Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be different or else!

People have all kinds of unsolicited advice for parents of identical twins.
Among the most prevalent is that we must do everything possible to encourage separate identities. Dress them differently, buy them their own clothes, separate them in school, take them on separate outings, give them their own bedrooms, never call them "the boys," cut their hair differently, register them for different activities -- I could go on and on.
Now, I don't dress the boys alike, but it's not because I'm pushing some theory on individuality. It's because I'm too lazy. If I dress them differently, I can memorize their clothing in the morning. Then I know who I'm talking to without having to look at the veins on their noses or observe their behaviors for clues.
So that's about all we've done to encourage their individuality.
With two older kids, we lack the time and the energy to take them on separate outings. I also refuse to dictate their activities as they get older; If they both want to play soccer, then they should both be allowed to play soccer. And recent studies show that identical twins fair better socially and academically in school when placed in the same classrooms. So, if we feel it is in their best interests, we will fight tooth and nail to keep them together.
Yet. individuality happens anyway.
Identical twins don't necessarily need a facilitator.
Just the other day, Jonathan started screaming whenever we tried put him in the newer of the two highchairs. He gladly slides into the older highchair, which he has claimed as his own even though we have always randomly seated them for meals.
Matthew refuses to eat grapes or blueberries even as Jonathan devours them. Sometimes it seems that he refuses them because Jonathan devours them. He watches his brother eat them and then fervently shakes his head "no" when we offer some to him.
Jonathan has even learned to say Matthew's name (Sort of. He says "Maaaahhh!") He looks or points at his brother as he identifies him and then giggles (cackles, really). If asked his own name, he just gets a shy look on his face. "Jon" is hard to say. He doesn't dare try. But he knows that he is not "Maaahhhhh!"
Both boys answer only to their own names.
A sense of self is a product of discovery and discovery occurs when children have choices. Forcing individuality upon identical twins --making them pursue separate activities, separating them in school for no reason other than the notion that separate is better, denying them the chance to decide their own sleeping arrangements as they get older -- is no more admirable than forcing them to be alike.
Like the rest of us, Matthew and Jonathan might never fully understand who they are, but they already know who they are not.
Matthew knows he is not Jonathan.
Jonathan knows he is not Matthew.
To me, that's a successful start.


Lexi said...

I think this applies to twins identical or not, but I am kind of like you. We do what they like and what they want. I have the other two kids that do everything together, I don't see the issue.

Anonymous said...

Love your post! I just wrote a similar article on my website. I too have identical boys and have never worried about their individuality.

Unknown said...

Great advice, my sentiments exactly.
Thank you for the comment on my blog. I will be sure to ask my OB at my next appointment if they will be checking to see if there is truely one placenta or if it is two fused. I will be seeing him in a couple of days, so maybe he will be able to see the genders and if boy/girl, that will answer that question.
I'm also hoping he will be able to help me with my migraines as I've have a total of four in the past couple of days. I'm not a happy camper right now.

Anonymous said...

I can relate with your blog entry, it is easier to let them be who they are, instead of pushing onto them, something they are not. That is just the nature of it, and accepting individuals for who they are. I applaud you on being the person you are, and welcoming these boys into your open arms and your life. Regards