25 May 2021
Being a parent of teenage twins, triplets or more is a big milestone for all. Isabelle, a parent of 13-year-old twins, shares her experience.
It is 13 years since I joined the twins and multiples world – my two became teenagers recently. Well, truth be told, you join the twin world the moment you discover you are carrying more than one.
I think it’s fair to say that you never forget the moment you learn you’re expecting multiples. I was in shock, whereas my husband was immediately delighted – and, yes, more than a little proud of himself.
I soon got over my shock as I discovered I now belonged to an exclusive circle that I had never been aware of before: the Twin Mums Club. You suddenly notice there are many more twins than you had previously realised.
Conversations and relationships are started on the basis of belonging to this group. You recognise each other on the street, share snippets of support and hope (depending on who has the older set of twins), happily pass on and receive empathic non-judgement, and laugh over typically “twin” experiences. Your identity is set: you are a Twin Mum.
However, increasingly over the past few years, I have seen this shared recognition wane. It started slowly. Initially, it was no longer belonging to a Twins Club once my children started school. But primary school still offers plenty of “twin issues”: whether they should be in the same class or separated; helping them develop their own friendship groups; constantly reinforcing separate identities and interests. The experience is still quite different to those who have only one child, or two children of different ages. I was definitely still in “Twin Mum” mode.
But then secondary school started, and it began to change.
First, the question of “together or apart” stopped being an issue. The school had different classes for different subjects, and a few were streamed according to ability. Having gone from fiercely advocating for my children to be kept together when they started in Reception, through to asking for them to be separated in Year 4 as my daughter felt ready for independence, they are now together or apart at points of the day, depending on the lesson, the same as everybody else.
They have lots of teachers now, too, who know them less well than at primary school. Last year, I had a parents’ evening with a teacher who taught both my children but hadn’t realised they were twins.
This is the future now: them growing up. Their twin identity has taken a back seat, which is as it should be. It means that all the work we put into promoting their individuality, giving them one-to-one time, encouraging them to develop their own friends and interests, has worked. It’s just that sometimes, guiltily, I feel I am a victim of that success; I still want to be a “Twin Mum”.
For so long I have identified not just as a parent, but as a twin parent. Of course, that hasn’t changed, but the issues are less pronounced. I am not certain anymore that my experiences are significantly different to those of someone with two children of similar ages. And couple that with the fact that I am now facing the prospect of being, not a “Twin Mum” but a “Teen Mum”, and I have a full-blown identity-mid-life-parental crisis on my hands!
While a lot of emphasis is rightly placed on multiples developing their individual identities, the mums behind the scenes do the opposite: we entwine our identity with being parents of multiples. It’s then very hard to develop our own separate identities as our children grow up.
I heard many years ago from a more experienced parent that adolescence would take me by surprise; it isn’t gradual, it seems to happen overnight.
That really does seem to be the case. My daughter has changed enormously over the past year, becoming a young lady physically and emotionally. With boys being a little behind girls, I still had my son who was quite child-like by comparison. And then it finally hit: he told us that he didn’t want Lego for Christmas. If you knew my son, you would understand the bombshell this was. That was it: the transition seemed complete.
Maybe it’s the extra time at home, looking over old photos and videos on my phone, that has added poignancy to this sudden transformation. But looking at those photos also reminds me that no stage of twin parenthood has ever been static. No sooner was I comfortable with breastfeeding than they needed weaning. When they were finally sleeping soundly in their cots they moved into big beds (and back to interrupted nights!). Once happy at pre-school, they were moving on to “big school”.
Each stage brought joy, challenges and a smattering of nostalgia for the phase left behind. They may have fewer twin-specific problems to solve, and people may not recognise them as twins when they see them now, but this is just the next stage in my parental journey, and an important one at that.
But some things will never change. Nothing is going to stop me flagging down the next double pram I see and uttering those special words:
I’m a Twin Mum too.