Having twins can be the most amazing experience of your life. It can also cause you to wake up in the morning wishing you were someone else. Twinning offers an honest depiction of life with twins from a mom who tries to keep things somewhere in the middle.
Parents of twins discover early on that the Golden Rule of Twin Parenting is “Stress Each Child’s Individuality” regardless of whether they’re identical or fraternal. Yes, of course, you’re going to dress them in matching outfits when they’re infants, and you’re going to call them “the twins” to your partner in private even though you insist your mother calls them by name. The world, however, will be pairing and comparing them for the rest of their lives, so it’s up to the parents to make sure their twins don’t end up living in the same house, wearing matching outfits when they’re 40.
I was doing a great job with my twins, but individuality took a backseat when I discovered that only my son had a life-threatening peanut allergy.
Allie and Nick were 16 months old when Nick was diagnosed. As I learned more about peanut allergy and anaphylaxis, I decided that this was a situation so dangerous it superceded Twin Code and had to be handled as I saw best. So I lied to my twins, threw individualism out the window, and I told Allie and Nick that they both had a peanut allergy.
When they were as young as two, I began teaching my twins that it was crucial for them to avoid all nuts because they would get very sick if they ate even a tiny bite. I took them to the grocery store for some nut-viewing in the snack aisle, so they would be able to recognize these little Nick-targeted grenades whether they were in shells or not. I taught them both to respond to any offers of food outside our home with, “No thanks, I’m allergic to peanuts.” Allie was probably more vocal than Nick about “their” allergy—marching up to teachers on the first day to tell them they couldn’t have any nuts in their class, or showing people Nick’s blue backpack that we carry our EpiPens in.
Once the twins were three years old and going to preschool, my game was basically up. I couldn’t ask the teachers to carrying on lying to my daughter, so I told Allie that her peanut allergy was not as bad as Nick’s was, but she should still never eat peanuts or tree nuts. I just couldn’t risk her getting peanut butter on her hands, clothes or mouth and then coming home and getting peanut butter on Nick or the many things in the house that he would touch and chew on. And if Nick couldn’t experience the joy that is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, it only seemed fair that Allie shouldn’t either.
When my kids were going to kindergarten, their school asked me if I wanted to keep them together. I was surprised because I had heard most schools automatically separate twins in kindergarten. To prepare for it, I’d even taken Allie and Nick to separate orientations, but the thought of having Allie to back Nick up during their time in kindergarten won me over. I had been having many sleepless nights of worry at the thought of sending my little guy out into the peanut-butter-slathered world of kindergarten, and keeping them together helped ease my fears.
Now with Halloween around the corner, I have to say that I’m glad my twins believe they both need to avoid peanuts. Trick-or-treating would be a complete nightmare if Nick was the only one who had to toss half his candy away.
Luckily both my children want nothing to do with peanuts or peanut butter. Allie thinks she’s outgrown her peanut allergy, but having been raised “with one” she understands how serious it is. And as I watched my ninja and princess get ready for a Halloween parade yesterday, I’m pretty secure in the fact that I’m raising two very different individuals.