Earlier this month, our identical twin girls were at the health unit for 4-month check-ups and their immunizations. Of course, they were measured and weighed. To my surprise, our “smaller” baby now weighs more than her “bigger” sister. I knew she’d been eating more often than her sister recently, but I didn’t really expect she’d have caught up with and passed her “older” sister.
As I reflected on this new information, I realized that even though I have told myself I wouldn’t label the girls I still had this picture in my mind of our “younger” daughter as our “little baby”. Until now, our “younger” daughter (by 4 minutes) had been about half a pound smaller, she had spent a little bit of time in the nursery after she was born, and she’s had a minor medical condition. I guess I expected her to continue to be the smaller baby, and I even imagined her as the more fragile baby.
In retrospect, the picture I formed conveniently left out lots of information. Our “younger” baby was the first one to roll over, weeks before her sister did. She was also the first one to smile. In many ways her “older” sister has recently needed more care and attention because she’s been having ongoing problems with diaper rash. But, with my picture of this small, fragile baby in mind, I only looked for information that affirmed my view.
I can now appreciate how easy it is for outsiders assign labels to multiples. Usually they chose opposites or dichotomies like big/little, quiet/loud, calm/fussy, etc to try and differentiate between multiples. Without even realizing it, I was doing it. I was trying to figure out how these two little babies, who look and act so much alike, are really unique individuals. I didn’t want to treat them as identical clones, who have the same appearance, the same personality, and the same needs, so I overcompensated because I wanted them to somehow be different.
I am already certain that finding a balance between what is the same and what is different is going to be an ongoing challenge for my daughters and me. As a parent, I want to protect my children from labels. I want them to have the opportunity, as they grow and develop their own personalities, to be unique individuals. At the same time, I want them to learn to value to the special blessing they have as twins. The challenge will be to ensure that all of my children, both the girls and their older brother, are treated equitably, so they each get what they need regardless of age, gender, birth order, size, hair colour etc…
I am also struggling with how to identify my children in my writing while maintaining their privacy. I’m looking for names or nicknames to differentiate them without assigning them characteristics they don’t yet possess or reinforcing dichotomies. It is proving to be a challenge, but hopefully in my next posting I will introduce my children.