With my twin boys yet to start school, I asked a fellow mum of twins why she had separated her twin girls for their first year of kindy. Personally, I planned on keeping mine together when they started, as I know they would want to be together.
Her answer made me think twice (excuse the pun).
“People treat them as one and the same person,” she said. “They’d try to remember each of the girls’ names and then wave it off, as though it didn’t really matter that they were two individual girls.” This made sense to me at the time, although I was yet to experience it myself.
Until recently, that is.
Birthday parties mean two gifts
We had a party to go to, and as always I purchased two presents. This way both of my boys could wrap their gift up separately and carry it on over to the party girl. I wasn’t some rude lady about to accept two helpings of party cake and goody bags in exchange for one present, that would feel cheeky. Besides, if I didn’t get a present for each of them to proffer, they would simply fight like screaming cats over the one gift, so it made sense all round.
A thank you card
The party was a hit and everyone had a good time. The next week, one of my twins excitedly showed me a thank you card that had been left in his locker at daycare: a little note of thanks from the birthday girl. “Ooh, lucky you, Alfie!” I said, before turning to his brother. “Jimmy, let’s go find yours!”
You can guess what happened here, right?
Yep. There was no card for Jimmy. I turned Alfie’s envelope over and read the words: ‘To Jimmy and Alfie.’ Just the one card. Because, you know, they’re really just one person.
Is it a big deal?
I know, I know. The mum who wrote the cards didn’t mean offence and was clearly saving paper – and her writing hand. But I still felt a bit miffed. After all, they’d given their own presents, didn’t that warrant a card for each of them? Did people really see my two little individual boys as ‘one and the same’? And if only she knew about the raging fight that was had over that one card in the car going home.
When we got home, I told my husband, who shrugged and said, “People without twins don’t get it,” and I see his point. Naturally this issue wouldn’t be relevant to someone who didn’t have twins, and if I didn’t have that conversation with the twin mum earlier on, I probably wouldn’t have taken offence. But this scene really rammed it home for me. My boys deserved individual recognition, like any other single child.
It’s a twin thing…
Although having twins is the best, when it comes to how people see and treat them, there are a few issues — especially as they’re identical. People find it hard to remember their names and who’s who. I’m sure it impacts on them getting invited for playdates; at the same age, my other kids were always getting invited for play. But for my twins – and they’re a delight, I promise – not one single invite.
Given that they come as a pair at this age, I can understand why another mum wouldn’t be keen to invite them for both over for a play. Who wants three boys running around the house? And if their kid only wants one of the twins over for play, she’s hardly going to ask me to bring just one of them around. Fortunately, my boys have never noticed this, as they each have the best playmate you could ask for, as well as an older brother and sister. But it’s made me think about how things will turn out as they get older. I can’t imagine the two of them living separate lives right now, but they’re going to have to some day.
They need their individuality
I love the way my twins are bonded, but I can now see the benefits of separating them when they get to school, just like the twin mum suggested. Giving them separate classes will mean they can make individual friends and really step into their own. They’ll be invited for playdates and to parties where they’ll be treated like a unique person, with people even knowing their name. They can’t grow up thinking they exist as half a person.
In the meantime, I guess we’ll just have to get used to them being treated as a single unit — in which case, the next birthday present we buy for someone might be a single unit too.