Whenever people find out I’m a twin, they’re always fascinated and full of questions. I’m always asked, “What’s it like to be a twin?” I often want to reply, “What’s it like to not be a twin?” I don’t mean that in a snotty way, it’s just that being a twin is all I know.
The dynamic between siblings that are different ages has always been interesting to me. My brother and I were always learning the same things and we knew the same people. Being the same age meant many of the same classes, which resulted in lots of togetherness and no secrets. Like it or not, we knew everything that was going on with the other. I would sometimes ask my friends questions about their older or younger siblings and they’d reply, “I don’t know.” You don’t know? That was mind-boggling to me.
Being a twin colors a lot of who I am and how I parent. I’m very protective of the identities my kids are creating for themselves. When you’re a twin, everyone makes the joke, “Are you the good twin or the evil twin?” But at some point in my life I’ve been known as the social one, or the sporty one, or the dumb/pretty/funny/dull/whatever one. Is this common with other siblings? I haven’t ever noticed other siblings being labeled the way my brother and I were. Anyway, because of this, I will never let my kids be referred to as the “Insert Adjective” Spohr. They are Annabel and James.
I’m also very into fairness and things being even. For some reason, this mattered a LOT to my brother and me. There was never an excuse for one of us to have a more extravagant gift or outing. I know several of my friends would be told things like, “You’ll get this when you turn sixteen,” or whatever arbitrary milestone was being celebrated. That sort of thing never happened in our house.
Then I wonder about stupid things, like do typical siblings have different bedtimes? Not like, a preschooler and a baby (obviously they do), but similarly aged siblings (like, when they are say, eight and ten)? And what happens when they go through their separate phases of disliking each other? My brother and I had periods of loathing, but they were always mutual (hahaha). Mike once told me a story about how one day, his older sister suddenly thought he was gross and he was devastated. That breaks my heart!
It all fascinates me. Watching Annabel and James, with their almost three-and-a-half year age difference, has been delightful. They love each other SO MUCH, and it just socks me right in the stomach, you know? I think one of my most important jobs is making sure they always feel that love and remember it. I know they’ll have plenty of difficulties and disagreements, so I’m going to do my best to make sure I’m not the cause of any of them!
My brother and I – 18 months difference – were always very close, which our parents always encouraged. Even so, we had about eighteen months or so when we mutually hated each others’ guts, more or less constantly. It turned out later that we were both undergoing bullying, and my brother’s was linked to me (younger sister of the girl bullying me bullied him). Anyway, it was very stressful but probably an essential part of growing up that had nothing to do with how we were parented! So, don’t worry if this happens despite your best efforts. We’re quite good friends now, have ups and downs but know that when it’s really important the other is there for us.
You got to love a family of bullies!
Oh, and that dislike came when I was in 9th grade and my brother was in 7th, so 14 and 12-13.
I’m the middle of three girls with a huge extended family, cousins galore, and, boy, was there labeling! I was the shy/grumpy/serious one ever since I can remember. It really colors a child’s world. Definitely a thing to avoid.
My brother and I were in the same grade because I was held back in Kindergarten for missing school. (We had three catastrophic illnesses that year). I idolized my brother- he’s smart, really funny, athletic and people are drawn to him. We are 16 months apart and looked like twins as babies, kids. I am the invisible one. Went to my 30th reunion and EVERY. PERSON didn’t say hi to me so much as, “Where’s Dave?” Gotta love it. He used to beat the crap out of me and my younger sister…normal. That’s life because you do grow up.
I’m fascinated by only children. My little brother and I are extremely close and aside from my parents, felt he was my only guarantee. Then I had a baby and that was hard, so hard to be pregnant and diabetic and oh, the pain after a c-section because, hello, allergy to Naproxen is the worst. Right now, I’m sad to say that he may be an only child. I wanted him to know the joy of a sibling. But, in true awesomeness, my little brother had a baby girl 5 months after me. Problem solved.
Trying to raise twins with 2 deceased siblings I too am super sensitive when it comes to sibling rivalry and fairness. It is fascinating to me the relationship between the twins (and their brothers). My brother and I are 2 yrs apart. I am the youngest and I watched as he learned to ride a bike, drive, etc. it is interesting trying to teach 2 who are the same age at the same time. I love watching their little personalities develop (together and separately).
Thanks for this post Heather! Sending hope and hugs.
As somebody who grew up with two younger siblings (one is almost 3 years younger, the other is 4.5 years younger), I can say that there is still adjective stuff that happens even when you’re “typical” siblings. I did very well in school, and so I tended to be the “smart [lastname]” child while my sister was the “social (and pretty) [lastname]” and my brother was the “funny [lastname].” And my sister hated it, mostly because she followed behind me in school and often got asked if she was as smart as me. Not exactly a real confidence-builder for her (who is very successful but is not much of an academic).
It’d be interesting to hear Mike’s sister’s side of why she thought he was “gross” because as an older sibling, I think there is sometimes an age where the younger sibling goes from fun and cute to, well, clingy and annoying. That was at least my experience with my sister. But as you can probably guess from our “labels,” we were very different people and I think that sort of made the chasm between us wider. If we’d had more things in common, I think our relationship wouldn’t have been as bad growing up–but I think everybody’s experience with their siblings is really different. It’s based on a ton of factors, both internal to the kid and external to the family situation. I mean, I could expound for another ten paragraphs on how I think my mother’s illness in my youth shaped the way our family dynamics developed. Nobody wants that, though.
I guess my point is that some of the sibling stuff is unavoidable, but being aware of it is really important. And maybe not forcing it too much–I think part of the reason that my sister and I butted heads so much is that my mom was constantly throwing us into “work together!” situations despite our pretty rocky relationship and it just made the rivalry and fighting worse. But now that we’re adults (I’m 30, she’s 27), we’re pretty cool with each other. Most the time.
Abby J. says:
As parents you can encourage and teach them to love each other even when they don’t get along. My husband and I each have a younger brother with a 5 year age gap. Where my parents seemed to accept severe sibling rivalry as a fact of life, Hubby’s parents took an active role in teaching their two boys to get along and love each other. As adults, it paid off. Hubby is much closer to his brother – they are more like best friends, whereas my brother and I love each other as family but will never be especially close. So that’s something you can teach to Annie and James.
My babes are 3 years apart. My son is 7 and daughter is 4. We have them in the same room in bunkbeds and we told my son, whenever he is ready to be in his own room, he just has to say the word. He seems content for now. The best part is I love-love-love their talks before bed. Sometimes they argue, but mostly he gives her gentle guidance. “Sydney, in the morning mom will not be here because she has to be at work early. So don’t cry, okay? Daddy can put your skirt on.” LOL! Also, when we are out and about he always kind of guides her by the back of her head, in a protective way. I love that! Now, that’s not to say they don’t have moments of fury and hate. He can’t stand her when she wants to play with HIS legos and she also taunts him like no other. But they love each other. I hope it stays that way!
My sister is almost 3 years older than me. Growing up we both had little chores that had to be done (room picked up, finish your milk, etc.). Even though our duties were identical, my sister’s allowance was $5 per week and mine was $2 per week. I never really questioned it at the time, but I recently mentioned that to my husband in passing and he was so confused. And now that I think about it, it really doesn’t make sense. My parents were just good at duping the little one, I guess.
My sister and I haaaaaated each other until we got 1 year of high school together before she left for college. That’s when we became best friends and still are 15 years later.
What you are describing is the same for any family with kids. Go by what is developmentally appropriate with each child.
They will always love each other but they may not always be close friends. For example, when A is 12-13 and J is 9-10…..
Sibling love is a precious thing. It still melts me when I see our 10 year old daughter snuggled up to her 16 year old sister (and because they are not currently squabbling:) And the thing you said about really wanting things equal or fair–I think most siblings are like that, twin or not. Thanks for the sweet pix.
My niece and nephew are about the same age difference, at 9 and 5 1/2. And they are like Annie and James – they ADORE each other. OF course they have the times where they get frustrated that the other is bugging them while they want to be doing something different, but most of the time they are playing together and hugging each other. They are even sleeping in the same bed these days.
My brother and I are 2 1/2 years apart. We had the same bedtime in elementary school and it drove me insane. It never felt fair that he got to go to bed later at the same age than I did.
I think the loathing is usually always mutual. At least it was for us. 11 year old girls usually feel awkward and hate the world and a younger sibling is going to return that dislike.
As for the “insert adjective,” I think it happens whenever someone knows both of you. Depending on which teacher you asked, a different one of us would be the “smart” one. We had a lot of mutual friends and I’m sure we were labeled by them too. Age difference didn’t matter. We often seem to be the same age.
It’s so interesting just how much our own upbringing colors our parents…I mean, of course it does, but I didn’t realize how strong of an influence it is until I’m living it. I’m a middle child (poor neglected middle child) and I am KEENLY aware of making sure my 2nd child has everything my 1st born has. Photos, baby books, classes and experiences. My husband, a first born, doesn’t get it….but it’s super important to me.
I have so many things to say. I will try and form them into words in a little bit.
I’m a twin and my sister and I are in the middle of older brother and younger brother. We always got asked that same question, “how does it feel to be a twin” we answered just like you, we don’t know anything different. We are very close and growing up were close to both brothers, they use to fight all the time but now are very close also. It’s a typical thing with siblings. My mom didn’t understand it when we would argue with our siblings because she was an only child and wanted a sibling so bad.
I just wanted to say how much I’ve been enjoying your blog lately. Your kids are beyond adorable, but I love your writing and get excited when I see a big ol’ wall of text from you.
I dont have advice, but was wondering if you have ever asked if you were identical? My niece and nephew are twins and they STILL get asked that question BY ADULTS!!
I find it funny, but also pretty sad.
“Are you identical” is literally the NUMBER ONE question we are asked. I’ve been asked by people who should know better – college professors, lawyers, DOCTORS. My theory is that people hear the word “twin” and stop listening.
The twins I took care of are both boys but fraternal (like, REALLY fraternal. They look very little alike). The questions I got most were “Are they twins?”-yes. “Are they identical?”-no. “Do they have the same birthday?”-what do you think? and “Are they the same age?”. Now, keep in mind, everyone asked “Are they twins?” FIRST. How do you ask “Are they twins?” and then follow up with “Are they the same age?”?!?! HOW?!
I have one girl (five) and one boy (almost four) and they’re best friends. But they also fight and need space from each other sometimes. It’s too much pressure to get along all the time – I can’t even do that with my husband. I think part of having your own identity and learning what that is comes from being independent of your siblings, from things not always being equal. I guess I just try not to give equality a lot of thought – I parent Lily how she needs to be patented and I parent Jax the best way for him. They’re such different little creatures that I don’t think I really ever had a choice. Jax tests boundaries and needs time outs (more as a breather than punishment) but he loves pretending and could play with his toys alone for as long as I let him. Lily is emotional and requires a lot of positive feedback (we tell Jax all of the things we love about him but he doesn’t really care. He does way pleases him. Lol) and she needs much more attention. — they’re just different people so Iwe parent them differently. I think my mom did the same – my big brother was outgoing and did what he wanted, I was shy and quiet but creative, and my little sister was … Spoiled. Lol Anyway, I’m babbling. It’s all very interesting.
As a twin myself, I so identify with what you are saying. I also say to people “I don’t know, what’s it like to not be one?” when they ask me what it’s like to be a twin. My twin brother and I have three additional siblings so we still had some “typical” (if there is such a thing) sibling relationships but still. My biggest issue is that I won’t share my birthday celebrations with anyone else. My husband’s birthday is four days after mine. While we were dating he made a comment about how fun it would be to share a celebration. I told him absolutely not. I spent my life sharing my birthday with my brother and I wasn’t sharing it with anyone else!
Arlene Cloud says:
My kids (girl, then boy) were 3 years apart. I always told them that fair didn’t mean that they got exactly the same every time. I wanted to treat them as individuals and that meant sometimes things looked different. If one cried “that’s not fair!” I suggested that we could do everything the same. Same naps, same friends, same amount of food, same toys, etc. That would quiet it quickly. If I saw something that I thought one would particularly like or find useful, I’d buy it and not try to “make it equal” by purchasing something for the other. They grew to know that the gift was truly from the heart and for them, instead of something to make things “fair”. When I asked my daughter (after she was an adult) if there was any jealousy or rivalry, she told me no, that she felt like they were both treated as an only child so there was no reason to be jealous of the other.
I have 22 year old twin sisters. They are really close, but yet independent. They share an apartment in college with another set of twins which kind of blows my mind.
A funny story about them….one of them was going on a trip to Europe a few years ago and it was going to be the longest they had been apart since they were born. As the one that was taking the trip was giving everyone a good-bye hug, she just said ‘bye’ to her twin sister. We asked her if she wasn’t going to give her a hug since they had never been apart. She said, no, because it would kind of be like hugging herself. That kind of made me understand their twin dynamic a lot more.
My husband is a twin. They are close, but not super close, and they never really have been. They seem more like sibling who just happen to be the same age.
They have different personalities with some similarities. But they grew up doing different sports, having different friends, enjoying different things in school, and attended colleges 4 hours apart. One is married with kids, one is still single. One works as a social studies teacher and the other is in finance. My husband has been one of the kindest and most compassionate people and I’ve yet to meet someone who didn’t like him, and although his brother isn’t a bad guy, he’s just not that way.
My older brother and I (4 years apart) grew up with totally, like polar opposite personalities and fought ALL through childhood. We had different rules based on age and gender (sadly). And we gew up and now we have so much in common even with different personalities!
My girls are 26 months apart. They are alternately best friends or enemies. Pick a time of day and I’ll tell you what the deal is!
I have a son/ daughter 3 yrs apart. They have always been close and love each other. She’s always looked up to him. He always acted like the little daddy. Now both grown…they have a close relationship. I think all siblings go through their ups and downs, but at the end of the day love each other and have each others back.
My two boys flip flop between lovingand despising each other all day long, as being an ONLY child, this is so foreign to me. I had friends, and I loved them, if I didn’t, they weren’t my friend…. none of the ‘you have to get along because you’re FAMILY’ stuff. I try to respect their differences though, and BOY are they DIFFERENT. A book I read for fun when I was 19, is SO pertinent now for me, about two very different siblings (2 of 11 kids in the 1950’s). Flight of Passage by Rinker Buck. It is a true account memoir of two boys rebuilding a plane and flying across country at 17 and 15 without flying instruments, in the 1950’s. I highly recommend it for great reading, and also insight into raising very different kids and their special bonds!
My girls are 11 and 13. I definitely label them, but I find I’m put in positions a lot to explain how their personalites are different. One is kinda OCD and more serious, the other is a wild child and silly. They were close when they were little, like yours are now. Thankfully being close in age AND girls they share common interests, but as time moves on they want less to do with each other. Hopefully when they get older that will change.
My brother is 4 years younger than me. We weren’t close growing up. Our interests were totally different. Also, he was a PEST. Who wants their 9 yo brother hanging around your 13? We have a good adult relationship now.
My sister and I are 4 1/2 years apart, and have been best friends since the day they brought her home from the hospital. People always find it strange that we never went through a phase of hating each other, but I have always adored her. We actually joke that we are twins born 4 years apart because we have the same temperament and love all the same things. My mom once told me that she originally thought I would be an only child and I have never been more grateful that a plan didn’t work out. She’s my bestie.
For the good: my brother and I were born only 15 months apart. As we got older we did get our own identities and got compared less and less… Still, we were more or less in every school logether, and boy did teachers love to compare us (as a teacher, I was mindful not to, because I still remembered hating teachers who did that).
For the bad: we fought and fought. Which wasn’t as bad as my husband and his sister (almost 4 years apart), who generally ignored each other once they both hit elementary age. They both got closer to the other once his sis was out of college, though.
Marin D says:
I have three sisters. My older sisters are 7 and 4 years older than me. My third sister is 2 years younger than me. My oldest sister and I never really had a close relationship. We are close as a whole family but she and I never really shared a good one on one relationship. (My aunt said it was because I was sick when I was a baby and it was hard on her as the oldest.) The next one and I did not get along at all while growing up. She has a difficult personality and she tormented me. I tried to keep my distance. Eventually, when she graduated from high school, and I was just going into high school, that changed. She all of a sudden liked me and we became really close. It was really nice because I always kind of felt like the odd one out (everyone called me “wanda weird” because I was goofy and trying to get some of the spotlight). Again, my aunt says some of her issues would probably relate to my being sick and getting my mom’s attention when I was a baby.
My younger sister and I were more like twins. We did everything together. Shared a room until I was 14. Had lots of mutual friends. Went to college together. Our relationship has suffered in the past few years as she struggled with her own identity and being the only one who wasn’t married and having kids. It makes me sad because I feel like I lost my best friend. Thankfully, I have my husband – but he doesn’t like Target as much as I do. Oh and he really doesn’t like to hear me complain about his family. I feel bad for her though because she told me how it always hurt that she was “Marin’s sister” when we would be in groups. I was much more outgoing and she was more reserved. I didn’t like that she felt that way so I worked hard to bring her out of her shell and get people to know her better. I did a lot of sister bragging, and still do!
Having said all of that… I wanted four kids because I thought it would be fun. Even with all of the different personality dynamics, we had a lot of fun. We ate dinner together and have a lot of inside jokes about things that were said and done at the table. We see each other weekly (except for the younger sister who moved to LA last year). I will only have my two girls because of pregnancy issues and I am grateful. They are two years apart and it is lovely. They have each other when all else fails. I try hard to not label them and encourage them to find their strengths. I am very stuck on equity and fairness. Life won’t always be fair but I can do my best to be.
Wow that was long… siblinghood (new word right there!) is a hard thing.
There’s 11 1/2 years between my sister and me so it was not like we were sisters at all. I love the last picture of Annie kissing James. Priceless.
I am a twin, too! I always miss my sister on our birthday (because we live 6000 miles apart) and nobody understands why I would WANT to share my birthday with someone… I should enjoy having the day “to myself”, but all I do is miss my sister
Shel Morningstar says:
I’m an identical twin, my dad is a twin, my sister and I have twin cousins nine days older than us. We have nine sets of twins in four generations. Being a twin in my family is no big deal. I worked with three ladies who had twin sisters, they all referred to their sister as my twin, I only ever say my sister as it’s not a big deal in our family. I actually introduce my self as the middle child, which technically I am, lol. My sister and I did some of the same activities, but we also had different interests and friends. I got up the first day of third grade and said “if I have to wear what she’s wearing…I’m not going to school”, so we started dressing different. The funny thing about that, my mom and I were talking about that about a year ago, and she told my I did that in kindergarten too. I said “and you made me dress like her three more years?”
My cousins are quadruplets. Sometimes when they were growing up and there happened to be just two of them together they’d get asked “are you twins”? They’d just say yes.
I’m an only child and I always hate it when people ask me questions like whether I wished I had a sibling growing up. Being an only child was all I ever knew, so it wasn’t like I knew to miss having a sibling!!!
My husband has a brother who is 2.5 years younger than him, and I know that they definitely played together but had their share of disagreements and times that he thought his younger brother was “annoying.” One of his biggest pet peeves was that he felt that his younger brother often instigated disagreements, or would just be “annoying” and “provoke” him, but he would be disproportionately punished for the reason that he was “older” and “should have known better.” He also says that he definitely had to do more chores or more work to get some reward, and that his brother would do less and get the same reward. Don’t know if that helps at all!!
My boys are almost 9 and 6 and are good buddies. I am so glad that our family ended up with close in age children. They can entertain each other very well.
I am the middle child (with two brothers) and my mom was very into “Even Steven.” We got the same things at the same ages. This backfired in high school and college, because you can bet that I remembered everything my older brother got to do and then made sure I got it too. I am going with the theory that “Fair does not always mean Even.” One year, Ryan got a bike for Christmas and Charlie got some dinosaur toys (which is what he wanted). The next year, Ryan got a smaller gift and Charlie got a big one. Neither of them ever commented or worried about it. Each was just happy for the other getting what he wanted.
My brother is four years younger than me, but fair meant we could do things at the same time — which drove me INSANE because, hello, I was older! Why could we have sleepovers, see PG movies (and PG-13 later), have a computer, etc at the same time when he wasn’t the same age as me? He’s significantly taller than me (yes, I am very short) so people usually assume he’s the older one, which is funny now but wasn’t when we were younger.
That last picture is just too cute.
This is so interesting to me. We have twin girls, who will be 3 in a few weeks. I thought they were fraternal, but found out a few weeks ago they were identical, which really threw me for a loop. But i love watching their dynamic, how they play, how they hate each other, but miss each other if they are apart for more than 5 minutes. I think it’d be so great to go through life with a buddy, but I do see the challenges. Right now they are too little to really do their own thing, but I really plan on letting them be who they’d like to be…and do things that they want to do. I never dress them alike, and really want them to be their own person.
WHOA! How did you find out that they are actually identical? That’s crazy!!
Well, we adopted the girls, and just assumed they were fraternal. No one told us otherwise, and the birthmom is a fraternal twin (which is hereditary). they looked so much alike and even with baby pictures I don’t know who I’m really looking at sometimes. but in person I can tell them apart, and have never had any issues, but NO ONE else could ever tell them apart but I just thought nothing of it (even my husband had a hard time when they were really little). I had heard of other similar stories where identical twins were in different sacks, so i ordered a dna test (at 150 bucks!)! It’s a twin test, and i had to swab the inside of their mouths and send it back in. I REALLY really thought it would be fraternal. Came back identical. I decided to do it now so they would know, instead of always wondering and felt I owed it to them since they are adopted anyway!
My identical twin boys are 10 now, but when they were little guys, not an outing went by without at least one person looking at them and saying, “that’s the happy one,” or “that’s the serious one!” So funny…such conclusions drawn from a 30 second meeting! Never bothered me though…twins fascinate people. And how can you argue with people making a fuss over your babies?!?
My sister is eight years younger than I am. I detested her (I’d wanted a brother) until she was four or so. Now, I’m 41, she’s 33, and we are close. Have been for years.
My two kids are 25 months apart. They were close as small kids, but have grown apart as young adults. They love each other, though, so I’m not too worried. As for the fairness thing, I parented according to the child. But I also tried to make sure there weren’t huge disparities in how they were treated. Allowances were easy. $1 per week per year of age. All allowances stopped at 16 because they were old enough to work outside the home. I started allowances at age five.
Heather, I have a twin brother and it always surprises me how often people ask if we are identical, EVEN after they learn he is a boy…very smart people. Tip…I now reply things along the lines of yes…except his cup size is a few size larger than mine…or cruder..depending on the situation
My sister and I (just over two years apart in age) were sometimes referred to as “the pretty one and the smart one.” I get it; my sister is beautiful, and I have a brain in between my ears that does what I ask. But that apparently means my sister isn’t smart (untrue) and I’m not good-looking (self-esteem jury is still out on that one, thanks rude people!).