Whether it's with Castor and Pollux or Mary-Kate and Ashley, we're fascinated with twins. Fraternal or identical, our interest in them is, not-surprisingly, two-fold.
Being a parent of multiples means putting up with many questions and even more misconceptions. It's not surprising that people are interested in what it's like to have twins, raise them, parent them and live with them. After all, those parents of singletons often tell parents of twins that they can't imagine caring for two children of the same age, as they're often struggling with one.
Being a mother of identical twin boys means answering lots of questions. Many are innocent enough, and I can certainly understand the interest. Some questions, however, remain irritating, no matter how many times they're asked. Here are some perennial favourites (with my thoughts in parentheses):
"Are they identical?" (They're boys who, to most people, look exactly the same, are the same age, height and stature. What do you think?)
"How do you tell them apart?" (As the person who gave birth to them, I know the slight nuanced differences between them better than anyone.)
"Did you plan on having twins?" (Identical twins are a random occurrence in nature when a fertilized egg splits after conception, so no, I didn't plan on having twins.)
"Did you have in-vitro fertilization?" (First -- no. Second -- in-vitro often results in fraternal multiples, not identicals, which are the result of a fertilized egg splitting. Third -- Why do you feel it's okay to ask highly personal questions about my reproductive life and practices?)
The questions, though often innocent enough, underscore the interest that people have regarding twins and multiple births. It's only natural -- after all, twins are one of nature's wonders. That being said, it's evident that as much as people would like to know about twins, triplets and other multiples, there are a lot of misconceptions about them. Accordingly, here are the top five myths debunked:
1) They're One and the Same: They're not. They are individuals, regardless of whether they're identical or fraternal. People may see them as a monolith and a unified front, but believe the fact that they each want to be seen as individuals -- despite their close relationship. In spite of their similarities, they are unique, just like siblings that are born at different times. Accordingly, treat them as such.
2) The "Evil Twin" and the "Good Twin": There's no such thing. Kids will be kids and sometimes one will behave better than another, like any two children in a family. Setting up a dichotomy between siblings can cause nothing but trouble. When children are labelled as "good" or "bad," the subsequent behaviour often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3) "Double Trouble": Thanks, it's cute and yes, us parents of twins have actually heard this one before. Ditto for the observation that goes something like this: "Boy, you've really got your hands full!" Despite these pronouncements, it is true that twins are more work, but they're really not what most parents of twins would consider "trouble." We just see it as taking care of our kids. We've just got two of them that are the same age.
4) Hail, Cesarean: No, not all twins are automatically delivered via cesarean section, despite popular belief. It is actually possible and common for twins to be delivered naturally, with nary a scalpel in sight. C-sections are often necessary for a number of medical reasons, but don't automatically assume that all twins are born via this method. They're not.
5) Identical Twins are Genetic: While there is a genetic component to fraternal twins, identical twins are completely random, so it's irrelevant whether or not twins run in the family or not. The result of a fertilized egg splitting after conception, identicals are an unexplained occurrence in nature.
Follow Samantha Kemp-Jackson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/samkj27