Tuesday, January 26, 2010

on dressing identical twins identically

My two youngest daughters are identical (or, monozygotic) twins. They look an awful lot alike.

(And for the record: yes, I can tell them apart, but, yes, sometimes I mistake one for the other. Not often though.)

(Unless you count mistaking them from behind. That does happen more often. Their backs are much more identical than their faces!)

So, do I dress them identically? Sometimes.

The strongest current thought on identical twins – the advice you read in every book about parenting twins (all of which seem to be mainly concerned with fraternals, and only deign to give a paragraph or two to identicals) – seems to be to make sure, sure, sure they know that they are separate people. Make sure everyone knows they are separate people.

To which I think, well, of course they’re separate people. I’ve noticed. You’d have to be blind, deaf and dumb not to. But they’re also twins, and isn’t that allowed to be part of their identity too?

Like many things in life, my guess is that for them, handling their identities is going to be a sort of dynamic balance: I am myself, and that’s most important. But one of my important characteristics is that I have, from before birth, also been intimately related to her. Which makes me no less myself. In fact, it makes me more.

I recently read a book on identical twins (so good to finally find one!), written by an identical twin, that made me think the above is really true.

So do I dress them identically? The answer is: sometimes. Usually, they’re dressed differently, because they are, apart from being twins, younger sisters. Which means that they get their older sister’s hand-me-downs, and there aren’t a lot of matching outfits in there. 

But they’re also given matching outfits fairly frequently, and they look awfully cute in them.

And I figure that as soon as they care about what they’re wearing (probably in a year or so), I’ll let them choose for themselves whether or not they want to match. For now, I’ll dress them in matching outfits sometimes, and sometimes not (today’s a not).

The other thing about matching outfits is that (and I’ve noticed this is true of kids wearing school uniforms as well), sometimes they look more individually distinct when their clothes matches than when they don’t. When there’s no distinction made by clothing – let alone by coloring or height – what really makes the person individual stands out more strongly.  You can’t go by the easy things when everyone’s in uniform, you have to look deeper.

 And in some ways, though it’s been harder to get to know my twins (especially because of the exhaustion effect of twinfancy), I feel like I’m getting to know them at a deeper level than that at which I first got to know my singletons. I can’t know them just by their age or their gender or their developmental stage, because they match in all these things. I just have to get to know each one as herself.

And that’s kind of cool.

Peace of Christ to you,

Jessica Snell

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