Identical Doesn’t Mean Identical

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If I didn’t know from an early ultrasound that my daughters were identical twins, I would have just assumed that they were fraternal. I’ve known fraternal twins and different aged siblings who’ve looked more alike than J and M do, at least to my eye. We still get asked if they’re identical occasionally, but most people are surprised to learn that they are.

J and M, posingAs M likes to point out, her widow’s peak hairline makes her face heart-shaped, where J’s is oval, thanks to her ruler-straight hairline. J is built like a soccer player, all lean muscle and power, while M has a typical dancer’s frame, birdlike and flexible.

J inherited Daddy’s single dimple, but M didn’t. J’s cowlick is profoundly untameable, while I can get M’s hair to hang down nicely with a little effort. On the other hand, I can part J’s hair in the middle, put it in pigtails, and have her hair stay generally well-behaved all day. M’s part, on the other hand, clings stubbornly to its location. It’s stronger than any combination of hair elastics, gel, bobby pins and effort I’ve been able to come up with. I’ve stopped fighting it, even if it does cause her pigtails to noticeably differ in thickness.

M was born with a facial cleft, which hasn’t needed any surgery so far. I hope it stays that way. Rather than the more familiar cleft palate, her frontonasal dysplasia is higher up in her face, and is the cause of her defined widow’s peak. It also causes her eyes to be more widely set than her sister’s and impacts the symmetry of her nose. She hasn’t had any complications from her condition, so we don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. On the rare occasion that a child asks why M’s nose is funny or little, I say that it’s so we can tell her apart from her sister. That answer has always satisfied diminutive inquisitors.

Every now and then, though, I catch a glimpse of Sister in the face of one of my daughters, and the sameness makes my breath catch.

Adult identical sisters hold 4-year-old identical sisters.I’ve come to enjoy the opportunities I get to share the science of twinning with strangers. I’ve learned to explain in a few words that identical twins are identical(ish) at the level of DNA, but are otherwise completely distinct people. Still, I’m taken aback every time I participate in the following exchange:

Stranger or acquaintance: Are they identical?
Me: Yes.
Stranger or acquaintance: No, they’re not!


Do you know whether your multiples are identical or fraternal? Does it make any difference?

Sadia is a business analyst living in El Paso, TX. Her twin daughters, J and M, will be turning 6 next month.

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Same Different: A Constant Pull

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Just as we are working to affirm and encourage individuality in our daughters, they seem committed to being more definite about being treated the same. For example, if one is wearing a sweater to go outside, the other one wants her sweater too. If one is wearing her brother’s shoes or bike helmet, the other wants to do the same. If one of them is reading a book with me, the other one goes to get a book to read. Or, even harder yet, if I’m carrying one, then I’d better be prepared to carry the other one next.

Wearing the big kids' bike helmets

So, I’ve started experimenting to see how they respond to different situations. I’ll admit I’m as curious about multiples and the “twin connection” as the next person. So, I’ll get one girl dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Then I’ll offer her sister a choice of outfits that is either similar to her sister or different.  Now, I can’t say they always choose the same or always choose different, but I can say they are definite about their choices.

At snack time, if one does the sign for milk and her sister does the sign for water. I’ve noticed that if I get water (or milk) for one girl, her sister will change her mind and want the same. If one finishes her snack more quickly and asks for more, her sister will expect more even if she hasn’t finished what she already has.

The other day, I tried switching their cribs to see how they responded. About the only consistently different thing between the girls has been their cribs. Since we moved and set up two cribs in their bedrooms, they have consistently slept in the same crib, unless we get them mixed up, unless the nanny isn’t as concerned about this as I am, as far as I know. So one day when they were playing around a nap time, and neither wanted to get in her crib, I plopped them in to the closest cribs, which meant they were in the “wrong” cribs.  This didn’t seem to bother them at all. Nap time went without any problems.

Riding on the same toy car

So I’m left wondering do they have a sense of individual identity or shared connection or not? Do they care who sleeps in which crib or who has which blanket, or does it only matter when someone is getting special treatment or extra attention?

And most importantly, I continue to wonder how do we foster individuality when they spend so much time together and they seem so much alike?

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