Friday, April 2, 2010

Identical, but distinct

Izzie, Maddie, Zella and Lila playing.

Time for lunch! The kids get the table usually at playdates and the Mommies end up standing around the kitchen! Always seems to go that way. Maddie, Lila, Izzie and Zella.

Hugs good bye!

Lots and lots of hugs for friends!

This morning the girls and I went to visit Ashley and her identical twin girls Lila and Zella. I used to be able to tell Lila and Zella apart but they look so much alike to me now! Of course, Ashley says the same thing about my girls. Lately, when I dress them the same I try to put in a purple and pink hair bow so that people can tell them apart. It really helps people have the confidence to know their name, and call them by it. Being called by their name, from what I've been reading, will really, really,  really help with the girls self confidence and social skills.

Of all the things I've been reading, this entry on Abigail Pogrebin's blog particularly stuck out with me:

Abby writes: A refreshingly irreverent blogger,, wrote me an email about "One and the Same" which stuck with me. This is part of what she wrote: "My boys are a novelty to their grandparents, and get extra attention because they look alike, but they miss out on so much by virtue of being twins. Most of our family members haven't bonded with them as individuals. Many people (including their cousins) avoid speaking to them if they need to use a name, because they aren't sure who is who." 

Ah, yes: the underbelly of twin-celebrity: the mushing together, the glossing over, the dodging of interaction if it means having to get the name right.  Especially with identicals, distinction takes effort from the people in their lives, and there's an understandable laziness when it comes to getting to know twins apart, even among those who love them the most.  Having identicals in the family simply requires more consciousness from relatives and friends; they have to work harder to know them, to distinguish them, to remember them.  And often the assumption is that it doesn't really matter so much; the twins are a happy team, a set, a duo -- so what if I mix them up or call them by the wrong names? 

It matters.  Maybe not so much when the twins are little, but as they grow up, they will indeed "miss out on so much" as this blogger put it, because they'll be missing being known, having separate connections with the people they see at every family gathering.   My advice would be this: Have that awkward conversation once -- with the grandparent, the aunt, the cousin.  Tell them you know it can be challenging figuring out who they're talking to and taking the time to get to connect with each twin individually (by having a longer conversation with one, taking a walk with just one, baking a cake with just one), but it's important to you.  And in the long run, you know it will be important to your twins. Maybe you can figure out a system to help alleviate the relative's anxiety of knowing which is which (I've seen that anxiety in action -- people are embarrassed that they're not certain who you are.)   Twins are a wonderful novelty, but they're more than that.  And they need to be sure that their value and their relationships are founded on more than the quirk of their simultaneous birth.

Anyway, this is all to say that it matters which one is Izzie and which one is Maddie. They are sisters, not the same person. They will have different life views and experiences. While much of their life will be the same, their thoughts, their personalities, their pet peeves all of that will be different. I didn't know I was going to blog about this tonight, but after spending the morning with Lila and Zella and having a difficult time telling them apart, I realized how hard it must be for people to tell Izzie and Maddie apart. Part of me got very frustrated when I was looking at Lila (or Zella?) and just wanted to say, "oh it doesn't matter!" But it DOES!

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