By: Leah Prescott
Becoming a mom times two totally rocked my world. At my 20-week ultrasound, my husband and I expected to find out the gender of our baby. Instead, we were told that we were going to be parenting TWO babies. To say we were surprised doesn’t begin to cover it. Nearly eight years later, I still feel kind of shocked when I remember that day and everything that came after. Fear, joy, excitement, and a little more fear.
Since having twins, there have been lots of surprises. Some of those were normal parenting lessons (the bath isn’t a potty-free zone?! When they stay up late, children actually wake up EARLIER?!). One thing that I never anticipated is the public’s reaction to twins. Suddenly, a simple trip to the grocery store was complicated by multiple questions, comments, and sometimes strange anecdotes. At the time, I was so overwhelmed and stressed that I found it frustrating to be approached so often by strangers. But now, I smile when I remember those times. For a while I felt a bit like a celebrity and it was fun getting reactions anywhere we went.
On the other hand, some of the comments could be offensive, annoying or just plain creepy. So, for your amusement and edification, I give you:
9 Things to NEVER say to families with multiples
9) “Who is older?” This question seems relatively benign, and of course it’s fine when coming from a friend or acquaintance. It just becomes very, very tiresome when coming from an utter stranger. Imagine how it feels to be a child who has always been compared to her sister. She’s had to compete for attention, had to share everything, and always been confused for another human being. Now suppose a stranger is rubbing it in to you that,
through some cruel twist of fate, your sister just happened to have been born nearly a whole minute sooner. And the stranger is somehow implying that this is relevant to your life in a way that your family has never taught you. See why it bugs me?
8) “She’s the leader, right?” There are a handful of twin groupies who seem to think they are gifted somehow in labeling a child they have just laid their eyes upon with character qualities or gifts based on arbitrary observations from across the food court. If you bring these comments to me, be prepared to be shut down. Honestly, I will tell you “no” even if you’re sort of right just out of sheer obstinance.
7) “Which one is the evil twin?” I absolutely cannot believe that was a real question but I swear to you it was. I just…..I can’t….there are NO words. Also, please don’t tell me stories of twins you know with bizarre and frightening medical histories. No one wants to hear those. While we’re on the subject, if you are the lady who approached me in Kmart and told me about one of her twins who was kidnapped from the hospital over twenty five years ago, never to be seen again; I am haunted by your story, but why did you have to tell me about it, WHY?
6) “Do they have the same thoughts?” I have actually gotten this question more than once. At first I thought the asker was joking but then I realized they were serious. Maybe a little too much sci-fi in your life? On that topic, have you noticed that the media nearly always portrays girl twins as either creepy ghost sets or sexy adult pairs. What’s with that?
5) “You do know how that happens, right?” For obvious reasons, I dislike this rhetorical question. I’m going to add to this one any other comments or questions that suggest or allude to any of the reproductive “magic” that occurs behind the scenes to bring a baby into this world. Several times, I’ve had people question the conception circumstances of my children. I mean, they are random people asking me this in the line at the grocery store. I’m really upfront in general, but from a stranger? WOW.
4) “You have your hands full!” I know that this is a really common one for lots of families (since when is three children a “lot” of kids?). Maybe I am just being too sensitive, but somehow it feels like a put down. Am I wrong here?
3) “Are they twins?” This doesn’t bother me, and honestly now it makes perfect sense. The girls are older, not exactly the same height, usually doing different things with their own hairstyle and clothing choices. It was back when they were sitting side by side, identically dressed in their double stroller when the question really seemed like a display of ignorance. But who am I to judge? I’ve also had folks say they have never met twins before, so I guess it isn’t so weird to have trouble identifying this bizarre sighting out in the real world.
2) “Better you than me.” I guess I understand where these guys are coming from. I mean, we’ve all been there, when we see someone else and think, “I couldn’t do what they are doing.” And I think these folks really have the intention of paying a compliment. I just would prefer to hear, “You are doing a great job.” I will never forget one day I was at Target with the girls when they were still tiny and a little girl came up to marvel out the twins. She turned to her mom and said, “I wish Sarah (obviously her small sister) was a twin.” I thought it was the sweetest comment from a big sister. Her mother gasped, “Oh God, no” and my heart broke for that little girl. What a message to send to your daughter!
1) “Double Trouble.” When it comes down to it, the top comment to NEVER say to families with twins has got to be “double trouble.” Even though each person mentions it with a smirk that tells you he thinks it is the most original comment ever made, it is in fact the single most over-used expression in the history of multiples. I have heard it dozens and dozens of times. It is so hard to react to this one at this point. I used to laugh as if I were amused. Sometimes I would say “double the joy.” Now I just throw up my hands in frustration or nod in agreement, depending on my mood.
Honorable mention goes to “Buy one get one free” or “two for the price of one.” Of course, categorically untrue (I’ll show you the NICU bills) and only a hair less common than “double trouble” but still far less aggravating due to the perceived positive spin. Points for the effort, but we’ve still heard it too many times to count.
So that’s it, my list of the worst comments to say to families with twins. I should add that I have gotten some absolutely lovely comments from people as well. Some beautiful good wishes, kind encouragement and sincere prayers when I really needed them! When in doubt, if you meet a parent of twins and aren’t quite sure what to say, there’s always a great stand-by: “When can I babysit?”