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26 Mar, Sunday
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Montreal Families

What NOT to say to parents of twins!

When my twin daughters were 18 months old, I managed a successful solo outing with them to a shopping mall. For once, I didn’t have one kid trying to cram her little fingers into moving parts on the escalator while the other attempted to launch herself into the fountain. Nobody had a meltdown.  I was pretty pleased with myself and my girls. And yet, as we sat down together in the food court for some well-earned ice cream, a woman walked over to me and said, “Wow, you have your hands full with those two — you really need some help.”

I wasn’t remotely surprised by the comment even though there was nothing at that moment to suggest they were too much for me. I’d already learned that, when you have twins, strangers will regularly make unsolicited comments. A good sense of humour and a dose of patience helps, but it isn’t always easy to put on a charming smile. Consider this list a tongue-in-cheek primer on “what not to say to parents of twins.”

“Better you than me” or “I could never do that!” 
I heard this zinger a few times when the girls were squalling in stereo or staging epic tandem tantrums. I would look at my children (unappealing as they might have seemed at that moment, red-faced, insolent, screaming and leaking snot) and momentarily think “I’m not sure I can do this either, but what are my options?” In a situation like this, if you aren’t going to offer to help, please just walk by and say nothing. Those kind of comments do nothing to help an already stressed-out parent.

Wow! Double trouble, eh?
Perhaps the people who have said this thought they were being original, or just took pleasure in the cliché. But I know it’s meant well, so I usually respond with a polite, “Double the pleasure.”  And I mean it.

You really have your hands full.
Yes, why yes, I do. Thank you for noticing. Are you perchance volunteering to clean my floors? Shop for groceries? Do the 4:30 a.m. feedings?

Did you have a vaginal delivery?
I’ve been asked this several times, most notably by a distinguished-looking gentleman in line at the bank. Unfortunately, I was too busy trying to lift my jaw off the floor to come up with a quick, clever response. Now, I just say that it is my policy not to discuss my vagina with total strangers.

You breastfed them both? (Other moms of twins have said they got the opposite comment: “You didn’t breastfeed them?”).
Usually I patiently explain it is possible (albeit exhausting) to exclusively nurse twins. If they were particularly persnickety, I told them I only nursed the good twin.

Lucky they have a built-in organ donor!
Because every parent likes to casually consider the possibility of serious, life-threatening illness for their children. And every kid wants to be confronted with the possibility that they may have to one day hack off a kidney for the sister with whom they can’t even share the television remote control. Seriously though, this isn’t the kind of medical insurance you want to think too much about!

Why don’t you dress them alike?
I know some parents of twins do this and I know it can be cute but it wasn’t right for us. My girls were shy as younger children and didn’t enjoy being stared at everywhere they went. I wanted to lessen the twin “freak value” for their sakes.

Aren’t you lucky? Twice the love.
Now you are talking! This is one really wonderful comment that I’ve heard a few times over the years about my lovely girls. Even at our most hectic and exhausting moments, I’ve been keenly aware of how blessed we are to have happy and healthy twins and another wonderful daughter in our lives.

Now that you know what NOT to say to parents of twins, click here to read what Alissa’s 13-year-old twins have to say about silly comments people have made over the years.

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