Every day, I mix the twins up at least once. I always have. They really do look and behave in incredibly similar ways, and even people who know them well have to ask me which is which regularly.
Ultimately, though, they are much more different than they are alike. Some differences have always been evident, from the first week of life. Anyone who has known them these six years could easily distinguish personality traits that are diametrically opposed: Lily’s the loud, nurturing, generous one, whereas Emma’s the soulful, witty, thoughtful one. Even physically, they have plenty of differences: while never more than half a pound apart in weight, they almost never have the same shoe size, and their new teeth are growing in in radically different ways (both requiring orthodontic work, of course). For a long time, Emma’s hair was curly and Lily’s was straight. Lily has strabismus and other vision problems Emma does not share. Emma uses the potty about half as much as Lily does after drinking the same amount, and Lily spills about twice as many drinks as Emma. They like very different foods, and enjoy doing different activities. Really, this is a case where I could go on listing for quite a while.
Somehow, when I encountered a way in which they are radically different — in reading ability — I thought only of their similarities and not of their many differences. They should have exactly the same ability, I reasoned, since they have the same basic brain structure. The fact that Emma read an announcement about Copernicus’ contributions on the school loudspeaker in kindergarten meant that Lily should be doing the same. As of this writing, a month into first grade, Lily struggles to sound out every word. Improvement is happening, but very slowly. Operating under the assumption that there must be something wrong, I waited eagerly for her to get glasses this summer to see if that had much impact. Months later, it has not. Her hearing is perfect. From the way she communicates, there does not appear to be any deficiency intellectually or behaviorally. Fundamentally, she is having a harder time learning to read. I was waiting to hear from her teacher that she was placed in a remedial reading group, and was stunned to hear that she is considered “on track.” Really, then, there is nothing to worry about.
Still having trouble with this radical difference between them, I consulted with a friend who has some special needs experience. This friend pointed out not only the many ways in which the twins are different, but the fact that I have a hard time myself conceiving of anyone having trouble in school, so this issue is particularly jarring to me for that reason. This brought home to me an inherent danger in having identical twins that I thought I was handily circumventing: comparing them to the detriment of one or the other. I am so very dedicated to seeing each of my children as individuals, and meeting each one where he or she is, yet I still falter. This has shown me how important it will be for me to keep that dedication in mind when I find that tendency to compare — which is understandable in parents, I think — creeping in. The next step will be to stop my incessant comparing of MYSELF to other people who are in far more different circumstances than Lily and Emma ever will be!!