Twinning: Having One Twin With A Peanut Allergy Means Lying To The Other

peanut allergyHaving 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 As I learned more about peanut allergy and anaphylaxis, I decided that this was a situation so dangerous it superceded Twin Code and had to be handled as I saw best.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.

(photo: Jiri Hera/ Shutterstock)

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  • Lilac

    I understand where you are coming from but lying to a child is not cool. You better set her straight one day that she never had the allergy or she may be really mad at you. Why would you want to keep her from experiencing some joys because her brother can’t. Life isn’t fair and kids need to learn this. But so many parents are raising kids who now whine and cry the moment they don’t get what they want. Oh and maybe you memory is good now but either my sister or I am allergic to aspirin. Mom can’t remember which of us it was and neither of us wants to take it on the off chance we are the allergic going to die from taking it child.

    • Lawcat

      I agree. Not cool at all….and a little disturbing. I get that keeping your other child safe is a concern, but I don’t see what would change if you had told her the truth. She seems protective of her brother and cognizant of the dangers. Kids with peanut allergies have siblings, and I don’t think parents generally lie to the siblings to make them more concerned. You can institute a “no peanuts” policy without lying. God forbid she took an epi-pen when she didn’t really need it.

      There really is no justification to lie to her about medical conditions. Hopefully you’ll tell her the truth one day so she can report to her doctor correctly. My great-aunt lied to my cousin about a medical condition and took it to the grave with her (you know, since you can’t predict when you’ll die). It’s an absolutely disgusting thing to do to someone.

  • Guest

    I am worried that you did this…when you do things like this, you actually do greater harm to your son’s cause than anyone else. If somewhere, along the line, someone accidentally gave your daughter nuts…there was no reaction. In their head, they’re thinking, “Gee, that’s not that big of a deal, she was okay.” Hence, next time they provide something to your son, they’re not going to worry so much about whether or not it has nuts.

    Sadly, lying about allergies is pretty common, so even if it wasn’t something that was given to your daughter, it was something that was given to someone else who was falsely claming to have an allergy…

    It ends up being a sad and even deadly case of the Boy who Cried Wolf…but the ones who suffer in the end are the actually allergic.

  • Andrea

    My sister has twins and half the shit she does because you know “I have two” make zero sense to me. I have two sons and they are different and they GET THAT. So, to my untiwned mother ears, this sounds stupid.

    But I have had to bite my tongue on several occasions because, apparently, mothering twins takes some kind of special motherhood power that us, mere mortal singleton moms, could never understand.

  • beancounter13

    I’ll put it bluntly: tough shit Nick. They both need to learn everything you taught them, but they need to know that the danger is to Nick only. They also need to know that if Allie has the slightest bit on her from having it elsewhere that were to get onto Nick it could be as dangerous as actually consuming it. I have a strong feeling Allie would stick up for/protect Nick in pretty much the same way as she has.

    Allie also needs to learn courtesy and compassion to get through the times that there is something she really wants but is too dangerous to have in Nick’s presence or in your home. And if she develops a taste for peanut butter, then set up nut-friendly play-dates or outings for her that include thorough hand & face washing and a change of clothes afterwards.

  • To Celebrate Women

    Sorry, if one kid can’t do something then the other kid can’t? I get wanting to be safe when they’re little (though the lie is a whole other story), but how long is the no peanuts for healthy kid going to last? Until she’s an adult? That makes no sense.

    • Ptownsteveschick

      If you read the last paragraph, she states her daughter knows she doesn’t have an allergy anymore, she thinks she grew out of it, which many kids do with allergies.

  • MommyK

    Just a Hallowe’en idea from someone with a nut allergy, so your kid isn’t upset at losing half his candy….My parents always bought candy without nuts in it to hand out to trick-or-treaters. I meanwhile, would go trick-or-treating and half my candy would have nuts in it. After a quick sort-through when I got home, my parents let me “trade in” my Reese’s cups, Snickers, and other nut candy for Smarties, KitKats, etc (nut-free candy), one for one. Then they gave away the peanut candy to trick-or-treaters (and ate some themselves, I’m sure), and I got candy that was safe for me to eat. It was a win-win!

    • Andrea

      Neat idea. I wonder if this makes me an unpopular house during Halloween, but I tend to avoid buying any candy that is chocolatey and might include peanuts and give out more hard candy, lollipops, starbursts, etc.

    • MommyK

      Candy is awesome too. I think kids love Starbursts, Skittles, etc.

  • AugustW

    My brother and I were not twins (we were actually step-siblings) but I grew up figuring I couldn’t have mushrooms because he was allergic to them. I still don’t like them, although I’ll include them in pot pies because my daughter likes them.
    What I’m saying here is…I suffered no ill effects from thinking I was allergic to something as a child.

  • Em

    Do any previous commenters actually have twins? Twins are much different than 2 siblings “close in age” and you don’t realize it until you experience having twins. I would do the same with my twin boys when they were small if need be. The non allergic twin knows now that she is not allergic. Lying to both was a survival mechanism to get through the toddler/ preschool years when an accidental exposure could have been deadly. Again, EVERYTHING about having twins is a whole new world.

    • lea

      But what if there was a third sibling (similar in age or not). How is that 3rd child less of an exposure risk to the allergic twin? If a non-twin sibling came home with peanut residue on his/her hands and allergic twin was exposed- he’d be just as allergic as if it was his twin who brought it home. This is not a twin issue.

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  • Crowther Amanda-Beth

    I get why you did this. Idk if its right or not but i get it.allergic reactions are scary. I was old enough to understand mine and full llittle sisters allergies as we found out about them. First find oit she was allergic to bees. Then both mullberries full out anaphylactic out of blue. During testomg for tjay find out she was allergic to latex to and coconut. I was told to be careful around coconut and if ever had it which wasn’t likely i hated taste to wash hands. I later became allergic to olives as an adult. Sister was old enough to know what she shouldn’t have when first started but not much more then that

  • wowreally?

    Wow. How about just not sending your children to preschool and stay home with them everybody (unless of course financial stability depends on both parents working)? Why have kids if your just going to drop them off on someone else asap?