A public service announcement
What not to say to parents of multiples
Friday, October 22, 2004
Like many parents of multiples, in the past year Bridgett and I have been consistently showered with kind, thoughtful, almost embarrassingly glowing remarks about our children. I’d like to think it’s because they are such wonderful little people, but cooler objectivity tells me that it reflects a general fascination with twins and other multiples.
Similarly, on a daily basis, we have experienced some puzzling, annoying or simply clichéd remarks. Recently, I chatted with enough parents at a gathering of West Suburban Mothers of Multiples to see a recurring head-shaking theme emerge. It might come under the heading: “Strangers say the darnedest things about our kids.”
(For information about the group, call (708) 405-3370 or visit www.wsmoms.org.)
With that in mind, and as a public service to anyone encountering twins (or triplets, quads or more) in the future, here are some things we hear you saying (over and over again) and some alternative suggestions for you to consider (in addition to the kind, thoughtful, almost embarrassingly glowing remarks about our children):
You say: “You’ve got your hands full!”
Try saying: “May I offer you a $20 gift certificate to a local restaurant?” Just kidding. Thirty bucks is more like it. In all seriousness, I take the “hands full” comment as a well-intentioned, albeit unoriginal, compliment. So keep it coming—-just remember the gift certificate and that we’ll need a baby-sitter!
You say: “How do you breastfeed them?”
Try saying: Nothing at all. Remember, you’re a stranger. And sort of strange.
You say: “Are they natural?”
Try saying: “Do twins run in your family?”
Both are personal questions, but the former is offensive, as well as poorly phrased (“natural” as opposed to “unnatural” or “supernatural” or “synthetic?”). The latter is politely indirect, and gives the parent an opportunity to provide details as they see fit.
Strongly consider skipping the question altogether. Really, now, is it vital that you glean information about a stranger’s conception process? If you simply must pose the “twins running in the family” query, be content if the answer is along the lines of “now they do!”
You say (when coming upon a boy-girl pair): “Are they identical?”
Try saying: “I see one is a boy, and another is a girl. They must be fraternal, huh?”
Believe it or not, my wife and I get the “identical” question at least once a week. That’s more than 50 people who have wondered aloud whether my son and my daughter are identical. If the goofiness of the question has not yet sunk in, dear reader, let me spell it out: Identical twins are identical.
Last time I changed their diapers, Zachary and Maggie Rose were decidedly different.
You say: “Double trouble!”
Try saying: “Double blessing!” If that’s too spiritual for you, then go with another rhyme, “Double huggable!” But don’t refer to my kids as “trouble,” or I’ll run you down with my double-trouble stroller.