Again with the “You’re Not Identical”

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Categories Identical, Other people, Parenting Twins, PerspectiveTags , 6 Comments

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.

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back to (home)school with twins

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Categories Classroom Placement, Education, Family, Older Children, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-Age, SingletonsTags , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

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Identical Twin Toys

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My daughters love their stuffed toys and can play with them for hours, imbuing each of them with a distinctive personality and interpersonal challenges and relationships.

wpid-Photo-Jul-7-2013-838-PM.jpg

I took this picture last night, at the tail end of a stuffed toy fashion show.

A few years ago, Santa got my girls each a Beanie Boo they’d been eying for several months. J and M absolutely adored them and still play with them, although they’re not members of the family like some of their toys.

Years later, both M and J decided that they were going to spend some of the allowance they’d saved up on new Beanie Boos. The excitement built all week, and we finally made it to the store. Both girls walked right up to the display and grabbed the toys they wanted.

I was flummoxed when M selected a toy that was exactly the same as the one Santa had given her. I reminded her that she already owned that particular pink puppy.

“I know,” she told me, then completed her purchase.

I finally got it once we arrived home. M ran off to her room, and I heard her introduce her puppies to each other. “Princess, this is your twin sister. She is your identical twin.”

M and J both tend to refer to the matching toys as “the twins,” even though I’m careful not to do so when talking about my human twins. When we were at the Lego store yesterday, M informed me that the collection of minifigs they assembled included a set of identical quadruplets.

Do you children reflect the reality of being multiples in their pretend play?

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Friendships Between Twins

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Categories Birthdays, Friendships with Other Multiples, Identical, Multiple Types, Parenting Twins, Same GenderTags , , , , 2 Comments

I mentioned in my last post that we would be throwing a combined birthday party with another set of twins from my daughters’ classes. It went swimmingly. I had a great time, and it seemed that everyone else did too.
3 sets of identical twins and a little boy pose over a birthday cake

As luck would have it, the first guests to arrive were the other birthday girls’ cousins, who happen to also be identical twins. This happens to be the first photo I took but features no fewer than 3 sets of identical girl twins, plus one little brother.

My third reaction to the picture after a smile and an “Awww, how cute!” is to ponder how rare it is. I’ve seen statistics putting identical twins at 0.4% of all births. The girls in the photo, though, have no awareness of being part of a rare phenomenon. Some people just come in pairs, in their reality.

My girls have a number of twin friends. I’m partly responsible. I can’t help being drawn to other parents who face similar joys and challenges to the ones in my life. Chance meetings turn into play date arrangements and play dates turn into friendships. The girls in the picture are among the first twins my daughters have befriended outside my influence. After all, I don’t control who they hang out with at public school. M and J also became close friends with classmates in kindergarten, two boys who are identical twins. We don’t get to see HDYDI’s Tracey’s boys as often as we’d like to, but J and M talk about often and consider them close friends.

My girls definitely notice when their friends are twins. They use the word “twins” when describing their friends to me for the first time. They have a number of friends in after school care who are fraternal twins, but I’ve noticed that in those cases, they’re usually much closer to one sibling than another.

I recall a conversation I had with my daughters when they were 4. We’d run into a friend from my Mothers of Multiples group, along with her young boy/girl twins. When I pointed out that they, too, were twins, one of my daughters said, “No they’re not! They’re not the same.” When I dug a little deeper, she said that twins had to be the same gender. I got the impression that twins, to her, were identical only.

Now, at age 7, my daughters certainly accept fraternal twins into the fold, but they clearly feel a deeper connection to other identical twins. I wonder how it would be different to fraternal twins. I only know the identical experience in any depth.

Do your kids have an awareness of being multiples? Are they friends with others? Are they drawn towards twins of the same “type” as themselves?

Sadia is raising her 7 year-old girls in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.

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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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Preemie Medical Issues: Lung Function, and also Bad Teeth

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Categories Identical, Infants, Medical, PrematurityTags , , , , , 5 Comments

Our daughters, J and M, were born prematurely at 33 weeks gestation. Preemies make up 54% of twin births, compared to 9.6% of singleton births, according to statistics gathered in the 1980s. In my experience, conversations with parents or grandparents of multiples eventually turn towards the issue of prematurity, either its reality and the shared bond of the NICU experience, or how lucky some families are to bypass that rite of passage.

Our family’s experience with prematurity was a lot less scary than it could have been, although it felt devastating at the time. Neither of our girls needed help breathing, but they weighed under 7lb (3.2 kg) put together. Their Apgar scores were excellent, but they didn’t have the body fat they needed to maintain their own body temperatures ex-utero. They were released from the hospital over a month before their due date.

Looking at our vibrant, sassy, smart and downright hilarious five-year-olds, no one who isn’t in the know about twin birth statistics would guess that their birth held any unusual struggle. They’re short for their age, but so am I. My 5 ft 0 in (1.5 m) genes appear to have beaten out those of the girls’ 6 ft 7 in (2.0 m) great uncle. M and J have had only two lasting effects from being born before they were quite ready: a susceptibility to lung infections, and teeth missing enamel.

The lung infection issue came as no surprise. Our pediatrician and the NICU staff had warned us that lung complications were common in babies who began to breath when their lungs were still forming. Our insurance covered Synagis, the vaccine against RSV, a virus that gives you and me the sniffles, but can be fatal to a premature infant. I made the monthly trek to the one local clinic that dispensed the vaccines for the entire seven months of our girls’ first cold season. Their second winter, our insurance company deemed them out of danger. Sure enough, first J and then M came down with RSV. It was another three years before we were able to celebrate the retirement of the nebulizer that J used to ease the laboured breathing that kicked up without warning year-round.

The tooth issue, on the other hand, came as a huge surprise.

I thought we were doing everything right in the dental care department. We started using infant finger toothbrushes to massage the babies’ gums well before they had teeth. We added toothpaste when their first teeth broke through, and brushed morning and night, without fail. We brushed their teeth for them until they turned five, and gave them toothbrushes that they could practice with. Before M and J turned two, we introduced flossing, the the form of one-time-use kids’ flossers. To this day they consider going to bed without flossing unthinkable. Our pediatrician praised the girls for their dental hygiene. Even though I knew full-well that dentists recommended a first visit be scheduled at the sight of the first tooth, I put it off until the girls were three.

At their first visit, the dentist discovered cavities in both girls’ mouths. It turned out that both J and M suffered from enamel hypoplasia, or a lack of enamel on a number of their teeth. As luck, or more likely genes, would have it, our monozygotic daughters had hypoplasia on the same teeth. Their cavities were were also coordinated. Identical twins, with identical tooth issues, I suppose.

We left the dentists’ office with fillings, prescription fluoride toothpaste, and another reminder that however far away their premature birth feels, it keeps popping back up. At our next visit to the pediatrician, I told him the sad tale of the girls’ teeth, and he promised to pass along to the next preemie parents he saw the recommendation to get to a dentist soon. And now, I pass that recommendation to you.

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How do you help other people tell your multiples apart?

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Our Little Girls Wearing Pink and Yellow Dresses

Last weekend, we were at a family wedding and some other related family events. Of course, everyone wanted to know which baby was which.  This is a common question since we have identical twin girls, who look very much alike. Friday night, one baby was wearing a pink outfit, and I knew she’d have a pink dress on Saturday for the wedding, and it would be easy to dress her in pink on Sunday morning so I let people know she’d be the baby wearing pink all weekend. Her sister wore yellow and green. They are only 8 months old, so they couldn’t complain about my clothing choices. But, it raised the question of how you help other people identify your multiples.

Right now, we (Mom, Dad and the few other people who can tell them apart) have a few ways to tell the girls apart but they are based on:

  • Comparisons – when both babies are together you can see that one is a little bigger, but when they are separate this doesn’t really work
  • Context – at mealtime one of the babies is usually more interested in food than her sister, so this only works when they’re eating and it isn’t really reliable
  • Temporary characteristics – right now one baby has 2 teeth and her sister doesn’t have any yet, but that will change soon
  • Artificial characteristics – we painted one baby’s toenails pink when she came home from the hospital so we wouldn’t mix them up

I rely on the girls’ birthmarks to help me tell them apart, but those are starting to fade and are only visible from some angles.  So, we’re thinking about assigning each girl a colour (probably pink and yellow) and then making sure we dress them in those colours, at least when anyone else is around.  I’m concerned that doing this will make it easy for people to rely on their outfits to tell them apart rather than focusing on what makes them unique individuals.  But, I also want the girls to feel they are welcome and included and that people know who they are. Maybe assigning them colours will make it easier for people to focus on the babies as individuals because they will know who is who.

I do see some potential problems with this approach:

  • Most of the girls’ clothing was received as gifts or hand-me-downs so I don’t have a lot of control over what is in their dresser
  • I think I’d have to assign groups of colours to each baby (pink/purple/blue and yellow/green/white) because they have lots of clothing that isn’t pink or yellow, which could get confusing
  • The feminist in me has problems with dressing baby girls only in pink clothing
  • At some point they are going to want to make their own clothing choices

I guess the biggest issue is that really have problems making my parenting decisions based on what’s best for everyone else rather than what’s best for my children. So, is assigning each baby a colour a decision that will be good for them or not?  Can anyone share their experiences with this issue or other ways to help family and friends tell your multiples apart?

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