It’s very rare that I get to enjoy the sound of silence in our busy home of seven. But, once in a great while, I wake early enough for at least one cup of coffee before I hear the shuffle of busy little feet (or two really big ones- sorry Dave). This morning I woke with a memory of the girls (who are now 11 years old) when they were babies and was overwhelmed with emotions and gratitude. People often ask me what it was like to raise twins (was?!)- as if they aren’t considered ‘twins’ once they are beyond the cute toddling ages.
I have actually never referred to them as twins. They aren’t identical- they're fraternal, which means two completely different eggs at conception. Every person deserves to be treated as an individual, identical twins or not. Of course, because they shared the womb, they have this “twin things” that happens and connections they share.
It used to drive me crazy when I’d get the typical twin questions. Any mom of multiples can appreciate these questions that were almost guaranteed to be asked on every occasion that I mustered to get out of the house. My favorite: “Are they twins?” The questions were always the same, making me want to put a sign on the stroller every time I went out in public that said:
YES they are twins.
NO they are not identical.
YES they are girls.
NO I did not use In Vitro.
PLEASE don’t ask me about breastfeeding.
YES I had to eat a lot.
YES I gained 45 lbs while pregnant. (I especially craved pancakes, go figure)
I always thought the sign idea would be fun, but never mustered to courage to do it. :) Most people are too nice to understand this level of comical sarcasm from a mom of twins.
As toddlers, it was really fun to watch the twin dynamic change and their relationship as “sisters of the womb” organically grew. They entertained each other and everyone around them. The belly rolls, giggles, the snuggles and face-plant kisses were delightful and endearing. I would find myself not always interacting with them during playtime, but rather watching them engage in a deep relationship that I never remembered having with my sister growing up.
Their emotions mirror one another from laughter to pain. If one would tumble over, hurt herself and cry, the other would cry hysterically. She didn’t know why, but she knew her sister was hurt or upset and she didn’t like it. This made separating them, even for an hour, very difficult. They reacted as if they had a missing limb. When they were three, I took them to a hot air balloon show thinking that they would love the beautiful colors. Unfortunately, I failed to consider the volume of noise that comes out of the engines when they fire up the balloons. A painful volume of screams mirrored the engine noise in unison, stopping at the exact same moment. It’s been like that since birth.
Over the years, Josie and Ellie have been encouraged to do their own thing and make their own choices. As much as they try, they mostly end up in unison. From sleepovers to food choices to hair styles, they mirror each other's every move. As they enter the tween years and middle school for the first time this month, they are starting to show signs of independence from one another. Their personalities and interests are gradually developing and their styles are very clearly their own. I’m hoping that their interest in fitness, food and entrepreneurship continues, but if not, we will encourage them to follow their hearts. They have this itching curiosity about running a business like FlapJacked Protein Pancakes and how we make the products, which we love. Their questions are smart and intuitive- and even surprise me. They do prefer different flavors though. Ellie likes Cinnamon Apple and Josie likes Banana Hazelnut. It makes them proud that we are following our hearts and passion and they recognize that. Maybe someday they can create their own little small business and watch it grow. :)
Like any parent of multiples, I could write my own book on the topic of raising twins and the “twin thing” that I will never experience nor quite understand. I keep trying and even as it has gotten more and more complex over the years, it’s a dynamic and organic experience watching them develop as little people who are smart, loving, irritatingly funny and very compassionate.
I realize that being a “twin” doesn’t mean that you have to share the exact same chromosomes, as the girls don’t, but that they share the same experiences from the beginning. Raising twins is difficult and rewarding, but each stage has moments that have taught the family a lot about patience and multi-tasking. As we continue to encourage them to be their own beautiful individuals, I’m sure this will only get better as raising twins has been the hardest job I’ll ever love.