Over the years, my twins have gotten their share of positive attention from family, friends, and even complete strangers. (It often comes at the expense of their younger, singleton brother, but that’s a different post all together.) Yet I’ve noticed that at times they’ve also been the targets of discrimination as well. Ok, so I’m not exactly talking about anything that would radically change the trajectory of their lives but rather small and subtle situations that somehow seem unfair, or at the very least, suspect.
The “play date denial” is probably the most common form of bias against twins. If one twin makes a friend with someone who doesn’t like his cotwin, for instance, booking a play date can get tricky as many parents of singletons feel awkward calling a parent of twins and requesting the presence of only one twin, especially if the twins are young and closely bonded, and feelings could easily get hurt. So when parents of singletons find themselves in this sticky situation, many take the easy way out and gently suggest their kids ask someone else over for a play date. It happens. More often than you might know.
Birthday party or sleepover invitations? Same scenario. If a singleton child wants to invite one twin and not the other, some parents may just mark that twin off the list rather than send out a solo invitation. (To be fair, however, many moms will invite both twins regardless of their children’s objections or take the plunge and invite just one.) Isn’t forced classroom separation a form of discrimination as well? Or how about when a mother of twins tries to enroll in a Mommy-and-Me class and is told she needs a second adult with her? It’s not a Mommy-and-Us class, after all. Due to liability issues, these types of classes require one adult for each child. So where does that leave a mother of twins? Outside with her nose pressed against the window wishing she were inside.
But many situations aren’t as blatant but simply a mother’s hunch. There are instances when a mom just senses that her twins got the short end of the stick simply because her children were born on the same day. Contests come to mind where both children enter but neither win. For instance, I received an e-mail recently from a woman on the scholarship committee where both my twins had submitted separate essays for the opportunity to receive one of two $500 high-school grants. She wrote, “We’ll let you know by Tuesday if your boys have won.”
Nothing wrong with that, right? But it struck me as odd. Why wouldn’t she have written, “if one or both of your boys have won?” Why would she write, “if your boys have won” as if my sons applied for the scholarships together and expected to win or lose together?
Needless to say that neither of my boys got the scholarships and I’m sure that those who did were very deserving. But for me to prove my point, you’ll have to take a leap of faith that my guys were also very deserving. And as only a handful of kids applied for the grants, the odds were in their favor that at least one of my boys would win. Still, they both lost. Maybe the committee didn’t feel right giving both scholarships to the same family. Or, maybe they wanted to give one to a boy and the other to a girl. I get that. I understand. But instead of having to choose between my twins, maybe the committee opted out and chose two completely different kids. Or, maybe, just maybe, they felt one twin’s essay was a winner and the other was not. But rather than risk hurting the feeling’s of one twin at the expense of his cotwin, the committee played it safe.
Please notice the literal use of the word “maybe” as I realize my theory is extremely farfetched. I could never prove that I’m right but on some level, I believe it. Call it Mother’s Intuition. (For the record, my kids shrugged off losing and my husband didn’t buy my theory either but if you’re the mother of twins, I’ll guarantee that you’ll feel it at some point, too.)
So what do you do to combat twin discrimination? In looking back on my twins’ lives, I personally would have made a much greater effort to help others distinguish between them. When they were younger, for instance, I would have steered them towards different sports and activities. The more the outside world sees your twins having separate lives, the more they will identify that these kids are in fact two separate individuals.
Furthermore, try to open up a dialogue with the moms in your twins’ social circle and reassure them that it’s perfectly OK to invite just one child on a play date or event. And please, fight the urge to call those moms if only one of your twins gets invited to a birthday party and the other does not to ask if a cotwin can “tag along, too.” Once you get the reputation as being the mom who can’t have her twins separated, it sticks around a long time.