April 25, 2019

10 Things NOT to Say to Parents of Twins

Without a doubt, twins are special!  …And it can definitely be exciting to see them out in public.  In fact, even I (a parent of twins myself) get excited when I see a parent out with a double-stroller or two ‘littles’ dressed in coordinating outfits.

If the parent looks especially tired, or busy, I will leave them be…but sometimes I can’t stop myself from saying, “Hello!  Are they twins?”.

When I do, I always try to be sensitive to the questions that I know parents of multiple might cringe at being asked.  In case you aren’t familiar with what these might be, I have compiled a short list for you.

I’m quite sure that some of these are going to surprise you:


1. Are they Natural?

Although this question has never bothered me (my husband and I have been very open about the fact that our twins were tiny miracles, resulting from invitro fertilization), this question is perceived by much of the multiples community as ‘very nosey’.

Some of us might be open books, but many couples are not…and many prefer to treat their ‘method of conception’ as a private, family matter.

Infertility can be a very painful experience to go through and many parents just don’t want to relive it.  They may even be experiencing feelings of shame, or embarrassment, around not being able to conceive on their own.

On top of this, asking if someone’s child is ‘natural’ implies that there is an ‘un-natural’ version…and certainly no parent thinks of their child this way.


2. Do Twins run in your family?

This is probably the question that I have been asked the most…and I really think people ask it innocently, out of curiosity, or as a conversation starter.

Unfortunately, it is also sometimes used as a more subtle way of probing about conception, or fertility, and many parents of multiples don’t love being asked this.

Having said that, if you happen to be asking because you are struggling with infertility yourself, my suggestion is to just be upfront about that.  It will likely help with breaking down a barrier that an exhausted parent may be ready to put up about now.


3. Did you have help getting pregnant?

Umm…please refer back to questions 1 and 2…this is WAY too personal to be asking a stranger on the street!


4. Wow! You have your hands full!

This is another one that has never bothered me, or my husband, because “Hell yes, we have our hands full!”.

But, I have heard many parents of multiples discuss this question on my favourite forum for YYC parent of multiples, TTMAC (The Twins, Triplets, and More Association of Calgary).

Here’s the thing.  The reason that this comment bothers so many parents is that it implies that having twins, or multiples, is a ‘negative’ or a ‘problem’.

Imagine, presenting your new baby to someone and instead of them saying, “Wow! She’s so beautiful!” they exclaim to you, “Wow!  You have your hands full!”.

It doesn’t quite sit right, you know?


5. They are a result of ‘fertility’ treatments?

…They aren’t ‘real’ twins then.

No, no, no (insert head-shaking).  Please don’t say this to any parent of twins.  It’s really rude and, for the record, a statement like this is totally incorrect.


6. He/She is so much taller, shorter, darker, lighter, heavier, thinner…

Okay…this is a tricky because physical attributes are what everyone notices first.  I can’t tell you how many times we have heard people exclaim that our daughter is so much taller than her twin brother – and she is!  She was born longer, has always been taller, and currently has about 3” on her twin brother…so it’s completely true!

Of course, because people are just stating the obvious, it isn’t usually a huge issue to parents when we hear it.  But, is a good idea to have some sensitivity around how your comments might impact the children who might be listening in.

For example, how might my shorter twin (the boy) start to feel after hearing so many times that he is ‘way shorter’ than his twin sister?  Or how do you think a child might feel after hearing that they are so much ‘bigger’?

This is really just something to consider, like many of these other points…especially when little ears are around.


7. Are you sure they’re twins?


Yes, parents of multiples get asked this and I can assure you that they don’t like it very much.

I actually overheard my own kids get asked this by another parent a few months ago, while we were waiting in line to meet Santa Claus.  As their mother, it really made me cringe to hear it.


8. Are they identical?

(after being told they are opposite genders)

Of course, some twins are identical!  …and its not, generally, an offensive question.  However, if you have just been told that a set of twins are boy/girl…just take a moment to consider ‘that’ before asking the parent if they are identical. Honestly, you guys, it happens way more often that you would think!

After being asked this, for about the 100thtime, I actually found myself telling someone, “Well, yes…except one has a penis and one has a vagina!”.


9. Better you than me!

I don’t think this need an explanation but, in case it does, this is a very rude comment to make to someone.  Even if you’re thinking it, in your brain, please just keep it there.


10. That one is cuter than that one, don’t you think?

OMG – hell no!  Don’t say this – EVER!

A fellow twin mom, that I know, has actually had someone say this to her. It is beyond inappropriate and so rude!


**Bonus Tip**

If you do learn, in conversation, that a parent of multiples has battled with infertility, it might not be the time to announce that you get pregnant ‘on the first time you try’ every time.  It is a little bit insensitive…and can be hurtful for a parent of multiples to hear.


Listen, I appreciate that many of these questions are just asked innocently as part of conversation….and that’s how many parents of multiples receive them.  But maybe just keep this list in mind next time you encounter someone with their twins, triplets or quads!  …because we never know just what a parent has experienced. J

This funny, little animation about sums up how I know many parents of multiples feel in some of these conversations.  I hope you see the humor in it…I know those PoM’s out there will:


What are some of the things you don’t love hearing as a parent of multiples???

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