Monday, October 23, 2006

Dressing Twins: Thoughts From the Front Line

Being the mother of twins I am pretty sure that I receive way more unsolicited advice from people than regular parents receive. I don't know what will happen over the span of our lives, but as of now, the biggest subject for which I constantly receive unsolicited advice on raising twins is: HOW TO DRESS THEM.

Everyone -- from some of our closest family members, to some of the daycare staff, to some of my co-workers and students, to some total strangers in the grocery store -- tells me how dressing twins should be done. The major focus of it all is the question of whether or not to dress them in matching outfits.

  • Cheerily, "Ahhhh! They're sooooo cuuuuuuuuute! I just LOVE the matching outfits!!!"
  • Skeptically, "So, do you always dress them in matching outfits?"
  • Disappointedly, "Oh. I was really hoping that you'd have them in cute matching outfits."
  • Educate-ing-ly, "You know, you really should not dress them in matching outfits...."
  • Knowingly, "I am a twin and I think it is GREAT that you dress them in matching outfits!"
  • Knowingly, "I am a twin and I can tell you: do NOT dress them in matching outfits!"
  • Sadly, "I'm the mother of twins and I really wish I had not dressed them in matching outfits."
  • Sadly, "I'm the mother of twins and I really wish I had dressed them in matching outfits."
  • Scathingly, "Oh my gosh. I cannot believe that YOU dress them in matching outfits. You!!?!"
  • Approvingly, "Ohhhhhhh myyyyyyy Godddddddd!!! I'm sooo happy that YOU dress them in matching outfits!!! You!!?!"

Personally, before I had twins, I thought that if I ever was a parent of twins I would dress them in different outfits so as to "celebrate difference!" and "allow for individuality!" Then we found out we were adopting twins. Oh, the cute little baby outfits! Oh the cutesie twinsie possibilities of cute little matching baby outfits! Oh, how EVERYONE gave us cute little matching baby outfits!!! Then we got the twins. Could it get any cuter than seeing them in matching outfits?! Another thing: could it get any easier (when shopping, dressing, re-dressing) than doing matching outfits? It is hard to understand until you've actually had to do it. I could go into great depth here about all the reasons it is easier -- and makes the most logical sense on both practical and philosophical levels -- to dress them in matching outfits. Interestingly however, although everyone tells me what they think, no one has ever actually asked me what I think. So, I'll just skip over that. Anyway, we decided soon after we got the boys home that matching outfits were o.k., and we planned to dress them in matching outfits until they were two. We vowed to ourselves that after their second birthday we would stop the cutsie-twinsie-matching-outfit thing.

Then they turned two.

The problem now is that Kyle and Owen can actually express themselves. And they express their views on this subject clearly and consistently: They want to dress in identical outfits. If it was up to them they'd wear the exact same thing every single day with no variation whatsoever. At this point in time I am trying to do matching-but-not-identical outfits (i.e. same shirt, different color). Even that is a big challenge for them. Celebrate difference?! Forget it! Allow for individuality?! Um, NO! The boys want nothing to do with any of it.

This morning, I picked out their clothes. Same shirts, but different colors. Both in denim, but one in pants and one in overalls. They had a fit. Owen wanted overalls, not pants. He kept pointing to Kyle's overalls, envious and jealous and full of upset. He begged for overalls. He cried. He sulked. He was so sad. He hung in my arms like a crumpled little boy. Kyle seemed sad too-- his attitude seemed to be that he was psyched to have lucked out with getting to wear the overalls, but he would have much preferred to see Owen wearing matching ones. I stuck it out and dropped them off at daycare in their semi-matching-but-not-identical outfits, much to their great disappointment.

When I arrived at daycare the head of the toddler room immediately cornered me to tell me all about how she had gone out to dinner this past weekend with a family friend of hers who has twins. The twins are grown now and in their twenties and apparently extraordinarily well-adjusted and accomplished. She proceeded to launch into a lengthy unsolicited lecture on explaning the source of twin success and achievement: difference and individuality primarily fostered through -- get this -- clothing attire. I should, she argued quite vehemently, NEVER dress them in matching outfits. As she was explaining all this to me she was standing with her arms crossed, with a very disapproving look on her face, watching Kyle and Owen play in their cutesie twinsie sort-of-matching outfits (the outfits they were still emotionally sore about because they weren't matching enough). Since I was running late (because of the outfit-produced-meltdowns), I didn't even have time to attempt to explain my predicament to her.


C. Resmer said...

Thanks for explaining that! I've always wondered.

laurafingerson said...

Oh no! What am I in for?! I, too, thought I would be all "celebrate the individual" until I got the matching outfits as gifts when the babies were, the girls are just SO stinkin' cute in their matching outfits that I just can't help myself. Too funny about how everyone and their mother has to have some sort of opinion to share with you. And unbelievable that you got a dressing down (pun intended) by the daycare worker! What is with people?! Well, at least now I know what John and I are in for! We'll have to come up with some sort of snappy response.

The Tiger said...

How about "Wo bu hue shua Ying-wen"? That's "I don't speak English" in Mandarin. That'll learn 'em!

MsToni said...

Great post, I am also the mother of twins and I dress them alike. One of the fundamental reasons why, was because it was so much easier. I didn't have to think of two outfits in the morning, just one. I knew when something was missing and possibly left at the Grandparents, daycare, etc.
My twins dressed alike until they started Kindergarten and started having more input into what they wanted to wear that day.

Heza Hekele said...

I dress my kids in matching outfits and none of them are twins. I sometimes dress my god daughter and niece in matching outfits for fun. A friend and I go shopping and buy matching outfits for our daughters...who are not related in any way. The kids think this is great! I think it's an occasional fun thing that fosters 'belonging together'. If twins are at an age where they are able to have an opinion and are dressed alike, one can probably assume that they are active participants in this ritual; and twins not dressed alike...probably don't want to be. It seems like a pretty odd thing for so many people to have such a strong opinion about. Just as odd as perfect stranger voicing their opinions about a toddler with a pacifier...sigh.