Next week, Matt and Nate turn 6. SIX!!! That means they’ll no longer be part of the early-childhood set. They’ll officially be considered big kids. And I just can’t believe it. I feel like I’ve been through the biggest challenge of my life and have made it through the other side mostly unscathed, aside from a few more wrinkles and gray hairs.
I started this blog when I was pregnant with the boys and admittedly terrified at the prospect of having twins. Once they were born, it was comforting to write about the challenges of having two babies—the huge expense of buying two of everything, the struggle to get anywhere on time, the lack of sleep.
But at some point—and I can’t say exactly when it was because it just snuck up on me—having twins stopped being so difficult. At some point, once both boys were potty trained and could dress themselves and we stopped having to lug the giant double stroller everywhere—having twins actually got easier than having a singleton in many ways. I’ll explain more here, along with nine other truths I’ve learned over the years about having twins:
- Twins become easier than singletons in certain ways. The main reason for this is that they always have a playmate! Two winters ago, we got slammed with a blizzard that closed school for a week. I’d get texts from mom friends saying, “Losing my mind!!! Running out of entertainment ideas! Must get out of house!!!” But Matt and Nate spent hours playing with action figures, having light-saber battles, and building LEGO creations in the basement. When they started kindergarten and got on the bus for the first time, I was significantly less nervous than my fellow kindergarten moms because I knew they had each other to sit with. And when Nate went through a phase where he was afraid of the dark, we got him to (mostly) stay in his bed at night by reassuring him that Matt was right next to him.
- If twins are the same gender, people won’t be able to tell them apart. It doesn’t matter if they look completely different or they’re different sizes or they’re wearing t-shirts with their names on them: People, especially kids, will consistently mix them up. Matt and Nate have different eye and hair colors, an 8-pound weight difference, and different face shapes, yet they’ll still get called each other’s names. Kids who’ve known them for months will ask them, “Are you Matt or Nate?” Usually they let it roll off their backs, but sometimes Nate will get tired of being called “Matt” and yell, “I’m NATE!”
- They’ll develop at different rates. Matt walked at 11 months, Nate at 17 months. Nate potty trained right after turning 3, Matt took until almost 3 1/2. Nate has been zipping around on a two-wheeler for months, Matt is still mastering pedaling. Matt just lost his first tooth, Nate doesn’t even have a loose one. I could go on and on, but my point is that I learned early on to NOT COMPARE THE TWINS. Seriously, don’t do it. All new moms worry when their kids don’t meet milestones as early as friends’ kids, but the worrying can really get out of hand when you’ve got another child the exact same age in the house. Just take a deep breath and remember that even though your twins shared a womb, they are individuals who will develop at their own rates. Relish each milestone as it comes!
- What’s best for one set of twins isn’t necessarily best for yours. One instance when this becomes true is when they start elementary school. Some schools require twins to be in different classes, while others leave it up to the parents. And that’s when you have to consider your own twins’ personalities and learning styles. The default at Matt and Nate’s school is to keep twins together for kindergarten and then separate them in first grade. But I spoke with the boys’ teacher, who said they are not competitive, that neither one relies too much on the other, and that they each do their own thing at school. For those reasons, we have decided to keep them together until we have reason not to. But other twin parents I know had to separate their twins because they were too attached, too competitive, or simply wanted to be in their own class. So do what’s best for your twins and your family!
- They’ll want their own stuff. One of the benefits of having a same-sex twin is that you’ve got double the toys and double the clothes. But at a certain age—for my boys, it was 4—twins start to want to claim things as their own. I’ll never forget the first time I pulled a shirt out of their drawer to put on Nate and he said, “No, that’s Matt’s shirt!” even though they had always just pooled their clothing. That was around the same time the boys started identifying which toys belonged to each of them. Even if they had two identical dinosaurs, they’d somehow be able to tell which one was Nate’s and which was Matt’s.
- Some kids will find them intimidating. My friend has a son Matt and Nate’s age and our boys get along well. But whenever we’d set up play dates, her son would retreat to the other side of the room or the park and get really quiet. After this happened a few times, she asked him why he did that. He confessed that he felt left out because there were two of them and only one of him! It seemed like such an obvious thing that neither she nor I picked up on. At 4 and 5, kids are still learning how to make friends and interact with others. It’s natural for them to feel insecure around two kids who already know each other so well. So talk to your twins about being sure to play with the other kids during parties and playdates!
- People will continue to be fascinated by them. I imagine this is especially true of identical twins. But even my boys, who look nothing alike, still draw admirers. People will look back and forth at them a few times, ask me if they’re twins, and get very excited when I say yes. Then they’ll tell me about their mother’s cousin’s best friend who has twins, ask a probing question like, “Were they natural?” or spout out a cliche like, “You have your hands full!” When I was an exhausted new mom I’d admittedly find it irritating at times, but now it just makes me realize how blessed I am to have twins.
- You’ll share a special connection with other twin parents. I’m lucky to have lots of mom friends I bond with over tantrums and school struggles and our perpetual exhaustion. But no one gets me quite as much as other twin moms do. I imagine this is similar to the connection shared between military members who’ve gone to war together. Yes, I’m exaggerating … but only a little.
- The twin bond is real. Seriously—my boys are very in tune with one another. When they were smaller and still learning how to pronounce words properly, I’d sometimes ask them to translate what the other was saying for me. If one is in a bad mood and won’t tell me what’s wrong, I’ll ask the other, and his guess will usually be spot on. They also really look out for one another and are generally concerned for each other when one of them is sick. It’s heartwarming to watch. Of course, they can get into bigger fights and arguments than anyone else I know, too. But they always make up in the end!
- Life will never be boring … or quiet. This is true for any parent, but there is something about having two kids the same age in the house that brings a whole new energy. Add in a little sister, and you can be sure you’ll be on your toes pretty much non-stop. You just never know what kind of adventure each day will bring. I recently had a root canal, and when the endodontist walked in to start the procedure, she told me I was the calmest person she’d ever had in her office. I told her it was because it was the first few minutes of peace and quiet I’d had all day!
Needless to say, having twins has been an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Though the early-childhood years are behind us, I know the school-age years will bring many more adventures, challenges, and happy times. I couldn’t be prouder of the kind, hilarious, smart, silly, and handsome little men my boys have become. The fact that my preemie twins who couldn’t even eat on their own in their first days of life are now reading, playing baseball, and spouting out the names of all 45 presidents is so amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.
Happy 6th Birthday, Matt and Nate!