Letting Toddlers Dress Themselves

It’s amazing to think that children as young as two years old can develop their own sense of fashion and clothing preferences.

When Mister and Missy were between two and two and a half, they started dressing themselves (“I do it myself!”). Proudly putting on their own pants, socks and even trying to remove/put on their diapers! (that’s when we knew they were ready for potty training) At first we thought it was limited to dress-up time.

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Twins dressing up and getting dressed


Then at some point, they started paying attention to the clothes I would set out for them the night before. Then things got interesting and their personal clothing preferences came out. We quickly discovered that Missy is all about pink, purple, dresses and generally complicated outfits. She would be the one trying to zip up her jacket and fiddling with buttons.

In contrast, we noticed that Mister started resisting wearing anything with collars, buttons or zippers. That meant no more jeans or cute hoodies over the winter. It also meant no traditional Pakistani outfits comprised of a tailored collar tunic and baggy trousers. When my cousin got married a few months before their third birthday, it was nearly impossible to get him into the cute traditional “kurta pajama” for the wedding festivities. It took 3 people to coax and wrestle this screaming toddler into the clothes. If this wasn’t a family wedding where Mister and Missy were part of the procession, we would’ve compromised.

To this day, Mister prefers to wear his Elmo jogging pants or any track pants with a stripe down the side. His favourite and only tops to wear are slip-on shirts, preferably with a favourite character on the front. To make weekday mornings easier, I would take out at least 3 outfits each and hang them up in both their rooms. It definitely helps to plan out kids outfits beforehand so we are not searching their closet in the early morning darkness. Once they turned three, our twins started to pick out their own clothes.

A few weeks ago we were going to a community luncheon where Missy wore a traditional outfit (purple) and I wore a red one. Although Mister refused to wear the outfit I picked out (shirt with a collar, buttons and dress pants), he chose another outfit to match what I was wearing. He came over, showing the red long sleeved shirt he picked out with black fleece pants. My first reaction was to tell him to put back the fleece pants. Then I noticed the excitement on his face and sensed he was seeking my approval. The look of pride on his face when I said: “Good choice! It match!” was enough to make my heart melt.

Missy likes to be cozy and will layer her clothes. One day this past winter, she wore 6 layers: undershirt, long sleeve shirt, short sleeve shirt, dress, hoodie, and coat. And on her head were 2 headbands, 1 hair clip, and her usual requested hair style featuring three (yes, 3) ponytails… a la Punky Brewster.

There have been some (many) mornings when one or both would fight with us on their clothes choices, and even want to wear pajamas to daycare. The daycare educators suggested we offer up two choices for tops so they feel like they have some control. And let them wear pajamas if there is great resistance. That appeared to help a bit but we still had our morning challenges.

Amazingly, in the last 2 months or so and as Mister and Missy are nearly 3 ½, they have taken full control over their clothing choices. They even learned how to take their clothes off hangers and how to put them back on (their closets are child-sized).

Here is a description of recent favourite outfits:

Mister: Spider-Man underwear, blue top, blue Elmo jogging pants with white stripes, Elmo socks

Missy: Pink underwear, pink pants, pink long sleeve top, fairy dress, white & red Canada hoodie, pink socks

What’s the fashion in your house these days?

2Cute is a Canadian mom to 3 year old Boy/Girl twins who will be starting Junior Kindergarten this coming September. Their new school has a dress code (navy blue and white), which is going to cramp her twins’ sense of style.

Thinking Ahead…Multiple Fun for Halloween

Pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks, and Pinterest is full of cute fall decor.  On one hand, it feels a bit early, but my girls’ Halloween costumes have been top of mind the past few days.

I don’t generally dress the girls alike on a day-to-day basis, but this will be their fifth Halloween, and to date, I’ve gone the “double the cuteness” route.  Two pumpkins, two cheerleaders, two ladybugs, and last year, two butterflies.

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(I should also note I’m taking full advantage of “cutesy” costumes for as long as I can…I know one day they’ll want to pick things out themselves, and a scary clown won’t be quite as adorable in the family photo album.)

Just for fun, I googled “Halloween costumes for twins”, and there are hundreds of “coordinating” ideas for multiples…

…salt and pepper shakers…peanut butter and jelly…apple and orange…lemon and lime…ketchup and mustard…M&Ms…peas in a pod…lion, tiger, and bear…cat and mouse…crayons…

And the character interactions are limitless, too…Thing 1 and Thing 2…Mickey and Minnie…Batman and Superman…king and queen…princess and dragon… Bert and Ernie…Charlie Brown and Snoopy…Buzz and Woody…

The funniest costume duo I read about was for boy/girl twins…a Mounds and an Almond Joy.  (This was one family’s response to the many questions they got about whether their B/G twins were “identical”…hahaha!!!)

And another one that I thought was comical was “Peace and Quiet”.  I can just envision printed shirts with those words…at least with my two, that would be a walking oxymoron!

Have you started thinking ahead to Halloween?  Are you planning to coordinate your multiples?  Have any fun ideas to share?

Also, check out our “Holidays” Pinterest board for more fun ideas!

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Establishing Them as Individuals at School

I distinctly remember one of the most frequently asked questions during my pregnancy was, “Are you going to dress your twins alike?”  I really hadn’t given much thought to it, and I’m pretty sure I gave a pretty vague answer.

At our baby showers, we got lots and lots of duplicate outfits.  Thus, much of the girls’ first year was spent with them looking much like each other.

When I finally started buying the bulk of their clothes myself, I found them matching about half of the time, and the other half of the time, they wore coordinating outfits.

(There are reasons for this, as I’ve finally realized…from shopping lots of end-of-season sales and often finding duplicates more readily than separate outfits…to the ease of doing laundry…to the simplification of picking outfits for the day…but that’s another blog post.)

For the last couple of years, I’ve let the girls choose what they want to wear.  Some days one will say, “I want to look like Sissy,” and some days they’ll choose something different from each other.  With the exception of a few more formal situations where I like to select their outfits, this has been fine with me.

Before the girls started three-year old preschool last fall, though, I had a revelation, sparked by an incident at a park.  The girls were dressed alike, and a three- or four-year old came up to me and asked, “Why are they wearing the same shirt?

Well, duh, Kid!  It’s because they’re twins.  ;)

And then it occurred to me…while it’s super cute to most adults to see pint-sized mirror images, matching from head to toe…that might just seem a bit “odd” to the average preschooler.

Between this and my motivation to try to help the girls be seen as individuals, I promptly went shopping to expand the girls’ back-to-school wardrobe (after I’d originally vowed they had more than enough clothes to start the school year).  I wanted to make sure they had plenty of non-matching outfits, at least to get them through the first month or so of school.

There were a few times I allowed my girls to wear matching outfits to school, but it was long after their teachers – and more importantly, in my mind – their classmates, had gotten to know them as individuals.

This was definitely the most thought I’d ever given to the girls’ “clothing strategy”, and I felt really good about where I’d landed.

And then I had to laugh when, on the first day of four-year old preschool this fall, my B asked, “Mommy, can we please wear the same thing so people will know we go together?

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The girls settled on coordinating outfits for the first day of school

Do your multiples dress alike?  Does that change based on the situation?  Do you think it impacts how people view them?

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and about overthinking parenthood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Newly Matching

Twice in the last week, my 7-year-old daughters have run off to their room, giggling, only to emerge in matching outfits.

This might not be cause for comment with many sets of elementary-aged multiples, but my M and J haven’t matched their clothes much at all in recent years. In fact, J has brought it up a few times, only to be shot down by her sister.

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I did dress my daughters alike some when they were infants. We had so many adorable outfits from our baby showers that it seemed a pity not to milk it while we could.

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Of course, we dressed them alike for posed photos.

Practicality often intervened, though. M got chilled more easily than J, so even in our Texas July, she’d wear footie pajamas to daycare while J wore onesies. Plus, I couldn’t be bothered with changing them both when one had spit up or otherwise soiled her clothes.

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During the toddler years, they often wore similar outfits. I’d dress them both in dresses, or both in skirts and tank tops, or both in jeans and a shirt. They didn’t match a whole lot, though.

The school J and M attended in kindergarten had a uniform, but we had 3 shirt colours to choose from. I made sure they wore different colours every day to help their teachers and friends distinguish them.

I’m not sure why that didn’t seem as critical in pre-school. It may have been that the classes were smaller, they were there longer, and we were very close to their teachers. In fact, we saw one of them just this morning, over 2 years since our daycare days.

Whatever’s going on with M and J this summer to make them want to match, I can’t say I mind. After several years of dressing themselves independently, I admit to enjoying what the excited call of, “Look, Mama” portends.

One observation I’ve made is that we get asked a lot more often if they’re twins when the girls’ clothes match than when they don’t. This morning at church, J elbowed me to ask the family in front of us, their similar-sized daughters in identical dresses, if they were twins. They were. J was wearing shorts and T-shirt, M a dress. At the grocery store, I was asked how far apart they were. I told the man, “Two minutes.” He turned out to be the dad of fraternal boys.

Do people react to your kids differently when they’re in matching outfits than when they’re not?

Twins Explaining Twins, Revisited

We got some funny and insightful thoughts last time I interviewed my daughters, 7-year-old M and J, about being twins. I figured I’d introduce a different related topic and see where the conversation went.

Me: So, I get a lot of the same question over and over when people realize that you’re twins. Does that happen to you too?
J: Yes.
Me: What kinds of questions?
J: Like really unimportant questions. Like, “Why aren’t you wearing the same clothes?” “Why is you hair so short and hers so long?”
Me: Mmm hmm.
J: And some reasonable questions, like my friend Amy’s*.
Me: What did she ask?
J: “What’s it like to be like a twin?” And I told her, “Sometimes it can be frustrating and sometimes it can be nice.” You know how it can be frustrating?
Me: How?
M: When we get into arguments.
J: When people can’t tell us apart.
M: Actually I like that.
Me: Oh?
M: I like pranking people like Mr. M and Mr. Michael and people whose names start with M. And today Mr. Michael said…okay, let me try to tell this one… he said, “J.” And I slapped my head because it was M, who is me. And he gave up and said, “Okay! Twins! Go to the line!”
Me: And there were some other reasonable questions, right?
J: Mmm hmm. And Mr. Joel asked, “What if you were fraternal?” And I said, “We would look more different and less alike.” And Mr. Joel said, “You look fraternal to me, but I know you were born identical.”
M: A wombat…
Me: A wombat**?
M: Mmm hmm. A Wombat asked us if twins, identical twins, always looked alike and were always wearing the same clothes. No! If one of the twins are a tomboy and the other is a girly girl, then the one that’s a girly girl might wear a princess shirt and the tomboy might wear…
J: A Spiderman shirt?
M: An Angry Birds shirt.
J: You know, some girls who aren’t tomboys wear Angry Birds shirts.
M: I know, that’s just because they, those shirts have at least one girl Angry Bird.
J: No, some don’t have any. Like, Amy isn’t a tomboy and she has an Angry Birds shirt that says, “I’m the bomb!” and it has the black bird on it. No girls.
Me: Do Caroline and Vanessa…(I began to type in parentheses “older fraternal girl twins” for your benefit. J stopped me.)
J: No, they’re identical!
Me: Are you sure?
M: No, they’re fraternal. They told me.
J: But they have the same colour hair and the same colour eyes and I can’t tell them apart.
M: Another argument! Yeah, but they told me and they know more about themselves than anyone else.
J: Fine!
Me: I’d like you to think about something, please. How do you feel when people try to tell you that you’re not identical?
J: Ugh, the girl named Annabelle who’s a Wombat… really a girl, but her group’s a Wombat… when she heard we were twins she was mean about it because we didn’t have the same haircut and weren’t wearing the same clothes and didn’t have the same faces and different sizes of shoes.
M: I don’t think that’s fair, because I like my unique heart-shaped face.
J: Then me and M, then me and M said we had enough of the talk and went to play Connect 4 and a little bit of Mancala and M was too shy to tell Annabelle that we were really twins and so I told her that it really hurt our feelings when people said we weren’t twins because it wasn’t really truuuuue. (I initially typed “true” back there, but J felt that some more Us were in order to capture what she was trying to communicate.)
Me: I understand the story. But how did you feel, when somebody said you weren’t identical?
M: Sad.
J: Really mad like I wanted to punch that person.
Me: Wow!
J: Embarrassed.
Me: Then how do you think Vanessa and Caroline would feel if they knew that you were saying that they were wrong about what kind of twins they are?
J: Like us? Like maybe they will feel like I was trying to be mean on purpose.
Me: I think we need to respect people the same way we expect them to respect us.
J: I didn’t know.
Me: I know you didn’t know, but does the lesson make sense?
J: (Nod.)
M: I’ve got a story. Once upon a time. Okay, sorry, did I mention that this was fairytale?
Me: No, you forgot to mention that.
M: Once upon a time, there were two little girls who were identical twins and they had friends who were older identical twins…
J: Older identical twins?
M: No, I mean fraternal twins. And J, one of the identical twins, liked Caroline more than Vanessa. And M, who was another one of the identical twins, liked Vanessa more than Caroline. They all lived in a castle together. But one day, a dragon came to eat them, but the brave knight killed the dragon into 5, no 10 pieces.
J: “5, no 10 pieces.”
M: The End.
Me: Which of the twins was the brave knight? All of them? (Yes, I know she was probably thinking of a man coming to save them, but I am going to do all I can to raise empowered women instead of damsels in distress. Back to the story.)
M: Yes! (whispering) Do I have a too big imagination? (regular voice) Well, actually, not all of them. Just Vanessa and Caroline. So, as you can imagine, each tore the dragon into 5 pieces each. The End.

*Names have been changed.
**Wombats are the youngest group of summer campers.

To Match or Not to Match

My 6-year-old twin daughters’ closet contains some duplicates, but not many. When the girls were toddlers, I did dress them alike with with some frequency. We were still going through the enormously generous supply of mostly matching clothes for our baby showers. As they’ve grown, though, they’ve matched less and less. First, they stopped wearing exactly the same thing, although they’d generally coordinate their outfits. If one was wearing a skirt and Tshirt, so was the other. If Sissy was wearing a dress, then so was Sissy.

They don’t bother much with that these days. We don’t even get matchy matchy for formal photos any more.

J, M and Sadia, all in different sweater dresses.

Photo by Brandi Nellis

While I don’t think that my identical girls look a thing alike–their voices are an altogether different manner–people still get them confused. Just yesterday, I witnessed a schoolfriend try to get J’s attention by calling her M. It didn’t work. I wonder if that has something to do with their opting to dress differently.

Yesterday, M pulled out a favourite black sweater dress to wear to school. Her sister J is wearing it in the picture above, and we have two of them.

J’s eyes lit up. “Wanna match?” she asked her sister.

“Sure!” M replied.

“I don’t want to any more,” J responded.

And that’s why I don’t bother shopping doubles any more.

How do your kids feel about wearing matching or coordinating outfits?

Sadia is the single mother of almost-7yo identical twins, M and J. They live in Central Texas, where Sadia works in higher education IT.

from hospital ankle bracelets to sports jersey numbers

I’ve written a little before about my efforts to help the boys’ teachers and friends tell them apart. I’m happy to report that their teacher, by mid-October, had found some tiny freckle on one boy’s face that he can use to tell them apart. Their friends still have no idea and arbitrarily call them by one name or the other.

But now, let’s talk about sports!

like the scarlet letter, but white

My boys played tee ball last spring, and their coaches learned which boy wore which pair of shoes so they could call them by name. Yes, their coaches were that awesome, because both sets of shoes are mostly grey and black, and just have tiny bits that are green or red.

They played flag football this summer, and that was trickier. For one thing, black cleats were pretty standard. For another, it’s not like tee ball where the kids are mostly coached one by one, or assigned a spot. The boys had big numbers on the backs of their jerseys, but from the front it was anyone’s guess.

To help the coaches (and everyone), I took to putting an X in surgical tape on one boy’s shirt. I felt so weird about this — first because I was afraid he wouldn’t like it, but he didn’t mind. But I still felt like I was branding him in some odd way. I also felt like maybe I was making a bigger deal out of this than it needed to be.

It turned out to be a good thing. Their coaches were great about remembering which boy got the X (the one who has an X in his name, which made it easier) and my boys benefited from being called by name. And I have to admit, I relied on that X to keep track of who was where from the sidelines. It saved me from a lot of, “YAY! GREAT JOB– (who was that?) – GREAT JOB, um, SON!”

When your look-alike multiples are in uniforms, what strategies do you use to help other people tell them apart?
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she freaks out about every single thing that happens at school.

Halloween Overload

I have a confession. I am all Halloweened out, and there are still five days to go.

This is the first year our daughters haven’t needed help thinking up Halloween costume ideas. M has been asking to go by the nickname “Monkey-Moo Dadadada!!!” for several months now, so a monkey costume was an obvious choice. (She specifies, consistently, that her nickname is spelled “with 3 explamation marks at the end”.) J decided to keep to the jungle theme by being a tiger. They’ve always had coordinated costumes, and I don’t think it’s occurred to them not to. A monkey and tiger make for simple costumes. They’re not what’s wearing me down, although if you’ve got ideas to help me turn out an inexpensive tiger suit before Friday, I’m all ears. I thought I had another weekend to finish up the costumes, but learned that kids can wear costimes to school on Friday. I can’t have mine be only uncostumed children there.

The Halloween-related activities at school are overkill. I can’t even keep them straight. I had to provide each of my children with a large bag of candy yesterday to contribute to the school-wide trick-or-treating effort. I need to provide treats for the Monday Halloween party in J’s classroom. We’re also supposed to contribute a dollar per child for Friday evening’s school festivities, and I have a nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten some other contribution expected of us. Of course, I’m building up our home treat contribution for the trick-or-treaters. I’m that lady who has pencils, erasers and stickers in the bowl alongside the chocolate and lollipops.

M is having nightmares about witches and ghosts. I found her in J’s bed this morning because she had a “bad bad bad bad dream” and needed comfort during the night. In years past, she has elected to stay home with me to avoid seeing scary costumes while J goes trick-or-treating with my husband or neighbours.

I’ve done what I can to focus on the communal aspect of Halloween, and downplay the commercialism. My former neighbour always throws a fantastic party on Halloween that’s early enough for little kids to get their fill of the fun without the fear. This year, though, Halloween is running away with my kids and I have little to say. They’re hardly excited about their costumes, but have bought into the candy, candy, candy culture, even though they know that we’ll expect them to moderate their consumption.

How do you keep the focus off sugar at Halloween?

can i make my twins wear Thing 1 and Thing 2 shirts?

Nearly everyone has an opinion about dressing twins alike. (Mine? It’s adorable when they’re little, but a luxury people who dress mostly in hand-me-downs can rarely afford!) My boys have a handful of matched shirts — gifts from their grandma, or the fruit of a Target clearance rack. Every so often they like to dress alike, and cackle together about their plans to confuse people. For the most part, though, they dress in totally different things.

It has not helped people tell them apart, except that once a person asks, “Are you G or P?” he or she can keep track more easily for the rest of the day.

All last school year they had different haircuts, but still very few of their classmates and teachers could remember who was who.

This year they have a wonderful teacher I trust. I know he cares about them as individuals, and is working hard to learn to tell them apart. They have the same haircut now, and it obscures the two easiest “tells” — their different hairlines, and a fading scar on one boy’s forehead.

As I said last year in one of my many *upset* posts [that got me crying again reading it now],

…my little boys …are actual peoplewho deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

So I’m trying to help their teacher (and them) out, by color-coding them. G in green or grey, and P in blue.

Problem is, they don’t always want to wear their assigned colors. They understand why we’re doing this, but sometimes P wants to wear the grey shirt. Or they both want to wear blue shirts. I’m only comfortable pushing this up to a point.

What are your thoughts on this? My boys are 7. How hard should I push them to wear color-coded clothes to school? I feel like I am crossing some sort of civil rights line in the sand when I tell P he has to save his grey shirt for the weekend and wear the blue one like I asked.
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she teaches readers how to survive various life crises with materials commonly found in a 5-door family vehicle with seating for 7.

doubling my pleasure at school, take two

When I last posted at HDYDI, it was April and I was speaking with the school principal about my concerns that my twins’ placement testing results had been mixed up, and also that their teachers couldn’t tell who was whom even though they had different haircuts and didn’t dress in matching clothes. And their teachers laughed this off and weren’t interested in my efforts to make telling the boys apart easier.

In kindergarten, P was assigned to an intervention reading group. G was in a higher-level group, but he didn’t read for me at home, and P did. After I asked the teacher several times whether their files may have been confused, she wrote me after winter break and said P had accelerated quickly and had been placed in a higher group than G, and he was moved up again several weeks later. Because I believed she had confused them, giving intervention services to a child who didn’t need them rather than the child who did, and because I felt I wasn’t getting straight answers from their teacher, I worried about their progress for the entire year.

From the moment we found out we were having twins, everything was scary. The statistics are terrifying. The books said I’d lost 20 valuable weeks that I could have spent packing on body fat to sustain the babies in late pregnancy, when I wouldn’t be able to eat as much. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since 16 or 17 weeks – my doctor didn’t feel that was a good sign. From week 20, when I found out, to week 37 when I delivered my twins, every day and every contraction and nearly every moment was tinged with worry.

I think it’s that way for most of us. I am very lucky, in that I got to stop worrying about my boys’ physical health quickly after they were born.

Now I worry about whether people are able to see them and treat them as individuals, and how the boys feel about being individuals. I worry about how painful it will be when they eventually separate. I worry that their speech problems prevent them from volunteering in class, and that they may eventually get picked on because of them. I worry about P being bored, and G being left behind, because a teacher made a mistake and wouldn’t own up to it.

In our district the kids are given standardized tests so teachers and parents can track a child’s growth throughout the school year and from year to year, to make sure a kid is progressing. Last week I went to the school and requested their scores. The principal came out and sat beside me and handed me a post-it note on which she’d jotted their scores. Tears welled up in my eyes.

They both made great strides last year. They’re both above average. They are normal and doing fine, and oh, it is wonderful to have plain old normal kids who are doing fine!

I cried because I am so grateful that I can stop worrying about their academic progress. I also cried because the scores confirmed that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups last year. Their math scores were identical, but their reading scores were drastically different. My little boy who struggles with reading spent months in a group that was way over his head, and his self-confidence shows it.

 

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.