This honestly has to be the toughest part of being a twin, and there is no way to avoid it. Who is older? Who is the nice one? Who is the smart one? Who is more athletic? Then when you are a twin and you have twins, the comparisons multiply. Now instead of just being compared to each other everyone tries to fit my girls into a mold of whether they are more like me or my sister. The similarities can be uncanny and I even find myself slipping into comparing them to us. However, I try to avoid it. I want them to grow into Kinley and Chloe, whoever they are meant to be!
Growing up my sister was the athletic tomboy and I was the more studious girly one, in part from nature but in part because we were put into boxes by those around us. Courtney LOVED basketball and dreamed of playing for the WNBA. She also generally opted for comfort over style and would have lived in basketball shorts and sweatpants if my mom had let her. But Courtney wasn’t all jock. She was (and is) very smart, was in the top 10% of our graduating class, and was active in 4-H and our youth group. I was more girly, would put on make-up and do my hair every day, lifted lighter in gym to avoid getting ‘too bulky’**, was Jr. Miss Runner-up, and class valedictorian. Even though I was the girly-er nerdy one, I still was on varsity volleyball, basketball, & tennis.
Part of who Courtney and I are is just who we were born to be. My mom loves to tell the story about how from Day 1 Courtney craved adventure. As soon as we could crawl, she was the one that would crawl right on top of me for a better vantage point. I of course would be wailing underneath her. Mom could take her off and set her on the other side of the room, but she would book it right over to me just to do it again. She was also the daredevil standing at the top of the slide with no hands as a toddler. The one that crossed into the corral to pet the bull on the head. Nothing scared her. I was always more cautious, more calculated in my risks, and even though I loved playing outdoors, sometimes at recess I could be found curled up with a good book. Nobody made us choose these behaviors, it was just our natural tendency.
Our different personalities came in handy for me sometimes. In kindergarten as we headed out to get our ears pierced my dad threw us a roll of paper towels and told us we would need it for all the blood. Thankfully, I knew I could watch Courtney go first! When she didn’t bleed, I knew I would be alright and that dad was teasing. I used this same method in college when we went to get our tattoos. Courtney’s sat there stoically on the table, wincing a little saying ‘yeah it hurts’. However, when it was my turn, it did NOT hurt a little. It hurt a LOT! Her pain tolerance had grown which left me in cursing in misery as I prayed that he wasn’t drilling clear through my foot. I felt a little better afterward when I hit her in the shoulder for lying to me. She said ‘If I had carried on like you did, you never would have gotten it,’ (which was probably accurate). Poor Courtney got the short end of the stick. I don’t think she got nearly as many benefits from my differences as I did from making her go first. I did help her find dresses for dances, and get dressed for job interviews/special occasions. In fact, at least half of her wardrobe to this day are my hand-me-downs because she still hates shopping.
Anyway, back to the point of this article. We were compared daily. We were put into boxes. Part of who we are may not have been much different had we been singletons, but I know our differences were amplified because we TRIED to be different. I still can’t wear a collared button up dress shirt because I feel like I look like my sister. That was Court’s dress up outfit of choice. And I never put my all into basketball because that was ‘her’ thing, I just was trying to stay in shape for volleyball. Courtney even chose to go to NNU because she wanted to go somewhere different than I did. The comparisons happened constantly and it was hard sometimes. It was also the source of a lot of our disagreements. We would fight when we were too similar. We would fight when we were too different. We were really just fighting for our own identity.
Even though I think comparing and contrasting is a very difficult part of being a twin, and that it is easy to get stuck in a pattern of trying to be different from your genetic clone, I also think it is part of life. At some point you just have to accept it. Even if your parents don’t compare you the world will. And it’s not their fault. I think there is this fascination with twins. Everyone wants to try to understand what it’s like to be a twin and comparing you is the best way they can try to catch a glimpse of what it might be like. In actuality everyone is compared to others all the time; whether it’s for first chair in band or a job interview. As a twin it will just be amplified, A LOT. People that aren’t twins, can’t understand the struggle of how this impacts you as you are trying to develop into your own individual, but keep your chin up, it’s not all bad. At least your twin will be there along the way, going through the exact same thing. Hopefully you can try to see around your differences and appreciate one another for who you are. Maybe you can even build one another up and encourage each other as you find your own way in this great big world!
If you take away one thing from this article, please remember, it doesn’t matter who is better or worse at something, everyone has something wonderful to offer this world. Maybe you and your twin are equally good at a subject or have different strengths on the court. What matters is that you are both trying to be the best version of yourselves. If you are a twin reading this, I encourage you to pursue your dreams and to be your best self. Be who YOU want to be and encourage your sibling to do the same. If you are a parent reading this, try to put yourself in their shoes and think about how your words matter. Try to compare them against each other less and encourage them in their individual strengths/passions more. For instance, if one twin is struggling with a skill like boxing out in basketball, avoid saying ‘box out like your sister.’ You could simply say, ‘box out’ or you could even find a skills video online that will help them develop their skill set without making a reference that they are worse than their twin.
None of this is easy. It isn’t easy to be the twin, and TRUST me, it also isn’t easy to be the parent. I have said things like, ‘Can you please get in your car seat like your sister’ or ‘Can you please pick up like your sister.’ A part of me cringes every time this slips out of my mouth, but I’m aware, and I’m trying. As parents we are doing our best, so don’t beat yourself up over what you may have said. Instead, I encourage you to try to be more cognizant as you speak.
**If you cringed at my comment about weights and getting ‘too bulky’ don’t worry, I now know better. I’m sure as I continue to write, I will get to self-care, my love for Orange Theory, and how lifting weights is helping me get my body back. On that note if you have a specific request for an article or have questions that I haven’t been able to cover yet send me a message HERE.