share an age is beyond them. It is at heart an argument against having more than a few children in the home. It is as if parental love is a limited commodity and one must be careful with how thin it is spread. Now, other resources may be stretched... money, size of house, mode of transportation,etc., but this is true in general; it is not specific to virtual twinning. If parents are capable of parenting another child, it really shouldn't matter whether the child is virtually twinned or not.

I need to add one caveat. Parents need to make informed, compassionate decisions in adopting. How will this child fit in with the family? What if the adjustment is difficult and the child doesn't seamlessly mesh with the family? How are you going to help each child feel like an individual? Are you planning on disrupting birth order and are your children OK with that? Have you educated yourself on those particular issues? How can you keep each child safe? But once again, these are really larger adoption issues and not specifically virtual twinning issues.

This doesn't mean that I think parents should adopt children willy-nilly. These are lives we are dealing with here, both of the child to be adopted and the children already in the home. A child who is a good fit for one family may not be a good fit for another. Adoption is not something to be entered into lightly and it is a decisions which affects the entire lives of multiple people. I also think that the specter of twinning is a bigger problem in theory than it is in reality.
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Today is Harvey's day. Pleas pray for this little one who so desperately needs the love of a family.



This is Harvey. He is 3 years old and is the size of an infant. Harvey is extremely malnourished and also has some cranial-facial issues. This little one also touches my heart since K. was malnourished (at some points in his life, rather extremely) and two of my children have cranial-facial issues. It is something that sounds very scary, I know. But my children are so much more than their diagnoses. This little boy has never known what it is to be loved and cared for. Doesn't he deserve at least that?

4 comments:

thecurryseven said...

I had one more thought that I wanted to share. Not using the term 'virtual twinning' has another benefit. By removing the word 'twin' altogether, it changes parental expectations. Instead of expecting these children to become twins as we usually think of the word, parents would be more likely to think of these children as individuals instead of a pair. And that, I think, is what some of the concern is... each child is unique and does not need to be thought of in terms of another.

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Dana said...

Our adopted son is only 4 months younger than one of our biological daughters. Because he seems a little younger due to being institutionalized and the fact that we placed him a grade behind his chronological age peers to help him catch up academically, they don't seem like twins at all. They are, however, exceptionally close. I call them partners in crime. A bigger issue for us was adopting out of birth order. Our son seemed to take out all his grief on his sister who is 14 months younger than him. His first year was hard for her.

Lucy said...

It is remarkably inconsistent, is it not? We (society in general) expect children to be virtually "twenty-fived" more or less in a classroom for most of their waking hours all throughout their childhood, but somehow, at home, "twinned" is too much?

Or perhaps that is the source of the problem, they (whoever they are) know that a child who is twenty-fived all day would be greatly in need of whatever little bit of individuality he could get during home hours.

Tiffany said...

I love how you said we are creating brothers and sisters, not twins. I agree completely! My boys are extremely close, but they are distinct people. They love being brothers, but seriously, no one is going to mistake them for twins! Thank you for participating in the Love Builds a Family Link Up this week!

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