You may be familiar with the 2011 YouTube sensation showing 18 month-old identical twins Sam and Ren McEntee, “conversing” animatedly in the family kitchen. This video immediately went viral that spring, and remains a popular selection, with over 136, 730, 000 views thus far.
I have shown this video in my past Early Childhood Education courses and department meetings, always to the delight of students and colleagues. The toddlers engage in what is often termed by language development experts as “autonomous language” (or, if you’re feeling especially pedantic, “cryptophasia” or “idioglossia”). Twin language has often been perceived as a “secret language” between siblings, but more recent research suggests that it is actually the result of one twin imitating the early speech patterns of the other. Twins may also be more likely to use less intelligible speech perhaps due to their parallel developmental patterns and built-in availability as playmates.
This video is charming for the brothers’ clear enjoyment of each other, the animated tone in their facial expressions and body language, and the patterns of early speech, which to them, are quite clear, given the numerous exchanges (I count 17).
Many guesses have been made on social media regarding the content of this kitchen conversation between brothers. Even the boys’ parents, though, have expressed uncertainty about the focus of their exchange, suggesting there may have been some concern over one twin’s missing sock.
I figured I’d give it an interpretive whirl myself. Given the timing of this effort — mid-presidential campaign season — I’d like to apply a political spin to this toddler dialogue. The boys certainly do not see eye-to-eye on whatever it is they are discussing. The particularly vitriolic tone of this interminable tromp to a peaceful transition of power and the vivid polarization of the US electorate make it an interesting exercise.
The new school year looms as well. Millions of young children are entering preschool in the coming weeks. This event is a milestone in children’s early development, and an attitude-shaper around their perspective on school. So let’s combine presidential politics and early education.
I invite you to click on the link below, and watch the video twice — once, for the its sheer enchantment, and a second time, while following the imagined dialogue supplied below.
Twin 1: “We’re going to day care next week! Aren’t you excited?” Twin 2: “I’m not putting one toe in that joint. Nah!”
Twin 1: “You’re kidding me! We’re going to Trump Day Care,* man. Aren’t you stoked??” Twin 2: “Ha ha! You’re funny!”
Twin 1: “Don’t you wanna be a ‘Trump Kid?’ They call us “Trumpateers!’ Got it?” Twin 2: “No. I’m rockin’ pee wee gymnastics. I’m into the Olympics.”
Twin 1: “Cool! Did you know you’ll get your own exercise mat and pommel horse?” Twin 2: “Hee hee!”
Twin 1: “Seriously! Plus you get a deputy badge and a pad of blank citations on the first day of school! Great, right?” Twin 2: “Stop. Don’t need it.”
Twin 1: “Dude. Always the Debbie Downer. Don’t you want a Trumpateer t-shirt?” Twin 2: ” No-no-no. Hey — see how limber I am already?”
Twin 1: “It’s state-of-the-art child care. Sweet, right?” Twin 2: “Hee hee! You’ve been watching too much Shark Tank.”
Twin 1: “You get twenty lunch selections daily. Is that cool, or what?” Twin 2: “Naw. No need. I’m in the middle of a cheese jag, anyway.”
Twin 1: “Listen. We get our own personal IPAD and set of toys. There’s no sharing at Trump Day care!” Twin 2: “Hee hee! I don’t care. Huh? I can’t seeee youuuuu …”
Twin 1: “You’re gonna regret not going. Can you live with that?” Twin 2: “Hee hee! No! Hmmmmmm …”
Twin 1: “The Trump Day Care motto is It’s always about me! Is that not awesome?” Twin 2: “Hee hee! No! Hmmmmmmm …”
Twin 1: “This is you: ‘Naw, naw, naw!’ Can’t you dig all that swag?” Twin 2: “Hee hee! You tickle my funny bone!”
Twin 1: “Are you telling me you’re not stoked by field trips to Trump construction sites? Hi, Daddy!” Twin 2: “I keep telling you no! C’mon. Let’s not fight. Even if it’s appropriate for our age.”
Twin 1: “Did you know that if other kids make you mad, you can put them on time out — in an actual jail cell?” Twin 2: “That’s just not me. I’m focused on executive function and floor exercises.”
Twin 1: “You can do that! Plus there’s an indoor pool and a 9-hole miniature golf course! OK?” Twin 2: “No! Oooh … look. I can see myself in the fridge.”
Twin 1: “OK. Are you not even aware that they’re giving every classroom a set of blocks to build a giant wall around each Trump Day Care?” Twin 2: “Nohhhhhhh!”
Twin 1: “Gaaa! Can you not see tremendous when it’s staring you in the face? Yer’ killin’ me here! Twin 2: “Deal with it.”
Imagined final utterance, off-camera:
Twin 1: “Daddy! We’re discussing Trump Day Care. You’re gonna get a tax credit on our tuition. Um … what bracket are we in?”
*Upon initial preparation for this essay, I was under the impression that Trump Day Care actually existed, based on Trump’s responses to a presidential candidate forum in Iowa last fall. He explained that he offered on-site child care for his employees, saying, “You know, it’s not expensive for a company to do it. You need one person or two people, and you need some blocks, and you need some swings and some toys. It’s not an expensive thing, and I do it all over.” Well, alright, then.
Jill Colvin and Catherine Lucy of the Associated Press discovered this is not exactly the case. “Trump Kids” and “The Trumpateer Program,” advertised as on-site employee child care centers, are actually limited services for families who register at hotels in the Trump Hotel Collection or visit the Trump National Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
American Presidential elections, like the airlines — and, yes, early childhood centers as well — offer choices. Choice is valuable, and implies perspective-taking, of course — one of those essential skills we could all practice more consciously and consistently. It doesn’t come naturally. It does us well to listen, study, and get the whole story.
At 18 months, Sam and Ren have provided a glimpse into early language development and sibling relationships. They are probably about 6 1/2 years old by now — the very time when they are shifting into a more complex stage of cognition that enables them to take in other points of view. This is an important transition in their ability to think critically, make friends, and get along with many different kinds of people.
I’m guessing they are well on their way.