16 June 2016

Twin mum Verity Snook talks about her triplet childhood and the lessons learned from some less than sensitive school handling.

They tell me that multiple births usually miss a generation. Perhaps so, but I’m a 45-year-old triplet with three teenage children - a singleton and twins!

Woman holding a paper broken heart

I’ve tried to use my experiences as a triplet to make informed decisions for my children, which I hope gives them a smoother journey. Although my twins don’t have the added complication of being identical - I have an identical sister and a fraternal sister, whereas they are boy/girl - I have still insisted on individual treatment for them from the outset. Other than in reception class, where starting school with a twin buddy was a bonus, my twins started their journey into the wider world as individuals, with their own class, teacher and friends from year one. In senior school I made the same request, but due to academic streaming they did have some joint classes - which was less than ideal; as expected, comparisons were made and one child would be unhappy at facing this additional set of judgements.

Now aged 16, my twins are fairly close, but while they have the constant companionship of a friend, they’re also confidently individual enough to have built their own networks of extended support.

They decided to keep the identical sisters together and separate my non-identical sister -  a bad decision.

My own teenage years were not so successful. My school, a single-sex secondary modern, tried to accommodate us, but with two class streams it was inevitable that one of us would be separated. In their wisdom, they kept the identical sisters together and separated my non-identical sister - a bad decision. My non-identical sister, who already felt left out for being different, felt even further isolated, while my identical sister and myself rejected each other as we tried to assert our individuality. 

When the time came for us to decide our futures, we didn’t even discuss it. We chose different paths, and as a result, sixth form college for me was a disaster.

I found making friends hard, was lonely and had anxiety attacks. No one at college understood that I was a ‘pack animal’: I needed my sisters. My only friends there were themselves identical twins, who not only helped me but became great friends with my identical sister. 

I gave up college to start work - a welcome distraction which gave me time to grow as an adult. It helped that I shared a joint interest in sport with my sisters: all three of us would train together. I also did part-time work with my identical sister (and fondly remember the mischief we got up to).

Did I deal with separation anxiety? I don’t think I knew my failure at college, the anxiety attacks or the friendship challenges may have been due to missing my sisters. But looking back, such experiences have allowed me to empathise with my own children and encourage better discussion of their feelings and the potential situations that may arise. We talk these matters over at dinner as a family, but also one-on-one, away from siblings. I hope this provides a secure, open communication channel, which reinforces their individuality but also acknowledges their bond.