Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fraternal verses identical: the attention factor

It's rare, but it happens.
Most often, parents of fraternal twins find the fact that Matthew and Jonathan are identical interesting, but it ends there. Raising identical twins has its unique challenges, but parents of any category of twins have so much in common that further discussion of their zygosity needn't come up.
But every now and then, I'll get that immediate snub from a fraternal-twin parent, that kind of look that I'd expect to see on a middle school playground from the girl who is envious of the other girl for reasons that are all in her own head.
I know what that look means because I am a curious person. I've explored it before. I've pushed past the snub and pursued conversations. It means that this parent is a little envious because she believes my twins get more attention than hers.
The hard part is that she is probably right.
The harder part is that it shouldn't matter.
The people we meet don't mean to upset anybody and it certainly doesn't mean that fraternal twins are any less valued.
It's just that identical twins are more obvious.
They attract attention.
But, as we were often taught during sensitivity training in my former career as a journalist, intention is pretty much meaningless. Perception is what counts. Reporter Dionne Searcey of The Wall Street Journal does a wonderful job of capturing that perception and the dynamic behind it at the annual Twins Days festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, last weekend.
Click this link for her story: At a Convention Full of Them, It's Apparent Not All Twins are Created Equal.


Mary said...

Very interesting. I think it depends on if you like the extra attention or not. I love that my boys are so different in looks...I think it helps other strangers treat them appropriately (like individuals). It frustrates me when people who have known my boys for years or are even related to us can't tell them apart...it's super obvious. I can only imagine how that frustration is multiplied when your twins are identical. I like hearing what the identical twin moms go through and comparing it to what I go through with fraternals...it really makes me think about the nature/nurture thing. It's fascinating stuff.

Katie said...

I came across your blog for the first time today and I am amazed at the similarities between your stories and my experience thus far. My boys are identical and 13.5 months old and I am amazed by them every day. I went back and read your posts from when your boys were "little" and it was like I could be writing these posts myself! I almost cried thinking, "Finally, someone who knows exactly what all this is about!" And then I read your recent posts and I started to panic a little. I haven't really put much thought into the whole twin identity thing and it dawned on me that I have a big responsibility here - until this point, it's been about survival! Thanks for sharing your experiences and for prompting me to consider what lies ahead. I look forward to following your blog!

Anya Wimberly said...

Hello, I am also just discovering your blog, and enjoying it! I am expecting identical twin girls - due in 11 days!

I think identical gets more attention because it's less common and it's inexplicable.

I haven't experienced the fraternal mom snub (but my babes aren't born yet). I was thinking though, that maybe for the moms, the identicals threaten their fraternals' identities- like their twinness is in question when identicals enter the room. That is if you define twins by how much they appear to have in common.


Twinsmom said...

I think Tulip Patch is right: it depends on how you feel about the attention. Most moms of twins (fraternal and identical) are relieved when their kids get older and the attention dies down, but there are a few for whom the fact that they have twins is far too closely tied with their own identities. The reality that some folks don't notice that their children are twins is a huge blow to them. These are the people who have a hard time.
I glad you all are enjoying the blog. My hope when I started writing it was to give parents something to go on. I could nothing about raising identical twins when my guys were born. If you are looking for more, you might want to check out Abigail Pogrebin's book, One in the Same. Most of the twins she interviews have some kind of celebrity status, so you have to take it with a grain of salt. But I found it very eye-opening.

MotherRunner said...

Thanks for this post - I just found you from BBC and now follow you. I have 17 month old identical twin boys and I definitely have felt snubbed by fraternal mamas... I have a blog at twinlane.blogspot.com about being a runner and raising twins. Looking forward to reading this article!

LizzyB said...

I haven't experienced it yet but it's probably because we don't get out much. We never joined any of the twins groups because I never really had anyone to help me out in the early days and the thought of going anywhere solo was unimaginable. I have no doubt it does exist though but I agree when you say it's because the fact that they have twins is how they identify themselves. I've been following your blog since my boys were probably 6 months or so (they turned 3 six months ago) and I have to say it kept me sane. For me, the first 2 years were all about survival and knowing someone else could relate and that things would eventually get better/easier was a huge help. Love reading your posts.