In the back of my mind. A mom of twins thinks about maintaining the balance between individuality and the twin dynamic.

In the Back of My Mind

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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.

In the back of my mind. A mom of twins thinks about maintaining the balance between individuality and the twin dynamic.

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.

My son and my daughters – sometimes it is hard to deny they are twins

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?

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12 thoughts on “In the Back of My Mind”

  1. My twin daughters are not identical so you may have to take this with a grain of salt. I usually say “I have two daughters” and if someone asks their ages I’ll say “9 months old.” And then I get “BOTH of them?” Me: “Yep, they’re twins.” And I dress them alike for right now so we get lots of twins questions when we’re out and about but it is very obvious to everyone who knows us that my girls are NOT identical and they can easily tell which one is which.

    Your girls are still pretty little so I think right now the focus about “individualism” would be more on just letting one girl take a Special Trip to the store with mommy. Things like that. Later on, I would think you can probably follow their lead. They will let you know when they are ready to not wear matching clothes. Or share a room or have the same haircut or whatever. I think it can be harder with identical twins because they look so much alike that the same haircut suits both of them. Or the same color or whatever.

    I also think being a twin is very special. I tell my girls all the time that they are lucky to be twins because not everyone gets to have a twin sister. But I plan to kind of leave it at that. We don’t make a big deal about the fact that they’re twins. Not like the 8 year old twins we met last week who were still dressed alike. And their parents made sure to tell us that they were twins.

    I don’t know that this comment is actually very useful lol. I think as long as your girls feel safe and loved and valued, they will have the background to build on as far as trying new things without their sister, exploring etc.
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  2. I think about identity a lot too.

    My boys are fraternal, so they don’t look alike (at least I don’t think so though many disagree with me!) We have had many gifts of identical outfits, and though I think it would be cute, I avoid dressing them alike at all costs.
    When I’m out with just one son, I sometimes feel compelled to tell people I talk to that he has a twin brother at home…I don’t know why I feel this compulsion when I’m trying to emphasize their individuality.
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  3. My girls are identical and I think about the identity issue all the time. I’m reading One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned About Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular and it has been very eye opening. I am also trying not to have too much emphasis one way or another, but to just let it happen – let them find their own path, whether it is that they want to focus on their twinship, or on their individuality.

  4. Our girls are fraternal, and I even like to say “very” fraternal sometimes, as I don’t think they look much alike. I have often thought how having twins that don’t look much alike is probably easier from an identity standpoint than having identical twins. Still, though, I know they will likely face being compared to each other most of their lives, and for that reason, I think the question of “identity” is still very relevant.

    In addition to not looking much alike, our girls are pretty different with what they like to play with and largely how they interact with us and others.

    For these reasons, I don’t generally think a lot about the girls’ “twinship”, other than from a housekeeping standpoint of having two at the same developmental stage.

    While I think having a twin is certainly very special, I don’t talk with the girls about that at all. In fact, at 2 1/2, I’m not sure they know the word “twin” unless they’ve picked it up from other peoples’ conversations when we’re out and about.

    I think the girls will innately know how special their relationship is (at least I hope they will!) without me having to do anything special to foster it. That’s the biggest takeaway from Abigail Pogrebin’s book for me, not to “over-romanticize” the twinship.

    I hope raising our girls like sisters, and not “twins”, per se, will help them feel their own identities.

  5. The only time the girls dress alike is when they are being cute or want to dress alike. They have distinct personalities and really don’t like the same clothes. If asked, I will confess they are twins.
    The most disturbing thing to me and to them is that other children seem to not want to play with them because they are twins. I’m not sure if it is an intimidation thing at a very young level or that they can sense the girls share a bond. Whatever it is I think making friends will be an issue for them especially since they inherited my shyness.

  6. I do the same as Stephanie. I say I have 2 girls, and when I say their age, I use it as gauge to see if they are really listening or just being polite. =)

    Mine are 3.5 years old. I questions my emphasize on individual versus twinness alot as well. I don’t think its wrong to point out to people that they are twins. Being a twin is part of who they are as individuals too. Kind of like I’m the youngest kid, it is who I am. Also, trying to downplay that fact in front of the them might be a subtle hint to them that they should downplay it too or that it something they should not be proud of.
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  7. Hmmm, interesting. This post comes at a time when I’ve been doing some thinking about all this as well. We have 3.5yrs old identical twin boys. I’ve always ‘prided’ myself in being all about individuality – very different names, never dressing them the same, etc… YET, I find myself doing the some of the same things as previous posters – always saying I have twins, rather than two sons, and when I”m out with one, I too want to let people know that he has a twin brother at home. It’s wierd.

  8. I have 3 year old identical girl twins. If asked I have two girls, never twin girls and they are never referred to as “the twins”. I didn’t want that to be their identity.

    As far as individuality goes, my girls have very different personalities so I was never afraid they wouldn’t be seen as individuals. I dressed them alike or coordinating when they were younger, but I dress them differently now because it’s important to me that their friends be able to easily tell them apart. They could not care less if they match or don’t match.

  9. I do some of both. Sometimes they are “the twins” and sometimes “I have two boys.” I figure that if I don’t lean too far on either side of the spectrum that they’ll turn out okay! I hope so! :)
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  10. I am an identical twin of vintage age now. One of us was a surprise to our parents. We were dressed alike, infact our older sister wore the same outfits we did. We liked it; then in our preteen years we dressed differently. But we have similar tastes so even if we didn’t shop together we often came home with identical clothes though sometimes in different colors.
    What we both disliked was being called the twins by everyone. Our names did not rhyme and we preferred to be called by them. Rarely happened.
    Now I am the surviving twin which is a whole other story. To say that I lost my other half doesn’t even cover it. It’s very complicated especially when new friends ask if I have siblings. I never felt I did, I had a mirror sister. I know that my mere survival brings so much pain to family because I remind them of the other who is no longer with us.
    Not that you asked, but to you parents of twins, especially identical twins, do not worry about how you treat us, dress us etc. We have a whole interaction you will rarely understand and cannot change even if you worry a lot or try to.

  11. While it’s probably not even close to the same thing, I’m sure identity issues could come up for children of different ages that are constistantly dressed identically. Children of differing ages get lumped together as well.. “the kids”, “the girls”, “the boys” etc.

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