Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When dressing identical twins alike is a bad idea

I have to laugh when people ask whether we ever dress Matthew and Jonathan alike.
As babies, they peed and pooped through so many clothes that we'd have needed at least four sets of all outfits to keep them in matching clothes for more than an hour or two. Identical outfits were not practical anyway, especially in the winter when socks covered Jonathan's painted toenails.
It was hard enough to tell them apart.
Why would we want to make it harder?
By the time the boys were 16 months old, they had distinct color preferences and they had learned to exert those preferences loudly and strongly. Matthew wore yellow. Jonathan wore orange. Matthew wore pants. Jonathan wore shorts.
Efforts to dress them in matching clothes were met with fury.
Now, at 3.5 years old, the boys share few clothes. For the most part, they have each claimed certain shirts, pants, shorts, socks and jackets. On occasion, they will wear the same jackets or the same color shirt, but that's where it ends.
For the most part, it matters not to me whether others dress their identical twins alike. It's fairly harmless when are young and most kids will protest if they don't like it as they age. By the teen years, many identical twins choose to dress alike anyway.
But there are times, I have learned, when dressing identical twins in identical clothing is simply a bad idea.

Playgrounds, pools, and public spaces:
I once bought matching swim trunks for Matthew and Jonathan and took them to the toddler pool at the YMCA. What a nightmare. Though the pool is small and a lifeguard is always on duty, it would have been easy for active children like my own to walk out the gate with another family.
From even a short distance, it was impossible to tell the boys apart with their naked chests and matching trunks. I was always on edge, making sure I could see both at the same time. It must have been at least as difficult for the lifeguard.
I had the same experience at a playground once when they wore matching tops. Though their shorts were different, they were close in color. Someone could easily have snatched one up, or one twin could have run off to the parking lot, and it would have taken me too much precious time to notice.
At pools, on playgrounds and in public spaces, it can dangerous to dress twins alike.

When you don't want attention:
This is the one that irks the most. All infant twins will be ogled. That's a fact that parents must accept. They are just far too adorable to resist when they are together in their strollers with their soft skin, tiny cries and pink cheeks. It's best to accept it and build ogle time into our schedules.
Once twins ditch the strollers though, ogling-related disruptions should be greatly reduced. Jonathan and Matthew are always taking off in different directions. Unless they are standing together, it can be difficult to tell whether they are even brothers, so much for twins.
Yet I see it, hear it and read it all the time: moms of toddlers and older twins complaining that they were "stopped once again" by curious strangers in malls, grocery stores and restaurant. They curse the strangers and expound upon the "rudeness" of some people.
Just about every time, however, further questioning reveals that the twins were dressed alike. The only reason to dress identical twins alike is for the attention. If parents do not want the attention, they should not dress their twins alike.
It's that simple.

When the twins say "No."
This should be a no-brainer.

Our boys surprise me at every turn.
So it's possible that despite their firm convictions about clothing, they will someday beg me for matching jeans, t-shirts and sneakers as we are shopping. If they do, I will relent because it really should be up to them from now on, except in those situations where it might be dangerous.
I might even think it's cute.
I do not judge those who dress their twins alike.
It can be fun.
But, I admit, I do judge those who do not use common sense.
So please, when you dress your identical twins, just use common sense.
And then, when you are out and about and I see them pass by in matching outfits, I will be among those who grin and comment on how adorable they are. I might even stop you. Because twins do that to people. And making people smile, making them happy, is a good thing.


MLS said...

Hi, I just stumbled across your blog, as a mother of 6 month old identical boys I appreciate getting to read about your journey. I also wanted to say that you post a lot informational stuff and I appreciate that you put links to the research you talk about. Your boys are adorable!

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