Guest Post and Book Giveaway: Elise Bruderly

Today, we have a special treat for you: a guest post and book giveaway from twin mom and author Elise Bruderly. If you’d like to win a copy of her book, be sure to enter the giveaway below! Now, hear her story in her own words. – Sadia

Win a copy of Elise Bruderly's book Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year

 

In May of 2005, I found out I was expecting twins.

As I “recovered” from the shock of this news, I said, “Someday I’m going to write a book about this!” And that day has come. Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is the handbook I wish I had, to guide me through the ups and downs and twists and turns of that first year as a parent of twins. The book weaves together actual stories and journal entries from that first year, with practical parenting advice and ideas, as well as a focus on the emotional journey, and growth, required. I hope that this book serves as both an inspiration and a source of reassurance for expectant parents and parents in the midst of that first year.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the book.

from Chapter 6: How Parenting Twins is Different

How to be a Parent of Twins

When you think about how to parent twins and how to be a parent of twins you really must consider two areas of growth.  First is the actual, physical “doing” of life.  These are the “how to clone yourself” questions, like, how to get two babies a bath when you are home alone, how to pick up two crying babies, what to do when the phone rings and your arms are full.  You can learn how to do all of these things- either with advice from other parents of multiples, from books, or by trial and error.  Never be afraid to try a new idea, and never stop trying new ideas.  As your babies grow and develop things will change, sometimes by the hour.  What did not work yesterday might work today and what you wish would work today might very well work in a few days if you stick with it.  Becoming capable with the tasks of parenting twins is both liberating and confidence-building, two essential traits for your continued journey as a parent.  The sooner you make peace with yourself- giving yourself permission to try something new, and not feeling silly if the whole idea fails- the easier you will find the ongoing tasks of parenting twins.

The being a parent of twins is much harder to learn and much more abstract to describe.  I have often felt “out of step” with friends and others raising singleton children the same age as my babies.  Nothing ever felt quite the same to me as it appeared to be for my friends- the lack of sleep, the ability (or not) to get out of the house.  When a parent is already struggling to adapt to their new role, feeling alone in that role can be even more demoralizing.  I will never forget the first time I felt this difference square in the face.

My babies were born in the late summer and came home in the early fall.  It was a long, cold winter where we did not get out very much.  By the time they were around seven months old I was feeling more capable and a more pressing desire to “be normal.”  I started taking them to a baby playgroup that was held at the library.  There was fifteen minutes of songs and stories and then forty five minutes for the babies and parents to interact with toys and each other.  I saw, quite quickly, what two babies meant for me.  While others picked up their child and moved around the floor, checking out different toys and talking to others while swinging their baby in their arms, I sat on the floor with my babies- in one spot while reaching out to grab a toy here or there that made its way over to our area.  I was not mobile in the least, and, as such, I was not social.  It’s not that others were mean to me, it’s just that they were doing what they could do and did not realize my limitations.

We continued attending the playgroup, and talked to those who might be around us.  I watched others make coffee dates for afterwards and thought to myself that I wasn’t sure my “lunar lander” could even maneuver into or around the coffee shop.  I thought that perhaps I was too much work to be friends with, I couldn’t zip around with a little stroller, or walk around with one arm full of baby and the other with my hot drink.  I wished very much to feel less isolated and wondered if I was having fun.

How did I learn to be a parent of twins?  How did I learn to embrace the challenges and enjoy the moments?  It was a journey, to be sure.  It required building confidence in my parenting decisions both big and small.  It required perseverance- attending those playgroups where I felt alone, getting through failed trips to the store, talking myself through the hard days of nursing through growth spurts, and functioning on a severe lack of sleep.  It required reaching-out, feeling awkward and uncomfortable at times, and making new friends who were parents of twins.  It required an ability to laugh at myself, knowing that there is just nothing that can be done when babies decide to explode through their diapers and spit-up all over at the same time.  It requires “digging deep” to find that better self that is there inside of you and accessible only when you want it and need it so badly.  I’ve often heard that things are given only to those who can handle them.  Personally, I believe that handling the challenges makes us that person.

When you are expecting twins, or are learning to be the parent of twins, what you must know and remember is this:  The road will never be quite as smooth as you might wish and you might never master juggling.  But if you remember to love your children and remember that you are doing the very best you can, you will find the energy and strength to get through the day.  Each day is the beginning of a new adventure and each adventure will provide a smile once you learn to recognize the moments.

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Elise Bruderly, MSW, LMSW, lives with her husband and boy/girl twins in Dexter, Michigan where she enjoys the ongoing adventure of parenting twins.  Parenting Twins: The Handbook for Containing Chaos and Preserving Memories in the First Year is available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com.

Awkward Conversations

All summer long, I’ve had two or three kids with me wherever I’ve gone. Big Sis is in preschool half-day mornings, but all our afternoon outings consist of myself, pushing two 20mo b/g twins in a double stroller, which their 4yo sister is skipping next to. Or, in a store, it would be the twins up front sharing the child seat (they just barely fit now), and Big Sis usually in the main basket (she prefers to ride) with my wallet/phone/keys and items to be purchased. It is clearly obvious I have three young children, and I “have my hands full,” which is usually the gist of all my conversations at the mall, store, or park.

However, we’ve also been frequenting an indoor playground about once a week. They’re wonderfully confined spaces for kids to run off their energy, safely climb to their heart’s content, play with other kids, all while Mommy gets to blissfully sit by the sidelines without having to constantly chase after them. Today, since it was so incredibly hot (over 100), I took them for the afternoon. Big Sis has always just taken off at these places without a backward glance, and now the twins are following her lead. So I struck up a conversation with a nearby mom whose baby was crawling around at lightening speed. I noticed a couple older kids flocking around her as well.

Me: “They sure get around fast once they start moving huh?”

Her: “Oh ya, she’s going everywhere.”

Me: “So these 3 are yours?”

Her: “Oh no, just the two girls. If I had three I’d kill myself.” (Some exasperated eye rolling.)

Me: (Uhhhh… Awkward chuckle.)

I found out her girls are 6 and 1. I chose not to tell her about my 4yo and 20mo and 20mo, but I’m sure eventually she figured it out, as 3 open mouths came running when I pulled out the snacks.

lunchldyd is annoyed that these kinds of conversations keep happening.

Twinfant Tuesday: “You’re done, right?”

There are so many topics on which I could write a Twinfant Tuesday post.  But, a topic that goes round and round in my head is the topic of “How to decide whether or not to have another baby (after twins).”

Considering another baby when you have twins. There's no one good time, and no one good reason.

Of course, this decision is completely individualized per family and not one you can give advice on. I’ve debated whether or not to post about this on HDYDI, since some friends and family periodically read this. But, screw it. This is honestly what’s on my mind.  And I’m curious how others answered this question for themselves.

It’s fascinating to me to talk to friends about how they decided when their family was “complete.” For some, it seems the number of kids was predetermined around the time of marriage: “Well, Joe comes from a family of three kids and I’m an only child, so we’ve always known we’d have two kids.” And that’s that. For others, it seems a very calculated decision: “With my income, divided by the cost of two college educations, multiplied by inflation to the second power, subtract my 401K…” For another group, it seems to be more an emotional decision: “What if we only have two and they don’t get along when they’re older? Three increases the chances that two will get along at any given time, and at least one will take care of me when I’m old.”

Of course, many people have made the cliché comment: “You had a boy/girl set of twins. Instant family! You’re done, right?” It’s been amusing to see how many people feel comfortable commenting on our family size. I can’t seem to remember what our expectations around family size were before infertility and having twins. The expectations apparently flew out the window when we had a hard time conceiving on our own and had twins.

I try to stay as mindful as possible with my almost 10-month twins during the waking hours and set all of this aside. I snap a gazillion photos. I giggle along with them, as they tackle each other and belly laugh. I close my eyes and take a deep breath when they snuggle with me to steal a sniff of their baby smell. But, when these little loves go to sleep, this question often crosses my mind. I make mental pros/cons lists. I say a little prayer of gratitude that infertility treatments left us in a place of being able to consider having more, while also wondering if we’d be “done,” like so many seem to want us to be, if we’d conceived twins on our own. Even though friends with singletons think we’re nuts to think about more, especially when our twins are ten months old, I do feel a clock ticking to make this decision.

If you had twins first, what was your experience like of deciding whether or not to have more children?  What factors came into play?

Relaxation Does Not Cause Pregnancy

I’ve heard my share of silly comments about being a mother of twins. You know what no one has ever said to me? “You must have been really relaxed to conceive two at once!”

So why do people feel the need to tell infertile women, “Just relax and it’ll happen!”?

Relaxation does not cause pregnancy. If it did, we’d have fertility spas and massage parlours, not clinics.

Just don't tell an infertile woman that the secret to getting pregnant is relaxing!Still, there seems to be this undeniable urge to respond to an infertile woman’s concerns about her inability to conceive with, “Relax and it will happen.”

I think it stems from our cultural discomfort with the idea of infertility. If the infertile woman stops talking to us about her infertility, we, her listeners, are the ones who get to relax. As long as we don’t hear about it, we don’t have to feel her anguish. After all, if she’s not talking about it, we don’t have to know about it. Infertility is silent as long as the infertile are silent.

“Relax and it will happen” silences those who try to speak out.

My challenge to you is to refuse to relax. Refuse to be silent. Own your infertility. Own your fertility. Fight for the motherhood you want. Mothers don’t relax when it comes to protecting their children. And mothers-at-heart don’t relax when it comes to making those children a reality.

Forget “Relax and it will happen”. Fight to make it happen.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Stacey’s Story: Coping with Infertility

This story of her path to parenthood comes from Stacey Skrysak. She gives voice to the many silently coping with infertility. This post was originally published in June 2013 when Stacey was expecting her triplets, Parker, Abby and Peyton. Stacey is a news anchor, MoM, and loss survivor. You can find her blogging about life with her surviving triplet at Perfectly Peyton.

It’s a topic that people don’t really talk about, infertility. For some reason it’s a taboo subject, yet so many people go through it. So why am I sharing my personal struggle? This isn’t a pity post… it’s not a “woe is me” moment. I want to share my story to help others going through a similar situation. Looking back at the last few years, having people I could relate to made my journey so much more bearable. Now I know the way that I got pregnant might go against some people’s morals, but I’m OK with not everyone approving. I am finally pregnant and happy to shout it from the rooftops!

Anyone that knows me would tell you I’m a strong girl. I’m happy and positive about 90% of the time. And while I wear my heart on my sleeve, I never want sympathy. I simply brush off anything that has happened to me as no big deal. But after years of heartache, I finally reached a breaking point. I remember visiting our close friends in Michigan last fall. When the topic of pregnancy came up, I cracked. I broke down and cried to them. Not just watering of the eyes. I’m talking big fat rolling-down-your-face tears. After years of telling people I’m fine, I finally realized it’s OK to let your friends in on your problems.

So how did I get to this point?

About three years ago I went in for a routine exam. A few days later I was in the hospital for surgery, missing parts of my ovaries due to massive cysts. The recovery was a long and painful process: 6 weeks at home recovering and complications ever since. Our doctor thought we should start trying to get pregnant, so I went on fertility drugs. No luck. I have had a surgery every year since then because my body just doesn’t want to heal. So on top of chronic pain, I was having trouble getting pregnant.

It’s funny… you spend so many years worrying about getting pregnant. I never thought in a million years that I would have trouble when I was ready. But month after month, that pregnancy test came back negative. And every month, my heart sank a little deeper. It became such a routine—I’m probably one of the few people that actually clip coupons for ovulation kits and pregnancy tests! (Yes, I’m a frugal shopper!!!)

Over the years I went through a roller coaster of emotions. It started out as frustration, then I started taking pity on myself. Why did God deal me this hand? So many nights I would lie awake as Ryan was sleeping next to me, sobbing in the dark. I was meant to be a mother, so why wasn’t it happening? I would cry because I didn’t understand why I was the one chosen to have neverending health problems. I would cry because of the financial burden of ongoing hospital bills. I would cry because I felt like no one understood. I would cry because I felt empty. I had a wonderful husband, a dog we treated as our child, yet I still felt all alone and empty, sinking further and further into a deep pit of sorrow.

And let me tell you, Facebook is not a place to be if you’re struggling to get pregnant. I’m in my 30′s, so just about everyday, an acquaintance was posting their wonderful news. Every time I saw a post like that, it was a blow to my gut. I would turn red in frustration and tear up. I’m not a person that gets jealous, but deep down I was. It is such an amazing moment in life… getting to share your pregnancy with your friends. And while I was genuinely SO happy for all of those people, I would cry because it wasn’t me. I’m not proud of that. I was secretly jealous, feeling like such a bad person. With years of trying, even my close friends would fear having to tell me their exciting news. And that, too, would break my heart.

Last summer, our doctor told us he thought we had an 8-10% chance of getting pregnant on our own. Rather than going through each option of fertility treatments, he thought it was best to go straight to IVF. So we signed up in the fall and had a few months of anticipation.

It was an exciting time, knowing that we finally would have a decent shot, but it was also a time of anger for me. I had already spent tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills and surgery, only to find out my insurance does not cover fertility treatment. WHY?!?! So, after hearing wonderful news that IVF might work, we have to scrounge up $10,000-$15,000 to pay for it? People get pregnant every day by accident and couples who are not trying end up with an “oops” child. Yet, I’m someone who longed to have a child and had to pay thousands of dollars just to try. It didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t.

The part that made me even more angry is that I live in a state where it is mandated that insurance companies cover the cost of fertility treatment. But, there are enough loopholes that most companies don’t end up paying.

Ryan and I began IVF at the beginning of the year. I won’t bore you with the details, but I can tell it is an emotionally trying and sometime painful process. You don’t just pay up and instantly have a child. I gave myself daily shots, my hormones went through the roof and I went through a lot of pain, not to mention the stress of whether it would work or not.

Needless to say, we were SO lucky. I am pregnant with triplets from our first round. So many couples go through it time and time and get with no luck. I had the best experience at the SIU fertility clinic in Springfield IL. Dr. Loret de Mola works magic. Plus his staff made my husband and me feel like we were all family.

As I write my story, tears are rolling down my face as I think back at all of the heartache over the years. But every time I see the babies’ heartbeats, those tears slowly turn to tears of joy. So what’s the moral of the story? I may be missing parts of my ovaries and have tubes that are blocked, but look at me.

I’m pregnant. What seems to be impossible can happen.

If you’re reading this and have gone through a similar situation, there are ways to get help. There are grants out there for financial help, as well as support groups. Just send me an email and I would be happy to help! May 7 is Advocacy Day. It’s a day where thousands of people will bring up the issue of infertility to Congress and raise awareness about the need for accessible medical treatment. Just look at Resolve’s website for more information.

For more of Stacey’s infertility story, read her more recent post “Infertility Woes“.

Thoughts on coping with infertility from a mother who has been there.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Sadia’s Perspective — On the Outside Looking In: What Infertility Means

Infertility from a fertile woman's perspective. You can't really understand if you haven't been through it.

I don’t really know what infertility means. I know the science and biology of it. I’ve witnessed the emotion and pain of it. But I’ve never experienced it. I don’t really know.

When we at How Do You Do It? decided to put together this week’s posts, to lay bare how infertility is a very real part of mothers of multiples culture, I volunteered to coordinate things. Because that’s what I do.

As I sat down to write the post calling for submissions, however, I found myself stumbling. Instead of the smooth way in which the words usually pour out when I’m blogging, I found myself writing in pained spurts. I was pondering the right words, getting up close and personal with the Backspace key, even folding laundry, hoping a break would bring me the right way to phrase what I was trying to say.

I needed words that acknowledged the uniqueness of each infertility experience, the sense of kinship within the infertility community. The fact is, though, that I’m not part of the club and will never really understand. Then I realized that it’s because I’m not part of the club that I don’t have the words. As a mother of multiples, terms like “singleton,” “NICU,” “mono/di” and “fraternal” just slip off my tongue, but I’ve never really lived in the infertility world.

So I did my best as an outsider.

“… many of us have suffered from infertility.”

No, that’s not right. Suffering is a passive state. I know many of these men and women. They’re fighters.

Backspace. 

“… many of us have fought infertility.”

That doesn’t work either. Do you fight infertility? Treat it? What about parents who went straight to adoption after trying to conceive didn’t take? They accepted infertility for what it was and came up with a Plan B.

Backspace.

“… many of us were infertile.”

Ew. No. Being infertile isn’t a core human characteristic, like being blonde or short.

Backspace.

“… many of us walked the path of infertility.”

Okay, Sadia. You’re a wordy kind of girl, but this is getting ridiculous. And is the past tense even appropriate? Do you really stop living with infertility when you finally have your child? Do you begin to consider yourself to be in the fertile camp? Are “parent” and “infertile” opposites? I imagine that for some parents, they are. For others, they’re not.

Backspace.

“infertility has been part of the journey.”

 

That’ll have to do. It gives infertility too much agency, but perhaps that’s right. Perhaps infertility becomes the third wheel in the relationship. And “journey” is good. It doesn’t require an end to have been reached yet, but allows for it.

Walking around the world as a mom of twins, it’s impossible to be unaware of infertility. Even if I never hung out with other MoMs, the strangers on the street would never let me forget. “Are they natural?” they ask, so often.

It’s such a loaded question: “Are they natural?” I know it comes from a place of curiosity. I know it comes from a vague knowledge that fertility treatments have led directly to an increase in multiple births. I know they don’t mean to ask whether I’m part of the Infertility Club. If they knew anything about the Club, they would have chosen different words.

Because children conceived with medical assistance are as natural, as miraculous, as extraordinary as my spontaneous little ones.

I don’t even know what to call myself. I don’t know what those of you in the Infertility Club call those of us on the outside. What do you call those of us who conceive spontaneously, easily, some even by accident?

I can love you. I can support you. I can cry with you. I can even lend you my womb. But I will always be on the outside looking in.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

My Kids’ Peers

My kids have some really great friends. I get to hang out with a bunch of insightful, kind, thoughtful, civic-minded 7- and 8-year-olds every week. There’s the little girl who approached the “bad” kid in her class to tell him that she thought that he was lonely, not bad, and that she was going to be his friend. There’s another girl who spent her entire day between early school release and our Girl Scout meeting raising over $300 for cancer research by selling baked goods and T-shirts. And my own daughters asked friends, when they were turning 5, to bring canned goods for the food pantry to their birthday party instead of gifts.

I encourage these friendships. These girls’ parents and I have made an effort to get to know each other, and were lucky to find great compatibility. We’ve all become good friends. We arrange play dates. We let each other know when there’s a fun kid-friendly activity available in town. We watch each others’ kids and encourage them to develop relationships with the adults as well as the kids. We ask after how these friends, in particular, are doing on a nearly daily basis, since they see each other at school.

Here’s why I think having deep friendships with exemplary children is important for my kids. Ultimately, it’s their peers who will shape how my children turn out. I can do my best to drill my values into my kids, but if these values are completely foreign to the social interactions they have out of my view, out of my control, they won’t stick.

For parents, the idea that peers have a greater influence on how kids turn out is an uncomfortable one. I’ve certainly met people who flat out refuse to entertain the thought. We put so much into our children that we need to believe that what comes out will be proportional to our effort.

I believe, very deeply, that my job as a mother is to give my children the tools they need to not need me any more. I hope that J and M will choose to spend time with me, to confide in me, when they’re adults, but I hope that they don’t need me. I know that adolescence is, by definition, a tearing away of the individual from the parent. This separation has to happen for child to become adult. I want my daughters to have the right peers and mentors around them to turn to when it is developmentally appropriate for them to turn away from me.

I think of the immigrant experience and how seamlessly first generation children blend into their peer groups. Children don’t adopt their parents’ accents if there’s a peer accent to be emulated instead. I’ve rarely seen adults keep their parents’ religion unless there’s some interaction with other children with similar beliefs in childhood. Both my children and I are examples. My parents grew up in Bangladesh, I in the UK and Bangladesh and my children in the US. People who don’t know our biographies just assume we’re American through and through. We learned these things from our peers.

In some ways, I feel that my greatest responsibility to my children, beyond meeting their physical needs, is providing them with the right peer group. I didn’t handpick M and J’s best friends. I did, however, make an effort to get to know their parents, as their parents did with me. I did handpick their school, a public school that would allow my kids to meet a cross-section of our community, an academically strong one that would have high expectations for children’s self-discipline. I advocated for my children to be in the selective dual language program, putting them side-by-side with other children whose parents advocated for Spanish immersion as well as children who speak Spanish at home and require English immersion. I chose the neighbourhood to be a culturally and politically diverse one that has, by necessity, a great tolerance for diversity. I’ve chosen a church where my kids’ peers and mentors will provide for them what I cannot.

Picking Peers for My Kids

Thus far, I haven’t contended with my children picking friends who consistently make choices with which I disagree. I have helped them navigate conflict within their friendships, but I have yet to deal with “bad influences.” I may very well discover that I have a lot less to do with who my children’s elementary school friends are than I think. I know that come middle and high school, I will have completely lost any such control.

I just hope that while I still have a say in the matter, I’ve shown my kids how to choose great friends to spend time with and to emulate. That may be the greatest gift this mother can give her daughters.

What relationship do you have with your children’s friends?

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

What It’s Really Like Out and About with Multiples

A big thank you to Lesa Rhoton for sharing this video. Her daughter shows what it’s like to be out and about with multiples, infants in particular.

On behalf of all twin moms, I apologize for the “bad enough” comment.

Yes, some of the comments are just lovely. We all love hearing how adorable our babies are. But the rest? The negative stuff, in particular, the profanity, the horror, and getting into our reproductive business? Being a celebrity when you want a nice day with your family? It can get tiring. We do get used to it, and we find our defense phrases. Mine was usually, “I’d rather have my hands full than empty.”

Can you relate? What’s your defense phrase?

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Both Mine

Both Mine

My friend Rhema is just about every kind of wonderful you can imagine.

She leads our daughters’ Girl Scout troop. She elegantly walks the line between being a role model to the girls and providing structured activities and giving them a sense of freedom and ownership over their own troop. She’s a stay-at-home mom who spends much of her time volunteering at our daughters’ school, and she is a great mother to her charming 7-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.

This week of Spring Break, she offered to watch my girls so I wouldn’t have to put them in the YMCA program that left me so unhappy last summer. She won’t let me pay her. I told you she was wonderful.

When I went over to her house to retrieve my daughters the other day, a friend of Rhema’s had stopped by. This friend started to tell me a story about how M had reacted to discovering that this friend had almost the same name as M herself. Before she started, though, Rhema’s friend had a question.

“Is M yours?”
“They both are,” I said.
“Oh! I guess they do look alike.”

And she told me how M, riding a bike, quite literally left a skid mark on the driveway on hearing Rhema’s friend’s name.

I didn’t realize until later that I hadn’t volunteered that M and J were twins and hadn’t felt any need to do so. Maybe we are outgrowing the twin focus after all.

Do you feel the need to point out your kids’ multiple birth when they’re mistaken for friends?

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Again with the “You’re Not Identical”

If I ever do a standup comedy routine, this will be my opening joke.

NPGS: Are they identical?
Me: Yes.
NPGS: No, they’re not!

I understand where this comes from. I really do. The vast majority of the time, I take it with grace and give a short explanation about how “identical,” when it comes to twins, really means monozygotic.

My children aren’t always with me though. They attend public elementary school and after-school care. They’re 7 years old and not yet ready to defend the identicalness that is near the core of their senses of self. They’re okay with handling kids, but when adults question their claim to being identical, they’re put in a tough spot.

This week, my daughters had a substitute teacher who made them feel very awkward about their claim to being identical twins. J, she told them, had larger eyes, so they couldn’t possibly be identical twins. Interestingly, she made no such accusation to the other set of identical girls in their class. They have a much larger height difference than my daughters, but their faces are far more similar than my girls’.

J and M were pretty upset about this interaction when they got home. I offered to print out my post on how identical twins might not look alike to give to the sub’s son at recess to pass along to her, but they declined.

As a brown-skinned Brit, I can’t help noticing the parallels between people’s own sense of ethnic identity and people who try to argue with them about it. Living here in the US, I frequently encounter people who try to tell me that I’m not Asian, because “Asian” here means from the eastern and southeastern parts of the continent. But I don’t consider myself “Indian”, which is what people want me to call myself. Bangladesh, where I lived for 10 years of my life, and India have been distinct countries since 1947. (Bangladesh split from Pakistan in 1971). If I’m going to generalize, “Asian” is my preference.

And yes, people will try to argue with me over my self-identification, but identity is personal. No one but you gets to say who you are. And no one gets to tell my kids they’re not identical twins, not if that’s the identity they choose.

Again with the, "You're Not Identical."

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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.