Imagination and conformity

Published on 10 Jul 2014
Josh and Lexy
Josh and Lexy

I recently had the pleasure of spending three weeks in the company of friends, whose family include these two, Josh and Lexy. They are a couple of months off turning three and are non-identical twins. As someone who has studied education, child development and psychology in the past, I can’t help but get a little extra excited when I’m around twins! There is something uber-appealing to my brain about people watching what is in effect a natural experiment! Josh and Lexy live at home with their two older brothers and their Mum and Dad in Texas, US. I’m biased so I think they are amazing, but in fact they are probably pretty similar to any other two-turning-three year olds.

Josh is a rough and tumble kind of guy, he loves to play fight, kick a ball, throw a ball, anything with a ball. He enjoys lego, guns and hoovering and one of his favourite past-times is to be a cowboy. He regularly spots motorbikes, policemen and diggers when we were out in the car. He uses language to get his point across, to embody something (lots of cowboy shouts and pirate roars), but he doesn’t really chat for the sake of it.

Lexy loves pretty dresses, pink and wants to be a princess (while equally happy to be a cowboy). She can read people as well as any adult I know, she knows how to secure your attention and is very canny, for example on the neighbourhood Easter Egg hunt she was smart enough to shake the eggs to hear if there was any content before putting them in her bucket! You can often hear Lexy chattering away to herself, and anyone else who will listen, even in bed.

Josh and Lexy have had very similar (identical?) upbringings, and spent most of the last three years together, rarely separated, even in the same class at nursery. To some extent it is not surprising then that they are similar, and I’m not sure to what extent nature or nurture is at play, but despite them sharing a bedroom, a playroom and all their toys (free to be whoever they wish), they are very definitely different and unique in their personalities, language use and choices.

I was left in awe of their ability and comfort at being themselves, and their ease in slipping from one role into another. In the course of half an hour they were cowboys, a princess, pirates, policemen, a doctor, a nurse, a footballer – sometimes this involved a costume change, often not. How many of us once adults are that free? That creative? That comfortable in our choices? That willing to swop roles and perspectives at the drop of a hat, or a bandana?

I suspect school will start the process of shaping them for a lifetime of conformity, of role and rules, and guess I can’t help thinking that’s a loss.