Pamela Patrick Novotny, author of The Joy of Twins and Other Multiple Births: Having, Raising and Loving Babies Who Arrive in Groups (Crown), warns that parents will never be able to control comments and questions from the outside world. Instead, she urges parents to discuss them with their multiples and to explain that people may misunderstand their relationship.
Novotny, the mother of five, including 19-year-old identical twin girls, says that when her twins were five years old, they wondered why people referred to them as "the twins," instead of using their names, Anna and Claire.
"I was able to say to them that people would always call them 'the twins,' but that they needed to understand that they're two separate people and that maybe it would be part of their job to make it clear to people that they're not 'the twins,' but Anna and Claire," Novotny says.
When Anna and Claire were seven years old, Anna broke her leg during a hike. People often asked Claire if she could "feel" Anna's pain. Both girls considered the question weird and didn't understand why people asked it.
Such remarks gave Novotny and her daughters the opportunity for discussion. She explained to them that some think twins have more of a connection than other siblings.
Novotny saw her job as helping her twins understand that people would see them differently than they saw themselves. They could correct a perception if they chose to or they could ignore it, but they needed to realize that the fact that someone thought or said something about their twinship didn't make it true. "They are entitled to construct their own relationship in a way that works for them," Novotny says.