Differentiating Between Multiples

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Categories Identical, Mommy Issues, Multiple Types

Earlier this month, our identical twin girls were at the health unit for 4-month check-ups and their immunizations.  Of course, they were measured and weighed.  To my surprise, our “smaller” baby now weighs more than her “bigger” sister. I knew she’d been eating more often than her sister recently, but I didn’t really expect she’d have caught up with and passed her “older” sister.

As I reflected on this new information, I realized that even though I have told myself I wouldn’t label the girls I still had this picture in my mind of our “younger” daughter as our “little baby”.  Until now, our “younger” daughter (by 4 minutes) had been about half a pound smaller, she had spent a little bit of time in the nursery after she was born, and she’s had a minor medical condition.  I guess I expected her to continue to be the smaller baby, and I even imagined her as the more fragile baby.

In retrospect, the picture I formed conveniently left out lots of information. Our “younger” baby was the first one to roll over, weeks before her sister did.  She was also the first one to smile. In many ways her “older” sister has recently needed more care and attention because she’s been having ongoing problems with diaper rash.  But, with my picture of this small, fragile baby in mind, I only looked for information that affirmed my view.

I can now appreciate how easy it is for outsiders assign labels to multiples. Usually they chose opposites or dichotomies like big/little, quiet/loud, calm/fussy, etc to try and differentiate between multiples. Without even realizing it, I was doing it.  I was trying to figure out how these two little babies, who look and act so much alike, are really unique individuals. I didn’t want to treat them as identical clones, who have the same appearance, the same personality, and the same needs, so I overcompensated because I wanted them to somehow be different.

I am already certain that finding a balance between what is the same and what is different is going to be an ongoing challenge for my daughters and me. As a parent, I want to protect my children from labels. I want them to have the opportunity, as they grow and develop their own personalities, to be unique individuals. At the same time, I want them to learn to value to the special blessing they have as twins.  The challenge will be to ensure that all of my children, both the girls and their older brother, are treated equitably, so they each get what they need regardless of age, gender, birth order, size, hair colour etc…

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I am also struggling with how to identify my children in my writing while maintaining their privacy.  I’m looking for names or nicknames to differentiate them without assigning them characteristics they don’t yet possess or reinforcing dichotomies. It is proving to be a challenge, but hopefully in my next posting I will introduce my children.

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6 thoughts on “Differentiating Between Multiples”

  1. People always seem stunned that my daughters have different personalities, likes and dislikes. They’re multiples, but they’re individuals. Some days one of them is the “best” at something and the next day one of her sisters does it better. And yet there are so many things they all do the same. It’s an interesting line to walk to figure out how to give our multiples a sense of individuality without ignoring their similarities.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Let’s Go to the Movies =-.

  2. A few months ago my IUGR baby surpassed his brother in weight and I still have a hard time not thinking about him as the “little brother”!

    I am very thankful that they are so different, though. I really enjoy experiencing the world through their unique perspectives.

  3. I think our brains are wired to look for differences and similarities. Cavemen were probably doing it as a survival tool, “…is that human with the large head and third eye part of our tribe of big heads and third eyes? no, no he’s not, get him, he’s wearing a zebra loin cloth not a jaguar…”

    We’re trying hard, as well, to not assign labels to our three children, but even in our everyday language we constantly are having to correct ourselves.

    In our home we rarely talk about “twins” … we noticed early on that people place a lot of importance on that when they meet us and it makes my older daughter feel left out.

    I think for all of us new moms, who don’t have school age children, the real challenge is going to come when teachers and peers start to attach labels to our kids. I’m not looking forward to that ….

  4. Fantastic, I love it. I’m really looking forward to your insights and views on motherhood (for future reference, of course).

  5. A great blog, Jenna. I find it hard to think about how to treat them individually when I can’t even reliably tell them apart. Thank goodness for the red toenails on your first-born twin daughter. When I get totally mixed up about who is who, I take off their socks and check for red toenails.

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