As a parent to teenage fraternal twin boys, I’ve been around the proverbial block when it comes to hearing all sorts of misconceptions surrounding twins. (“How come they don’t look alike?” or “Which one is the evil twin?”) I’m sure you’ve heard them, too. Here are a few that you may not have heard and the truth behind them.
Myth: Twins make great study partners.
Truth: My twins can’t study together, especially for a test. When friends hear that my boys share a few high school classes, they always chirp, “How great! They can study together!” Well, not really. It may seem like the perfect set up but in reality, it’s the perfect storm. They start out nice enough but it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes before the yelling begins, or worse, the laughing starts and the studying stops.
So why doesn’t it work out? Like all children, each of my boys has his own learning style and it doesn’t match his cotwin’s. For instance, one son likes to listen to soft music while studying; the other has to have it perfectly quiet. Furthermore, one son is a visual learner—he can read something a few times and retain it. His brother, on the other hand, is more of a kinetic learner—he has to write his lessons down several times before they’re committed to memory. These differences simply don’t mesh when it comes to preparing for a test and both boys end up frustrated with the other’s inability to adapt.
Lesson Learned: Just because they’re twins doesn’t mean they have identical learning needs. I’ve tried to tune into each child individually and for me that has meant accommodating their separate styles. (Music man wears earbuds, for instance.)
Myth: Twins can read each other’s minds.
Truth: They may have a shared understanding or have plenty in common but that’s more generational or environmental than telepathic. It sure would explain why when I yell, “What was your brother thinking when he left the milk carton out on the counter all day?” And his cotwin answers, “How the heck am I supposed to know! I can’t read his mind!”
If you believe your twins are telepathic, however, try this fun experiment next time they have a few friends over. Have everyone sit together and then show them all the same set of eight simple flashcards—dog, cat, bird, car, house, bicycle—you get the idea, until they have the pictures visually seared in their memories. Then pair the kids up with a partner, making sure your twins are not paired together. (This is your control group.) Have the partners sit back to back and show only one child a single flashcard. Have him concentrate on the picture for a moment and then ask the other child, his partner, to guess what the picture is by reading his partner’s mind. Repeat using the remaining cards and note how many the partners get right. Once you’ve tested each group, and each partner has had a chance to be the mentalist, change partners but this time put your twins together and then duplicate the experiment noting how many pictures each partner gets right. Your results will probably be similar to several scientific studies that performed this same test on groups of identical twins. Their findings? Twins are no more telepathic than any other group of close friends or siblings.
Lesson Learned: If you want to know something about one of your twins, ask him. Don’t rely on his cotwin to try and explain his cotwin’s actions, thoughts or emotions. He may not “read” them right.
Myth: Twins can feel each other’s pain.
Truth: My twins enjoy causing each other pain! Yes, my boys are the best of friends but they are also the worst of enemies and know the exact button to push to get a rowdy and often visceral (a.k.a. physical) reaction. It’s what siblings do best. Multiples who tend to know each other a bit more innately than single-born siblings are especially good at it, too.
Lesson Learned: As long as there isn’t any blood shed or punches thrown, butt out. No, I’m not advocating violence in any shape or form and if your twins are young, by all means step in and separate them. But, for those of us who have adolescents and teens, fighting is merely their way of strutting their stuff, learning the art of negotiation, and just plain figuring out how to be a teenager. Instead of jumping in at every scuffle, act as a quiet referee from the sidelines.
Myth: Twins always have opposite personalities.
Truth: Sometimes. But it’s been my experience that twins tend to “specialize” in certain roles and instead complement each other. For instance, in my house “Twin A” is the Academic Secretary. He always knows which assignments are due and when, while “Twin B” is the Social Secretary. He’s the one on the phone every Friday afternoon, networking with their group of friends figuring out whose house they’ll hang out at for the weekend or which movie they should see. Both boys are very comfortable with his brother’s role. “Twin B” regularly asks his cotwin for homework help while “Twin A” loves that his calendar is full.
Lesson Learned: It used to bother me greatly that “Twin B” would rely on his brother to fill him in on certain assignments until he pointed out that it’s no different from calling another kid on the phone for the assignment or posting a question on Facebook for other classmates to answer. And my dislike of “Twin A’s” riding on “Twin B’s” social coattails? My girlfriend set me straight saying her teenage son was just like that—rather than organizing the fun, he’d wait to see what others had planned and then join in if he felt the desire. Singleton or multiples, some kids are just more comfortable hanging back while others like to take charge, she said.