Twinsters: A Movie Review

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Categories Adoption, Book Reviews, Identical, Multiples in the News, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Imagine that a friend sends you a Youtube link to check out. You open it only to find that it features you… except that you never did what you see in the recording. There’s someone out there who looks and moves exactly like you. Could you possibly have a long-lost twin?

This is how Anaïs learned that she might have a biological sister. Samantha was adopted from South Korea when she was and raised across the Atlantic Ocean. The story of how Anaïs and Samantha learned of each other, connected, and eventually met is shared with us in intimate documentary form in Twinsters, currently streaming on Netflix in the US.

Twinsters Movie flier. A remarkable story of identical twins separated at birth.

My 11-year-old identical twin daughters and I watched this movie together. We knew all along that the two young women would confirm through DNA testing that they were identical twins. Still, we were swept up in the suspense as they waited for answers.

As we got to know Samantha and Anaïs, one American, one French, both adopted, both artists, my daughters couldn’t help but reflect on their own relationship, a connection they hold sacred and special. In one of her frequent jaw-dropping insights, M wondered out loud whether twins raised apart might become more alike than those raised together. After all, she pointed out, they don’t have the same pressures on them to claim their unique identities. She’s well aware that both she and her sister sometimes make choices simply to be different from one another.

Although you might be tempted to head over to Netflix immediately to watch this movie with your young children, I offer a word of caution. Samantha has a foul mouth, and Anaïs’ isn’t much better. There is a lot of casual profanity in this movie, so if that is something that bothers you, save Twinsters for the grownups. My kids are mature enough to know that hearing F-bombs used by others doesn’t make using them acceptable in our family. They had already had exposure to these words at school. (In fact, the only profanity allowed in our home, by order of my daughter J, is “Brad Dingleman.” Jenny Lawson fans will get the reference.) Still, we discussed how uncomfortable her language made us feel and I reiterated that her swearing choices made it harder for us to connect with her.

Twin expert Nancy Segal, who has been kind enough to guest post for us in the past, plays a prominent role in helping Anaïs and Sam find answers. Her understanding of twin relationships, in all their guises, has literally filled books. Even more than her presence on the screen, her understanding of twin relationships and what can make them so wondrous is apparent throughout the film.

One huge thing we loved about this story is that it wasn’t just about discovering twin identity. The young women also explored their identities as adoptees, as South Korean in name only, as infants given up by a woman who still insists that they were never born to her. They reconnected with the Korean women who fostered them as infants. They don’t share a language with these women, but they do share love, compassion, and gratitude.

While not a primary focus of Twinsters, we also get some insight into how Sam and Anaïs’ families deal with the shock of discovering that they have another family member out there. Obviously, families with adopted children are already ready to open their hearts to atypical relationships. Nonetheless, my heart warmed at seeing the way in which Anaïs gained not only a sister, but all her sister’s brothers too. I can’t even imagine the feelings the parents had, realizing that there was another child out there that could have easily been theirs.

The thing about real life is that it doesn’t have neat endings. The circumstances of their birth and the reasons they were split up continue to be mysteries to Anaïs and Sam. Sam embraced the exploration of her history more easily than Anaïs, for whom adoption presented a greater trauma than it did for Sam. In each other, though, they both found healing and joy.

Take the time watch Twinsters (without the kids, please) and let us know what you think!

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Kids are Different – More Different When They’re Not Identical Twins

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Categories Education, Identical, Individuality, Parenting, Siblings, Talking to Kids8 Comments

“My kids are totally different,” I tell anyone who will listen.

Identical twins aren’t identical people, after all. They’re siblings who happen to have matching DNA and several months as wombmates.

One of my girls gets anxious more easily than the other. One is loving her Orff ensemble, while the other has us scheduled to attend a sculpture demonstration this weekend. One is all about T-shirts and sweatpants, while the other can spend an hour matching a new top to the perfect skirt.

In celebrating my twin daughters as individuals, I forget, sometimes, how similar they are. Their shared DNA, the shared crucible of our single parent home, and being in the same school and extracurricular programs all contribute to similar interests and abilities.

Girls Scouts: The Reality Check

I’m a Girl Scout leader. Exhausting though it is, I love it. I get to have 9 extra daughters, in addition to a supportive community of other adults who mentor girls from age 5 to 18.

5 Girl Scouts posing. Girl Scout leaders get to experience a massive variation in abilities and interests. The the identical twin kids are different!

Girl Scout meetings, field trips, and cookie sales have made me realize that my daughters are far more alike than different. While my troop runs the gamut in mathematical ability from struggling with subtraction to bored with basic algebra, my daughters are the ones who see math in everything they do. I see all sorts of behavior when the troop is together, but my girls tend to have the narrow repertoire of hard work, silliness, and sulking. My daughters are among the most extroverted in the troop. They’re also the shortest.

One of the moms in my troop is leading the Geocaching badge. I usually plan out badge work myself or help one or two of the girls come up with the plan. I thought it would be nice to share some hard-earned wisdom with the mom on her first badge-leading escapade:

Don’t assume all the girls have the same background knowledge. You may need to cover basics like “the world is a sphere” when explaining latitude and longitude.

Then I remembered that she has two kids of different ages. She deals with different levels of knowledge and ability every single day. She doesn’t need my advice on handling differences in ability. I’m the one who needed that advice, because I’m the one wearing identical twin blinders.

Would I parent differently if I had kids of different ages with a greater variety of talents and interests? I would definitely spend more time marveling at how similar my identical twin daughters really are in contrast.

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12 Bizarre Comments About Identical Twins

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Categories humor, Identical, Other peopleTags , 34 Comments

We twin mothers love to trade notes on the odd and ignorant comments and questions we get from strangers. Most of the time, we’re given an opportunity to educate and for people to coo over our little ones. Standard questions include “Are they natural?” and “Can you tell them apart?”.

I’m used to those questions. Then, there are these questions. The comments I’m sharing here came from a completely different place. These questions didn’t come from ignorance or curiosity.

They came from Cuckooland.

  1. What are they mixed? It turns out that the person asking this oddly phrased question wanted to know about my daughters’ ancestry/racial makeup. The comment-maker was herself biracial and was curious about my triracial girls. They are half Bengali (South Asian/Indian/choose your term), quarter Mexican (Hispanic/Native North American/Spanish) and quarter Caucasian (Scottish/Irish/French). I prefer the terms “people”, “children”, and “American”. “Twin-American” if you insist on hyphenation.sadia2toddlercarry
  2. How could you not rhyme their names? This question was posed to me by a mother of boy/girl twins whose daughter was in the same jazz dance class as my daughters. I am rarely left speechless, but she managed it. I came back with some weak answer about not wanting to echo the plight of the monozygotic twins in our family named Janice and Janet."How could you not rhyme their names?" asks one mother of twins to another. And other odd questions.
  3. Why do you dress them alike? Granted, this is less cuckoo than the other questions on this list, but the assumption that there could only be one way to do things drives me batty. When they were babies, it was because we were given so many matching outfits at our baby showers. And because it’s adorable. Once they per past age one, it was because M and J had opinions of their own.Twins in coordinating outfits are adorable! And twins in uncoordinated outfits? Equally adorable...
  4. Why don’t you dress them alike? I’ve actually gotten this question on the very same day as Number 10. When they were babies, it was because it was way too much hassle to keep them coordinated. Also, J tended to want to be cooler than M, so she wore fewer layers. Once they were past age one, it was because J and M had opinions of their own.J and M didn't care to dress alike on this particular day. They get to have a say in the matter. From hdydi.com
  5. Which one’s the good one? I still don’t have a witty comeback for this one. Interestingly, I’ve only ever received this question from males.Twins in the real world do not come in "good" and "evil" flavours.
  6. Which is the original? Which one is the clone? Oh my. I wish I had a couple of hours to sit down with this guy and give him some basic lessons in fetal development. And manners. Sadly, I didn’t have the time, so I just said, “That’s not how twins work. If you cut an apple in half, there isn’t an original side and a copy side. Each is a full half in its own right.” This wasn’t the best metaphor to use, but it was what I could think of while holding two crying babies and checking out of the grocery store with apple-pear-sauce ingredients.Identical twins no more consistent of  an "original" and a "copy" than halves of an apple.
  7. Do they have different personalities? I tried to imagine the internal world of this person. They must imagine identical twins all over the world walking around in lockstep and speaking at the same time.Some people have some odd assumptions about twins.
  8. Do they have different names? I’m not George Foreman. Unlike Mr. Foreman, most twin parents do not give their children the same name.
  9. If I pinch one, does the other feel it? No. Just no.
  10. Do they have ESP? I mustered up my creepiest stare.These are not the twins with ESP you are looking for.
  11. Were you pregnant for 18 months? I felt bad for this girl. She seemed to be college aged, but may have been younger. Her question was so genuine and her affection for the babies so honest, I didn’t have the heart for snark. I just told her that no, the babies started growing at the same time and grew at the same rate as regular ones, so I just got really big. I didn’t think she could handle any information about prematurity while she processed that.Sadia and her husband, while expecting. From M and J's Birth Story from hdydi.com
  12. They are not identical. They’re wearing different colours. Here’s how I usually handle this type of comment. In this case, I just said, “‘Identical’ is more about how twins grew in the womb than how they look.” Sometimes, you have to pick your battles.Identical twins can wear different clothes. However, some people out and about will be very confused by this. The oddest questions faced by a mom of twins.

What’s the most oddball question or comment you’ve received so far?

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Identical Twin Confusion

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Categories Identical, Older Children4 Comments

It’s hard to a mother to see her children the way the rest of the world does. While I know that my daughters are monozygotic, I forget that the casual observer sees them as looking alike. They look so different to me.

Today, we went to the local YMCA so that I could exercise while M and J went into the pre-teen lounge. We all had to scan our IDs to enter. J skipped in ahead of me and scanned her card. Beep. M scanned hers. No beep. She asked whether her card had been recognized.

Simultaneously, the YMCA employee at the front desk and I responded. I said, “I didn’t hear a beep” just as the employee looked at her screen and said, “Yes, it went through.” M ran off after her sister.

The employee smiled at me. “She got to the desk before you, right?”

I smiled back. “No, that was her identical twin.”

We laughed. And I remembered that to so many people, my daughters took like one person.

Twins J and M in their dance attire. They look completely different to mom, but not to the casual observer.

Readers with monozygotic (identical) multiples, do people ever fail to recognize that, as another daycare mom said to, “There are two of them!”?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Are Newborn Twins Aware of Each Other?

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Mothers of infant twins sometimes ask when they can expect their babies to start interacting with each other. Anecdotally speaking, it appears that this is yet another thing that varies wildly between different sets of twins. It seems quite common for a newborn infant to seem quite unaware of the existence of his or her twin.

My monozygotic daughters, though, always appeared aware of each other. They were separated for 20 days after birth. As soon as J left the NICU to join her twin M at home, she made it perfectly clear that she was aware of her sister, at some level.

I placed both babies on a blanket on the floor, a few inches apart.

Newborn twins, placed a few inches apart, find that expanse to be far too wide for comfort.

After a diaper change, J stretched and wriggled…

Newborn twins, reunited after their stays in the NICU, seem to seek each other out.

…and wriggled and stretched, until she was squished up against her sister. Only then did she fall asleep.

Newborn twins seek each out the comfort of their wombmate.

In nearly every photograph I have of M and J together their first few months, their heads are turned toward each other.

These weeks-old twins turn toward each other instinctively.They both liked to fall asleep holding onto Sister’s hair. As you might imagine, this didn’t often end well. I took to placing a fuzzy blanket above their heads when they were particularly stubborn, to give them both something to hold that didn’t also pull on the other’s scalp.

When did your multiples seem to become aware of each other?

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Toddler Thursday: Relating to Other Siblings

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Categories Birth Order, Identical, Individuality, Relationships, SiblingsTags , , , , 11 Comments

I dreamed of my three girls playing together as I incubated my twins, conjuring images of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. They would join their big sister and embark on a lifetime of adventures in adorable rompers. I took notice of sisters at the park, studying their bonds and dreaming of how close-knit my girls would be. Shortly after the twins were born, I found myself pregnant again, and gave birth to another girl. A houseful of ladies. Feelings. Hormones. Hairbrushes.

Though we have four children, we have no middle child, and that has made a big difference in how they relate to one another. Hailey and Robin, our identical twin girls, have such a unique, close relationship with each other that they don’t fit the typical description of a neglected middle child. There isn’t (yet) much competition between the girls, and so their accomplishments are celebrated by their siblings as though they are all teammates. They also coalesce in relative harmony by fulfilling roles that have developed organically.

mamaread1

I could tell in the months after the twins were born that my oldest desperately needed a role, a more solid identity. Her family became a five-some and the twin babies were a novelty to every guest who visited. She quickly became the leader. As the twins grew, began talking and moving, big sister was there to guide the play, teach them new tricks and show them boundaries. She may have delighted in kicking them out of her bedroom a little too fervently, but she found her stride as the leader.

When the youngest girl was born, Hailey and Robin were still too young to grasp the concept, but our oldest found a comrade in arms. Her role as leader and the baby’s role as the ‘other singleton’ fused a bond that rivals the twins. Big sister and littlest sister have become two peas in a pod, leaving Hailey and Robin to happily continue forging their special twin connection.

mamaswim1

Our twin girls share a closeness far deeper than a sister connection. I’m sure as the girls grow, the singletons will experience feeling left out of that special closeness. Like every tribulation in parenting, we’ll tackle that when it arises using empathy and respect. Most of the time, our daily (mis)adventures are a scene of four girls, not divided into teams, but united as a foursome.

We have tried to let the oldest be the leader, because the younger ones delight in idolizing her, and falling into line under her command. We might let the baby get away with more (we’re exhausted after just going through it all with twins, for goodness’ sakes!), but her big sisters seem to enjoy doting on her as well. The twins continue to attract attention wherever we go, and their sisters are there to put them on display and chat to interested observers.

I’m not sure to what I should credit the closeness between these four girls, but I suppose that is part of the magic to sibling relationships, isn’t it?

SarahNSarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Fostering the Twinness

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Categories Identical, Independence, Individuality, Parenting Twins, Same GenderTags 3 Comments

Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Type-A. I research, I make lists, I have a five-year-plan. True to my nature, when I was pregnant with my twin girls, I did a lot of information-gathering. This included reading up on what it is like to be a twin, what growing up as a twin entails, and watching documentaries about twins. My methods were unscientific and perhaps a little narrow in focus. I watched one particularly memorable documentary about the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, that featured the lives of a few adult twins. I was particularly horrified by a set of identical girl twins who were in their fifties, lived together, dressed alike, were incredibly co-dependent, and had no prospects for marrying, or living separate lives.

Basically, I was jolted into a paranoia that my unborn girls would become sideshow spinster sisters.

I made a silent vow that I wouldn’t ever treat my girls like twins, I’d never call them “the twins,”, never dress them alike, never give them the same bedding, nothing. They would just be two girls with the same birthday.

popsicles1We all know what happens when parents-to-be vow they will never do something, right? See, the thing is, the girls are two and a half now. I see them growing, both as individuals and as twin sisters. I have been pretty committed to fostering their independence and individuality, but I have also come to see that regardless of parenting choices, these girls have an innate, unique bond. And who, exactly, am I to tinker with that?

Sure, there’s the twin language, the monkey-see-monkey-do behaviour, the early development of interactive play between the two of them, but there’s something else. Something that can’t quite be measured, or even labelled. I see it when they spontaneously hold hands when we’re on a walk. When I check on them before I go to bed, and see them spooning in one bed. When they both draw very similar pictures on opposite ends of the table.

There is a very special connection between these two girls, more than the one they share with their other sisters, more than the one I know with my own sister. These girls have spent their days together since they were a single cell. When I think of the miracle of it all, I know I have to honour what makes them so special and celebrate it, rather than try to quash it.

I’ll just make sure they understand they will one day grow up and lead separate lives, or at the very least, in separate bedrooms.

 

SarahNSarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Allow Myself to Introduce … Myself

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Categories HDYDI Blog, Identical, Prematurity, SAHM, Toddlers4 Comments

Like many of you, I have developed an arsenal of responses to, “wow, you have your hands full!” and “do twins run in your family?”. I, too, was once guilty of saying such things, in my life pre-twins, (which seems so long ago). Now, I am guilty of noticing a twin mom across the supermarket, the parking lot or the playground and excitedly making my way over to her (as naturally as possible) and striking up a conversation. There’s a really special camaraderie amongst twin moms, isn’t there? We’ve been in trenches other mamas just don’t understand. (No, not even if your kids are 13 months apart and “pretty much twins.”)

So when I discovered this resource through another blogger twin mama friend (Hi Sarabeth!), I excitedly steeped a cup of tea, put the girls down for their nap, and settled in to sip chai and pour through these archives. I laughed, I nodded my head in agreement, and found some shared experiences summarized eloquently in words I hand’t thought to use myself.

A friend of mine from journalism school recently delivered twins, and we’ve been messaging back and forth. She said something that struck me: twin moms are really special people, a class unto our own. We are helpful, nurturing, laid-back, and understanding of exactly what to say or what gesture to offer another twin mom in a moment of need. We know. We get it.

In that spirit of celebration and of admiring what exactly sets us apart from other people’s parenting experiences, I was happy to join in the conversation. So, hi! I’m Sarah!

xmas2I have four young girls, two of whom are identical twins. They were born after some infertility and loss heartbreak, so they are know as our miracle babies. They were born early, but since our hospital didn’t have a NICU, we helped keep them warm, fed and happy as best we could, since they weren’t born with any difficulties other than being teensy (3 lb 12 oz and 4 lb 4 oz!). That’s pretty much what we’ve tried to keep up with: keeping them warm, fed and happy! Anything else is just icing on the cake, and way above my aspiration level, most days.

rain1We are currently working on toilet training, going to sleep at a reasonable hour in their shared bedroom, and staying at the side of the road when we go for walks in our neighbourhood. Baby steps!

 

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Twins and Shared Memory

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Identical, Older Children, Parenting TwinsLeave a comment

After I wrote my post on my daughter M confusing her sister’s experiences with her own, a several moms said that they’d seen similar things with their twin girls.

I tried to get an explanation of the phenomenon from my daughters, but verbal as they are, they are only 8. Their experience is the only normal they know, so they couldn’t find the words to make sense of it for me.

I approached a coworker who is an identical twin herself and asked her whether she had similar experiences. She said she did. She and her sister have shared memories in which they have no idea which sister was the subject of the memory. In fact, memories she creates now, whether or not her sister is around, are in the third person, as if she’s watching herself. Those of us who aren’t twins don’t have much experience in seeing what we look like from others’ perspectives!

I then sat down with M and apologized for being so incredulous at her confusing her sister’s activities with her own. I told her I’d spoken with my friend and thought I understood a bit better now.

“I’m disappointed in you,” she told me pointedly.
“About what part?”
“All of it,” she said, “except talking to your friend.”
“I’m sorry.”

Once again, I’m reminded that I can never fully understand The Twin Thing.

What twin experiences are a mystery to you?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Confusing Twins

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Categories Identical, Parenting Twins, Relationships4 Comments

Some people find themselves confusing my twins. It usually doesn’t last more than a few hours of interaction, since they’re not shy when it comes to correcting people, have distinct haircuts, dress differently, and have rather different personalities.

Sure, people confuse twins from time to time. But when the twins get themselves confused, it's truly befuddling.

Last night, I discovered an altogether new level of confusion.

A friend and I were going to slip out to dinner, leaving our kids with her husband. Since my daughters are offered their evening meal at afterschool care, but don’t always eat it, I asked them whether they’d eaten. They both reported that they had, so I didn’t worry about it.

As I was pulling up to my friend’s house, M suddenly spoke up. “Oh! I didn’t eat dinner.”

“But,” I replied, confused, “you told me you did.”

“I know. I confused myself with J.”

“You thought you were J?”

“I thought I’d eaten dinner because she’d eaten dinner, but now I realize that she isn’t me.”

I can’t begin to comprehend how two people can have this degree of interconnectedness.

Have your multiples ever been similarly confused? Is this a thing, or do I simply have the oddest children ever?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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