As parents of twins, we all go the extra mile to give our multiples a sense of individuality. From spending time alone with each child to driving them to different after-school activities, we’re conscientious about allowing them their own experiences and a chance to shine sans cotwin. Yet try as we might, there’s one thing that all twins and triplets have to share, and that’s their birthday. But they don’t have to share the limelight, do they?
Two for the Price of One
Admittedly, one of the advantages of having two or more kids born on the same day is a bigger bang for your party-planning buck. Just ask Jenn Duke of High Point, North Carolina. Her five-year-old identical twin sons, Camron and Caden are born two days shy of older brother Jaxon. Since Duke can combine all three celebrations into one day, her children’s parties are big events. “One year we had pony rides at our house; another we had the Creature Teacher who brought cool animals for guests to touch,” she explains. If her three kids had been born months apart, she couldn’t have afforded such extravagances.
Jenny Davies took a similar approach when her fraternal twin sons, Taylor and Tyler, now 19-years-old, were young. “I used to order a bouncer for the entire day,” she recalls. This El Segundo, Calif. mom not only had a money-saving plan but stamina, too—she’d have a birthday party in the morning for her boys and then another in the afternoon for her older daughter, Tracy. “I thought I’d better get my money’s worth!” she laughs.
Some venues may even cut you a discount for reserving their location two days in a row allowing you to have back-to-back parties. (Talk about a long weekend!) Once Sue Stanton’s 10-year-old girl-boy twins, Amanda and Evan, hit the school years, it was obvious that two parties were their new reality. “They wanted their own celebrations with their own friends,” explains this Sarasota, Fla. mom. “To make it easier on myself, I booked the same venue but kept the boys and girls separate with separate cakes.” But soon Stanton found that the boys and girls couldn’t comingle easily at the same party so two years ago she took the plunge and planned two parties on two separate days. She’s never looked back. “I do one party on Saturday and one on Sunday, and they each get to choose their own friends and venue,” she says. “It’s worked out great. It’s nice that we can focus on one child at a time, and they can each choose what they want to do without having to compromise on this one day.”
Mixing It Up
Don’t have the fortitude for a two-day birthday-party marathon? Then do as Ann Wieczkowski and instead try two complementing themes within the same party. “One daughter is a Tom boy while the other is not,” explains this Bordentown, New Jersey mom of 11-year-old identical twin girls, Chloe and Sydney. To compensate for their stylistic differences, Wieczkowski combines two different ideas that are related to one another. For instance, one year she threw a mermaid-pirate party. “We had a treasure hunt and gave the kids a pirate map wrapped around fake jewels and eye patches. For the mermaid theme we did sand art and had inflatable pools all around with plastic fish,” she says. “It was one party but they each showed their individuality by picking a craft or game that went with their theme.”
Randi Kulis of Sandpoint, Idaho loves the hodgepodge approach. “Because of their different interests, we may have a car pinata, plates and cups for Spencer’s side of things and LEGO balloons and LEGO Plates for Parker,” she says of her eight-year-old identical twin sons. “Generally, we work together to come up with games they both like or they compromise. They each have their own ‘guest’ list, which further helps with keeping the party more their own. Although there’s no separation at the party, each boy has a sense of ‘self’ at the celebration; it just looks a little eclectic.”
The Twin Gift Dilemma
Even in this day and age of multiple multiples, some party guests will show up with one gift for both twins to share. So should you, the hostess, try to prevent this little faux pas by politely encouraging guests to bring two gifts?
Most moms agree that reminding family members is acceptable. For instance, when Deanna Nelson’s parents wanted to give her five-year-old identical twin sons, Alexander and Christopher, one Nintendo DS to share, this St. Cloud, Minn. mom politely told them either buy two or buy none. “They were thinking of the expense of two Nintendos while I was thinking of the fighting that would ensue every time the boys wanted to play,” she says. (Her parents ended up buying two.)
But family aside, is it appropriate to convey the same message to your friends and your children’s classmates? Although all children should be taught proper manners and to graciously thank their guests for any gifts, even if it’s a shared gift, there are ways to discreetly drop “a hint” to those who continue the practice. “If someone or a few people became known for giving one gift, I might try sending out two invitations to one party, one from each twin,” explains Lauren Favetti of Bloomfield, New Jersey. “Hopefully they will get the hint that although there is one event, it really is two parties logistically combined.”
But hey! Why not do away with gifts altogether? That’s what mom Amanda Sebra of Exton, Penn. does with her seven year-old fraternal twin girls, Samantha and Savannah. “Since my daughters always ask for donations of items to a different charity each year, gifts haven’t been an issue,” she says. One year her girls collected more than 100 pairs of shoes for a local orphanage; another time they collected canned goods for a food bank. To keep it fun, Sebra matches the donation to the party’s theme. For instance, for her girls’ Angelina Ballerina party, they collected dance clothes and gently-used dance shoes for a free dance program at the Salvation Army in New York City. “I’m happy that they haven’t missed receiving gifts from friends, but I do look forward to the day that they take an interest in the charities and perhaps choose one themselves that they want to get involved with.”
Catherine Grace’s eight-year-old fraternal twin boys are gift-free as well. “The idea of a ‘no gift birthday party’ was discussed at a parenting group meeting when my kids were three years old,” says the Glen Ridge, New Jersey mom. “It resonated. It made sense. We haven’t looked back since.”
Both moms are quick to point out that their children are no different from anyone else’s. “The boys grumbled a bit,” says Grace of her eight-year-old fraternal twins, George and Max. “But in truth with all of the presents from family and god-parents, there is no shortage of stuff in their lives.”
Let Them (Both) Eat Cake
When it comes to celebrating your multiples’ birthdays, the two-versus-one-cake debate and whether you should sing Happy Birthday once or twice draws a lot of discussion among moms of twins as well. It ranks right up there with the national debate on health care reform with every mom having a strong opinion!
“For their first birthday, I did cupcakes, so each baby had his and her own,” says Sharon Mandrano of High Point, North Carolina of her nine-year-old fraternal triplets, Tressa, Gabrielle, and Nicholas. During her twins’ early years, Lora Kaprowski of Westfield, MA kept her parties simple, too, by decorating half a sheet cake for James and the other half for co-twin Juliana.
No-fuss celebration during the first few years is a great idea as most twins and triplets won’t remember the day but around their third birthday, it’s worth the effort to surprise each of your twins with their very own cake. It’s a tradition that Amanda Nethero, editor of the blog, Multiples and More, is adamant about—she’s given each of her two-year-old girl-boy twins, Jillian and Aaron, a cake of their own from the get-go. “This is really important to me because my brother and I are born a day apart and I hated having to share a cake with him growing up,” she explains. “And I’m pretty sure he felt the same way when he was in high school and had to have a Snow White cake for his birthday.”
And what about singing Happy Birthday twice? Does it really make a difference by positively contributing to your twins’ sense of self? Probably not but it’s such an easy tradition to follow why wouldn’t you? Cathleen Mallon Sita sums it up best. “I think the sweetest thing is the look on both of the boys’ faces when we sing to each of them individually,” says the Paoli, Penn. mother to seven-year-old identical twins, Charlie and Luke. “For so much of their lives they are talked about as ‘the twins’ or ‘the boys,’ even though everyone makes it a point to treat them as individuals. I just love to see their faces when each is singing to his brother and being sung to individually. It’s priceless!”