can i make my twins wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?

Nearly everyone has an opinion about dressing twins alike. (Mine? It’s adorable when they’re little, but a luxury people who dress mostly in hand-me-downs can rarely afford!) My boys have a handful of matched shirts — gifts from their grandma, or the fruit of a Target clearance rack. Every so often they like to dress alike, and cackle together about their plans to confuse people. For the most part, though, they dress in totally different things.

It has not helped people tell them apart, except that once a person asks, “Are you G or P?” he or she can keep track more easily for the rest of the day.

All last school year they had different haircuts, but still very few of their classmates and teachers could remember who was who.

This year they have a wonderful teacher I trust. I know he cares about them as individuals, and is working hard to learn to tell them apart. They have the same haircut now, and it obscures the two easiest “tells” — their different hairlines, and a fading scar on one boy’s forehead.

As I said last year in one of my many *upset* posts [that got me crying again reading it now],

…my little boys …are actual peoplewho deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

So I’m trying to help their teacher (and them) out, by color-coding them. G in green or grey, and P in blue.

Problem is, they don’t always want to wear their assigned colors. They understand why we’re doing this, but sometimes P wants to wear the grey shirt. Or they both want to wear blue shirts. I’m only comfortable pushing this up to a point.

What are your thoughts on this? My boys are 7. How hard should I push them to wear color-coded clothes to school? I feel like I am crossing some sort of civil rights line in the sand when I tell P he has to save his grey shirt for the weekend and wear the blue one like I asked.
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she teaches readers how to survive various life crises with materials commonly found in a 5-door family vehicle with seating for 7.

9 thoughts on “can i make my twins wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?

  1. Can it be a time-limited thing? I’m wondering if telling them that it’s now til…I don’t know, Halloween or Thanksgiving that they have to wear the color-coded shirts, and then you’ll do a check-in with the teacher to see whether he can tell them apart yet.

  2. Now I’m eyeing the (matching, pink) Thing 1 and Thing 2 t-shirts I just bought my 3 year old girls :)

    (They were cheap! And cute! And have both thing one and thing two on them)

    99% of the time (ok, maybe 90%), I let them pick what they want to wear, and they almost never pick matching… and that’s OK.

  3. I never had both siblings of identicals in my classroom, but I needed to interact with both throughout the school year, so I did make an extra effort to tell the difference between the two. One set color-coded and one set identical dressed. Neither option was helpful in discerning differences! I would have preferred that each kid got to express him/herself as individuals.

    Color-coding is kind of a crutch. You don’t have to learn the person, just their clothes. I wouldn’t want to do that beyond the first couple weeks of school. As a teacher, it wouldn’t help me learn to tell them apart. I know you had a crappy experience last year, but it sounds like you have a great teacher this year. Give him some suggestions for how you tell them apart, teach your boys to always tell the truth about who they are and that it is important for them to speak up if they are mis-identified. Then let them express themselves in their style of hair and dress.
    Good luck!

  4. Another option that we’ve used to help both teachers and ourselves when looking back at pictures is to go with stripes and solids. That way, we have a broader range of colors, and fewer objections. It does get harder as we’re buying more used clothing to get nice “sets” to go together, and we don’t do it if we’re going to see people who already know them. I like the ideas of setting a time limit, or asking the teacher what would help him
    It is great to have a teacher who cares!

  5. How about something they wear every day? Like shoe laces or even shoes? That way they can wear what they want but one always has green shoe laces and the other blue? Much cheaper than buying color-coded clothing.
    My twins are not at all identical but dress similarly. Not the same. They have sets of outfits that go together in coloring or style but are different. I find it less stressful than wondering if one is too hot or too cold and since they are toddlers I can easily remember what one kid is wearing based on what the other has on when one inevitably runs off. We buy almost all their clothing second-hand, I’m just pretty good at finding complementary outfits. I thunk I’d be sunk if I limited it to one color for each kid.

  6. My identical twin girls are in Kindergarten this year. I agree with Jill. Except for rare occasions, I never dress my girls the same or even pick out their clothes for them now that they are almost 6. For the last 2 years, during preschool, my girls chose to wear their favorite color frequently. Their preschool teacher relied on color to tell them apart and when they happened to wear a different color or worse her sister’s favorite color, the teacher floundered. Their teacher’s aide got to know the girls individually and she never had trouble telling them apart, even on the rare days they decided to wear identical outfits.

    Color coding your children is a useful crutch for a limited time or in limited situations, but long term I think it does them a disservice. In fact, any physical clues (taller, curlier hair, etc.) seem to distract from getting to know the girls as individuals. I’ve taught my girls to speak up and identify themselves when asked and correct people who incorrectly guess their identity. When people start talking to them and getting to know them, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart.

    I would suggest letting your boys make their own choices about clothing and giving the teacher a chance to figure it out on his own.

  7. My twins look nothing alike but there are a set of identical twin girls in their daycare class. The mom dresses them in identical outfits every day. When they were infants she painted one girls toes, then she moved on to just different socks. While first impression I hated that they were always dressed alike because it stressed that they were one unit. In the long run I actually think it helped. Even though I see them for less than 5 minutes a day during drop off, I have started to notice the different facial features and personalities (one is shy and keeps to herself, the other is very outgoing and always says hi to everyone that walks in the room). I know you have been through a lot with your boys’ teachers but once the teacher figures out who is who, I don’t think you need to worry about sticking to color coding. I like Torie’s comment, color code for the teacher for awhile until he really gets to know the boys and then let the boys decide what they want to do.

  8. We have color-coded from the beginning, Andrew in blue and Will in something else. They’re almost 3, and I’m not sure they care what they wear…although they are starting to notice. Like, Will wondered why Andrew wore the blue swimsuit for lessons, but he wore white. Then again, their toddler group teacher (we saw once a week), never figured out my system nor did she figure out who was who for the whole year.

    I do think it is a crutch for people, but at this age, I don’t care. I think once they’re a bit older–grade school, we might try it for the first few weeks. I also color code shoes, just so it’s easier for me to grab the right pair for the right kid, my guess is that would be a good last resort.

  9. I like the idea of a colored accessory of some sort, like shoelaces. I don’t blame them for not wanting to wear their color everyday. I wouldn’t want to do that either. Would they be willing to wear a watch or put a little scratch off tattoo on their hand once a week or something like that to help the teacher?

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