Sunday, February 5, 2012

Twin Sensitivity Training 101 #twins

Identical twins are fascinating.  They just are.

My boys will be twelve soon, and after almost a dozen years, I still marvel at them.  Before they were  born, my enormous growing belly and their impending twin-ness dominated every conversation.  I received a lot of advice, and Wow!  Let me tell you -  people are not at all shy about telling a new mom how to raise her children.  Especially twins!

Then, they were born.  I don't know if they have added a chapter yet, but there was nothing in the "Everything You Will Ever Need to Know to Be a SuperMom of Multiples" books about fielding the questions.  I was not prepared for it!  I quickly learned to leave home at least ten extra minutes earlier if I had to make an appointment.   It was simply not possible to go anywhere without playing 20 Questions, and a quick version of the Can You Spot the Difference game.

spot the difference(as seen on the website

As babies, it wasn't so bad.  They didn't understand english, and I was blissfully unaware of what was coming.  I will also (somewhat sheepishly) admit that there were days, in the throws of post partum hormones and infant colic, that I would push the stroller around the mall just to hear, "Oh, how precious!" or, "You're so lucky!  I always wished for twins!"  It was lovely to bask in these compliments, and the oohs and ahhs were just the right medicine for this tired, worn out, new mom.

But, there is a dark side.  I still recall the first time I physically recoiled.  A woman had turned to her husband and proudly stated, "Oh!  I can tell them apart easily!  That one's eyes are crossing!"  I didn't even know what to say!

It began as a trickle.  "Oh, look, this one is bigger!" or "That one never smiles!"  Over time, the floodgates opened.  "He's got a big freckle by his eye!"  "That one is pigeon toed!" 

Um, hello?  These are my beautiful babies you’re talking about!  Take it easy!  There’s no jackpot for finding the most differences!  I wondered if I should carry gold star stickers as prizes.


I understand that the temptation to compare them is almost impossible to stifle, but, if you encounter twins, please - stop, take a moment, and think first.

I doubt these folks would ever say such things about a single baby.  "Your baby is cute, but man.. look at the way his eyes are crossing!"  or, "Golly he's precious, but have you noticed that he walks funny?"

It became worse as they got older.  I was no longer their protective shield.  Now people were going straight to my boys with their observations and inquisitions.


If you are a sibling, twin or otherwise, you might know how much it stinks to be compared to the people who share your parents' DNA.  I can't tell you how many times I heard that I was nothing at all like my older brother.  Sadly, as an insecure child, the part I heard the loudest was "you are nothing at all.."

Believe me, I was well aware that I wasn't like him, and although I wished and hoped and prayed that I could be as good, or possess his cool head and even temperament, it wasn't what God intended when he made me.  (On the bright side, it was probably a blessing for the sister who followed me, who undoubtedly heard, "Whew!  Thank goodness you are nothing like your sister!")  It was very unkind for adults to compare us that way, and unfair to judge us against each other.

Thankfully, only our teachers did this, and it wasn’t happening on a daily basis – but it might be why I am particularly fast to put the kibosh on the frequent comparisons of my own boys.


They are very much alike in very many ways, but they are two unique and individual guys.  They love being twins, but they also like being acknowledged for their own special talents and gifts.  They love it when people take the time to know their names, and can tell who they are without some sort of rubric formula to figure it out.


A great thing to keep in mind is this.  For every truth, there is an opposite truth.
  • Please do not ask who is older.  I haven't even told them, and honestly, it is the matter of a millisecond.  They don't need one more thing to be competitive about.  If one is older, that means one is younger.   I’m not about to give one of them that kind of leverage!
  • Please don't point out that you see that one is an eighth of an inch taller.  It's inconsequential, really, and the opposite truth is that you see that the other boy is shorter.  The shorter one can hear you.
  • Please don't say, "He looks a little heavier."   Heavier = fatter.  It's about  half a pound, and I don't want my kid carrying that slap to his self esteem around with him.
  • Please do not point out deformities, rashes, tics, or any other manifestations of their Asperger Syndrome.  (that one should be obvious)  ie: "He flaps more." or "He is always clearing his throat."
Okay, so that’s the basic gist about observations.  Now, about the questions.  Some are just plain funny.  Yes, they are twins.  Yes, they are identical.  No, they don’t mistake themselves for the other or forget which one they are.  (yes, they have been asked that!)  I was a little bit taken aback when people started asking questions that are usually reserved for an OB-GYN visit, but that happens, too.  Yes, I have my hands full, but I prefer them full – I was sad when they were empty.  I didn’t have IVF, and well, I won’t bore you - but the long list goes on and on and on…


There is not a smarter one, a funnier one, a faster one, a friendlier one, a stronger one, a naughtier one, a good one, or a happier one.  They didn’t get a certain number of athletic, smart, or behavior genes to divvy up amongst themselves - both were given complete sets.  They are as good or as naughty as they choose to be on any given day.  Their academic and athletic performance reflects how much work they put into it, and so on.

Although I mentioned it above, It bears repeating - the question, “Who’s older?” directed at my children will be answered with “We are both eleven.

I really get pressed about this.  Finally, if a person persists long enough, I give them a short, but fairly complete answer. I have done this so many times that my echolaliac children could repeat their birth story - (including such terminology as abrupted placenta, crash section, vertical incision, and rushed to NICU) at the same time they were learning to sing their ABC’s.  (which is probably a good reminder that even when children can’t talk, they can hear just fine.  Oops.)

They certainly don’t mind talking about themselves, and there are plenty of really great things to ask a twin.  Mine know that they pique people’s curiosity, and they've gotten used to it.  They would be happy to tell you how fun it is to have your best friend around all the time, how they have felt each other’s pain, that they sometimes know what the other one is thinking, and many other things on their long list of what they like about being twins.  They will even tell you the parts that aren’t so great, like having to share the spotlight for all the big “firsts”, rarely having special time alone with me or their dad, and always being called “the boys”. 

Thanks for reading.  Sometimes, things get into my brain and just have to get out.  I appreciate your patience. *smile*

PS - If you really, really, reallly want to know which one was born first, and has that big 0.5 second advantage, I can only be bribed with chocolate. The good kind.