“What Does It Matter…?”

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“What does it matter if she mixes them up? They look just alike.” – my grandmother, regarding my safeguards against confusing our infant twins

Normally I’m not too hard on people who say “stupid” things about twins. I say a lot of stupid things myself. But today I shall regale you with a tale of the twins’ student teacher.

Two weeks ago Haney and I were in for our usual Friday afternoon “Look! I’m a good mother!” visit. The student teacher sat down with me as I traced and cut masks, gestured to Haney, and said, “You had twins, then she didn’t come a twin?”

Um…? Possible answers:

a)      No, she didn’t.
b)      Yes, she actually did “come a twin…” [beginning to weep]
c)       OH MY GOSH, I left the other one in the car!
d)      Yes, but I don’t like that one so I only bring this one.

Fortunately, in my case the answer is “a.” To which the student teacher responded, “Huh. That’s strange. Usually when people have twins once, they have more twins.”

I started to wonder whether she was asking if I’d used fertility treatments to conceive. I pointed out that we actually have two singletons. I was relieved when she was needed by the kids’ actual teacher.

Last Friday we were in again. Keep in mind that this woman has been with the class since early January. Also, I’ve attached my boys’ school pictures as a visual reference. Would you think these kids were twins if you saw them among 21 other children?

Exhibit A

The student teacher sought me out to tell me, “I still have no idea who is who between your boys. They’re always correcting me when I call them the wrong name.”

ME: We thought the different haircuts would make it pretty easy.
HER: Yeah, I don’t know… One day I was so mixed up because they both wore the same color shirt.
ME: Mmm.

We do mix up our boys when they have the same haircut – we have to look at them straight on to tell who’s who. And I can’t tell my friend’s boys apart without obnoxiously getting up in their faces to look for a telltale mole. I’m not judging people who can’t tell identical twins apart.

But my boys haven’t been identical-looking for any part of this school year. They don’t wear matching clothes, and we’ve maintained the drastically different haircuts to make it easy on their teachers. This woman has been spending 30 hours a week with them for more than a month now. What say you, internets? Is this a reasonably difficult skill to master? Or is this situation the result of laziness: she hasn’t bothered to learn students’ names, but in the case of my sons she feels she has an excuse to admit it?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.

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19 thoughts on ““What Does It Matter…?””

  1. Oh. My. Lord.

    This drives me nuts, and my twins aren’t even identical (b/g, and you’d barely know they’re related).

    I appreciate that it’s hard to tell many identical twins apart. It takes effort, especially with the same haircut and all of that (which yours don’t even have…). BUT YOU’RE THE TEACHER, FIGURE OUT A SYSTEM. Quiz yourself at night or come up with a wacky mnemonic device if you must. Many parents of identical twins that I know at least make an effort to have some sort of color-coding system in place. Or, if you really can’t figure it out, then ASK first thing in the morning who’s wearing what today and write it down.

    It makes me nuts, because like your grandmother’s comment, it comes across as saying that you don’t actually think it’s important enough to figure out. That it’s not so critical to know who is who. That chronically mistaking one for the other is no big deal. And that’s just wrong. Yes, they look alike. Yes, they’re brothers. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE!

    Goddess in Progress recently posted Just SwimminglyMy Profile

  2. Ugh. This is stupid. I’ve never met your twins, and I can tell them apart. She’s just not trying. I think you should’ve told her that your daughter came with a twin, but you only wanted one, so you gave the other away. Stupid, stupid woman.

  3. I am a triplet and one of my sisters and I might be identical. [I’d prefer to think not.] Some people made zero effort to tell us appart even though I had bangs and shorter hair and my sister had long hair, no bangs. And frankly, we looked so much less alike back then as we do now. I just figure the people in your life who will care about YOU (or your boys) will make an effort and those not worth spending time with or on won’t. I write this knowing that it hurt my feelings all the way through high school and then I finally stopped caring. Once the boys have their own lives it becomes less of an issue and more of a “fun fact”.

  4. Laziness! I have a cousin who only sees my kids a handful of times a year and she can tell the difference between my boys and they are pretty identical. She actually puts an effort into it though. She checks my blog and studies their recent pictures before we come and as soon as they walk in the door, she says hi to them by name. I love that she tries. My m-i-l, on the other hand, has to be reminded often of whose who.
    Joanna recently posted I can do it by my own!My Profile

  5. My twin girls look nothing alike so I don’t have this problem. But I do have to say that especially with your boys, it sounds like the teacher isn’t trying very hard. I dated a guy with twin sisters when I was younger – they were identical and it took me a bit to figure out who was who, but because I saw them daily and really put the effort in, I figured it out and never had a problem distinguishing between them. Anyone involved in your kids life day to day should be able to see the differences. Especially since you have their hair so different. It’s easy people, just try a bit!

  6. These things happen to me all the time! Usually it’s people in the grocery store that start quoting “statistics” at me. I’m pretty sure I know the statistics better than a stranger. :)

    We didn’t know our twins were identical until we DNA tested at 16 months. Now that people know they’re identical, they have stopped trying. I have a brother-in-law who asks which is which, then says, “yeah, I won’t remember that.” I mean, the least you can do is remember what outfit they’re wearing for the day and ask again the next day. That’s fine with me. It’s definitely pure laziness.
    Heather V recently posted My Little ValentinesMy Profile

  7. What an idiot. How many people does she know that has more than one set of twins? It’s not THAT common. And although your boys do look a lot alike, the different haircuts should be easy enough to memorize. Seriously. Just yesterday an annoying old woman stopped me in the grocery store, commented on my twins looking alike (they’re fraternal girls), and then said, “You do know what makes them fraternal, not identical?” I froze, thinking….other than one egg versus two? And she followed with, “Because they have two placentas, instead of one.” I could have followed with a science lecture, but I just smiled and let it go. But it’s still bugging me.
    Gwen recently posted 7 monthsMy Profile

  8. I have b/g twins, but people still seem to mix them up…I am pretty sure their daycare providers know the difference though! When I was younger, I taught in another country for a year, and had a set of identical twin girls in my first grade class. I only had them for 40 minutes, 3-4 days a week, and I had so much trouble telling them apart. They wore uniforms to school, had the same haircut, had very similar names, and half the kids in the class just called them “gemela” (twin) so I couldn’t even pick up on cues from others. I wish I had tried harder, though, and honestly, I wish the mom or dad had said to me, “This is really important; here are some tricks to help.” I think I gave up too easily when I saw that others were not trying–but that’s not a good excuse. If I were you, I would say something to the student teacher–or to the regular teacher–about how important it is that the boys develop their own identities, and be validated as individuals. Then maybe come up with some sort of name/haircut mnemonic device to help the teacher? She’s a student teacher; look at this as a part of her learning experience. Next time she has twins, hopefully she’ll work at telling the difference.

  9. My vote is that this woman is just not very bright. The twin question about Haney is moronic and the fact that she would admit that she somehow can’t differentiate your two boys seems downright stupid.

    My experience is that people who are so curious to know if you use fertility drugs usually aren’t bright enough to couch it in any other language. Most idiots just come straight out and ask me.

  10. Yep. Laziness, or lack of caring. It happens with my 9 month-old boys too. My boys are fraternal and do not look identical. They do look like brothers that are the same age, of course, but they definitely have their own features. When people ask me how I can tell them apart I don’t know how to respond. I mean, how do you tell any of your children apart? You just look at them, they are so obviously different. This is one reason why I would consider having them in different classes in school. I must admit, their two year-old sister can’t tell them apart either. But for some reason that doesn’t bother me!
    Kristen recently posted Sleep Training-Night 2My Profile

  11. As a mom of ridiculously different looking twins, I am going to have to say that your identicals look pretty different looking. Honestly, I don’t think it would be hard to tell them apart at all? I’m going to agree with the previous comment that the woman is not too bright.

  12. This is a point to mention to the teacher. That student teacher should be paying better attention. If she’s been in the room for a reasonable amount of time, then there’s no excuse for not knowing the students…twins and all. My girls aren’t identical, but most people can easily tell them apart by personality and, if they must resort to it, outfit. For friends, we put Thalia in pink. That’s also our “identify the kid from the back” strategy. Teaching is a hard profession, but learning the names has never been my weak point.
    Emily recently posted Confusion 2011My Profile

  13. I think she is lazy, though people ask me how I tell my boy/girl twins apart and one has brown eyes/brown hair and the other has blond hair/blue eyes and DD pretty much always has a bow and usually pink or purple on! I have an ID twin in my class (brother is in another class) and they do look SO MUCH alike, but I can tell them apart, even though they dress similarly!

  14. Ditto to lazy. When people ask me how to tell my identical boys apart I usually say “get to know them.” Your student teacher just isn’t trying.

  15. Wow. Sorry – you posted this over a year ago, but I wanted to comment because wow. She had only been with your sons for a month?? Think of it from her perspective – she’s a brand new student teacher who is in the classroom for the first time and has a billion things to think about, 20+ kids to get to know, and is being graded/judged on every little thing she does. Plus, from her comment, she probably has no experience dealing with twins or having to find tricks to tell them apart. From her comment about the shirts, too, it looks like she IS making an effort, just finds it difficult sometimes. Take off your mom-of-twins blinders and give her a break, seriously!

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