J was pulled out of my body a full 2 minutes before her sister M, because it was her amniotic sac that had ruptured while M’s remained intact.
I didn’t tell the girls their birth order for 6 years. When people asked them who was older–why is that no one ever asks who is younger?–they’d simply say, “We’re same age sisters. We’re twins. No one’s older.”
Not every curious stranger was satisfied with this answer, although it did stop the majority of them from pushing for a definitive response. Interrogated further, I had a canned answer for my inquisitors:
I’ve avoided telling the girls who was born first, because people automatically assign birth order stereotypes to children. They expect the older one to be more mature, more responsible, sometimes even smarter. That makes sense, I suppose, for kids born at different times. I know from my own experience that being an older sibling makes you grow up and take responsibility. My children are the same age as one another. The random order in which they were removed–by C-section, mind you–from my womb shouldn’t dictate how people see them. They’ve got enough stereotypes to contend with being identical twins.
One response to my spiel got my then-husband’s blood pounding. This friend of a friend said something along the lines of, “That’s stupid. Why would anyone assign birth order stereotypes to multiples?” The girls’ dad whispered in my ear, “I dunno. Why would anyone ask what order they were born in? That’s stupid too.”
For 6 years, cute innocent answers from little girls and canned responses from mommy kept me from needing to tell M and J who had been born first. They did refer to each other as “big sister” and “little sister,” based on height differences. My daughter M tells me that the trick to telling apart the 3 sets of identical twins split between her class and J’s is that, “the shorties are all in my class.”
One day, though, my Grand Plan for Birth Order Question Response stopped working. I was distracted, filling out paperwork in a waiting room, while several garrulous women pushed J and M for an answer on who was older. I heard J say, “She’s older,” and turned to see her pointing at M.
“No,” I told her firmly. “You’re the same age. J, you came out of my belly first.”
I thought this was the beginning of the end. All the birth order stereotypes of the universe were going to descend on my daughters and smother them.
Two days later, the question came again: “Who’s older?”
J’s answered floored me: “I came out first, but we’re the same age.”
As in most matters of parenting, I needn’t have worried so much.
Do your multiples know their birth order? Are their personalities typical of the older child/younger child dynamic?
Sadia overthinks her parenting decisions in Austin, TX, where she takes a break from single mommyhood by going to her full time job in higher education information technology.