Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Please don't call them "the twins"

I love being a mom.  And I especially love being the mother of twins.  There is something so sweet and special about the bond my boys share, and have shared since they were womb mates kicking around in my tummy.

When my cousin's wife (who also had twins) found out our good news she told me "parents of twins are the rock stars of parents".  And she was right.  People are drawn to double strollers with two little pink-nosed bundles of joy.  I couldn't go anywhere without throngs of people who would ooh-and-ahh over how beautiful they were and how lucky I was.  I actually sometimes got embarrassed when I'd be out with a friend who also had a baby and strangers would seem to ignore their singleton to fawn over mine.  I would say it's because my boys are especially beautiful, but I know deep down it is because double the baby equals double the cuteness.  Period.

 It seemed that for the first year I had my sons the soundtrack of my life was on a track repeat of "I always wanted to have twins" and stories of "my cousin's sister's neighbor's ex-boyfriend's mother was a twin."  And other parents of twins alternating between "don't worry, I survived" and "it gets better, honey".

And don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  I actually liked the attention.  What mother isn't proud to show off her new baby(ies)?!  And believe you me, I played up the twins aspect by keeping them in coordinating outfits.  Even their bibs and blankets were coordinating with each other.  And yes, if one messed up his outfit, they both got changed!  (Even when it was just us at home.)

But as much as I worked to keep them in coordinating outfits, I steered clear of exactly matching.  You see, whether or not my sons are genetically identical (we'll discuss this in a later blog) they look almost exactly alike.  They have the same hair color, the same eye color, the same nose, the same mouth, and since they've been born they have never been more than a few ounces and a 1/4 inch different in size.  Sure, their father and I can tell them apart by their subtle differences (one's face is rounder while the other's is more has pointy eyebrows while the other's are more arched), but we are their parents.  We have been with them day and night since they were born.  We can tell their laughs apart.  Their voices.  The way they say our names.  We don't expect other people who have just met them, or only see them a few times a year, or even a few times a month, to be able to pick up on those slight differences.  So, since they were born, I have used a color coding system.  Thing1 is almost always dressed in blue and Thing2 is almost always dressed in red.  Which is handy because Thing1's name and blue both have four letters and Thing2's name and red both have three letters."  Of course, not every outfit can match up exactly to this pattern. Sometimes Thing1 ends up in green (almost blue) and Thing2 in orange (almost red).  Again I didn't do this so we could tell them apart, I did this so OTHER people could.  I wanted people to be able to call them by their name, without always having to ask me "which one do I have again?"  (Although, I will admit that three years later as I'm belatedly working on their scrapbooks, it comes in very handy for recognizing who is who in pictures, which is often harder to tell.)

So, you see, I really don't understand why after all of the trouble I go to to make sure the kids are dressed in code, some people don't even bother to try and tell them apart.  The worst was the woman who called them "the twin" and "the other twin".  I didn't say anything right away, but I did let her know later that that really bothered me.  See, I don't even refer to my sons as "the twins."  I will call them "the boys," "my sons," "my kids," but never "the twins" or "my twins".  I do occasionally say "I have twin boys" or "my three year old twin sons", but I try to always use "twin" as an adjective not a noun.

I can't even really clear explain why this bothers me so much.  I guess for me being a twin is a description of them (adjective), not a definition of who they are (noun).  Sure, they are the same age, look amazingly alike, and both love trains, but there are a lot of differences too.  Thing2 loves fruit.  Any fruit.  And will steal it off your plate if you aren't looking.  Thing1 loves carbs and junk food (pray he gets Daddy's metabolism!).  Thing2 is very independent and wants to do everything himself.  He'll play by himself and doesn't care who is playing with him.  Thing1 always wants help and is always trying to recruit someone to come play with him.  He loves to be cuddled and often asks for extra kisses at bedtime.  Thing2 is stingy with affection and rations how much you can kiss and hug him.  Just to name a few.

To me they aren't "my twins" they are two very different children.  Sure, like I said, I call them my boys, but so does any mom with multiple male children, regardless of age.  Or my kids, like moms who have multiple children of different ages and sexes.  But to call them "the twins" to me conjures up creepy images of pale faced dark haired girls in bobby socks willing you to "come play with me".  Or silly twins in movies who laugh alike, walk alike, and even times they talk alike, finishing each other's sentences and trying to switch places to fool their teachers.  I feel like that word "twin" carries so much connotative meaning that I don't want to pigeon hole my children with.

I should say that not all mothers of twin children agree with me.  I know plenty that they themselves call their children "my twins".  So, my suggestion is that you listen for what the mother says and follow her lead.  And if that isn't clear, I think it is always safe to call the children by their names.  I will never get upset with someone for calling them the wrong name.  To me, what is important is the effort.  How would you feel if I called your son or daughter "the baby" or "the kid" all of the time instead of learning their name?

In any case, they are finally at the age where they can correct you!  Which is really a good thing, because their other new thing to show individuality is their desire to pick out their own clothes.  Yesterday Thing2 picked out a blue Thomas the Tank Engine to wear to school, and Thing1 picked out a red shirt with James on it.  And wouldn't you know that I forgot to mention it to their teacher and she confessed to Superman at pick up that she spent the first part of the morning calling them by the wrong names!

My will I be able to tell them apart in pictures now!

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