What Do You Want to Know about Twins?

Everyone’s interested in twins, especially now that Beyoncé and Amal Clooney are each expecting a double bundle of joy.

Twins fascinate me too. Here’s a clue.

twins at the soft drinks dispenser

Sensibly, parents-to-be who read my book Twins and Multiple Births, or who join TAMBA, want to find out what’s in store for them. But other people only seem to care about secret languages, ESP, and other freaky twins stuff. Like this.

“Fun fact 1”: twins reared apart may have habits in common, like nail-biting or drinking the same brand of beer.

“Fun fact 2”: some twins have sexual relationships with the same person.

But are the similarities in behaviour and thinking really that extraordinary? It could just be chance.

Take twins who independently come back from the shops with the same coat, for instance. If a coat is widely available in a store like Marks & Spencer, nobody, twin or not, would have to go far to find someone else wearing exactly the same thing. Add in the fact that identical twins are the same age, and usually similar in colouring and general appearance, and bingo! No wonder they find the same garment suits them.

twins in school uniform

Sometimes twins are so close that, even as adults, they finish each other’s sentences, must work in the same office, and are incapable of truly independent living.

I always encourage new parents to raise their twins as individuals. That’s best route to healthy development in so many areas, including speech, behaviour, and social skills.


My wishes for parents of twins (and those like grandparents or others who help care for them) include these tips.  

1 Learn to relate to each as an individual from early on. That means being able to tell them apart easily, and using their names instead of lazy shorthand like ‘Twinny’ or ‘Pinky and Perky’.

2 Cherish each child for what she is. You won’t necessarily raise two Nobel prize-winners.

3 Avoid comparisons. One of them is not ‘the good one’ just because he sleeps through the night first.

4 Recognize that fair treatment doesn’t mean equal treatment. You’d be surprised how many people think twins must have identical birthday cards or presents, even though it ruins half the fun.

5 Make time to enjoy your children. Sure, there are twice the number of chores, and work beckons too. But, before you know it, they’ve grown up.

How do you make time when you have twins or more? I may cover this in a forthcoming blog post. If I can fit it in, that is.


If you’re expecting twins or more, you really should join TAMBA. It’s the only UK charity dedicated to improving the lives of families with multiples.. Click here to find out more.


The only child is forever

Corfe Castle 3One child is the ideal number, says writer Lauren Sandler.  In her book The One and Only (and in quotes all over the media) she reckons having more than one child gets in the way of success, especially for women writers.

Why?  Kids don’t necessarily stifle creativity.  But I agree that they eat time.  My three children, all born within two and half years, needed constant attention.   To carve out time for writing, I’d put the twins in the car and drive around till they dozed off.  It was a lesson in churning out copy quickly.

Today, interruptions still come thick and fast.  My elderly mother just asked me for the third time whether she took her painkillers.  And she’s uncertain of the dose: ‘It says one twice daily on the box. How many should I take?’  She dithers about what to wear and what to eat, and she’s increasingly impatient, but most of all she forgets.  She can’t even remember that I’m getting married.

I loved it when I read my kids, when they built tepees from fallen branches, or when they just laughed.  They kept me on my toes, like the day one of them trapped his twin’s head in a bucket.  One morning, another son made off with his big brother’s school tie.  How was I to guess he’d shoved it out through the cat flap?

Now it’s my mother’s things I search for, her lunch I prepare, her hair I cut, her bandages I change.   She checks with me whether she had a shower this morning, but she doesn’t hear my answer.  When I repeat it louder, she accuses me of shouting.   It’s tough looking after elderly parents, and I’m not as young as I was either.  But there’s nobody to share it with.

My eldest son wanted siblings, and here was one clue: as a toddler he’d hide his friends’ shoes when they came to play so they couldn’t go home.

I too longed for brothers and sisters, but I never got them.  It was no fun playing board games against myself, though at least I always won.  I look back on my childhood as a lonely time, but it’s a lot worse now.  You never grow out of being an only child.

Back to the ideal number of children.  What do you think it is?