As a mother of monozygotic, or so-called “identical” twins, I spend a lot of time thinking about identity. With my older, singleton son, I don’t think I ever thought about his identity or how to encourage him to develop his own identity. It wasn’t an issue on my mothering radar. But, with my daughters, I’m continually attentive to the issue of identity. Sometimes I am conscious of this tension and I ask myself are they getting enough individual attention to give them the chance to see themselves as unique? Do they feel valuable and valued as individuals? Are people around us recognizing them as different people or are the seen as unit? At the same time, I try to find a balance where they get to spend time together nurturing their relationship as sisters and twins. I want to acknowledge they have a unique bond they will share for life. Their twinness needs to be recognized, but not at the expense of their individuality. That’s my opinion as a mother who is not a twin.
The presence of the tension is often unconscious, revealing itself when I least expect it. Two recent situation highlighted this tension unexepectedly. First, we were attending my graduation ceremony. One family at the ceremony had two daughters, probably aged 4 and 6. They were dressed in matching outfits; they had the same dresses, the same shoes, and the same hair clips. They were very cute, and I’m sure their family’s graduation photos looked great. Watching them set up for a picture, I caught myself thinking “that mother can dress her children in cute matching outfits without questioning how it will impact her children’s sense of self.” Clearly, I’m thinking a lot about with this issue of individual identity…
The second situation was quite different. A friend we hadn’t seen in a while, since before we had children, asked whether A (4 year old son) and R (2 year old daughter) were the twins. I don’t know whether he just got the names mixed up because he hadn’t ever met any of the children, but I quickly corrected him. As I thought about it, I saw myself reinforcing the twin relationship above their individual identities. I wanted to be sure he knew who “the twins” were. I realized that, despite my concern about individual identity, I’m also on some level thinking about my children as a unit.
I’m sure this pull between individual and twin will be something I continue to think about. I wonder how my daughters will deal with it as they get older. And, I wonder what would happen if I took the focus away from it. What would happen if I told people I have a son and two daughters, instead of telling them I have a son and twin daughters?
Do you ever deliberately not tell people you have multiples? Does it change how you and your children are perceived?