By: Holly Vanderhaar
My daughters are monozygotic—i.e., “identical”—twins, and they spend a lot of time putting up with people who can’t tell them apart. We do what we can, the three of us. They almost never dress alike, and in fact have different tastes in clothes. Gracie favors dresses, ballet flats, and pink, pink, pink. Isabelle likes jeans, boots, and anything with a peace sign on it. Gracie has long hair; Isabelle wears hers in a chin-length bob. I have them in separate 3rd grade classrooms, so that they have some time to be individuals, and to cultivate their own friendships. I’m trying to minimize the time that they spend being viewed as a single unit. In the wider world, this is enough for most people to figure out who’s who, and it seems to be working out well enough.
At home though, twinhood poses a different set of challenges, and they’re not as easily overcome. It’s not because I can’t tell them apart, although (ahem) I may or may not have messed that up too, on occasion. It’s because they outnumber me. It’s always posed something of a logistical challenge, but in the early days, that challenge was easily met with any willing pair of extra hands to hold, feed, burp, or change. For the last several years, the real problem has been competition for a scarce resource: my attention. They’re starved for one-on-one time with me, and it causes no end of fighting, bitching, backstabbing, and whining. Meanwhile, I’m busy bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan, throwing a load of laundry in now and then when I can no longer step over the pile in the hallway. I think most parents—most people, even—have expressed a wish to clone themselves. There aren’t enough hours in the day, days in the week, or cups of coffee in the pot to accomplish everything we need to do. Sometimes we need to be in two places at once. And, sometimes, two or more people really need our full, unharried, unhurried attention at the same time. I think to myself, “Hey, I pulled off human cloning once. In 2003 I produced two genetically identical individuals without even trying. What’s so hard?” But, try as I might, I have been unable to replicate the process on myself.
We have to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it could be, though. So I’m working on ways to solve this problem. Babysitter? Well, how do I decide who has to be the first one to stay with the sitter while Sister gets some quality time with Mom? Flip a coin, and put up with the tears, I suppose. I thought I had come up with a brilliant solution when we were spending Christmas with our family in Phoenix last winter: one of the girls could stay with their beloved Aunt S. while one spent a day with me. Win-win! The trouble was that they both wanted to spend the day with their auntie, and I had to pry one of them away from her with a crowbar, and drag the poor child away to “have fun” “enjoying” “quality time” with me. I kept reminding her how nice it was to be together, just the two of us; she kept asking when we could go home. Back to the drawing board, I guess.