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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Switch - Another Twin Phenomenon?

I have one good child and one bad child. Almost always. One is good. One is bad.

If you've been following along for any length of time, you'll think, 'Oh, I've got this. Natalina is the bad twin, and Dulce is the good twin.'

And you'd be wrong.

Natalina, modeling sadface
Natalina had been the "bad" twin for at least six months running, where as Dulce was the "good" twin for that time. Just when my husband and I had resigned ourselves to our toddlers' personalities, "the switch" happened. This is not the first time we've come across the switch. It's just the first time a phase has lasted so long before the switch occurs.

First, let's define good and bad, since both of my girls are pretty much good (in my opinion) always.

Dulce, modeling happyface
The "good" twin will go out of her way to make herself understood. She will calmly address problems and requests, waiting for you to catch up, giving you slack when you need it, and understanding your other obligations. She will smile and laugh easily. She will be very affectionate. She will listen well, obeying commands and arguing in a reasonable way when she does not care to obey. Her memory is short, and she doesn't hold grudges. The good twin's resting mental state is happy. It is a glorious thing, and it makes us feel like amazing parents.

Dulce, trying to be sad, but cracking up.
The "bad" twin will find reasons to cry. If she cannot find a reason, she will make one up. She will ask you questions with the sole purpose of getting to the point where she breaks down into a tantrum. Everything needs to be just so for the bad twin to keep her perilous grip on calm. A wrinkle in a bed sheet can send her over the edge. She makes up demands upon demands every moment and if each is not given instantaneously, she will dissolve into a fury of tears. She remembers all past transgressions and bases her actions on previous shortcomings of the adults in her life. She works on a system of passive resistance. The bad twin's resting mental state is disgruntled. It is a maddening thing, and it makes us feel like horrible parents.

When the girls were younger, these polar phases lasted just hours, maybe a day or two. We used to joke that the 'spirit' moved between them. As they age, these phases are lasting longer and longer. We had all but given up hope on Natalina ever coming around again.

The switch is quick. It takes a day, at most three days before the dust settles. Dulce has had the 'spirit' now for going on two months, and my husband and I are still surprised by her behavior, so used to her happy self we had become.

Had we just had a single child, we'd think these were just typical phases. But the timing, the fact that they are always alternating, it throws us for a loop. We're constantly checking and rechecking our behavior, making sure we react consistently to the twins, regardless of who is acting like what at the time. We don't want them to assume we favor one over the other. And everything is a competitive checklist with them. Who got her face washed first? Who got dressed first? Who went potty first? It's an endless list of achievements and failures. We must be very careful.

Nataline, happy

And the change has nothing to do with us, so far as we can tell. We do the same things, they react differently. It's a pit of snakes, this parenting business.

We wonder in this endless spinning of personality, where the needle will finally stop. It's up to us to make it stop on happy. But how?


  1. Great post. It is only by facial demeanor that I have ever been able to tell your 2 apart.

    Mine are just like regular singleton siblings for the most part, at least so far. Lindsey has developed a teasing side, which is new for her. She is a lot like her dad. Megan is a lot like me. I dont really observe one being bad or good most of the time because their personalities are sooo different. Then again, they are only 1.5. Ask me again when they are 2-3.

  2. so glad i found this post! we have twins that we just adopted at 1 yr and they have been w/ us for 4 mos now. they have 'switched'2xs now and it has really thrown us for a loop. this helps us understand more! thank you

  3. so glad i found this post! we have twins that we just adopted at 1 yr and they have been w/ us for 4 mos now. they have 'switched'2xs now and it has really thrown us for a loop. this helps us understand more! thank you

  4. Oh my gosh, I know this post is old but where are you now? Has the wheel stopped on happy?
    My twins are 5. Twin A has been the "bad one" and twin B the "nice one" for most of the 5 years. They have sometimes switched but always for a short time, a few hours to a couple of days and then resumed back to their usual behavior.
    The last switch happened 3.5 weeks ago. I literally saw it happen, all of a sudden. It was around lunch time. Twin A just snapped into nice, agreeing to something he usually whines of fights about, and right there, Twin B who never had issues with this flipped out.
    It's been 3.5 weeks and the situation still stands.
    We didn't do anything different, it just happened.
    When I ask Twin A "how come you're so laid back now?" he says "because twin B is bad". And if I ask "will you be bad again?" he says "if twin B is nice again, I will". I am sure he just heard my husband and I say how insane it is that there's always one who challenges us and one who is the rule follower but we wonder... will it ever end????



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