Thursday, January 12, 2012

One birthday cake or two? An unnecessary stress

I have some advice for parents who fret over whether their twins should have one birthday cake or two, one birthday song or two, one birthday theme or two.
Forget it.
Who cares?
They don't.
Not at one and two years old.
Don't be embarrassed.
We've all been there, thinking that the wrong decision, the wrong move will forever scar our little babies and toddlers, particularly since they already share looks and DNA. How will they ever become individuals if we make them celebrate their shared birthdays as units?
As Matthew and Jonathan approach their fifth birthday, I can assure you that when it matters, they will tell you. They will tell you over and over and over again until you instinctively cringe whenever the topic comes up and make elaborate attempts at distraction.
For us, it started with cakes at three years old.
Matthew made it clear to me that his cake should have yellow frosting. Jonathan wanted blue.
They also wanted their own versions of the birthday song. They stressed these points with anyone who would listen for weeks prior to their birthday.
That was it.
We complied and they were happy.
Their fourth birthday was a yearlong obsession.
They understood, for the first time, what a birthday meant, and the excitement overwhelmed them.
Over the preceeding months, we made cakes for Dino Dan, for Dora, and for the dog. We celebrated on picnic blankets on the living floor, with paper plates on the dining room table and at Friendly's with the Birthday Bash dessert.
It seemed birthdays were all they thought about.
They started planning a full year in advance. Jonathan requested a chocolate cake with blue frosting and Matthew asked for a banana cake with yellow frosting. They wanted separate birthday songs once again and they knew exactly who they wanted to invite.
No more family-only parties.
They wanted the real thing.
Lots of friends.
We complied and they weree happy.
This year, the plans are even more elaborate.
They attend two different preschools together (two days at one and two days at the other). I had planned to bring treats only to the school they attend on their actual birthday. Not fair, they said, not fair to their other friends.
Fine, I said. They won.
So I decided to bring only one treat to each class, certain that the teachers would appreciate limitations on sugar consumption. Not fair, they argued once again. Jonathan and Matthew are two different people, each with his own birthday. They should each be able to bring a treat.
How could I possibly argue with that?
I agreed, but only for the one classroom.
In the other class, we will bring drinks and a treat.
Their party requests are the same -- specific colors and flavors for cakes, separate songs and lots of friends. Thank goodness the community center is cheap. But they added one more thing this year -- pinatas. Not one, but two.
The argument was the same: two birthdays, two pinatas.
I had dug my own hole by caving to this premise before.
Two pinatas it is.
We will comply and they will be happy.
I can't even imagine what their sixth birthday will be like, but I'm already starting to work on it, planning my arguments for less separation, less individualism,  more focus on the fact that their shared birthday is part of what makes their relationship so special.
Yes, it's a selfish argument, but we have to draw the line somewhere before they drive us into financial ruin. We will not entirely comply, but they will be happy.
So my advice is to relax.
Children who can't barely form sentences have little or no concept of what a birthday is so much for whether a joint celebration defines them as a unit. Their birthdays will present enough opportunities for stress in the years to come.
Relax and enjoy.


swissarmymama said...

I started following your blog because I have my own twin boys now, but they're only one so we've only had to deal with one birthday so far.

However, I know that raising twins is different from kids separated by a few years. That said, I have siblings that are three days apart in July and then three of us are within days of each other in September. We almost always shared birthday parties.

My mom would let us take turns, by year, picking the cake, the salty snack, the other food, etc.., and we'd sometimes have two sets of paper plates to go with a theme. We could each invite a few friends. I never remember feeling like my birthday was overlooked. It might be helpful, as your boys get older, to not just focus on the fact that sharing a birthday makes them special, but that other families with other kids also have shared birthdays and have to compromise on decisions about cake, decorations, snacks, games, and more.

Just a thought! Thank you for sharing. :) I always love reading your posts. On a side note, because our boys are so little, a previous post of yours helped me be okay with getting them the same things for Christmas and I think they were much happier for it. :)

Twinsmom said...

Thanks, Audrey! I'm so glad that post was of help to you. You are just starting the fun part, when the twins can begin to communicate with you and with each other. You have a fun and wild ride ahead!

I also shared a birthday celebration with a sibling -- my brother's birthday was two days later -- and it was fun. But he is seven years old than me, so that was the only thing we shared -- not looks, clothing, classrooms and ages. So I think that makes it easier.

But I agree.

I have told them on many occassions about the shared birthday celebrations in my family. I feel the same way about sharing a room. It was a comfort to me and I believe it's a comfort to them. No need to separate them because of some fear of indivuality issues until or unless they request it.

Angie A. said...

what a fantastic blog! i can't help but feel like there was some kind of divine intervention involved in my discovering it. i completed my foster parent training a few weeks ago, and i've just learned that my first foster (and hopefully eventually adopted) kids will be 4-year-old twin boys! i have about a month to prepare, and i am beyond excited. but when reality set in, i realized even though i have plenty of experience with kids, i have none with twins, and i'd better start doing some research! my google search for "raising twin boys" returned your blog as the first link. it couldn't be more helpful! it was exactly what i was looking for... informal information from an experienced mom on many of the everyday challenges (and fun) of raising twin boys. more than anything, i wanted tips on how to maintain a close bond between them while still instilling and developing independence and individuality. thank you so much for sharing your stories about that very subject! thank you also for including information on research studies and more. i had no idea about the twins days festival (which i can't wait to take them to!) or about legislation affecting whether or not they can be placed in the same classroom in school. your blog has opened my eyes to many things that i need to prepare for and given me a great reference point for further research. thanks again for being a role model for present and future moms, and keep writing! :)

Twinsmom said...

Congratulations, Angie! How wonderful that you are willing to take older boys and twins, at that. You will have some rough times (That's a given with two boys.), but I'm sure the good times will outweigh them. You might want to check out the Got Twins? board on (I'm happywritermom on there.). Also, feel free to email me at if I can help you in any way at all. I'm glad you found my blog helpful and I hope all goes smoothly and well with the boys!

Angela said...

I stumbled upon your blog this morning and was so happy to find it! I have 14 month old identical girls. As they get older, I am fascinated in their interactions and growing personalities. Thanks for the sneak peek at your older boys - love the insight.

Lora said...

I have just discovered your blog. I have twin boys that are 15 months. I'm pretty sure they are identical, but the DNA test just went out this morning. I can't wait for the results. Anyway, I found this post to be very interesting. You should have seen the birthday celebration at my house this past May. You see...not only do the twins share the birthday, but they were born on my oldest sons 8th birthday. It was not easy convincing a child that has had his special day all to himself for 8 years, that he now has to share with not one, but tow brothers. I'm sure we have years of craziness ahead. And yes, we had three cakes, three sets of presents, and sang three times. I have one son who still get his birthday all to himself, unless you count the aunt and uncle that also share the month with him. Thanks for the blog. I look forward to reading in the future.