Multiples: Appreciating Their Differences

While bathing, feeding and sleeping work well when synchronized, there are many aspects of raising multiples that can never be synchronized.

As children get older, handling their developmental differences tests the skills of the best parents. Marie Kearns, a Wakefield, Mass., mother of twins, was constantly searching for the best ways to handle issues raised by the physical delays of one girl when Alicia and Arielle were three. Arielle suffered from poor muscle tone in her trunk, making it difficult for her to pull down her pants or move her bowels.

Because Alicia was ready for potty training and Arielle was not, Kearns and her daughters were finding the process loaded with emotion. Kearns had seen Alicia use the potty with peers but have accidents around her sister. "Alicia was actually trying not to outdo Arielle," says Kearns.

Although she couldn't be certain of Alicia's motive, Kearns believes that Alicia's accidents were partly her way of protecting her twin sister and partly her own desire to remain Mommy's baby. But Kearns also suspects that Alicia had picked up the parental confusion surrounding the issue. Kearns didn't want to overpraise Alicia and risk making Arielle feel bad. Nor did she want to make a big deal of Arielle's accidents. "I had to be really sensitive. I couldn't tell Alicia that only babies poop in their pants, because Arielle still did."

As Kearns struggled to deal with their many differences, she often faced insensitive comments from people outside the family. Some actually asked why only one girl was potty-trained, and then they wanted to know if the untrained child was the younger of the two. "My answer was: 'No - she's four minutes older,' " Kearns says.

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