I'm a mom of fraternal twin girls. Just because they're twins doesn't mean they look or act the same.
I encourage my twins to be themselves without forgetting their unique connection as twins.
Letting go of my preconceived notions of how I was going to parent them was freeing for all of us.
Becoming a mom was one of the most important times in my life. As a child playing house, I often thought about my husband, the dog, our 2.5 children — the size of the "ideal" family — and the white picket fence enclosing our yard. Becoming a parent has been a wild and crazy rollercoaster for which nothing can prepare you. I was just excited to be pregnant when my husband and I found out in late 2010. My life flashed before my eyes when we were told it was twins.
Fast forward to the present day, and I am now parenting two tweens who are going through all the things every other almost-high schooler goes through. The only difference between them and their peers is how they are viewed and occasionally treated as one-half of a twin set.
Not all twins are created equal
My twins do not fall into most of the stereotypes of twins. For one thing, they don't look anything alike because they are fraternal. It always baffles people, and me quite frankly, when I have to explain that they don't look alike. For another thing, they aren't even remotely interested in the same things.
When they were preschool-aged, it was easier for me to group them together when it came to things like purchasing clothes or choosing which activities they would participate in. As they grew and became their own people with their own opinions, I had to learn to give up control and let them make decisions for themselves.
Elementary school was eye-opening as a twin mom
When it came time to sign them up for kindergarten, my husband and I sat down with our elementary school principal to discuss their classes. One of the best pieces of advice she gave us was to encourage them to be their own people. She reminded us that they had been together for every aspect of their lives up until this point, and it would be OK to separate them for a few hours a day and watch what happens.
She was right. In our school system, teachers at the elementary level work as a "team" and bring each of their classes together for activities like lunch and P.E., but they remain separated for other classes throughout the day. This arraignment worked well for my twin, who wasn't sure she wanted to be separated from her sister, as well as for the one who couldn't wait to blaze her own path through the world.
Reminding them of their twin bond makes it special instead of oppressive
Throughout elementary school and now middle school, my husband and I have encouraged them to embrace their individuality while reminding them that what they have is special. Twins are not as rare as they once were, but there is something to be said about sharing life and a connection with someone who has been with you since the womb.
Although I hoped they would love the things I loved growing up, like ballet and theater, only one is interested in the arts (and she is not interested in ballet at all). I had to let go of the idea of who I thought they would be and embrace the idea of who they actually are. Let's just say I've learned more about girls' softball rules and regulations than I ever thought I would have to know.
Allowing them space to be who they are instead of coercing them into being exactly alike is freeing for them and me.
Parenting twins isn't always easy. Don't make it harder on yourself or your twins
We quickly bypassed the days of dressing alike at all times by the time they were 3. I will admit it was much easier to get everyone dressed and out the door when they were regularly wearing the same thing. It also made identifying them in public spaces easier because I knew which outfit or hair bow to look for.
Alas, I knew that one day, the time would come when they wanted to have a say in the clothes they wore, the activities they were interested in, and that they might even want their own rooms. It may not make interesting reality TV, but parenting twins is hard enough without adding extra pressure to be exactly alike.
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