Does birth order make much difference between twins?

And the Older One Is …

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Categories Birth Order, Other people, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-AgeTags

J was pulled out of my body a full 2 minutes before her sister M, because it was her amniotic sac that had ruptured while M’s remained intact.

I didn’t tell the girls their birth order for 6 years. When people asked them who was older–why is that no one ever asks who is younger?–they’d simply say, “We’re same age sisters. We’re twins. No one’s older.”

Not every curious stranger was satisfied with this answer, although it did stop the majority of them from pushing for a definitive response. Interrogated further, I had a canned answer for my inquisitors:

I’ve avoided telling the girls who was born first, because people automatically assign birth order stereotypes to children. They expect the older one to be more mature, more responsible, sometimes even smarter. That makes sense, I suppose, for kids born at different times. I know from my own experience that being an older sibling makes you grow up and take responsibility. My children are the same age as one another. The random order in which they were removed–by C-section, mind you–from my womb shouldn’t dictate how people see them. They’ve got enough stereotypes to contend with being identical twins.

One response to my spiel got my then-husband’s blood pounding. This friend of a friend said something along the lines of, “That’s stupid. Why would anyone assign birth order stereotypes to multiples?” The girls’ dad whispered in my ear, “I dunno. Why would anyone ask what order they were born in? That’s stupid too.”

For 6 years, cute innocent answers from little girls and canned responses from mommy kept me from needing to tell M and J who had been born first. They did refer to each other as “big sister” and “little sister,” based on height differences. My daughter M tells me that the trick to telling apart the 3 sets of identical twins split between her class and J’s is that, “the shorties are all in my class.”

One day, though, my Grand Plan for Birth Order Question Response stopped working. I was distracted, filling out paperwork in a waiting room, while several garrulous women pushed J and M for an answer on who was older. I heard J say, “She’s older,” and turned to see her pointing at M.

“No,” I told her firmly. “You’re the same age. J, you came out of my belly first.”

I thought this was the beginning of the end. All the birth order stereotypes of the universe were going to descend on my daughters and smother them.

Two days later, the question came again: “Who’s older?”

J’s answered floored me: “I came out first, but we’re the same age.”

As in most matters of parenting, I needn’t have worried so much.

Do your multiples know their birth order? Are their personalities typical of the older child/younger child dynamic?


Sadia overthinks her parenting decisions in Austin, TX, where she takes a break from single mommyhood by going to her full time job in higher education information technology.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

8 thoughts on “And the Older One Is …”

  1. Perhaps I’ve mentioned before that I was always pretty sure I knew who was born first because you often refer to your girls as J and M, and much less frequently as M and J. 😉 But then, you could’ve been just maintaining alphabetical order, too.

    Keeping birth orders secret has never seemed like such a big deal to me. (Ask me again in five years, and we’ll see how I feel about it then.) Folks ask, and I tell them that they’re three minutes apart, and that B came first. My kids, of course, are too young to really know or care about birth order at this point. But they do already display some of the characteristics of their birth orders; B is bossy and the first to do most things, while J is generally pretty laid back and mellow.

  2. I plan to have my twins call each other “younger brother” and “younger sister”, just like their older sister does. Less confusion. And to be honest, sometimes I forget who actually IS one minute older since my boy is 2.5 lbs heavier!

  3. I completely agree with you. I’m a multiple and my mom always talked about who was oldest, middle and youngest. That my “older” sister was of course the leader because she was oldest, and I’m the baby/peacemaker, it really does cause some psychological repercussions. I try not to do that with my kids but once we had a third and we started playing games in “reverse birth order” it is known by them. But I don’t harp on it.

  4. We decided not to tell our kids or anyone else for that matter who came out first. I had read couple books and talked to few adult twins that I thought it was the best … We’ll tell them eventually, in a few years or so. Normally people don’t give me trouble when I answer that ‘they’re the same age’ (they were born in the same minute) but there was an older lady at a grocery store who persisted. And when I told her that we’re not telling anyone until the kids are much much older she got visibly mad and slurred something insulting as I walked away …

  5. This is so interesting to me! I can honestly say I never gave this topic any thought – I never even considered that some people keep the birth order private. A lot of people ask me about my boys birth order- but I have always interpreted it as their curiosity as to how far apart they were born more than an older/younger personality thing. I definitely learned something new from this post- and I will make sure to not ask other parents about birth order in the future unless they bring it up first!

  6. I don’t hide who is older but I am conscious not to allow stereotyping around the hierarchy- as much as I can of course. They are three now, so far they don’t bring it up themselves. They don’t demonstrate any behavior of being the older/ younger sibling.

    Loved J’s response by the way!

  7. My “oldest” twin is my second born child. My “youngest” twin is our third and final child. Since she could move in my belly, my oldest has commanded attention. Her sister was quite the opposite. She was quiet and passive, so much so that I worried until the ultra-sounds proved she was okay. They have still maintained these personalities through 8-years-old. Since they are identical, I’ll never know whose egg it was that split. :)

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