When I was still pregnant with Tilly and Frida, my husband and I told ourselves that we were not going to be one of those parents who’d dress their twins the same.
“They are individuals and we are going to bring them up to be unique persons. We are not going to dress them up in the same clothes,” said our young, idealistic soon-to-be-parenting selves.
Five months into parenthood, we found ourselves having to buy new clothing for Tilly and Frida after they had gradually outgrown their second-hand baby outfits that we’d either received as hand-me-downs or purchased cheaply from flea markets before their births. In between nursing the girls, recovering from a difficult birth, taking them out for strolls, housework and many sleepless nights, we managed to find some time and energy to shop for some clothes. With babies in our huge twin pram in tow, we manoeuvered through stores selling baby and children clothing, taking care not to unnecessarily wake the sleeping babies. Once we had found a blouse or a pair of trousers that we liked, we took two of it in the same size and headed for the checkout.
I understand that I might be getting quite a lot of criticism for making that choice. Many adult twins have voiced their resentment at their parents for having dressed them the same way when they were younger. Countless parenting websites with statements from parents of twins stress the importance of dressing twins differently.
I would like to offer a view that is honest on my part as a parent of twins. I would like to suggest that it is okay to dress twins similarly or even the same. The line that needs to be drawn however, is that parents need to allow twins to dress differently once they are old enough to articulate choice. My husband and I believe in inculcating individuality in Tilly and Frida and I think we’ve managed so far to do that with them regardless of dress style.
For parents of multiples who feel like the weight of caring for more than one baby at any given time is sometimes too much to bear, may I say that the debate on dressing twin babies/toddlers is such a trivial one. Don’t take what parenting advice you read or hear so much to heart because you are the best judges of your little ones and yourselves.
The main reason for us having sometimes dressed Tilly and Frida the same up until now is one of practicality. I hope that my grown-up daughters would not resent us as parents for having dressed them alike because I would give them these reasons for why we’ve sometimes done so.
A practicality of surviving twin parenthood
Sometimes we were simply too pressed for time and energy to shop for clothes. Shopping for clothes on the weekends was/is something we had/have to do besides other more important errands like shopping for grocery. As mentioned above, once we’ve found an article of clothing that we liked, we would just buy two of the same.
To curb the hassle of going to the store, I’d sometimes order clothes online. I would do that when my daughters were taking naps. At least then, I would have more time to choose what I liked for them. I say here “what I liked” because my daughters would not have been present to choose for themselves.
I did take the effort to personalise dress styles for my daughters but sometimes ended up going through too many questions that I found insignificant in the grander scheme of parenting:
“Okay, now that I have this blue blouse with mushrooms on it, what can I get for my other daughter that has roughly the same level of aesthetics? Because, you know, I wouldn’t want one child to have a nice blouse and the other be satisfied with something less, say a purple blouse with no mushrooms or any motives on it. But oh no, I can’t find a second article in this store that would help me in this situation.
“What if I get a plain blue blouse and a plain purple blouse? Similar but still different. That should be good enough, right? A good-enough-parent of twins? Oh look, they have plain blouses in different colours. Perfect.”
You realise how silly it is of me to be asking myself these questions. I just need to get on with this because there is a tonne of laundry waiting to be done.
When twins prefer to dress alike
So, I’ve now gotten Tilly and Frida two articles with different colours. Surely that would keep my daughters happy and at the same time, I would be fufilling my role as a parent of twins who champions individuality? Not quite.
“I want the purple one!”, Frida shouts excitedly as I present them with the blouses.
“No! I want the purple one!”, Tilly contests.
It ends with either one or both of them in tears and me in despair.
Now that my daughters are old enough to express what they like, we take them once in a while to shop for clothes. We let them choose what they like to wear but they change their minds every few seconds. Sometimes they are too overwhelmed by the variety from which they can choose so we try to present them with just two outfits and ask them to select.
Frida is the more outspoken one and tends to make a choice first. Tilly, being the quieter one sometimes chooses what Frida has chosen despite our efforts to let her know that it’s alright to like something different. In this situation, we buy them the same article because forcing them to be different is just as bad as forcing them to be the same. Sometimes the girls make different choices and we avoid a meltdown.
Individuality beyond appearance
In trying to be mindful about dressing our twin children differently, we may tend to forget that the kinds of individuality that are more important are the ones that go beyond dress styles. Yes, they may be dressed similarly, but they still have different preferences for things other than clothing and they still have different characteristics.
There are things that only you as a parent know but may not be obvious to others looking in from the outside, such as how one loves to drink milk and the other prefers juice. Or how one colours in bold dark strokes of green and blue and the other in every colour of the rainbow. Or how one prefers to be left alone during bedtime and the other to cuddle.
Onlookers who gasp at how parents of twins dress their children alike do not have the insight to the differences and uniqueness of your children. As parents of identical twins, you’ve probably caught yourself saying, “They look so different to me” when others ask how you tell them apart. That’s because even through those same or similar outfits, you know that both are not of the same person.
Why really bother at all what others think of how I dress my twin daughters when I know that I so often teach them that it’s not only wonderful to be different but also very fine to be the same? Or how I would tell them that they can still be different even though they look the same? What better way to lead by example when we as parents show our children that we are not bothered and affected by what others think of us?
To my pregnant self who judged parents for dressing their twins alike, I would like to tell her to try not to because those parents are trying their very best!