Do You Ever Wish You Were a Twin?

The other day, I took my single-born son to the doctor. She was a new doctor, someone we had never seen before. While we sat with her in the examining room, she asked my son a series of questions first about his health and then about his home life. You know, the usual stuff like “what grade are you in?” and “what’s your favorite subject?” She was obviously trying to build a relationship with him, putting his anxious mind at ease. Then she asked if he had any siblings. “Yes,” my son answered. “I have two brothers.”

“How old are they?”

“They’re 16-year-old twins,” he said.

“Oh!” she gushed. Then she leaned in and whispered, “Do you ever wish you were a twin?”

No. She didn’t just ask my son that question, did she?

I bristled at her inquiry but said nothing. I glanced in my son’s direction to see his reaction. He shrugged and told her, “No.”

Nice job, son!

toddler girls and a boy running on the beach.As we left her office, neither of us mentioned the silly question. (I’m sure it bothered me more than it bothered him.) But when we got home, and I was alone with my husband for the evening, I told him what the doctor had asked. He laughed at my seriousness. “When people hear you have twins in the family, they just don’t know what to say,” he explained. “She was just trying to be polite.”

Absolutely. I agree. I realize that when people make silly comments about our twins (and like all families with multiples, there have been many), their intentions are pure. I’m sure the doctor didn’t mean to offend; she was just making conversation. But to me, the comment was a bit ignorant and insensitive. If you were to read between the lines—which I did—the message was clear: “Hey, twins are special. Don’t you wish you were special, too?” And, if I can dig a little deeper, wasn’t the comment suggesting that twins are more special than single-born kids?

My husband wasn’t impressed with my interpretation. “It’s no different from if she asked him, ‘hey, do you ever wish you were a girl?'” he blurted.

Silence. His statement just hung in the air as we both replayed the words in our heads. Then laughter as we both realized the absurdity of what he had just said. No one would ever ask a boy if he ever wished he were a girl (OK, maybe some would but most would not). That would be insensitive! (And how about just plain stupid?) Therefore, why would anyone ask a single-born child who had multiples as siblings if he wished he were a multiple, too?

As the younger brother to twins, my single-born son is used to outsiders focusing all their attention on his twin brothers from the little old ladies who approach us in the shopping mall to ask if my twins are identical or fraternal to the couples that stop by our table at a restaurant to ask if my sons are indeed twins. As much as I’ve tried to even the playing field, especially when all of us are out in public together, strangers continue to be drawn to my twins more than my singleton. Perhaps there’s more to comment on when you see twins. After all, you wouldn’t walk up to a family of kids and say, “Are they singletons?” But we’ve certainly all said to someone, “Are they twins?”

It’s just I feel bad for my son as it must get so tedious and tiring to see so much attention brought upon your brothers simply because they were both born on the same day. Furthermore, I worry what it’s doing to his own self-image. I wonder what the long-term effects of these comments will be on his relationship with his brothers, too. Will he pull away as time goes on? Will his relationship with them erode simply because he feels he can’t compete? I hope not.

Yes, of course having twins is special but as the mother of three kids, I think all my guys are unique, important, and true treasures. For once, I’d love it if a stranger would walk up to my twins one day and say, “Wow! You have a single-born brother. That must be so special!”