By Mordechai Schmutter

 

There are lots of little complications that people don’t think about when someone has twins. We’re just like, “Oh, so cute!” Because two of anything small is cute. That’s why little shoes are cute.

Even when they’re not babies, it’s always amazing to find out that someone you know is a twin, like you’re finding out that he has a secret life in a parallel dimension.

“You’re so lucky! You can switch off!”

When, at the bris? That would be a great practical joke.

People who aren’t twins are always telling twins about this joke, in case it hasn’t occurred to them. “You can switch off! It’s hilarious.”

Yes. By the way, you know we’re twins our whole lives and we never get individual attention, and everyone always just calls us “the twins.” It’s all some people ever want to talk about with us, and people keep making jokes about telling us apart. But yeah, one time we can switch, and everyone’s going to be looking out for it. And then what? We’ll have to take each other’s tests that we’re not prepared for. So that’s fun.

I bring this up because my brother just had twin boys. (He also has another boy who is one-and-a-half and doesn’t know what’s flying, but is probably going to think now that all babies come in twos.) I don’t know if twins run in my family, but babies run in my family. Whenever anyone gives birth, it’s a baby.

Twins are hard in the first place, because if all your kids are different ages, you can tell the older one, “I have to ignore you to feed the younger one now,” and the older one thinks, “At least I’ll always get Kiddush first. That’ll show him.” But twins don’t understand. “Oh, you’re gonna feed him? Well, I’m going to spend the whole time crying, if you don’t mind.”

Also, in general with babies, the more time you sit around holding them and bonding with them, the better. With twins, any time you spend holding one, you’re not bonding with the other. Unless you have it so that when one is awake, the other one sleeps. That’s a great idea, right?

Wait. When do you sleep?

There are definitely challenges to having twins. For one thing, you have to be able to tell them apart. Even fraternal twin babies can look alike at first. Some parents are afraid they’ll accidentally keep feeding the same one.

Well, if you do, he’ll be heavier. Then you’ll know.

And as parents, it’s your responsibility to know the difference between your twins, because everyone will look to you for the final say.

“Yeah, that’s the right one. I think.”

So as parents, you have to spend time in the hospital that first day or two just playing Spot the Difference. And then circling those differences in magic marker, so you remember.

Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes Hashem makes one of them bald and the other one super hairy. Though that’s not always a good thing.

But if he didn’t, there are other tactics you can use. For example, you can sleep one closer to the window so they’ll be different colors. You can pick your favorite, and that one gets to wear glasses and braces. Or maybe they’ll each have a different walk someday! Though I don’t know if you can wait that long. Of course, you can just have them wear nametags forever, like they’re at a baby convention. Or you can keep the hospital tags on them as long as you can. After that, if they’re girls, you can give them two different hairstyles, and if they’re boys, eventually one of them will walk into a table and you’ll have a permanent mark you can use.

There are good things about twins, of course. People try to be extra-helpful. Everyone keeps buying you matching clothing!

“Um, thanks. We’re still trying to learn how to tell them apart. This will help.”

It’s always adorable when twins wear identical clothes. Then they take them off and you find a shirt lying in the hallway, and you have no idea who to yell at. It’s not even like you can check the size.

Another annoyance is that you always have to be clear which baby you’re talking about. You can never just say, “Pick up the baby,” which is a phrase that we all take for granted. Unless you’re going to consider whichever one is youngest the baby. The older one had his turn.

And this is pretty inconvenient, because they don’t have names until their bris. And when you have multiple kids at one time, there’s a greater chance that the bris will be pushed off, and you’ll be stuck for weeks trying to figure out which baby you’re talking about.

“The baby that I’m not holding, obviously.”

“You’re not always holding a baby.”

“I am.”

My brother, for example, had to push off the bris, because his kids were still in the hospital. (It’s OK; don’t worry. They started off in the hospital.)

Another issue no one seems to talk about is that even once you come up with names, you have to figure out which kid gets which one. People are like, “It’s great! We’ll just name them Shmuel and Yitzchok!”

OK. Which kid is Shmuel and which kid is Yitzchok?

“I don’t know. Is it important?”

Do you just make a goral? Like L’Hashem and L’azazel? You have a box, you put in two names, pull them out and put one on each kid … You can put in more than two names if there are more on the table. Then you tie a string…

And names are pretty important, because with a single child, he can just be called “the baby” for however long it takes until another baby is born. When there are twins, you need names immediately.

So I asked a bunch of people who had twins, “How did you decide which name to give which baby?”

One person said, “Well, one was a boy and one was a girl, so I figured I should give the boy the boy’s name, because that would be easier.”

And I said, “OK, you didn’t tell me you had one of each.”

Another person said, “I had two girls, so I named the second one Bracha, because twins are a berachah.”

Great. So then name them both Bracha! What did you name the other one? Klallah?

That’s actually a pretty name until you think about the meaning.

So if they’re related names, like Berel and Shmerel, Berel is obviously the older twin, because as far as I know, Shmerel isn’t actually a name. He was created to be Berel’s friend in meshalim. (Can I just make up a name like that? Can I name them Baruch and Shmaruch, or Berish and Shmerish?)

And the same goes with any cutesy twin names, such as Isser and Heter, or Hillel and Shammai. (“They’re always fighting, but it’s l’Shem Shamayim.”) As long as the names aren’t too similar, because you’re going to mix them up. I mix up my own kids’ names, and they don’t even look alike.

When they’re different genders, it’s easier to give them similar names, because it’s not like people are going to get them mixed up as much. So you can go with, for example, Elimelech and Elimalkah, or Yonason and Yonadaughter. Or, if you’re giving them secular names for work, you can go with something like Bigson and Bigdaughter. Or Manny and Womanny.

But really, all these things aren’t even concerns for myself. This is all my brother’s problem. I’m worried for him. He seems to be taking it in stride, though.

I spoke to him before the bris, and he said that he never really held both at the same time, so he didn’t know the differences yet.

So I said, “You’re naming them; you should probably know. Like for kesubah purposes.”

And he said, “They’re not getting married yet.”

He’s very last-minute.

He does know that one was born heavier, because that’s a question that everyone asks when you have a baby: “How much does it weigh? We need to know! Well, actually, we’re just trying to make conversation and we can’t ask how old it is.”

So really if he wants to tell the difference, he just has to pick both up, and do that careful, thoughtful thing where you decide which one is heavier, and then you switch hands and do it again, and then you say, “This one’s heavier. Or he needs a new diaper.”

And as far as what to call them before the bris, his wife (who says she knows the differences) had been calling them “Thing One” and “Thing Two,” which is what the Cat in the Hat called his friends, who were also twins. He didn’t know their names. He couldn’t tell them apart either, and dressing them alike didn’t help. They had to wear name tags. Also, both of them were starved for attention and super-destructive, probably because between play times he kept them in a box. There’s more to learn from kids’ books than you think.

I did figure out a difference during the bris, though — it turns out they have very different cries. So if their older brother ever can’t tell the difference, he just has to punch them.

The younger one’s cry, as it turns out, is louder and more high-pitched. It even took the mohel by surprise:

“What? Wait, who drew circles all over your babies?”

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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