Tuesday, 30 June 2015

the twin thing

Mothers of twins are asked some standard questions: are they identical? (i dont know) which is the oldest? (Briony) are they very close? (yes) are they in the same class? (mostly)

so many times I have been asked about whether my girls are in the same class and would it be better to separate them, and how does a parent decide on such a thing?

my answer has usually been "they are in the same classes, they are both doing well, there doesnt seem to be reason to change  things"

after having this conversation again recently, i finally have the answer i want:

i think that our society is distinctly uncomfortable with some relationships and will make up any kind of story to support the unnecessary disruption of these relationships.

not too long ago the powers that be in Australia removed Aboriginal children from their families, we still separate some babies from their mothers at birth, we still encourage new parents not to sleep with their babies or to let them get "too" attached and "spoilt", we are still grappling with equitable acknowledgement of same sex relationships, elderly people are frequently separated from their lifelong partner when one is moved to a nursing home (or worse, they are moved to separate homes) and teen boys in school still find it appropriate to affirm their "non-homo" status if they make any display of affection to another boy.

sometimes, one would  think that young, heterosexual, romantic love between gorgeous looking individuals, is the only type of relationship that is encouraged.

I think that young twins are very often victim to the culture of separation just because their close relationship is foreign to the people doing the separating. if a pair of twins are useful members of their society, does it matter even if they never become independent of each other? would it matter if they never had romantic partnerships? would it matter if they worked in the same place? is there a genuine reason why they shouldn't live in the same house? are we silly enough to think that a set of twins must be forcibly separated at a young age because they won't naturally develop a desire for independence later on? what is the real concern about twins? why such an emphasis on their "independence" and "not relying on each other" ?

i claim no particular brilliance for allowing my girls to determine their own level of independence, it was more an instinctive or default choice than a carefully reasoned one but now that i have managed to articulate my ideas i will always encourage parents and friends of twins to let them  find their own way.

singletons and twins alike, we know what we need, if only we are given room to figure it out.


  1. Thank you.
    Another thoughtful post which clearly articulates thoughts I have wrestled with. It is true that we don't always know what is best for us, but love is too rare and too valuable to stifle.

  2. I don't know much and therefore can't say much. The only thing about identical twins that weirds me out is when they're dressed identically, but then it also weirds me out when married couples do that.

    As for parents not sleeping with their children, isn't this to protect the child from being rolled-over on and suffocated? I should think that such a thing would be rare, but I can imagine someone gathering statistics that show it to be enough of a potential problem as to be discouraged.

  3. I complement you on a well thought out and written post on a difficult subject. Quite how human beings became like this beat me. From all accounts, it was not so at least till WWII. Natural development of relationships were the norm and artificial separations did not take place. While I do not have any intimate relationship with twins, those I know seem to function very well in their relationships, but they are either of or closer to my age group. I must find out what it is like for the younger ones in India.

  4. EC
    you just perfectly hit the nail on the head: love is too rare and valuable to stifle.


  5. snow
    the funny thing about the identical clothing is that I thought it was silly but faced with dressing two children, identical outfits simplify things.

    the safety guidelines for sleeping with babies and young children require a firm sleeping surface and no loose covers/ pillow/ cushions. If those criteria are met and so long as the adult is a parent, unaffected by drugs, alcohol or exhaustion there is really very little chance of suffocating a baby.
    Since people have been heavily discouraged from bed sharing a number of babies have been suffocated by exhausted parents trying to be safe but falling asleep with babe in an unsafe recliner or couch.

    wishing you well, lovely

  6. Ramana,
    It beats me too! I thought things might be different in India but you seem well acquainted with the phenomenon

  7. I don't see any good reason why twins should be deliberately separated. I think you're right that people just feel uncomfortable with certain relationships and want to break them up.

    The frequent practice of separating elderly couples when they go into care is outrageous. I would be distraught if Jenny and I ended up in separate places.

  8. Nick,
    I do understand that there may be logistical difficulties with nursing couples: there may be only one bed available or the two individuals may need specialised care in different facilities but I think it often just depends on someone to have the will to get a couple together.

  9. “the funny thing about the identical clothing is that I thought it was silly but faced with dressing two children, identical outfits simplify things.”

    Non-parent that I am, I never thought about that, and it hasn’t come up with my fur-babies because, Allah be praised, they come permanently dressed in the most adorable suits imaginable. I vaguely recall that when I was a boy, I was aware of twins being dressed alike, and it weirded me out to the point of feeling sorry for them. I wish that I had a twin, but never do I wish to dress like another person. I heard recently that the guy who popularized lawn-flamingoes died, and that, for years, he and his wife dressed alike. I don’t get it. It’s like various other things that, try as I might to understand them, don’t seem right to me at a basic level—gambling, for instance, and I don’t mean problem gambling, I mean gambling period.

  10. I can't imagine why anyone would separate twin children. It doesn't make any sense to me. Of course, I'm neither a twin nor a parent, so my expertise on the matter is zero.

  11. When you try to force a direction on an aging child I found out very quickly they will go in the exact opposite direction. You;re right Kylie leave them be, they are twins yes but they are also sisters and family so i assume they are developing normally within the familial setting of family eh?

  12. Mark,
    My girls have developed normally. They mostly prefer to do everything together but are completely capable of operating independently.
    And yes, i know lots of times where the forbidden became the highly desirable.


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