Psychology Today defines separation anxiety as “a developmental stage in which a child experiences anxiety due to separation from the primary caregiver.” Fair enough. But what is it called when it’s the mother who experiences anxiety when her twins are separated from one another? I’m going to call it “Multiple-Mama Separation Syndrome” (“MMSS”).
My fraternal twin sons stood at the bus stop on the first day of kindergarten, steadying themselves under the weight of their backpacks, lunch box, and school supplies. I had a smile plastered on my face, but I was dying inside. I was ready for them to begin their official school career, but I was distraught at the idea of them being in separate classes. They’d been together through moms and tot classes, three years of nursery school, all activities, parties and play dates. You almost couldn’t say one’s name without mentioning the other.
Despite them being a duo, it was always important to me that the boys have their own identities, and I didn’t want to foster competition between them. As we considered kindergarten registration, my husband and I decided to separate them and let them each have their own territory and friends. This was the right decision for them, but one that didn’t always sit well with me. I envisioned them missing one another terribly and being distracted because their comfort equilibrium had changed. With this in mind, I made arrangements ahead of time with their teachers that the boys would be permitted to visit each other as needed.
I’d done everything I could to soften the separation blow, and that September morning, I had to hold my shit together until they left. They seemed so small as they climbed up into the bus and lumbered to the rear. I watched them through the window, searching for seats, their heads barely visible…when the bus took off. They lurched forward and stumbled.
My MMSS was on hold for a moment, and the pissed mama bear took over. I jumped into my car and sped through back streets so that I could arrive at their school and see them into the building. (This was customary in the neighborhood; I wasn’t being a total lunatic.). Cursing the bus driver under my breath, and assuring myself that the boys were okay, I parked myself in front of the bus discharge at school. My heart was slamming into my chest and the adrenaline surged. When the bus doors opened, my plastered smile returned as my boys alighted the bus stairs. Of course, they were fine, but you already suspected that.
I waved as a teacher ushered them into the building, towards their separate classrooms and the beginning of their separate lives. I was crushed. I imagined various scenarios all day where they’d seek one another, where they ate lunch at different tables, and where they might not even sit together on the bus. I worried for the one who usually let his brother speak for him. How would they manage?
When the boys came home, they were unfazed by their separation. They chattered about their day, their teachers and new friends. I’d worried needlessly because THEY WERE FINE. I’d later find out from their teachers that they never used their twin visiting passes or told anyone they were twins. They did what came naturally to them and went on to become well-adjusted kids who enjoy their twinhood but thrive as individuals.
Now, as they are preparing to go to college, my MMSS is flaring up again. They will be moving out of our house, and likely, away from one another. I want them to go to college together so badly, but I will never say so. They have to forge their own paths and decide what’s right for them. Their twin relationship has to be on their own terms, and it is not within my control. (I keep repeating this phrase to myself.) When the time comes for them to leave, I will plaster that silly smile on my face and know they will be there for each other when they need to be.
This post is part of a series of essays by the contributors to our second anthology, Multiples Illuminated: Life with Twins and Triplets, the Toddler to Twin Years. Subscribe to get new posts on your favorite reader as and when they’re published.
Shanna Silva is an author, freelance writer, and two-time Tony-nominated Broadway producer. She is the author of the children’s book, Passover Scavenger Hunt; her essays appear in Multiples Illuminated: A Collection of Stories and Advice from Parents of Twins, Triplets and More, and Chicken Soup for the Soul; and she writes for the parenting blog, Kveller. She is a producer of the new Broadway show, Anastasia, which opens in the spring of 2017. Find her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.