Wednesday 5 August 2009

Thoughts on raising twins

(warning – long and sometimes rambling post ahead!)

For those who are interested in this as a craft blog you might want to switch off now as this post is quite a departure from the norm for me.

I’ve contemplated committing my thoughts on being a twin mum to 'paper' for some time now and decided to do it and share them via my blog as I know there are a number of mums, with twins both older and younger than our girls, who are regular blog readers and so might have further ideas/thoughts to add to mine.

Before my girls arrived I will confess I was someone who looked at twin babies as they passed by and thought how sweet it was to see two small beings together. There is an innate fascination with multiple children, one which I openly admit I shared.
I guess I had never thought any further than that though about what decisions and parenting information I would need to manage the two little lives I was being entrusted with.

OK – what do I mean?
The man-of-the-house and I decided that we wanted to concentrate very much on our children being treated as individuals. They are after all two very distinct people who could have been born as siblings as easily as they were born twins.

We never refer to them as ‘the twins’ and heaven forbid anyone should call them ‘the twinnies’! Generally we use their names, or, in the case of online chat they were always ‘the girls’ and now that their little sister has arrived ‘the big girls’.

Yet there are times that I find I am doing things which mean they are not being treated individually and I wonder how, or if this will affect them as they grow older.

I notice in looking through photos that while there are many of their sister alone they are most often photographed together. Not so much now – but pretty much all the time as babies.
This was just a convenience thing – they were always side-by-side, but how will they feel about this?

In order for people to tell them apart (even though no they are not identical!) I’ve always made an effort to dress them ‘the same but different’ – same style but two colour, same colours but different styles. Again a convenience thing – it was always easier to think of dressing them in ‘that’ outfit rather than look for two completely different outfits.

That said I was very firm (to the man-of-the-house’s often complete clothing confusion!) about each child having her ‘own’ clothes. The outfits were not interchangeable, one belonged to each girl and she would wear that same item each time.

As they grew older dressing like this became necessity, as they wanted to wear the ‘same but different’ things.
Now I find that they want to wear the same. Exactly the same if they can.
They also want to swap outfits, which confuses people immensely, and leads to name confusion.

In order to avoid them being called the wrong name when they were babies I always dressed the same girl in pink and went to great lengths to point out physical features that people could use to tell them apart.
(did I mention that they are fraternal!!)

On their birthday we always make a special effort to ‘make it their own’. Two cakes is a must for us and we sing happy birthday twice –once to each of them (I even alternate who we sing to first each year!).
As the girls are getting older I encourage each to think about a card/gift for the other, to remember it’s someone else’s birthday too.

I worry endlessly about the days where I seem to discipline one more than the other, I take care not to praise one more than the other, I attempt to always speak of their individual strengths and foster these, not to assume they will both be good at the same things.

As the kinder/school years approach I think about how to manage this.
Should they be in the same class or in different classes?
We often reflect that if they had a friend going to the same school we’d probably like them to be in the same class – why not assume the same for a sister, for their first year at least?

We often get people who have children with a small age gap saying that it’s just like having twins. But really, it’s not. It’s not the same at all.

I’m sure there are many times that having two children of exactly the same age is easier (they both slept at the same time as babies, ate the same etc). But I am talking about more than the logistics of having two (or three) small children.

Having two children of the same sex at exactly the same age leads to endless comparisons; oh that one’s walking but the other one’s not, who’s the leader, which one is the quiet one, that one is tall isn’t she, so she’s heavier than her sister, oh I can tell that she’s the musical one; ad infinitum.

I wonder what they will be like as teens and adults – how will they view their relationship with each other and their sense of who they are.
Will they be angry at me for the way I have encouraged their independence, or will they be too dependent on one another, will they wish I had reinforced their ‘twinship’ more strongly in some ways?

I don’t want to over-think it – but I am interested to know what others think/believe/do/encourage.

So what do you do?
To make your children individual’s but twins all the same.
What has made your life easier when it comes to managing two people of the same age, at whatever age that might be?

If you’re a twin, what advice would you give to other mum’s of twins.
And if you don’t have or are not a twin – what do you make of all this?

Please share your thoughts and feelings, I’d love to know more.

If you’ve made it this far – thank you for reading!
(PHOTO CREDIT: tounge-firmly-planted-in-cheek photo's by John and Charles Robinson from the annual Twinsburg, Ohio Twins Days festival)


Kelly O. said...

I do not have twins but twins do run in my family. My cousins were always called "the twins" even now as 30 year olds and they don't care a bit.

At the same time they are individuals and I wonder sometimes if they have "acted out" or "rebelled" as teens to prove their independence from one another (bear in mind here that these twins in particular have a chemical imbalance that if not treated can cause poor behaviour--so this may not be a direct effect).

Other twins in our family are being treated as siblings, not twins per ce, and it seems to be fine. they are young like yours and we have yet to see any true negative impact derived from the "twin" thing.

I applaud your efforts as a mother to keep their identities in tact. What is much work for you now, I believe is only making them better, in their own eyes and in the eyes of others.

I've often wondered if I were to have twins--about the clothing thing and I think I have decided that I'm not going to be extreme.
Sisters share clothing.
If I were to have another girl she would wear my 4 year old's old clothes, so why not share the wardrobe between twins....
and matching isn't bad, my 4 yr old and 2 yr old love to match! and they're the opposite sex!

You're a good mother. Good mothers worry about these things. Good mothers overthink things because they want to do the best for their children. In the end how you treat them is molding who they will become.
The most important thing is that they realize that they are different and you expect only the best that they can do, regardless of their sister's talents.

They will turn out fine.

urban craft said...

I don't have twins, just a little boy but I have known people with twins and they say the same thing about the twins wanting to dress exactly the same. Honestly, I think you are doing a great job from what you wrote. You are treating them equally and individually. Seems like they are letting you know what they are happy with so I would just go with the flow. The adults who I know who are a twin seem also happy no matter what kind of upbringing they have had. They thing is, not everyone is privileged enough to be a twin and share their life with a sibling so closely. It's special. Something most people can never experience unless they are a twin and I think your girls already may understand and appreciate that.
I think that it is wonderful that you have put so much thought into it. But, as with any kids, they will be their own person no matter what. You are doing just fine already.

Laura said...

I certainly don't mind the craft departure! As a mother of 3-year old twins (a boy and girl), I think they way you've explained yourself and your 'philosophy,' if you may, is great.

Although we deal with more obvious differences with a boy and girl, I've always made a distinct effort to treat them as individuals - their own birthday cakes, gifts, etc. When we go to birthday parties, each child brings their own gift, and people are surprised by this. To which I respond, "Well, they are two seperate people...they like to get their own gifts, too." Not surprisingly, though, they tend to get mostly 'joint' gifts from others.

I get a lot of comments about how miraculous it is that they look so much alike, and I usually say something about how they are regular siblings, they just happened to be born at the same time. Your 6 and 10 year old might've looked remarkable the same at age 3 too, if you'd been able to put them side by side.

I need to make more of an effort to do seperete photographs, more 'alone' outings and such, and start thinking about different classrooms at school and such.

I think it sounds like you're doing a really good job and making good decisions for the girls. If you want to write aboutt them again, I'd love to read it!

Unknown said...

Another who is not the mother of twins, but think you are doing a great job. The fact that you take the time to consider these things shows that your main concern is "the girls". I am, however, a teacher so will comment on the school thing. We always recommend that for the first year they stay in the same class. Starting school is daunting, even for the most confident child, and having someone else there helps. I've had two experiences of twins being split in the first year and in was difficult for one pair and down right traumatic for the other. In both cases the children were placed back together in a matter of weeks and things settled down. After that, take it on a year by year basis. Consider abilities, friendship groups, personality issues with other kids, the teacher's opinion, but, most of all, ask them what they would like. Again, I taught twins who always opted to be together until one year they decided they would like to be in different classes. Funnily enough, the next year they decided while it was a nice experiment, they prefered to be together.
In the end, what ever decisions you make, your girls will always be twins, will always have a special connection and will always baffle you as any child does!

Unknown said...

I have two little boys 14 months apart, and I buy them the same things in different colours, but they don't wear them at the same time.

So even though they aren't twins (not by a long shot) I still have the same sort of worries. Have I bought more things for one than the other, I worry about one of them being disciplined more than the other, Is one getting more cuddles, does one need more cuddles...?!

My dad is a twin. I guess it was a bit easier making sure they were being treated as independent children as his twin was a girl. I bet my grandma thought about all this stuff too, but I don't think she probably dwelt on it as much since she had six other kids to worry about.

I asked my dad what it was like to be a twin once. He said "What is it like not being a twin?"

I don't think there is a right or wrong way of doing things, they won't know any other way (like my dad). I guess just try to be consistent, and if things aren't going the way you want, then you adjust what you are doing....

Cass said...

Karen, I just had to comment on a lovely post and while not a twin nor do I have twins, but having "seen" your girls grow up online I think you are doing a fantastic job. Personally I don't like seeing kids, twins or otherwis, dressed the same but I agree with Kelly about sharing clothes,especailly now they are older. I am sure there are clothes you have passed down to Miss G from the big girls as we all have with same sex siblings. Also as they get older I am sure they will set people straight if they call them the wrong name because they are in something the other sister had previously worn.

Just on the school thing, I agree in the first year being together would probably make the adjustment easier. Charlotte has twins in her year (boy and girl) and they were put in the same class last year and this year the mother was given the choice. She chose the same class again because they are different sex but said she may have chosen different if they were the same sex to broaden their friendships. I guess the thing you need to be careful of because they are both girls is that they don't just play with each other and that they make friends with other kids.

cherri said...

Karen - I don't even know any twins!!! hehehe

Maybe look at it like this - your children are twins and therefore have a step above others their age. They have a soulmate/best friend/personal company at each moment of the day. This will surely make them more social, confident and conscious of others needs and wants.

I say keep treating them as your two daughters - just born at the same time - and when they do want to 'be the same', then let them. Perhaps dressing the same is a sub-concious effort to strengthen their bond.

Good luck - must be very hard!

Kelly said...

Great post Karen. I think you are doing a fab job with your girls. We too are trying to raise our twins as individuals. I have always dressed them differently. Often it might be a similar outfit / design but always a different colour. The girls also have their own clothes but they are now into swapping and sharing, which is nice! Being a twin myself, I think that is nice to be an individual. My Mum also dressed us differently, although now at 31 we find that we often turn up to things in the same outfit, but a different colour. I am so grateful for my twin...she is my best friend (aside from my husband) and I am glad that my girls will have one another as they move through life. On schooling we have decided at this stage to keep the girls together and be led by their teachers but I think they would be lost without one another, as they are best friends! I am looking forward to reading more of your thought on twins..

Leah said...

Wow, great post, gave me alot to consider, even though I dont have twins. Sounds like your doing all the right things, and im sure the girls will help you make decisions on certain things too. Follow your heart - or what you feel is right and im sure the girls will grow to be loving/caring individuals.
The hardest job! Bloody hey it is.

Cindy said...

So intersting. Our neighbour has identical twins and I think that woudl be even harder. I was married to a twin and they were so proud of each other, which has been my experience of most twins, regardless of how they were raised.

Carolyn said...

I don't have twins either but can relate to some of how your feeling. I think for me though it's ok to dress them the same as they are not twins. The boys are the same size and the younger is heavier so clothes wise there is no hand me downs- they share a wardrobe. The girls will be the same soon as the younger is bigger age for age- so again will share a wardrobe I think.

Carolyn said...

Just wanted to add it depends on your kids personality too-my boys love similar things but really it's up to them if they do or don't wear the same.

My boys don't look a lot alike but as they are similar age similar height etc people get them muddled all the tome

Sarah-Jo said...

loved your post it was very interesting to read :)

I dont have twins but my son and nephew get mistaken for being twins all the time LOL theres a 6mth age gap between the two but they get compared alot which tends to annoy me but eh what can you do

I think alot of what you face is normal for all mothers, we all question our parenting and how it will effect our children in the long term...of course your situation like others with twins is heightened

at the end of the day if your kids are happy, meaning they like themselves then I think your doing the best you can!

My 5yr old always says he loves me, his dad and his sister and then he adds "and myself, I love me too" I always think if a child likes who they are then they must like where their coming from....a safe happy home :)

Judy Ross said...

I really enjoyed your post, and the comments. I have 14 month old boy/girl twins, twin sisters (identical) and my husband is a twin (also identical) so I've had a lot of exposure to twins! The identical pairs didn't like being dressed the same and only being referred to as "the twins", but are very close. My husband says that when they were in school he knew his twin brother always had his back, which gave them both confidence. They are still very close, and many many times have shown up in the same outift!

I have thought long and hard about my twins. I do photograph them separately because they don't always play together (I snap it when they do!). I do refer to them as "the twins" at this stage because it's shorter than their names. We will almost certainly stop as they get a little bigger.

I hate that they are compared to each other, when they're not even the same sex! Our daughter is considerably bigger than our son, but he is more advanced physically. Both are perfectly normal, and the only reason to compare is that they're the same age at the same time. It drives me nuts.

I heartily agree with those who say that by thinking of the issues, you are aldready doing a great job for your twins.

Mrs Button said...

Karen, I have given lots of thought to your post and reflected upon the way we treat our twins. I'm going to write about it in a post and will pop back to let you know when I manage to condense the ramblings! I think your girls are lucky to have a parents who thoughtfully reflect on their parenting practices. Lisa.

Christina Lowry said...

Hi Karen,

Nikki, a mother of twins pointed me to your post and thought I would find it interesting and I do. I am an identical twin and I can relate to so much of what you have written. This is rambling and disjointed...

My parents, particularly my mother, went through the same thing with us. We were always treated as individuals with different tastes and like and dislikes. When we were younger Mum dressed us the same but in different colours, then she would always buy or make us the same clothes in diffent colours - I liked purple and my sister blue - so we knew whose was whose by colour. Mum would not let anyone call us twinnies or the twins, but used our names. She could always tell us apart, but my father couldn't! He would aske us "Are you you or your sister", as a child I didn't understand and would say "I'm Christina". Later on I realised he didn't know! My 98 year old Grandmother still cannot tell us apart. We were brought the same toys in different colours. We appear in most of our younger photos together and laugh because even we can't tell each other apart unless we can see our bracelets. Mum brought us silver name bracelets and I wore mine on my left, my sister wore hers on her right.

We went to the same preschool and kindy, but in primary school mum decided to seperate us to elliminate some of that comparison that happens, and so the teachers didn't get confused. I think it made up more independant and make other friends as well - although our best friends were twins too.

We studied the same subjects in high school, it was our choice. We both applied to study fine arts and my sister is now an art teacher study her Masters, while I was working in an art gallery and now have an 8 month old baby.

We have so much in common and we are best friends, we are independant and dependant on each other at the same time! It is wonderful to have some one to grow up with, to share everything with, who understands you, who you can call on a good or bad day and they will understand, or they will just 'know' to call you on a bad day. Some one to tell you the clothes you are trying on don't suit you, to assess a new boyfriend, to encourage you before an exam. I could go on for ages, but this comment is turgning into an essay!

I think you are doing everything right because you love your girls and want to do your best, so that means you are already. They will have their ups and downs, individually and together, but there is a bond there, that nothing can break. My sister and I can have huge arguements, laugh and go have coffee!

I hope this makes sense and helps in some way.

:) Christina

trixi said...

As a mother of 4 children (no twins) I would say there are probably no right or wrong answers to most of the questions you ask. You need to do what you believe is right for you and your girls. And you need to remember that you will make mistakes but it doesn't matter because you learn from you mistakes too! Kids need to be loved and to know you are there for them no matter what.

Sylvia said...

I think to each their own. I don't think it's necessary for everyone to do it the same... I think different things work for different kids. Just love them and make sure they are happy. :)
Cheap Cigars