Awhile back I wrote a post on twin discrimination, that pesky little problem of negative bias against siblings simply because they were born on the same day. In the post, I cited several examples—the contest where neither twin wins because the judges are afraid to choose one twin over the other; the play date or birthday party invitation that never comes because the host won’t take the chance in inviting just one twin.
Recently, however, a friend inadvertently hit upon another form of twin discrimination. This one deals with sports. As the new coach for a middle-school boys’ basketball team, he held tryouts last week. Two boys vying for spots on the team were fraternal triplets (the third triplet is a girl). The problem? Only 15 boys can make the team, and the two triplets were 15 and 16 in ability, one brother slightly better than his cotriplet. My friend paused for a moment before adding, “I think I may have to take them both or eliminate them both.”
My mouth dropped. “You can’t do that!” I said. “It’s not fair to either of those boys or to the rest of the team.” In either situation, I explained, it’s a form of discrimination. If both brothers make the team, when only one is qualified, then another deserving boy will have to be eliminated. Think about the message that you’d then be sending to the triplet who probably knows he isn’t good enough to make the team. Skill doesn’t matter since being a triplet will open the door anyway? On the other hand, if both brothers are cut from the team when one would have clearly made it if he were born a singleton, than you’d be discriminating against him simply because he was born a multiple.
But my friend was not fully convinced. Wouldn’t taking just one create a difficult rivalry between the brothers? “Your boys play tennis,” he said. “What would you do if only one made the team?”
“I’d hug the one who didn’t make the team and tell him how proud I was at his effort, and then I’d congratulate the one who did make the team,” I replied.
As cruel as that may sound to some, it’s an important concept for parents of twins and triplets not only to understand but put into practice as well. If everything in a twin’s life is equal to his cotwin, how are they ever to understand that life isn’t fair? How will they ever develop a “tough skin,” the ability to bounce back when things don’t go their way in the future? What will happen when they grow up, for instance, and one receives a job promotion while the other is unemployed? Should the former not take the job simply because he doesn’t want his brother to feel less-than? Of course not. Yet some parents of multiples go to great lengths to avoid any appearance of inequality for the sake of preserving the twinship. It’s not only wrong but it doesn’t work. They’re not helping their twins develop, grow and mature into two distinct individuals.
My friend nodded in understanding.
So how did he resolve the situation? When I saw him the following week, I asked. He said he decided to call the dad of the boys and explain the situation and ask for his advice.
“He appreciated the phone call but said not to worry,” my friend explained. “He told me to take the boy who is deserving of making the team, and he’ll deal with the boy who isn’t.”
Now that’s a father who understands his sons and how to parent multiples.