I have twins and you have questions. How do I know this? Because I get asked the same ones all the time.
Whether out of captivation or horror, I’ve learned to accept that my unusual parenting predicament is fascinating to other people. Sort of in the way circus performers who eat fire and have knives thrown at them are fascinating.
You see us at the mall, at the park and at birthday parties wrangling toddlers like wild horses, and your curiosity is natural. But let’s face it: As with any physical condition that elicits equal amounts of wonder and fear from strangers (like the third trimester of your pregnancy), the questions from strangers are overtly personal, exhausting and sometimes a little ridiculous.
So I’m going to do you a solid, spare you from embarrassment and tell you what you want to know. Because while mothers of multiples are known for having a lot of patience, we also have superior upper body strength, and you just don’t want to mess with that.
1. “Are they natural?” (or “Were you surprised?”)
Let’s be frank, what you’re really asking is “Are your lady parts working?” Is that very neighborly? We don’t think so. If we had fertility treatment, you’re putting us in an awkward position — not because we’re embarrassed by it — but because you’re literally forcing us to discuss our reproductive health with you. You wouldn’t ask a stranger to pull down their pants and cough. And if my twins are natural, what are you going to say? “I’m sorry?” So unless you’re also a parent of multiples and are looking to commiserate over the frustration of fertility treatment, it’s just curiosity. And as you know, curiosity killed the cat. Or at least got his paws run over with a double stroller.
2. Having kids close in age is not the same as having twins. Not by a long shot.
It drives us NUTS when people say, “My two little ones are so close in age it was like having twins.” Every stage brings new liberties and challenges. Even if you have a 1-year-old and a newborn, one kid can sit or stand up and at least eat some Cheerios while you nurse. But when you have two newborns, forget it. And when they get older, back-to-school nights and school concerts provide new hurdles. You try capturing second-grade twins singing at a holiday choir concert when they’re on opposite ends of the risers. And homework? If one child is a year ahead at least they can help a little. Have you tried fourth-grade math lately? It’s hard! I’d kill to have a fifth-grader around who still has fractions fresh in his or her mind.
3. “Twins?! Are they identical?!”
My favorite answer to this question is, “They were identical. But I lopped off her penis.” Even when people clearly see I have a boy and a girl they ask. For the record, “identical” twins are the result of a split fertilized egg which means they would be the same sex and look alike. It is impossible for boy/girl twins to be identical. They are “fraternal” twins, which means they are the result of two separate fertilized eggs. You’re welcome.
4. “They’re twins? But they’re so different!”
Yes, they are. Because they’re two completely separate people. And like a parent with multiple children, I parent mine according to their individual needs and encourage them to be their own person. OK, maybe I’ve dressed them alike on occasion, but I couldn’t help myself.
5. (The birthday questions, part 1): "My kid is friends with a boy (or girl) who’s a twin. Do I need to invite them both to the birthday party?"
No. You do not have to invite both of my twins to your party. I want my kids to have their own sets of friends. You don’t make your kid go with his or her sibling everywhere, right? I want each of my children to feel whole and unique — especially in front of their peers. And for the twins who aren't invited, they need to understand they are a separate person and it’s good for them to have their own life.
6. (The birthday questions, part 2): "My son (or daughter) was invited to a twins’ birthday party. Do I need to bring a present for both of them?"
If you’re invited to my twins’ birthday party, you are not expected to bring a present for both of the kids — unless you’re good friends with both of them and it feels right for you. Again, my twins are individuals. Any help teaching them that life lesson is greatly appreciated.
7. “I don’t know how you do it!”
Other parents stare at us in disbelief like we should have our own Animal Planet show. They tell us, “I could NEVER do it!” Well, here’s a little secret. You could. As moms we all have this incredible capacity to handle whatever is thrown our way. You just don’t know what you can handle until you have to handle it. And, well ... we had to handle it. So while we appreciate that you think we’re some kind of superhero, we’re not. We’re moms like you. Keeping it all together. 24/7.
Hey ... maybe we’re superheroes after all.
Sarah Maizes is a parenting humorist and award-winning author of five books for kids including On My Way to the Bath. She lives in Los Angeles with her three children: a 15-year-old and 12-year-old boy/girl twins (and yes, they were a surprise). Follow her on Facebook and subscribe to her form of crazy at SarahMaizes.com.