The Jungle Gym Oracle (or, The Many Reasons Twins Are Easier Than One Kid)

“Hey… Wait a minute… Are they… twins?”

I cringed internally while sporting a winning fake smile.

It’s unavoidable.

No matter where we go or what we do, people continue to be intrigued by the novelty that is having twins.

I know I shouldn’t blame them. The realist in me reminds me that twins just aren’t something people see every day, so I do my best to cut them a little slack.

However, for some reason, my having twins automatically issues an invitation for a surprising majority of complete strangers to walk up to us, interrupt whatever we’re doing, and expect me to answer questions about my kids, as if I’m rolling a mobile freak show booth through the grocery store. “Ask me anything!” boasts a Jumbotron visible to everyone but me. “It’s not like I’m trying to figure out which aisle the bastard store manager moved the diapers to while my son throws Cheerios at my face or anything. No, seriously, I want nothing more than to make small talk right now with someone I will never see again while my daughter sits in the wet diaper I need to change as soon as I check out.”

Some of the most popular inquiries I receive during these impromptu press conferences include:

“Do they play together?” (No, although they live in the same house, have the same parents, and do everything together, they do not ever play together. In fact, I don’t even think they’ve met each other.)

“Do they have their own language?” (Yes. We call it English.)

“How far apart were they born?” (Just a few feet. It was in the same room.)

And, of course, my personal favorite:

“Are they identical?” (Please don’t make me explain to you why penises are not identical to vaginas.)

Embarrassed Twinfamy

Sometimes we get so embarrassed for these people.

As much as I would love to fire these zingers back at my interviewers, nine times out of ten I refrain, smile, and answer politely in the interest of not being an asshole. Besides, for all I know, this could be a real-life Dexter Morgan who will follow my kids and me into the parking lot and inflict a ridiculously uncalled-for overreaction. Being hilarious just isn’t that important to me.

After almost two years of this bearded-lady-caliber celebrity status, I often assume I’ve heard it all, but then, every once in a while, someone surprises me.

Which brings us to this.

We were out on the playground at the Twins’ parent-toddler class when one of the mothers I’d been chatting with had just realized I’d brought twice the progeny as they both ran up to me to offer me the dirt clods they’d found in the school’s garden.

“Hey… Wait a minute… Are they… twins?”

I cringed internally while sporting a winning fake smile.

“Yeah,” I beamed. Here we go. “They are.”

“Wow,” she mused. We had just been discussing the difficult time she’d been having with her son’s disobedience, and I’d made no mention that I was not having the same issues with either of my two kids, for I am an excellent listener.

“Do they play together?” she asked.

“Yes. Yes, they do.” Grrr…

“Huh. I guess in some ways having twins is a lot harder, but also a lot easier.”

I smiled and nodded, but then actually processed it. Wait a minute. Did she just say having twins is easier than one kid? 

Unable to help myself, I replied, “Please, tell me how it’s easier.” She’d captivated me. I needed to know. And I wasn’t doing this with guns blazing, ready to shoot down whatever she said. I’m sure that was part of it, but at the same time, I was earnestly interested. Perhaps she’d offer insight that would help me put my daily life into perspective. Maybe she was a genius. She kind of looked like Yoda, so there was that, too.

“Well,” she said, “I guess because, like you said, they can play together and entertain each other…”

I nodded silently. Fair enough. I forgave the fact that she no doubt had a skewed vision of what it’s like when the Twins actually do play together. While they find countless ways to “entertain each other,” in no way is the parent in charge free to roam about the cabin for too long. I can usually count on about 90 seconds before the World Toddler Wrestling Federation springs from a disagreement over a misplaced puzzle piece or toy pried from a sibling’s death grip. Comparatively, on the rare occasions when one of my children has woken from a nap and the other is still asleep, I’ve found entertaining a single child to be a nice break from normalcy. I can focus my full attention on my companion and not have to tell a third party to put anything down or stop throwing things. Perhaps my natural showmanship makes it easier for me, but given my regular parenting regiment, I just don’t find occupying only one child at a time very challenging. Maybe she should learn how to jump her motorcycle over a shark. That always gets my kids’ attention.

Regardless, she had a point. Sure, it’s like a UFC fight at the moment, but eventually my kids will play together with relatively fewer injuries and meltdowns.

“…And then there’s…” she continued.

WaitwaitwaitWAIT! Is there more? Does she have two reasons? Go on, O Jungle Gym Oracle! The rubberized floor is yours!

“…Well…” She thought for a moment, and then switched gears. “At the same time, I guess it’d be pretty hard, too, having twice the diapers, twice the meals, twice the teething…”

And then she sort of trailed off, realizing what she’d walked into…a freaking wall.

I’ll admit it–I was disappointed. Perhaps my expectations were slightly elevated.

Witty retorts flooded my brain, but I ignored my inner Larry David and just let her comments hang in the air. After all, she’d already negated herself, and really, you had to love her for trying.

As if on cue to break the awkward silence, my daughter had returned and  was attempting to mount the ride-on dump truck at my feet. “You wanna ride the truck, Baby Girl?” I asked, squatting to help her on.

While I pushed my daughter around in the truck, I couldn’t help hoping I’d helped the Artist Formerly Known As The Jungle Gym Oracle see that the grass on my side wasn’t as green as she’d originally envisioned, possibly even sending her home with the perspective that keeping her son entertained is not all that daunting compared to performing twice the parenting-related duties.

I’ll admit I occasionally shine my “Yes, But I Have Twins” Badge in front of other parents, but I think to some extent my wife and I have earned that with countless sleepless nights those first few months, several quadruple ear infections, and enduring idiotic grocery store small talk. Although, yes, I don’t have the personal experience of raising a singleton to compare to my current situation, I can tell you we work our asses off.

Which is why, if I ever meet a parent of triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, or beyond, I will never make the argument that they have it easier.

Because I have no idea.

.

You may also enjoy:

Don't Call Me Mr. Mom   Pre-Pre-School   The Day the Twins Almost Enjoyed Captain Jack Sparrow

If not, some of the other ones may be easier to read.

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41 comments

    • John Pseudonymous

      That is true. It probably wouldn’t exist. I couldn’t help launching myself into an alternate dimension just now, in which I did not have twins. That place was stupid. I’m not going back there ever again. :)

      Like

  1. Jared Karol

    I have to say that at about 2 1/2 they actually do start playing with each other and, at times, it can be easier… But then again I have never raised a single child either… i know what you’re talking about though with people being infatuated by twins.

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      That’s good to hear. I’m looking forward to it getting at least a little better. I think we’ve talked before about twin groupies–it’s one of the more interesting features of parenting twins. I guess it keeps things interesting, but some days I just want to go to the store, get what I need, dodge a few Cheerios, and be on my way.

      Like

  2. Amanda Ray Cochran

    I am an identical twin. My mother use to get annoyed with people asking her the same questions. I will say that my sister and I have always been friendly and very witty,but being a twin does help in school with making friends. I chuckled about the part with your twins fighting. I still remember getting mad at my sister and pulling on her cheeks and yelling at her and stomping my feet. lol

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Yeah, rarely does a single question ever bother me–it’s just that so many of them are so ignorant, and hearing them over and over again just makes me wonder, “Really, who decides to ask that? Did you even think before you said it?”

      I complain from time to time about the little fights they get in, but it’s still pretty entertaining as long as no one’s getting hurt. It’s interesting to see what matters to them and what doesn’t–what constitutes retaliation and what’s okay. It’s also cool to know that they’re growing up with a special bond few people share–the fact that they’ve been together since the beginning. Very cool.

      Like

  3. Sarah

    After witnessing my twin Godsons 3 years of life and now having 3 kids…I would say like anything, it is a give and take. I would think that some things are way worse and some things are better.

    For instance…I would never, ever want to deal with 2 screaming newborns at the same time. But, I would only like to have been pregnant once.

    Potty training will be hell with 2, but you are done in a few months. I will have less trouble with only having one at a time, but the torture will be spread over years.

    So- I think that we should all just agree that kids are hard. One, twins or a Duggar 19. We are all just trying to survive…

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      I’m with you. In no way am I trying to turn parenting into a pissing contest or anything. I can’t imagine having three kids, much less having kids at different ages because I’ve never done it. At the same time, who knows, maybe the Oracle’s son is an absolute terror that actually is more difficult to entertain than my two kids. Parenting is difficult, no matter how you slice it. I often wonder if I’d feel the same way I do about it if I only had one kid, and I think I just might. We throw ourselves completely into parenting, and we should. When it’s rough, it sucks. When it’s good, it’s the most amazing thing ever.

      I guess my point here was a little more specific to the situation–that as a parent, it’s pointless to think “If only…” The Oracle gave me the impression that she was so wrapped up in having to constantly entertain her son and seemed to think that The Answer To Her Problem would be to have a playmate for him. Then here I was, with twins who are playmates that, in my mind, still require the same amount of supervision and attention even when they’re playing together. It’s all about your perspective. You can spend your days as a parent thinking “If only my son had a twin…” or “If only my kids were not twins and spaced apart…” but that’s pointless. Your situation is what it is, so embrace it, do your best, and stop saying stupid crap to me on the playground. :)

      Like

  4. kara

    I loved your blog, i have 3 yr old twin boys although they are ferternal twins they can pass for identical twins. I get the same thing at the stores or anywhere I go. I have a different situation i have 6 kids my twins were my last babies. So ive been a mom of both single and twins. My twins play very well together and do not like being apart. With twins they do entertain each other but there is twice the fits twice poopy diapers etc… everything doubles but with singles they get bored easier and to me tend to throw more fits (thats my experience) my twins both had colic so you know that was fun lol. In someways its easier and in someways its much harder, but I wouldnt change a thing loving this crazy ride lol. Great blog cant wait to read more :)

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Thanks for your perspective. Like I said, I haven’t raised single kids, so it’s interesting to hear that in your experience they get bored more often and throw more fits. Maybe with twins, they’re more used to entertaining themselves because they have to share the spotlight from day one?

      Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Yeah, I think the first few months with any newborns are rough. What really gets you is the sleep deprivation–it amplifies everything when you’re not rested.

      Tantrums are tough. My son is a champion at those, but luckily (knock on wood), my daughter throws them less frequently. How old are your kids now?

      Like

  5. MIS BENDICIONES

    I really loved this post. I have identical 20 months old twin girls and get the same reaction as you when going anywhere with them and it can turn very annoying. I cannot say it is hard or simple, I just deal with what comes along. I can say that I am so used to dealing and running around with both that I find myself lost and more edgy when I am only with one of them. It is as if something is missing. Has that happened to any of you?

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Thanks! Actually, yeah, sometimes my wife and I each take a kid for the day to do errands or just get some alone time with each, and I’ll admit there are times when something does feel missing. At the same time, though, I find that whichever kid I’m with is often better behaved and smiley–no doubt from the exclusive attention they get. So I think that’s important to do whenever you can–splitting up and getting some one-on-one time with them, and letting it be all about them, at least for a little while.

      Like

  6. dailytridentine

    Ah I remember those comments ! Now at age 7 my son has outstripped the height of my daughter and people rarely ask “are they identical?” Oh so many times I returned from grocery shopping ranting at the idiocy! I occasionally did answer ” no identical twins are identical in every way” and wait for them to fill in the blank. Only 50% of the time did this result in my anticipated joy in their embarrassment because half they time they’d look at me confused ! Erg is right.
    Ha! Ya they play together and the plot together too ! Easier – try keeping 4 hands from grabbing every cartoon faced snack off the grocery shelves!
    My current fave, having had my 6th child (yep) after the twins ” you had more after twins?!” Yes, yes I did.
    I would like to say so many things to the “you’ve got your hands full” comments. You didn’t mention that one – but I know you hear it!

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Yeah, I’ve found that offering witty retorts to these people often lands flat. They’re usually taken off guard and have no idea how to respond–I assume they expect me to be warm and welcoming because they’re asking about my kids, but they don’t seem to realize I did not ask for them to come interrupt my day.

      I do get the “hands full” thing quite a bit. It’s amazing how many people think they’re being creative and funny with that one. It’s like I want to say, “Heard it. Not funny. What else you got?”

      Like

  7. cdnsongbird

    ROFL I LOVED the comment about identical twins. These are probably the same people who say; “Twins run in my husband’s family!” and think it means they might have twins because of that. ;)

    Like

  8. hecallsmescroogy

    My girls are 4, almost 5, and at the moment Lala is yelling at Loopsy for coloring too loudly. Aah… twin sisterly love! I also feel like a traveling freak show when we’re out and about. My kids have taken to introducing themselves to strangers at the grocery store with, “We’s twins!” because they know the question is coming.
    My least favorite twin question is, “Do twins run in your family?” which you know is code for, “Did you use fertility treatments?”
    Gah.

    Like

  9. Jean

    I have 15yr old & 10yr old b/g twins as well as a 17yr old son. It does get easier in some ways that’s for sure! I have to laugh at the “are they identical” comment, my 15yr old dd told me one of their friends had no clue they weren’t identical until their teacher had to tell him to “think about why a boy & a girl aren’t the same” Too funny!

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Great to hear that it gets better. I don’t understand the confusion with “identicalness.” If twins are identical, they look the same (or at least VERY close) and thus are the same gender. I knew this as a child in elementary school because I had twins in my classes. It just baffles me that people can look at my son and daughter (who by the way do not look similar–my daughter looks like my wife and my son looks like me) and even consider them being identical. I will never comprehend this.

      Like

  10. EduDad

    I guess there really is such thing as a stupid question. “Are they identical?” What!?

    I get asked if my kids are twins all the time because my daughter is small and my son is very tall. They’re always so disappointed when I say no. You’re right, people are fascinated by twins.

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Yeah, it’s pretty amazing how often we get that.

      Hilarious that people get disappointed when you say your kids aren’t twins. And there you are, thinking, “I’m sorry the lack of novelty in my family disappoints you.”

      Like

      • EduDad

        Ya. They could at least be impressed by the smallness of my miniature 5 year old and tallness of giant 2 year old. What are the chances of that!?

        Like

      • John Pseudonymous

        True. I’d think that’s a pretty darn interesting conversation starter.

        The thing is, if they’re only interested in talking to you because they think your kids are twins, it’s probably not a conversation worth having anyway.

        That’s why I’m okay with snubbing these people when I’m in a hurry. I’m nothing more than a novelty to them and I typically get nothing out of the interaction.

        My family isn’t a freaking science fair exhibit, and that’s how it often feels.

        Like

  11. Ms. Jolly Blogger

    At least when someone acknowledges that they are twins–they really are twins! (“Oh, no mam, my kids aren’t identical. They’re 19 months apart.”) and at least when someone comments on what a beautiful girl you have, you at least know they are talking about your daughter, who is truly a girl (“Oh, no. He’s a boy.That’s why he’s wearing a blue shirt with a dump truck on it, jeans, black converse shoes, and answers by the name of “Ezekiel.”) Grrrrr……

    :-)

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      I’d love to say these things are true, but I, too, have had people confused by my kids’ genders. My daughter now has hair long enough to put in pigtails or ponytails and pretty much is always wearing pink or purple. My son, on the other hand, has short hair and wears navy blues and greens. Yet, even when my kids are standing right there, I still have people saying they’re both “pretty little girls” or “two boys, huh?” It baffles me.

      Like

  12. spectrumtwinsmom

    I too have twins, a girl and boy….both autism spectrum. My favorite is still “Are they identical?”…..The absolute best comment was when they were about 6 months old and this old woman pointed to my daughter and said “That must be the boy since he has no hair”….I wanted to punch her in the gizzard

    Like

  13. April K

    I’m parenting a single, but that doesn’t mean I get to escape the stares, questions and comments at the store. Apparently, my kid is freaking gorgeous and should be on TV. It doesn’t help that he constantly calls attention to himself by striking up a conversation with every single shopper in the supermarket. Yes, this is a boy! And he smiles and bats his insanely long, dark eyelashes over his sparkling blue eyes, and all the little old (and middle-aged) ladies come running to coo at him. He’s turning 3 in a couple of months. If he’s destined to be better-looking and more social than the man who gave him those looks, the teenage years should be really interesting.

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Yes, I’m aware of that and was sure someone would eventually point it out. However, if you take another look, you’ll see I worded it strategically, to say “and inflict a ridiculously uncalled-for overreaction.” See, every once in a while, Dexter does get angry and go after people who don’t necessarily deserve it. All I’m saying here is that on the off-chance I encounter someone with a short fuse, I’d rather not ignite it.

      Like

  14. laurencfmatthews

    Oh your comment about how people constantly as how far apart were they born etc. I completely understand! I just gave birth to my twins almost two weeks ago and might I say I’ve been asked just about all those questions so far. My twins have been really great they sleep at the same time (most of the time) feed at the same time (generally) and well that’s pretty much all they do right now! I will say I thought having twins would be extremely difficult but it hasn’t been to hard! I have a 20 month old daughter who is always wanting to help with them so that’s been a bigger help then imagined! I hope they get along will when they get older! My husband was a twin but his brother died at two days old so I’m not really sure how they will get along but I pray they get along. Does your son and daughter play well together? I have boy and girl twins too and I’m a little curious!

    Like

    • John Pseudonymous

      Wow! Congratulations! It won’t be for a while for you, but yeah, they eventually play together. My kids really enjoy each other’s company and play well together for the most part, but they’re often just one stolen toy or playful-slap-that’s-just-a-little-too-hard away from a wrestling match. It’s getting better, but for a while there, we really needed to watch carefully to make sure they didn’t go all UFC on each other.

      Like

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