My ex-husband and I decided early on not to tell the girls who was born first, because we thought that introducing an older-younger sibling dynamic to our twins’ relationship wouldn’t be healthy. Reanbean has written on this topic on HDYDI before.
My family hails from Bangladesh, a tiny country in South Asia, surrounded on three sides by India, and on the other by the Indian Ocean. The culture is a very hierarchical one, and birth order is of great significance. Our having twins seriously messes with that hierarchy. I have a cousin living in Missouri who 9-year-old son is constantly perplexed by how to fit his twin cousins into the family hierarchy. He pesters me relentlessly to tell him who is older, to which I consistently respond, “They’re the same age.”
His question is a practical one. Kinship terms in Bengali hang on birth order. A paternal uncle who is older than your father is your Chacha; one who is younger is a Kaka. A younger sibling calls an older brother or male cousin Bhaiya, while the older sibling just uses the younger’s name. The female older sibling term is Apa. I recently learned that I’ve been committing a major faux pas by calling my brother-in-law Dula Bhai. Since he’s married to my younger sister, I should refer to him by name even though I’m younger than he is.
My refusal to label my daughters as older and younger has really messed with the family order on the Bangladeshi side. I feel for my cousin’s son and his confusion. I’ve been calling my brother-in-law the wrong thing for 3 years now.
Not long ago, I found myself unable to deflect the birth order question. I’ll tell you how it went another day. The result wasn’t the one I’d expected.
Sadia is a single mom of 6-year-old monozygotic girls living in Central Texas.