I was at a party a few months back where I was chatting with a woman I know peripherally—we have a few friends in common and know a bit about each other’s lives but nothing more than that. She knew I had a set of twins who go to the same university, and a singleton who would be heading to college in the fall.
“Where will your son be attending college in September?” she asked. I told her, and then explained that it wasn’t his first choice; he had wanted to go to the same school as his brothers, but sadly, he didn’t get in.
You would think that by now I would have learned that sometimes it’s best just to answer the question and move on, especially when it comes to parenting twins and their singleton siblings as everyone—especially strangers—seems to have a strong opinion or advice that they’d like to share on the subject. (Advice, by the way, they contribute regardless of whether or not you’re interested in listening.) But no, I gave too much information in my response to this woman, inadvertently giving her an opening for some unsolicited assessment on why my son shouldn’t go to the same university as his twin brothers. Mind you, she doesn’t really know me or my sons, or their relationship, for that matter. Furthermore, she doesn’t have twins from which to draw her own personal experience. But she felt she knew enough about the twin dynamic and their relationship with their younger brother that she listed the reasons why it would have been a mistake for my son to go to the college of his choice.
I sound annoyed, don’t I? I guess I am. Normally I let this kind of stuff slide as I’m pretty used to it, as I’m sure all parents of multiples are. From the moment my twins were born more than 20 years ago, I’ve politely smiled when strangers and mere acquaintances have asked those silly and sometimes ignorant twin questions: “Who’s the smart one?” or “Which twin are you closer to?” I have smiled when they’ve quipped, “Uh, oh, double trouble!” as I truly believe that most people’s intentions are pure. Most are just oblivious to how insensitive those types of questions really are to parents of multiples. I know that 99 percent of the time, people are just trying to connect with me by striking up a conversation.
But in this particular incident, it was just too personal; too close for comfort. And frankly, none of her business. Perhaps it got under my skin because it was such a disappointment to my youngest when his first-choice school (for many reasons, by the way, his brothers attendance not withstanding), turned him down. Or, maybe she hit a nerve. Maybe my youngest will be better off at a different school than his twin siblings. Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps my youngest would be best served academically, socially, and spiritually by being at a different school. Then again, maybe not. It’s not her call. Nor mine, for that matter. The decision of where to attend school lies squarely in my youngest son’s corner.
In general, I think it would be way more helpful if friends, acquaintances, work associated, and strangers would think before they speak. Maybe it would be way less annoying if these well-meaning folks would put on their filters before they boldly express how others should raise their kids.
I’m sure this has happened to you, too. Tell me about in the comment section below.