All their lives, my twins have heard me discuss the psychology and research surrounding the mystery of twinning. While writing my books and articles, I’ve talked with countless parents of multiples as well as experts in the field but I’ve never really sat down with my own boys to ask their opinions about growing up as a twin. But now at age 16, they can not only articulate the challenges and perks of growing up as a pair but they can also shed some light on some misconceptions we as parents may have.
What follows is a Q & A with my sixteen-year-old sons. I interviewed them separately so that neither could be influenced by the other’s answers. We spoke over the course of two days but this is hardly a representation of all twins; just mine.
I hope you find it as useful as I found it fascinating to hear. Because of its length, I wrote it in two parts, the second to follow.
(One last note: It’s helpful while reading this to know that my boys go to an all-male high school where they didn’t know anyone, other than each other, their freshman year.)
When did you realize that you were a twin? In other words, when did you discover that the circumstances surrounding your birth were a bit different from all the other kids around you?
Twin A: It was always just the norm. It’s like when someone grows up in a family that does weird stuff and they think that everyone does that stuff, and then they get older and realize that no, not everyone does it. Learning that you’re a twin is like that. You just accept it.
Twin B: I remember always being with him. It’s like having someone who’s always there but then you grow up, look back and you realize, “Oh, yeh. We’re twins.”
What’s the best part about being a twin?
Twin A: It’s having that second opinion. There’s this dude that follows you around and you bounce things off him. “Hey, did you see that?” It’s like always having a wing-man. You have back up. You never have to go into a new social setting alone.
Twin B: It’s the uniqueness of it. I also like the fact that since we’ve always been around each other all our lives, we also think a lot alike. When you have someone who thinks the same way you do, you have another person who understands you.
I think that’s interesting that you say you think the same way because I think the two of you are nothing alike.
Twin B: Our personalities are completely different but we think almost exactly the same.
How can that be?
Twin B: I can anticipate what he thinks because I know him so well. We may act differently but that’s because we want to be different. But if you sit us down and give us a scenario, I’d be able to tell you how he’d react and I’m pretty sure he’d be able to tell you how I’d react.
And why is that comforting?
Twin B: It’s that feeling that you have someone who really understands you. Not that superficial you but the real you.
(To Twin A) Do you think the same way as your twin?
Twin A: Yes. You can see it all the time. There are points in time where we’ll say the exact same thing at the exact same time. It freaks people out. We’re exposed to the same things. We have similar experiences in life. Our environments are so similar that it’s shaped us in similar ways.
You said that you choose to be different from each other. Why is that?
Twin B: It’s that need to identify yourself from your twin. We have opposite personalities but I think that’s because we try to show that we’re two different people.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a twin?
Twin B: I think it’s always having him there. But isn’t that a catch-22? Sometimes you don’t get to be by yourself.
Twin A: It’s a double-edge sword with the wing-man thing. Because you have this second person that you’re comfortable with you don’t have to go into a social setting alone where you don’t know anyone. You never have to branch out. If you’re a singleton, you’re forced to meet new people. But since you’re a twin and you have someone you’re comfortable with, you never have to branch out. That’s not a good thing.
How do you reconcile those two opposing feelings? The feeling that you love having a twin because it’s someone who understand the real you but at the same time you don’t get enough time alone?
Twin A: The two don’t compete in my mind. I mean, there are good things and there are bad things. So what?
Twin B: I just accept it. You deal with it. You can’t really change the situation. If I don’t want to be around him, I try to do stuff without him. Even though we have the same group of friends, I’ll deliberately go off with a different group of friends.
Do you ever try to break this cycle?
Twin A: I already do it a bit now. For instance, when we go on class trips, I’ll deliberately choose to go into a different van than he does. I make an effort to do things differently.
Twin B: It’s always good to break the cycle, the routine, every once and awhile but I’m comfortable with what we have.
Now that you’re in high school, even though I’ve championed your being in separate classes, the school is so small, you’re often together. What are the advantages?
Twin A: You can ask advice or a question on homework or classwork.
Twin B: Being together in Spanish class freshman year was a lot of fun. We both hated it and we both could make fun of the teacher. We sat alphabetically so he sat right in front of me. We helped each other with the work that year, too.
Let’s talk about group projects in school. I get the sense that you like working together.
Twin A: We sometimes work together but now we try to avoid it. It gets boring or you just want to be with someone else since they do things differently. Sometimes we just want to break the mold because if we do pair up other kids will say, “Oh, the twins are together. That figures.”
Twin B: It’s easier to work on group projects with your twin because you live with him. You don’t have to call him constantly to remind him to get the work done. I can count on him. He’s reliable.
What’s the disadvantage to having him in some of the same classes in high school?
Twin A: Nothing really.
Twin B: It ticks me off when classmates group us together because we’re different. It’s mostly kids that don’t know us. They sometimes see us as one package. Once they get to know us though they usually stop. If one of us does something wrong then they see it as if we both have done something wrong. For instance, [Twin A] had gone off on this kid I had never met before. He knows about me but has never talked to me and yet he had this negative biased view of me. This guy and [Twin A] just didn’t click so this guy just assumed he wouldn’t click with me.
Or sometimes the other kids in class would compare our grades. They’d hold up our test papers side-by-side and remark on who got the higher grade and then make assumptions on who was smarter.
What’s the difference in sharing a classroom now and sharing it when you were younger?
Twin A: The interaction between us in school is less. In grade school it was an all-day thing. Now we don’t really spend that much time together. It’s a single class. There’s more work, too, so you can’t talk as much.
Twin B: It’s much easier to be together now because there’s always someone who can help you with the work. Someone always has the homework. Socially now you always have someone to talk to.
Do you find it to be an asset rather than a hindrance?
Twin B: I think so but there are always cons that come with it. If I have him in the class, especially when we were freshman, I’d stick with him rather than trying to get to know other people in the class. I didn’t go outside of my comfort zone. But when he’s not in my class I’m forced into a situation where I’ve got to get to know other people. Now that I’m in my junior year I know everyone—more so than during freshman year.