It was the first day of preschool and after I labored over the perfect outfit (matching of course), I was completely unprepared for the teacher’s first words. “How should we tell them apart?” I must have looked visibly confused because she continued, “Well, they are dressed just alike.” You mean other people didn’t see the obvious acorn shape of one child’s head and the onion shape of the other? I knew I treated my boys as individuals at home, but did my fashion sense take away from the individuality I expected other people to bestow on them? Encouraging individuality is a part of having multiples and can be quite the daunting task, but I found out the hard way that it doesn’t have to be.
The first few years of twin-dom, I was bombarded with the notion that everything must be done on a never changing schedule that my boys, husband and relatives were to strictly adhere to. According to all the books I meticulously read and carried out to a tee, I was to foster individuality in my twins by making sure their names didn’t rhyme, their clothes didn’t match, their toys and birthday celebrations were done separately and heaven forbid I refer to them as “the twins.” Alright, so names not rhyming— check, clothes not matching— I’m shaky on that one, and toys and birthdays separate—what are they crazy? Who has that kind of time and money? Still, keeping to my schedule and trying to set aside separate time with “the twins” (I’m shaky on that one too) as part of the schedule led to the inevitable mommy meltdown and the eventual realization that I was making this harder than it had to be.
Finding time to show the boys that they were special together as twins, and individually as separate little people, seemed overwhelming— but really it wasn’t. Fostering individuality and a sense of independence in my boys happened naturally and with no planning at all. After a while I realized all the books in the world couldn’t teach me how to raise them as little individuals— only my husband and I could. At that point the “schedule” became a lot more flexible.
Right around walking age, parents of multiples will notice each twins’ special talent, and as we watch our children grow, we nurture their individual interests almost instinctively. Promoting their individuality came at times before, during and after the impending “schedule” was at the height of popularity in our house. For one twin, who is a notorious early bird and the next Peter Jennings, we find time alone first thing in the morning while the house is still and quiet as his Dad and brother sleep. We sit and chat over coffee and Apple Jacks and in that time I learn as much about my son as an individual as I learn about them together over dinner.
For the other twin, his time alone comes in the form of art and artistic expression. He loves to draw and write, and will attempt just about anything. We cherish our time making the family grocery list together adding in all his favorites, since after all, he is in charge of making the list. I find myself looking to him to keep Mommy on track for when peanut butter is low and juice boxes are down to two.
As they grow, I anticipate them participating in different activities and having separate goals and ideas. Right now, I’m just glad to be driving to only one T-Ball game and shopping in one store! As for dressing kids alike— its an added bonus and a guilty pleasure for parents of multiples and maybe it sends the message that they are the same, but the values and individual support the kids garner at home are what ultimately spills over into the outside world. And it is this assertion of independence that will drive their success. Besides, if any teacher wonders who is who they will soon learn that “I’m Dylan and he’s (pointing) Donovan!!”