Monday, March 1, 2010

Interview with Abigail Porgrebin author of One and the Same

I recently read the book One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to Be Singular by Abigail Pogrebin. I always have my eye out for books that will help me understand what is like to be a part of a pair and so when I saw this book advertised in a Twin Club newsletter, I downloaded it to my Kindle on a whim. I'm glad I didn't have much going on that week because I could not put the book down. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me feel like I was getting to know the future Maddie and Izzie better. Throughout the book Abigail is interviewing other twins in a search to learn more about herself and her relationship with her identical sister. The stories will both warm you and sometimes make you sad. I learned so much from reading her book. For example not idealize and romanticize the twinship of my girls. It is a special, unique bond, but it isn't always perfect and it shouldn't be. I highly recommend this book to all parents of multiples, or actually anyone who is in any kind of relationship with a multiple.

Robin and Abigail

I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Abigail a few questions that I would like to share here with you.

1. Madeline and Isabelle are two and a lot of their disagreements are solved with hair pulling and hitting. I tell them that it is okay to be mad at their sister but it is not okay to hit. Do you find that most twins are expected to never be allowed to be mad at each other because people expect twins to have a "perfect" relationship?

Your question is so important because I absolutely find that people expect --and kind of quietly hope -- that twins have this uncomplicated, pure friendship without a blemish or bump. Not only is it not true, but it's not fair, because it creates a pressure, felt by the twins themselves, to be harmonious always, so that when things aren't good, we're afraid to talk honestly, not comfortable letting the bad moments just be. The truth about twins is that conflict passes quickly most of the time, grudges are rare, and so it's important to let conflicts happen (as long as they're not physically harmful, as you rightly defined), and rest assured they'll end up as bonded and amicable as ever. It's interesting to look at how people become invested in the romanticization of twins. So many experts talked to me about that -- it's that idea that twins have what everyone secretly wants: an effortless soulmate. Twins can be soulmates, absolutely, but it's not always effortless.

2. Even after reading your book, I still am having a hard time spending alone time with each of my girls. They just seem inseparable! I do try to find quiet moments around the house with each girl, but it's hard for me to "pick" one girl to take out shopping, etc. What is the best way to get over this hurdle? Is it just hard at first?

I have heard this from so many parents -- alone time is the biggest hurdle because life is jam-packed as it is. I do think it's one of those things where if you start in small bites, it will eventually feel more natural and become part of the fabric of your routine. Just begin it in some small way -- don't worry about how much time or whether the excursions are always perfect or ambitious. Just be together with each twin in some small way on a regular basis so they have that memory and so you really can get to know them and they feel known. That's not to say that they'll welcome being separated. Most twins won't. But they don't see the end of the tunnel, and I can confidently report that they'll be glad, when they're adults, to look back on times each had with you alone.

3. I like dressing my girls in coordinating clothing and sometimes matching, but I try not to make a big deal out of it. It seems like getting my kids dressed is a statement no matter which way I go. Some people think if you dress twins alike you aren't fostering their individuality, but I know my girls are unique unto themselves. What is your opinion on this?

I completely understand that it's fun to dress them alike and I don't think you're truly harming them by doing it sometimes, but the fact is that it's more for you than for them, and ultimately they're not going to enjoy the "gimmick" of twinship so much, so you want to stop before they're too conscious of it or people's reactions to it -- "Ohhhhh, they look adorable!!" That can get tiresome, even for a little kid!

Abigail and Robin

4. How did you deal with people who didn't even attempt to tell you and your sister apart? Did family members ever do this?

I became very patient about people who not only mixed us up but seemed to get a kick out of the dilemma of who was who, but I do think a parent can help this by announcing at the front of a family gathering, for example, "Abby is in blue, Robin is in red," so that the mix-ups aren't made over and over and so that you've subtly made it clear: 'I've made this easier for you so please make an effort to call them by their right names.'

5. Right now, I can't imagine separating my girls in school, but I plan on waiting until they are older to really decide. Do you think it is beneficial for identical to stay in the same class in younger grades?

I think it's nice for twins to be together at first because it gives both a lot of confidence to have their partner nearby. (I think it emboldened me and Robin and made us take more risks.) But Robin and I were in separate classes starting in second grade and I think it was crucial to developing our sense of having separate selves and strengths...We were still in the same school (until 9th grade) but it gets complicated sharing friends and teachers, and this is one place you can help them discover who they really are apart from each other. They'll have plenty of time together when they get home each day.

I want to thank Abigail for taking time to talk with me. Please visit her website at to read more about her and her book.
Author: Abigail Pogrebin

Also see this interview posted at the Dallas Morning News Moms Blog.


The Ortega's said...

My guys are fraternal so I wondered about this book...your post touched on two very important questions for me, the alone time and the school situation - thanks!! I've been busy reading books about boys and their needs and specific development, I might just have to add this one to my list too!!

Kate said...

Great interview an thanks for asking those questions. I still have a hard time spending alone time with the girls too.

katie linhart said...

I don't have twins but I still think that twins are fascinating! You asked wonderful questions, I really enjoyed your blog post.

Amanda said...

Thank you all for the comments! If you get a chance, please take a look at Abigail's book. It really is a good read.

Me and My Boys - Krista said...

I saw your post on tmmb and had to come look. The interview and information was wonderful! Our boys aren't id, but they are still twins that can run into some of the same issues. I'll really need to buy that book. Thanks for the insight!

Scrappinmum said...

Amanda, what a great interview. My MIL is a twin and I have to say hat she and her sister are very alike in some ways and very different in others. Kaye didn't keep her southern accent and Cookie, her nickname, sounds very southern. Both have been over weight but kaye had her tummy stapled an dis rather thin now. it's hard for me to see them and think of them as twins at all.

On the flip side. I dated a twin in college. I learned very fast why their mother called them both "son" on the phone. You can not tell their voice apart! So I didn't get very personal on the phone never knowing for sure who was on the other end. : )

I'm sure being mom it is hard to take time and really see the girl not as "the twins" but as Maddie and Izzie. I'm sure it will come. One thing a frined did, se used the odd even with her kids. The 1st born did things on odd days and the 2nd on even. That way she didn't have to think. Even as adults the boys knew by date who got to sit at the foot of the table etc. Might be a way to do tings with them.