Twin Thoughts

May 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm (AJ, PJ, Twins) ()

I often seem to have one child I’m worrying about more than the others, or concentrating on.  For quite a while, that’s been Greta, with the tantrums and the potty needs and the speech-learning and the “No Mama”s that she directs at everybody when I’m around.  “No Mama” not as in telling me no, but as in telling her dad, “No way am I going to let you put my shoes on when I can see Mama is over there peacefully drinking her coffee.”  But as we approach the boys’ 6th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on their lives.  I wrote a speech about twins for Toastmasters last year (a geeky club, but I enjoyed it).  It still sums up our twin experience nicely- remember as you read it that it was originally a speech- I didn’t edit it (much):

happily riding an orca whale

Far and away for the last half decade, what have I spent most of my time on, experiencing, talking about, researching? Twins.

Many of you know I have fraternal twin boys named Auden and Parker, who are turning 5 next week.

Not only have been on the front lines of dealing with the ups and downs of twins, but I’ve been involved in 3 twin clubs and led a weekly support group for parents of newborn twins.

When you have twins, people that have raised twins, or are a twin, or have a second cousin that’s a twin tend to come out of the woodwork at the grocery store.

Why is that? Certainly, even though the twin rate is up to 3% of all births, there’s a novelty factor. But it’s more than that. People imagine that having a twin would be a special thing. And it is. So that’s what I thought I’d talk about today. What it’s like to actually be a twin.

90/365 Tire swinging is one of the big draws for G&G's house

There are some positives and some negatives. Of course, I’m not a twin, so I started by conducting a short interview of my boys. Separately, so as not to interfere with results.

“Parker, do you like having a twin?”
“Yes.”

“What’s the best part about having a twin?”
“Playing with him.”

Benefit number one of having a twin: always always having somebody around to play with. One of them recently told me how sorry he felt for one of his friends that didn’t have a twin. The friend has a brother, but siblings have other activities; are at a different development level. Even at 5, Parker recognizes he’s lucky. They’ve never had to go to sleep alone. They’ve recently taken to sleeping in the same bed again, talking about Star Wars until they fall asleep.

Benefit number two of having a twin: And this one mainly applies to the majority of twins who are the same sex and about the same size. I once asked identical twin friends, grown adult men, when I should expect to have to differentiate their clothing. I figured eventually they’d want a separate dresser and initials in their T-shirts. I couldn’t really get a straight answer out of my friend. I later mentioned it to his twin’s wife and figured out why. They live in different states, have wives and kids. But when they visit each other, which is often, they STILL share clothes, even underwear! They don’t pack a bag! I just could not believe it at first! Both then really, whatever residual sweat is in those clean gym socks is the same DNA as the other guy’s, so why would it matter?

Besides clothes, growing up with a twin, there is usually a back up of anything that breaks or gets worn out. People give each of you a new truck, or new T-shirts, but often only one twin likes it. So that person has two.

The last benefit I’ll share about having a twin is having a lifelong support system. As adults, twins tend to remain close and have more contact then average siblings. A large population study in the British Medical Journal found that twins have a substantially lower suicide rate. Presumably it’s due to always having sometime to talk to and rely on.

Look at that

“Now, Auden, do you like having a twin?”
“No.”

“What is it that you don’t like about having a twin?”
“Fighting Parker.”

This brings me to the biggest drawback to having a twin. And believe me, as a parent, I deal with it their -every- -waking- -hour. As I mentioned, growing up, your twin is around you -all- -the- -time. That means, you have to fight for what’s yours and stake your territory -all- -the- -time. We actually saw, on an ultrasound, Parker hitting his Auden on the head. Around two, they went through a biting phase. I remember taking them to swimming lessons and worrying what people would think about the bruises on their bodies from their brother. I stopped worrying as much when a mom with four kids saw a bite mark on Parker. Instead of acting horrified, she asked him, “Now what did you do to your brother to make him bite you like that?”

A second drawback of having a twin is that people will always compare you to him. Auden crawled and walked well within the normal range, but since it was a month behind Parker each time, it was hard not to think of him as “late”. As a mom I’m pretty sensitive about comparing them within earshot. Others aren’t so tactful. Even Auden and Parker themselves hold themselves to the same standard as whatever their brother can do. When they were learning to ride bikes, one boy always seemed to be having a better day right off the bat. As soon as that boy took off down the Burke Gilman with Dad, whichever boy was behind got dejected about it and eventually gave up for the day. I had several outings where I sat on the side of the trail with one boy, waiting for Dad and the other boy to get tired and come back. Eventually they both figured it out and usually ride together peacefully.

The last drawback of having a twin, is that to a lot of people, your name isn’t Auden, or Parker, it’s AudenandParker. Normally sensitive people forget who is who, and lump you together. This isn’t too big of an issue for my boys. Auden has brown eyes, brown hair, and olive skin, and Parker has blue eyes, blonde hair, and fair skin. But still, people do confuse them. And I was asked by plenty of people even up to about two years old, “Are they starting to develop different personalities?” They had different personalities before birth!

I’m hoping that some of these negatives turn into positives. The constant fighting should make them great negotiators. The comparisons and insensitive comments should help them to think about what they say about others. Overall, I think having a constant sidekick is a pretty cool thing for both my sons, despite what Auden said at the particular time I asked him. I am grateful that after I’m gone, they’ll still have each other. I think how they feel about each other can be summed up by something I heard one say to the other from the back of the mini van one day when they were three. “You my best friend. But sometimes… you not my best friend.”

56/365 Boardwalk

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2 Comments

  1. Randal Shultz said,

    Really awesome read. Honest.

  2. Jenn @ Juggling Life said,

    I’m going to share this with my friend–the mom of 19-year old fraternal twins. It was always very funny that just because her kids are half-Asian everyone seemed to think they looked alike, when really you wouldn’t even know they were related if you didn’t know them–they don’t look a thing alike.

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