Virtual Twins (Artificial Twinning)

December 5, 2009 Attachment, cl/cp, DonnaT, virtual twinning 9 Comments

Six months after we came home from China with our first daughter (Gwen), someone on our Agency’s message board announced their 2nd referral: A cute baby with a beaming smile and a very minor cleft palate. A few days later, they updated to say that they’d refused the referral because she was only 2 weeks younger than their first daughter.

I called our agency to find out more about Special Needs adoptions and got a referral right on the spot when they offered us this same little girl. Now we had our own questions about adopting a toddler who was just 5 weeks younger than our (newly adopted) Gwenny. We spent the weekend searching our heart and the internet about the merits and perils of virtual twinning (aka artificial twinning) and we got plenty of advice. More than we could actually process! But, in the end, we weighed the pros and cons and ultimately decided that having virtual twins wasn’t that much different than having actual twins. We understood that all children require a leap of faith so we took the leap and called our agency back and accepted her. Six months later, she was home with us.

You can see pics from Maddy’s adoption <here>. That was summer of 2006 and here’s a picture from just a week ago (that’s Gwen “helping” Maddy clap her hands). This is the only life they know and even though we remember what life was like before our “twins”, they can’t remember a time that they weren’t sisters.

600 20091118-clap hands

Obviously we can’t imagine making a different choice and wouldn’t ever wish to go back and do things differently. But that doesn’t mean we’ve not learned a thing or two.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

  • We thought it would be cool to have twins.
    Wrong. It’s interesting but it’s not cool. It’s not even, especially, fun.
  • It’s annoying when people ask if they’re twins because it either requires that we lie (and say they are twins) or explain that they’re adopted and not biologically related. That’s more information than we’re comfortable sharing with strangers but we don’t like to lie so we’re stuck. The other option is to say “No, they’re not twins” and walk away before they can ask the obvious follow-up question.
  • Even though it’s fun to dress them alike, it makes the twin question come up even more so we don’t usually do that. At age two, they were the same height and weight but now they’re five years old and Gwen is 25 pounds heavier and four inches taller than Maddy. But people still ask if they’re twins — and it’s still annoying.
  • Every child deserves to be the baby of the family but Maddy never got that and I feel bad about it. I think she’d have been happier if her “big” sister was at least one or two years older instead of just 36 days older. I think I would have cut her more slack too. This isn’t a minor point — it’s HUGE.
  • Bonding with Maddy was harder because she was the same age as our Gwen. Love isn’t something that happens immediately so there was a gap because I already loved my other kids. I was, understandably, very protective of them and that interfered with bonding because Maddy was frequently mean to her “twin” (biting, hitting, etc). Oh boy — we had LOTS of that! I found that many of my maternal instincts were working overtime against eachother for the first six months that we were together. When I wasn’t actively angry at Maddy, I was consumed with guilt over ever having been mad at her in the first place.
  • For better or worse, I find that I’m constantly comparing the girls. My expectations of what one “should” be able to do is based on what the other is doing. Whether it’s coloring inside the lines or knowing her ABC’s or reading words or riding a bike or being dry all night – the skill comparisons and expectations are there so I have to constantly struggle to not send signals that I’m disappointed when one can’t do what the other is doing. They each have wonderful strengths that are uniquely their own. But they also have shortcomings that are amplified because their sibling is a living breathing walking measuring stick of what a kid that age can do. Even though I’m very aware of this “comparing the kids” trap, I fall into it often.
  • It’s really convenient to have the kids in the same grade at the same school and in the same age league for sports (even if they’re not in the same class or on the same team). It’s soooo nice not to have to run all over the place to get a kid to school (or home) at different times.
  • I don’t think I’ll ever put my virtual twins in the same class or on the same sports team and their teachers and coaches will thank me for that.
  • It’s fun that they are the same age because it’s easier for them to share interests and play together. Although they fight pretty constantly at home, they get along better when we’re away on vacation and that makes it really fun to go places with them. This is in sharp contrast to our son, Michael, who was an “only child” for almost all of his childhood and was bored to death on family vacations.
  • All the stuff we thought they’d share, they don’t. They don’t wear the same size clothes or shoes or want to share a room and they have polar opposite personalities and interests. Even so, if we buy one of them a toy, we’d better buy the other one the same toy or they’ll fight over it until our ears bleed and we weep for mercy.
  • When we buy two identical toys, they usually show no interest in them at all. I think the battle over the toy is half of the fun? Hmm… well I guess that makes them more like SIBLINGS than twins, huh!

9 responses to “Virtual Twins (Artificial Twinning)”

  1. redmaryjanes says:

    We have virtual twins. Our son is almost 9 months older than our daughter. We don't get a lot of questions about it though because our son is bio and our daughter is from China. We have enjoyed raising them together and it seems to make things easier for us. They both are interested in a lot of the same things and make wonderful playmates. We'll see how it goes when kindergarten starts in the fall and they are in the same grade.

  2. Sarah says:

    I've never thought about virtual twins. Great information and points I wouldn't have considered. Thank you so much for sharing. You girls are absolutely beautiful! God's blessing, Sarah 😀

  3. Kristi says:

    We have virtual twins ~ our daughter is seven months older than our son ~ and even though they look NOTHING alike and are several inches different in height, we get the "are they twins" question a lot too! I relate with much of what you listed!
    And even though last November, less than a month after we came home with Caleb, I stated that I was glad he was part of our family but I'd never do the twin thing again, we are now waiting for our TA for our third child, who is five months younger than our son…

  4. Stefanie says:

    I find this fascinating! We have 2 sets of virtual twins and our experiences have been very different from yours. In fact both our sets of twins are quite different from each other as well 😉
    So glad you decided to share on this topic, Donna! I love hearing your perspective! And I think you mentioned a lot of things people don't consider when they decide to 'twin'.
    Great post!

  5. Donna says:

    I think what I find most difficult about the "are they twins" question is that it forces us to delve into the fact that they're adopted and not biologically related sisters. This is really too much info but if I say "No, they're not twins", they always ask me how far apart in age they are and that always leads to the need to explain how such a thing is possible. Who has time to deal with this constantly? When they were toddlers, the question came several times per DAY!

    A handful of times, I've just said "Yeah, they're twins" and moved on but I felt a cold sweat come over me after doing that because it's a blatant lie (and my kids heard me tell it). I'm not a good liar and it makes me nervous because I have to remember who I told the lie to so I can stick to it. Arrggghh!

    But the biggest surprise about twinning them was what it made each of them give up.

    Gwen shared her SWI caregiver with 29 other babies and only had a Mommy all to herself for 11 months before a same-age sister was plunked into her life. Not a newborn but another 24 month old! And Maddy NEVER got to be Mommy's baby. At the time, I thought it wouldn't matter but, looking back, I think it does. A lot!

    I'm not sorry we added a same-age child to our family but I can say with 100 percent certainty that we would NEVER do this again.

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

  6. Our Family says:

    Thank you for posting about different aspects of "artificial twinning" that I had never considered. Once we get our DD home (hoping for January), we'll have two girls seven months apart. "Almost" twins, I guess. It's good to hear from those BTDT parents.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for touching on the bonding issue. Having just arrived home with our son from Korea 2.5 weeks ago, we are going through this. He is 6 months younger than our bio son and let's just say he isn't afraid to hit or shove. I find this getting in the way of our bonding because I feel like he is hurting my BABY who I have been bonding with for 3 years!!! Overall things are going very well, and I know he is the right child for our family, but there are some things I just didn't think about. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Alyson & Ford says:

    Great post, I learned alot. I won't be in that circumstance (we aged out under the new rules before we even got AA), but enjoyed reading about your experiences. I loved the picture of the two girls best- they are beautiful!

    Alyzabeth's Mommy for 14 Months

  9. Robyn says:

    While I understand that the question “are they twins” is annoying, it doesn’t bother me that much. I usually just lie and move on. I agree that neither option is a good one, either lying or pointing out that one is adopted…its just not something the checkout lady at the grocery store needs to know. We are very open about adoption in our home and if anyone ever asks me, its definitely not a secret, but its not something that needs to be brought up constantly. As for your other points, I really haven’t had much of a problem with my girls. And I do think it’s cool. I think it is so much fun to watch them interact, to hear an external dialog instead of missing out what they are thinking. I love their interactions with each other. I could totally do without the fighting. My girls are coming up on three now. We adopted W when she was born (I guess legally it took a few months but I was present at her birth and me and DH took her home from the hospital) and then I gave birth to A just 8 weeks later. They really don’t know they haven’t always been together. We dress them alike about 95% of the time, but mainly because there will be a screeching fight if one gets to wear something that the other doesn’t. Would I do it again? Heck no, but only because I don’t want 5 kids (I also have a son). Would I have made the same choice if I had known what I was getting into? In a heartbeat.

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