Ask Amy: How long can I keep appeasing my 10-year-old twins?


Dear Amy: I have twin 10-year-olds who are constantly at war. They can’t stand it if things are unfair. If one gets more than the other, it turns into World War III, and I jump into the middle to make things fair.

For example, I will use a food scale to make sure they get exactly the same portion of any food I give them, and I make sure that they get the same number of gifts. I know that life’s not fair. But I’d like to let them have a little bit of respite before the world shows them how life really is.

I like letting them believe in Santa or the tooth fairy. I want them to stay in childhood as long as they can.

Mom: First this: Parenting twins is hard work!

However, your desire to give your twins a “respite” from the reality of the world will have the unintended consequence of unleashing two aggressive adolescents who don’t have the motivation or ability to control their emotions.

They have instead trained you to take extraordinary measures to appease them, and your efforts to give them a fairy-tale childhood have resulted in World War III. Not quite what you had in mind.

I suggest that this is really all about you. You are having trouble regulating your own anxieties and feelings. You can work on this by becoming conscious of your own physical and emotional reactions when you fear things are going south. Your heart races, your breath quickens. Slow it down, calm yourself, and see if you can … let things happen.

A new sheriff needs to gallop into your household.

Do your best to engage your twins in separate activities and friendships. I would very publicly put the food scale into the “donation box.” Explain to them that they’re not toddlers, and you expect them to change their behavior.

When they fight, separate them and discipline each. When they are calm, encourage them, listen to them, and reassure them that they can handle hard things. You can, too.

Parenting coaching and support from other parents of twins would be extremely helpful.

Dear Amy: I am a woman with three young-adult children. They don’t know that my dad is not my biological father. They have only known him as their wonderful grandpa.

I knew my bio-father only in my early childhood. He was not kept from me, but he had no interest in a relationship until it was too late. His last correspondence to me (years ago) was a very nasty, vindictive letter accusing me of throwing him out like garbage.

If my kids did a DNA test they would know there is no way that my dad is my bio dad. Do I need to tell them? I almost feel like it’s too late to tell them.

Conflicted: Yes, you do need to tell your children. This is in part to give them accurate access to their own DNA heritage, but also … because it is the truth!

Holding onto this tightly will make the burden heavier for you. Telling the truth will liberate you, even if doing so creates some confusion or brings up tough conversations. I see this as a redemptive story about love and acceptance. Your beloved dad is still your dad. He is still their granddad. That does not change!

Your adult children are old enough to understand that any life is complex and full of both pain and promise. You have no doubt experienced both, and your challenging relationship with your biological father is proof that no one really escapes the reality of their past.

What happens next is the life you make for yourself.

Your kids may choose to try to contact your biological father or other newly discovered family members. You should provide any contact information you have for him, do your best to prepare them for any outcome, and let this contact happen without interference. Support them throughout.

Dear Amy: I was disappointed in your response to “Bored in DC,” the man who didn’t want to spend time with his wife’s family over the holidays.

He sounds like he feels like a piece of furniture when he is around them, but going off alone over the holidays is not the time to escape!

Disappointed: “Bored” does seem to feel (and be treated) like a piece of furniture.

I could understand why he would want to make like a table and … leaf.

©2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency

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