Again with the “You’re Not Identical”

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Categories Identical, Other people, Parenting Twins, PerspectiveTags ,

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 and Multicultural Mothering.

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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.

6 thoughts on “Again with the “You’re Not Identical””

  1. I think you handled that with a lot of grace & especially love that you respected your daughters’ wishes not to intervene directly

    As I was reading, I could already envision the smoke coming out of my ears and me having a chat with the sub. I have a lot to learn between now and when my girls start school :)

    1. If it had been a regular teacher and not a sub, I might have worked a little harder to convince my daughters to talk to her/let me talk to her about it. Fortunately, their regular teachers are just lovely and very respectful of every child in their care.

  2. I agree…an adult authority-figure, especially one who doesn’t know a child well, shouldn’t be so quick to make assumptions and hand out labels. I can only imagine how sensitive an issue that is for twins who identify strongly as such. At least your girls got to process the experience with their awesome mom, who always lets them be who they are!

    1. You’re sweet! It’s hard not to go all Mama Bear over things like this, but I know that my girls have to feel equipped to fight their own battles.

  3. One thing having twins has taught me is that people don’t have a filter for their dumb comments. I can’t even believe some of the things people have said to me about my kids, and now that they are people who understand the language it is harder for sure. As babies, when a dumb lady argued with me and asked if I was SURE it wasn’t a boy and a girl because one had a green blanket (Um, yeah, I checked.) they were little baloney loafs and not really able to comprehend the stupid. When a nosey neighbor said to me that “something must be wrong with that one” and pointed to the short bus pulling away, IN FRONT OF MY OTHER SON who was 3, I was speechless but not shocked, since I have learned people are dumb.

  4. My identical boys are only 15m old and they are already getting this statement from strangers. So annoying! People really need to be more educated on twins. You can be identical and still look a little different. I’m not looking forward to dealing with for years to come.

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