Our identical twin toddlers are 19-months now. A lot of things have changed. For one, our boys were truly identical for the first year. We could tell them apart by looking at their different birthmarks. Now we tell them apart because they look different to us and we know their personalities. Having identical twins has been an adventure. Some ages have been easier to manage than other ages. It took a lot of adjusting when they first came home-- feeding schedules, nap schedules-- and even more adjusting when they became toddlers-- two toddlers! Here are some of my thoughts thus far on having identical twins.
The identical twin factor has also lead to an interesting development: I hardly ever dress them in matching outfits. Now, I love matching outfits on siblings. I grew up wearing matching outfits and planned on dressing my children in matching outfits. Perhaps it is because the toddlers end up looking so much alike that I do not like the matching outfits. We (myself, the hubby, and our preschooler) have no problem telling them apart, even some of our regular playdates know who is who now. To us, they are people. I would be so frustrated if my friends and family couldn't tell who I was; it feels like such a core part of who you are as a person. And I know that often times, the "who is who" game cannot be avoided. It can be hard to remember all the kids' names at mommy group playdates, let alone which identical twin is which, or if people are not familiar with the boys. I also remind myself that right now they are just toddlers. They don't understand when people interact with one of them and say, "I have no idea who you are! You both look so much alike! Is this C or O?" They don't get when people approach me and ask with a gleam in their eye, "Do you ever get them mixed up?" or "How do you tell them apart?" I know people are just trying to make conversation; I'm polite. However, I want to return the question and ask how they tell their children apart. Do they only know their children because one may be a boy and the other a girl? Or they are born three years apart and so one is bigger than the other? Or do they know their children because they just know their children? One is slow to wake up in the morning and the other wants cuddles first thing. One likes to start breakfast with milk and the other dives right into the scrambled eggs. I am working on letting go of my internal cringing at the who is who game because I think they will have to deal with it all their lives. I really hope that my husband and I can teach our boys to treat everyone as people, with likes and interests, and get to know who people are inside without judging just the outside.
Sometimes we still say the wrong name, like if a toddler zips past and we barely get a look at him or-- how every mother does-- we just call them by the wrong name. For a long time, every living thing in our house was called the dog's name (this is when I was house training the dog). After that, they were called by our oldest's name (this is when I was potty training our oldest). Now I just usually stumble through the roll call until I arrive on the correct name or give up and holler, "You!" My poor husband is even subject to this. I called him "bud" the other day. (Worse, when we drove through Sonic and he ordered a large vanilla shake, without thinking, I said, "A large vanilla shake, please." Very apologetic about that one!) I will never forget when we were going through airport security. The TSA agents watched as I held the two infants, our things scattered around my socked feet as my husband reassembled our stroller. We were trying to rush along and get out of the way. Once everything was back in its place, I handed an infant to my husband. We went to put our respective infants in their seats, only to realize that O's seat had been put in C's spot (we have the Baby Jogger City Select and the seats can be put on a million different ways). I said, "We are putting them in the wrong seats," and so we swapped babies to put them in the right seat. The TSA agents started busting up, "They mixed up their twins! Oh, how do you tell them apart? You mixed them up!" I felt my cheeks start burning up. Do I try to explain that normally O's seat is in the front and that we put C's seat there on accident? Or that I didn't really look at who I was holding and they are both infants (they weren't even dressed the same)? I did the half smile and walked away.
I do not have a problem with people dressing their twins in matching outfits. I do not think that it limits who they are as people or stifles their own identities. I have just noticed that for our twins, people tend to treat them more as a unit when they are wearing the same outfits, often times focusing only on the toddlers and ignoring our oldest. "Oh, he only wants to do what his brother is doing!" "They do everything together, don't they?" "They look so much alike." We think of our boys as siblings. We have three precious boys that we love for many, many reasons: a four-year old, a 19-month old, and another 19-month old. They are all alike in so many ways and so different in many others. There are special things about each of them that are unique to their own individual personalities. I love that there is so much of my husband and I in all of them, from their features to personality traits (or flaws-- haha!). We hope that by treating them as brothers-- which they are-- that C and O will grow up as confident people, comfortable being identical twins, and that D won't feel the need to compete with their "twin status." I read an article about a woman who didn't tell her identical twins about their birth order, who was born first, in the hopes that they would focus on who they are as people and not who they are as twins (I can't find the article online, but I'm going to keep looking). I don't think we need to do anything so drastic, but I do hope that we raise our boys so they find more meaning in who they are than how they were born.
So, in an answer to the many questions, our identical twins do not do everything the same. O likes tractors. C likes stacking blocks. Next month, O may like trains and C might like Elmo. Who knows with toddlers? Their interests are constantly changing. They tended to pop teeth at the same time, but we noticed some teeth came in at different times on each of them. They are not "night and day" twins. They are two people, with two different personalities. Some things are to be expected because they are identical and did not suffer from TTTS. They grow about the same. They put on weight about the same. Other things are to be expected because I have kept them on the same schedule to make my life easier, like they go to bed at the same time (same time as their older brother) and we eat our meals at the same time every day. One of them likes to sleep more; the other has given up naps. Some days neither nap; some days they both nap; some days one naps and the other doesn't. Toddlers can be predictable and wildly out of control at the same time. They knew their own names around four months old. Only recently would I say that they play with each other in a meaningful way outside of "oh, look, there is another baby in the house." They love to play peek-a-boo with each other and throw food off their high chairs with each other. They love racing back in forth in the kitchen with their older brother and, for some reason, every once in a while they get a bee in their bonnet and spend a fair amount of the evening harassing the dog. They have started giving everyone high fives, hugs, and kisses, even each other, which is beyond adorable. They really are just brothers, who happen to both be toddlers. Some days they love sharing with each other and their older brother. Some days they don't even want the dog to sniff the toy they are holding. They behave like 19-month olds do; dealing with two 19-month olds can be exceedingly exhausting and overwhelmingly rewarding. Those little moments that make it all worth while are doubled and the afternoons that go on forever are stretched times two.
We feel that we were blessed with our oldest. We feel that we were blessed with our toddlers. We feel especially blessed when we have those sweet moments when all three boys are playing with each other. We love watching the bonds of brotherhood grow, the deep love that will last for the rest of their lives. They are each other's first friends, all three of them, and they will grow with each other into adulthood. Those are the bonds we want to nourish.