Troubles with Doubles?

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Categories Family, Identical, Multiple Types, Other people, RelationshipsTags
The Diagnosis: Urine boys in 2006
The Diagnosis: Urine boys in 2006
When we discovered we were having twin boys, we hoped they were fraternal so they’d have a better shot at some individuality. We aren’t certain they are identical, but they look enough alike that most people cannot tell them apart, and many times my husband or I will have to get a good, head-on look to be certain which boy is which.
The novelty of identical twins is fun, to a point. Mine dress themselves and are rarely dressed alike, and we have always used a color coding system around extended family, to make it easier for relatives to bond with the boys individually. It is hard to get close to someone when you’re worrying about getting their name wrong.
Even with these measures, though, their grandparents seem to view them only as a unit: The Twins. The Boys. And don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with someone referring to them that way. Saying each name is silly when “the boys” gets the point across more quickly. I don’t mind hearing them spoken of in abbreviated terms, but I mind when I feel they’re being shortchanged.
For example, my parents’ tradition is to choose a special gift for each grandchild’s first birthday. They are gifts that the child will use for 10 years or more. Some have gotten nice wooden table and chairs sets, or child-sized upholstered chairs for their bedrooms. My oldest nephew received a big wagon. And for my boys’ first birthday, they were given the same wagon. It bothered me, not because I wanted us to have two wagons, but because each boy got HALF a special gift for his first birthday, instead of receiving something individually.
There are other issues with overnights or weekend visits, where the boys are only invited as a unit, while other grandchildren are invited for individual visits. This happens with both sides of the family, and for now it is fine because my boys prefer being together, but it’s a symptom of the over-arching problem. Conversely, the boys were brought into Grandma’s office and shown off a lot more than either of my girls have ever been. Because they are twins, and because they look alike, they are more fun to show off. They are more attractive because they are a unit.
As a family, we were recently talking about how the boys look very much alike, but we can see differences between them. One of my boys said, “But Nana doesn’t.” His brother nodded in agreement. I was upset. Of the many people who can’t tell them apart — including sometimes me and my husband — he picked out his grandma as the person who doesn’t see differences between them.
Anyone else deal with this at all? Any advice? At some point we will have to speak with our parents and establish some ways to ensure the boys get even time, and I dread those conversations because I hate to ask them for more. Unfortunately, they are missing out on getting to know my little guys because they see them only as a moving clump of boy instead of as two guys who have their own strengths and weaknesses.
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10 thoughts on “Troubles with Doubles?”

  1. My sisters are twins. Growing up, my parents insisted that they were identical, and most people had trouble telling them apart. I, however, never had any trouble doing that and as adults, they look very different; still like sisters, but not identical.

    Anyway, my parents always treated my sisters just as your parents are treating your boys. It wasn’t until they were adults and had actually gone their separate ways that my parents (and everyone else) started viewing them as separate people.

    The take-away? Your boys are so incredibly lucky to have a mother who sees them as individuals and treats them that way. Just keep doing what you’re doing and hopefully it will rub off on your parents.

    I would tell lots of stories that show their individuality. Once your sons are ready to visit their grandparents separately, just suggest it gently. Your parents may not even think twice about it, or they could be having both of them over because of how close they are.

    When family asks for gift suggestions, make sure you tell them different things for each boy. This will help to highlight to your family that they each have their own interests. My sisters were so incredibly disappointed every birthday and Christmas when they had to sit back-to-back to open each gift because they got the same things.

    I know you have good intentions with the color-coded outfits at family gatherings, but you may want to reconsider. It could reinforce the idea that they are the same and can only be told apart by their assigned color. Perhaps you could let them dress as they please (they already dress differently from each other). This could also force your family to speak with them and get to know them, so that they can tell them apart.

    I hope some of this helps. My sisters didn’t have the benefit of parents who view them as individuals, so your boys are already so much further ahead. My sisters turned out just fine despite all of it. In fact, I think it made them just that much more determined to pursue their own interests. Chin up!
    .-= Dana Kashubeck´s last blog ..Crafty, Crafty Geek =-.

  2. My daughter had twins in her 3-year old preschool class. The first time I called one by her name she looked at me, astonished and said “you know who I am?”. When I told her I knew she liked blueberry pop-tarts and not strawberry she was so thrilled. I knew the other kids in the class, why wouldn’t I get to know the two girls who were identical twins? It must be heart-breaking as a mother to have them referred to as a unit so often (and by grandma). I’m sending you bravery to bring it up with your parents. Your boys deserve to have people know them individually (especially grandma)! Sorry to highjack your post with such a long comment.
    .-= Maeve’s Mom´s last blog ..2.5 =-.

  3. My girls are identical, but they don’t look all that much alike. They’re both alpha personalities, with very different ways of interacting with the world, so even people who’ve known them for a few minutes notice how different they are. The only people who regularly treat them as a unit are my mother and one of their teachers at daycare. (My mum sees them rarely, and I’m very close to deciding to change daycares.)

    Our neighbours and my in-laws, the folks they’re closest to, have always been able to tell them apart. I think it helps that my mother-in-laws family is accustomed to dealing with multiples and therefore has an increased sensitivity to the need for acknowledging them as individuals.

    Hmmm, I wonder if those for whom “twins run in the family” have fewer twinship-related challenges to overcome?
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Any inventors out there? =-.

  4. B/G twins (strangely enough) run in my family, and considering how I grew up around my mother’s side (which is the side with all of the twins) and my father’s side comparatively, I can definitely say that families with twins running rampant in their families know better how to treat/deal with twins.

    I’m going to take the gift example that Jen stated in her post: gifts. I have an older sister, and for her birthday, she would always get big, expensive gifts from my paternal grandmother, while my grandmother would spend the same amount… on my brother and I as a unit. My maternal grandmother, however, gave everybody the same exact thing for birthdays and Christmas: a $10 bill in the mail. It wasn’t as cool as my paternal grandmother’s gifts, but at the same time, I didn’t feel snubbed (I don’t really care anymore, but as a child, what would you expect?).

    And since my birthday is so close to Christmas, it was even worse for my brother and I, while my sister, with a summer birthday, got it good.

    As a side note: I think b/g twins have it much easier when it comes to individuality, so I can’t throw out a lot of advice, other than to say that you shouldn’t wait for that talk with grandma. Old habits die hard, and she should figure out how to get into the groove before the boys start to care.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..Grosser than vomit. =-.

  5. In addition to being the mother of g/g fraternal twins, I’m also the older (and only) sibling of b/b identical twins. They received a lot of joint gifts when they were little, and a lot of my relatives still can’t tell them apart, so I’ve always thought that people tend to be both cheap and lazy when it comes to dealing with twins! The worst example was a birthday party where one boy received a Matchbox race track and the other received a couple of Matchbox cars. I agree that you should talk to their grandmother and stress the need for individuality.
    .-= Ellen K.´s last blog ..American girls =-.

  6. My advice to you is to let it go. My parents can’t tell my identical boys apart either. I realized that it’s not something I can change, so I don’t get mad about it anymore. I think you are better off focusing on the positives like the fact that your parents spend so much time with them.

    As for dressing them, I dress my 14-month old boys the same and I love it. They look so cute in their matching outfits. I’ll stop in a few years, I’m sure. But until then, I find that it doesn’t really matter how you dress them. The people who can’t tell them apart will also forget which boy is in blue and which is in green.

  7. A lot of interesting comments. For my two cents, I think first of all, as the last poster said, it’s awesome your parents spend so much time with your boys. (I refer to my ID twins as boys too – if I had two boys of different ages, I would still refer to them as the boys). When they’re ready to spend some one on one time with grandma and grandpa, I would mention it casually. I don’t color code my boys, but always dress them very differently, so at each outing I can say ‘x’ is in blue today, and ‘y’ is in red. Having said that, my dear, sweet MIL who loves these boys to death, even with this, will call them by the wrong names at least twice a day (she even sees them three times a week!!!). But to me, all that matters is she is trying, and she loves spending time with them.

  8. I’m a triplet and hated the joint gifts but overall I think you don’t need to worry about it. My sisters and I love that our cousins all called us “the sisters” because that is what my brother called us. My parents fostered a bit of competition among us but we are close and that competition let us to be individuals. We didn’t even apply to the same college. And my sister Stacey and I look a lot alike and we aren’t sure if we are identical but after 18 years of being all together most of the time it was nice to go our separate ways. I think it is great you teach them to be individuals and I would encourage you to have them take classes separately and do separate after-school activities if you can swing it. And don’t let them go to the same college and share a room. I swear I know a set of identical twin girls who did that.
    .-= Mommy, Esq.´s last blog ..Master Manipulator =-.

  9. I shared this post with my husband, and his suggestion was to have the boys themselves call grandma out on it. “Hey grandma, can you tell us apart?” Busted…

    Of course, my husband can be awfully blunt sometimes. :-)

  10. We’re not sure if our 29 mo. old twin boys are identical or fraternal. They look a lot alike, but we see enough of a difference that we think they are fraternal. No matter – we always treat them as individuals. And in a way it’s a blessing that we haven’t done the DNA test, because I’d hate to think what an “identical” determination would mean for them. Sometimes we, and others, call them “the boys,” but it’s fairly rare to ever hear anyone refer to them as twins. We have overemphasized their identity as brothers and individuals with distinct needs and personalities. So much so, that sometimes I need to remind myself of their special relationship as twins. It’s obviously not always a bad thing! The most interesting thing is their (lack of) self identification. We go through pictures of them, even current ones, and more times then not, they can’t tell each other apart. Hmmm…

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