Twins and Individuality
a Parent's Perspective

Twins and individuality... This is something that all parents of twins will ponder at some point. I know I have, several times. There seems to be two basic schools of thought on the matter:

  1. Individuality in twins must be encouraged.
  2. Individuality naturally develops on it's own with twins.

I tend to lean towards the latter, personally, or at least more so. *Don't worry, you can add your own opinion at the end of the page! :-)

In extreme cases parents can get so caught up in their twins' individuality as a personal responsibility that they neglect the fact that they are twins at all. They think, "I have to separate them in school ", or "They need to find their own friends", "They are twins, but positively must never be referred to as such", etc.

I have read numerous articles that go on and on about the constant need to be sure your twins never ever feel like they could possibly be the same. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit (those articles have their good points too). But, seriously, individuality is not created. Individuality comes my opinion.

Let's Explore More on Twins and Individuality...

First off, your twins are automatically individuals, as they each have their own bodies and brains. So, in that respect, they are much like any other siblings co-existing in the same family.

If you think about it, many of the behaviors that twins exhibit with each other are very similar to the way most non-twin siblings act. For example, when you hear about the mother who put one twin in a ballet class while her twin brother (never having been separated from her) pouted until they found something for him to enjoy as well, it seems very much like run-of-the-mill sibling rivalry.

Or, when parents say their twins act totally different when they are not around each other and thus, this separation between them is essential for further individual development. I for one, know I was always different around my siblings than when I was one-on-one with my parents or friends (and I'm not a twin).

How about the absolute shamefulness of actually referring to your twins as "the twins". This one tends to get a chuckle out of me when I remember my parents referring to my older sister and I as "the girls", while our brother was just plain old, David. I can assure you that my sister and I never had a problem with individuality because of that reference.

Yes, Twins Are Unique...

Don't get me wrong, I do not mean to completely over simplify the issue. All twins are unique from singletons merely by being born on the same day. Twins, especially identicals, have a distinctive bond. They shared a womb, they accomplished many of their milestones together, and often look similar to boot. So I can see why it may not be wise to give them rhyming names, constantly dress them the same, or refer to them as a single entity (a.k.a. "the twins") on a regular basis.

However, I also believe that twinship should be nurtured, to a point. I love that my twins are, well, twins. I love that they stand out from the crowd because of it. I do sometimes call them the twins, and I even dress them the same occasionally (mind you they are only 2 years old as of this writing).

Maybe it's because they are still so young that has me feeling so nonchalant about their individuality. Maybe I will have to implement some special policies as issues arise. And I'm okay with that. But for now, my twins (even though identical) are distinctively different...Naturally, and without any interference from me.

Some Interesting Research...

One last note here. I was just reading the extremely interesting book Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are - by Lawrence Wright. In a nutshell, it's a history of twin research (with somewhat of a focus on identicals) and the age-old, nature vs. nurture debate.

In one section of the book there is talk about studies involving identical twins separated at birth and then reunited as adults. The studies suggest that identical twins reared together actually had more differences than the ones reared apart! The thinking was that when twins are raised together, go to the same schools, know the same people, etc., they tend to push and find their own individuality more readily. While twins reared apart, not being aware of their other half, were eerily similar in their lifestyles, milestones, and choices.

In summary, twins are unique individuals, but also unique because they are twins. Both aspects should be embraced. Food for thought...

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