Identical Twins!

What to expect when you are expecting identical twins - an interview with two TasMBA mums who have identical twin boys. 

 Introduction: Kellie Bull (KB) of Geilston Bay and Anita Manners (AM) of Mount Stuart are both mums of identical twin boys. Kellie’s boys, Edward and Conrad and Anita’s boys, James and Hamish are all three years old. Both coincidentally have one older sibling each too, Kellie’s son Xavier is 7 and Anita’s daughter Georgia is 5 years old. Kellie and Anita were kind enough to answer a few question about raising identical twins.

When you were pregnant, were you told that your babies might be identical? And if so, how did you feel about that? Were you worried that you might not be able to tell them apart?

KB: We found out at the six week scan they were identical twins.  I started investigating hints to tell them apart almost straight away on the web.  I was very worried that they would be difficult to tell apart and had planned to use nail polish on one, but on arrival, with a 500 gram difference, it was rather easy.

AM: Yes, we were. Although, as they were completely separate (own placentas etc) it was more likely that they would be fraternal, which was what I was hoping for! For most of my pregnancy, I was pretty terrified by the thought of two babies at once (I already had Georgia, and just could not see how I would cope!) that whether they were identical or not was fairly low on my list of concerns! I do remember thinking that I’d rather they were fraternal, as I thought it would be easier for them in the future, in terms of them being treated by others as separate people.

Have they become more similar in looks, as they have become older? And have you ever had times where you haven’t been able to tell them apart for a second or two?

KB: We think they have become less similar as they get older, but others don’t agree.  I’ve always been able to tell them apart, if I use the wrong name I know straight away.

AM: I think they have become more different, although I think that’s just me knowing them more. Others think they are getting more similar. I confuse them ALL the time! Always have. It’s definitely getting easier, especially now they can actually tell me when I’m wrong! But it’s usually only if I’m not paying close attention, or if they are in pj’s (the only time they ever wear matching clothes). Most memorable time I confused them was when my mother-in-law was visiting & she went into to get them after their sleep, and she told me I’d put them in the wrong cots. It wasn’t the first time, but that one was particularly embarrassing.

How do you tell them apart? Are there features that you notice, their behaviour/body language, or voices?

KB: My boys have slightly different shaped heads and hair lines.  Edward’s goes into a point at the back and Conrad’s is straight.  They have very different personalities and body languages.  From the moment they could hug, Conrad has been like a koala and grips on. Edward is like a sloth and barely holds on at all.  Even though they weigh exactly the same, Edward feels a lot heavier as you have to hold all his weight.  They also sound very different, Edward has a big lisp which Conrad doesn’t.  There are also a few different freckles which others find come in handy.

AM: In the early days it was by strip search. James has a little strawberry mark on his tummy. They also had quite differently shaped heads, which was really easy for everyone when they had very little hair! Now, we can hear that their voices are slightly different, and can see differences in their faces. Their personalities are always changing, so it’s not a reliable way to tell them apart.

How do people outside of your immediate family go with their same-ness?

KB: Most people outside immediate family really struggle, even some of the family still can’t figure them out.  Their day carers even still struggle especially if they are not wearing their normal shoes! Although one 6 year old in Xavier, our older son’s school class worked out the differences quite a few months ago and never gets them wrong!

AM: Most of our immediate family and close friends can tell them apart. Their big sister Georgie often confuses them, but usually only when she is too busy trying to get which ever little brother it is to do what she wants!

When it comes to individuality, do they play together all the time, and like the same things, or the opposite? Does individuality come naturally to them or do you actively try to encourage them to be their own person? Like, doing things with each one separately. Or is their closeness not something to be worried about?

KB: My boys play together a lot of the time, but do also spend some time playing apart on their own.  We find that when their older brother is home we usually end up having two-on-one arguments... We struggle to spend time one-on-one with Conrad and Edward, and any time we have is usually doing ‘older’ things with Xavier.  They seem to enjoy many of the same activities but do have different favourites.  We are not worried by their closeness.

AM: They tend to like the same things and play mostly together. Having another sibling close in age does change the dynamic though. When they are all at home together, they play as a threesome, but when the fights erupt, one boy tends to splinter off and play alone, or with me. On Georgie’s school days, the boys play together like angels! But at playgroup, they tend to separate. 

In terms of individuality, we feel their personalities are still developing and changing all the time, so it’s hard to say. We have never actively tried to do things with them individually, like trips to the park etc, as it tends to take all weekend with three, and for much of the past three years, it’s been more about just getting though the days! At the moment, neither one seems to be reliant on the other socially or emotionally. I think it will be something that becomes more of a concern as they get older. I have lots of ideas and opinions on this subject, but my boys are only 3, so I don’t know whether what I think now will still hold true when they are 13.

So they are almost heading off to Kinder! Is their anything different that you are doing to prepare for Kinder, that you didn't do with your older one? Do you have a strategy when it comes to keeping them in the same class, or not? Are you going to take it easy on the teachers and students by dressing one in red and one in blue, for example, everyday?

KB: Count down to kinder 2015! I don’t think we will do anything different to prepare them for kinder that we didn't do with Xavier.  For kinder we are planning to have them in the same class for ease of work and drop offs.  From then on, we’ll take advice from the school and our opinions in how we think they are going. I think there will come a stage where they will get separated.  

If one is sick they now spend a day at child care on their own, and don’t mind, but I don’t know how they would go yet separated all the time.  

Different coloured socks is something our kinder did with one set of identical twins this year.  Whilst I’m not completely against doing something, I hope once the teachers work out their personality differences it won’t be necessary. 

AM: Hamish & James will be going to preschool next year. They will be going on the same day, but will sometimes be in different groups, sometimes together, so that will be really interesting to see how they react. When they start Kinder the year after, I will push for them to be in the same class if necessary. For us there is no need to separate, and it would probably upset them. I have just started thinking about ideas for making it obvious for the teachers (and other kids) so any suggestions are appreciated! Different socks? Different shoes? I know that if I tell James that he can’t wear a blue shirt because that’s Hamish’s colour I am going to have a riot on my hands!

Thank you to Anita and Kellie for spending time to provide such insightful answers about raising identical twins!  

Tasmania - 2013

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