I’m a twin. An identical twin actually. Ironically, we happen to have seven sets of identical twins in our extended family, and I think it always surprises people when I say that I am absolutely, categorically against having twins of my own. I am petrified actually. So much so, that during our ivf treatment we had pre-genetic screening to increase our odds of implantation, but we also had it to reduce our chances of having multiples. And the reason why is because growing up as a twin was tough. I can honestly say that my twin sister was like having my best friend and worst enemy all rolled up in the same person. Oh, and we happened to look alike, sound alike, were expected to do the same things, wear the same clothes . . . did I mention that she looked like me?
I think one of the biggest drawbacks of being a twin is the competition. Our household was a fairly competitive one, and it wasn’t uncommon for me and my sister to compete over the tiniest things. If my sister came home with a better grade on her science exam, you can imagine the lengths I went to to be the “better” twin. The competition was endless. I remember one Christmas where my sister got one more present than me from Santa. I remember feeling like Santa must have loved her more than me, and hadn’t I done everything to be the “best” twin possible? Of course, there are plenty of people out there that compete with their siblings. And I believe that the level of competition totally depends on the temperament of the two children involved, the amount of competition encouraged within the household, and let’s not forget parenting styles. But the ugly reality is that there is always going to be a favorite twin – even if there are other siblings in the house. And I know that my sister would agree when I say that I was the favorite twin. My older brother was definitely a favorite, and I knew from a very early age that I was the other. I grew up believing that I was special and loved, whereas my sister didn’t get that message. It was hard on her, and it created a tumultuous environment for her – especially as she hit her teenage years. Ideally my parents would have fostered an environment of acknowledgement and support while deemphasizing competition, but that’s not the way it was. My parents did the best that they could, but I do wish they had approached having twins a little differently.
Another crummy reality about being a twin is the constant, persistent comparisons by your family, your friends, and oftentimes by complete strangers:
“Oh wow, look at how much taller your sister is!”
“Who was born first?”
“Who does better in school?”
“Who has more friends?”
“Wow, your sister is the bigger twin, isn’t she?” (Now you would think that this comparison wasn’t made often, but you’d be wrong. Sadly, this comment and the next did some of the most damage for my sister in high school, and it was hard to constantly be compared to a marginally thinner, identical twin)
“Who do you think is the prettier one?”
“Who is the nicer twin?”
“Who is the better twin?”
To be honest, all of the competition and comparisons messed with my sense of identity as I grew up. It didn’t help that not only did my sister look exactly like me, but we both excelled in similar things. People viewed us as the same person, “the twin girls”, and I remember being frustrated when others couldn’t see my own individuality – or when my own mom would consistently just mash our two names together like we were one person. Raising twins is hard, hard work and even my own mom didn’t understand the importance of viewing us as individuals. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve started to realize that some of the things my parents did were helpful while others were not. But to be fair, being a twin wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of good times rolled in with the bad, and hopefully I haven’t completely freaked out all of the mommies out there that are currently pregnant with twins!
I commend all the parents who have either had twins or are going to have them soon. You guys are in for a unique, whirlwind ride and it’s amazing. (Okay, the reality is that it’s a lot of hard work – harder than raising a singleton – but it’s also super amazing!) Just remember, no matter how often your twins say things at the same time or seem to know what the other one is thinking – they are two completely different individuals. Each with their own thoughts, feelings, hopes, and desires. Oh, and I would try to limit any and all comparisons if possible. That shit is harmful.