This is my space

Today I’ve had my hair pulled, my nose tweaked, my spots jabbed at, and my boobs prodded. I’ve been handed bogies, pants full of poo, dirty tissues and bits of fried egg that are deemed yucky. I haven’t been given the option of having the bathroom to myself when showering or going to the loo, and if I’ve sat down, I’ve had a toddler climb on my lap within a matter of nano-seconds.

As a mum, I’m used to constant invasions on my personal space. But as the twins grow older, I’m finding that I’m not only having to police my own space, I’m responsible for looking after their space, too.

The twins have never been keen on sharing their physical space with each other. They’re not siblings who like to cuddle up, or hold each other’s hand for comfort. I can’t imagine ever finding them asleep together. They will hold hands on rare occasions, but only if prompted, and it’s more likely to end in dispute than harmony. As soon as she was old enough to make herself understood, Ez made it abundantly clear that she did not want Fonz to come into her personal space. Before she could speak, she’d even growl every time Fonz got too close. And she’s been fiercely protective of it ever since.

This territorial stance of hers has gradually become less aggressive, and more anxiety-laden. Ez is a toddler with the capacity to focus, and will sit for a long time playing with a single thing. She loves puzzles, drawing, and generally things that require sustained attention. Fonz is the opposite. He’s bursting with energy, always looking for the next distraction. The next bit of fun that will occupy him for a minute, and that fun is often to be found in winding his sister up by disrupting her play. The consequence is that if Ez is playing alone and senses Fonz even start to move in her direction, she panics, tenses up and braces herself to defend her belongings.

But there are other, more intimate boundaries that need to be learned. Where they used to be curious about seeing the contents of each other’s nappies (I kid you not), they are now suddenly protective, and don’t want the other to see. They want to watch the other on the toilet, but frequently their sibling objects, strongly. I intend for them to share a bath for many years to come, but they need to respect each other’s boundaries.

The lesson about respecting each other’s space, physically and mentally, is ongoing. I have explained so many times that they own their body, and if they don’t want to be touched, then that’s their choice, and so now I hear Ez saying to Fonz, “No, Fonz. That’s MY body. No touch me.” But still, for two children who have never known life without the other, it’s a hard concept for them to grasp. Now that they are in toddler beds, rather than cots, we have had to teach Fonz that he can’t just climb in with Ez when he wakes up, because it upsets her. That’s her space, and he needs to respect it.

So there are two areas to tackle: their personal belongings, and their physical boundaries. The first is, I think, the easier of the two. My friend, Emily at Mummy Limited, told me that when another child is coming over to play, she gives her son the opportunity to put his most favourite toys away somewhere safe. I think I could create a ‘safe box’ for each of the twins, where they can keep their most precious belongings, and which is definitely out-of-bounds for their sibling.

Policing their physical space is a little harder, but I think it’s about being consistent, and constantly reiterating the need to respect each other. I have a feeling ‘respect’ is going to be a word that’s used a lot over the coming months.

If you have any other words of wisdom, please do share them in the comments below!

9 comments to This is my space

  • No words of wisdom apart from we have a special box of toys that only come out when the baby is in bed so that the toddler still has some things that are just his! It seems to work for us and protects his most treasured toys!

  • I don’t have any words of wisdom, but this is a great post! So many issues that I’m also thinking about at the moment.I too hide some of Scarlett’s most precious toys when friends come as although she shares, it makes her a bit anxious with her favourites. She offers her treasured bunny as a token of friendship, but then wants it back pronto if the other child runs of with it! My toddler is very independent (is it more of a girl thing?) and has always been very happy in her own company and plays very nicely alone. I’m expecting a baby in June, so am thinking about all these issues and how the baby will affect her personal space. Your post has really helped with some points I hadn’t considered. I’m shifting my studio into a much smaller space so the baby has her own room, bye bye to my personal space but will help the girls!

  • Abby

    I have twin brothers, all grown up now, and one of my brother’s first ever phrases was “eab it” (leave it) as my other brother used to take all his things, especially food! The are non identical boy twins and have very different personalities.

    My own 3 children, who are older than your two, each have their own “special shelves” which are above their beds and they all know they can’t touch things that are on their siblings shelf without permission. The 3 of them have shared rooms at various times and we always felt it was important to have somewhere to put precious things that the others couldn’t have. Sounds like you have a good approach.

  • Not sure I have a words of wisdom, that is a string order Heather. You have just summed up my twinies though. Miss E wll sit for a good 2 – 3 hour period at the table, cutting and sticking, making pictures for people. Whereas Miss M if off doing 15 different tasks during that time and oiften trying to engage miss E in the play.

    They have never relaly been cuddly but they do enjoy each others company now and I will find them having the odd cuddle, which is lovely to see. I think it just rights itself with time.

    Mich x

  • I like the ‘safe box’ idea. For all your daily policing challenges, hopefully Ez and Fonz will grasp the personal space issue sooner rather than later. It’s something that I’ve talked to LLC about a little bit when she gets up in my grill or that of other children, but we haven’t discussed it so much and as you point out it is an important thing to learn.

  • I like the idea of safe box. My boys have their own rooms, which works, but Maxi is very protective of his things as Mini can be a little rough and break them. I think that it is an going challenge to teach children about valuing personal space. I do not let the boys go in to my bag and drawers as that is my space.

  • Fabulous post! I think a safe box is a very good idea. My two oldest boys are only 19 months apart and had similar issues which weren’t helped by them sharing the attic rooms. Number 2 is SO happy now he has a door he can shut on Number 1 that he is reluctant to leave it open at all but they have found an equilibrium and the balance of power has shifted noticeably from the older, dominant loud one to the sensitive, calm, sharer.

  • honestly as someone who has stood in your shoes, no matter what they hide away they will always want what the other has! My only advice is to always have cold wine in the fridge and to look forward to the day when you see them sitting at the table playing snap together. You will blink and it will arrive!

    j x

  • What an interesting post, I loved reading it. I’ve never thought about this, isn’t that funny?! Not sure whether it’s because I don’t have twins but my two have never seemed even aware of their own personal space or the belongings aspect either – they’re always in each others faces and don’t say a peep so I’ve never thought about it. I’m sure it’ll come along sometime soon so it’s really interesting to read about this first! :)

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