DEAR ABBY: In your July 4 column, "Twins' Mom in Bellevue, Wash." told about one of her 12-year-old daughters' wish to stop dressing like her twin sister and to be an individual. We also have twin daughters, now adults.
When they were very young, I pushed them in a double stroller around the area where we lived. There was a lady I met frequently, and we talked about their progress. She eventually told me she was a child psychologist and asked if she might give me some advice.
She told me that all twins, whether identical or not, should be given a chance to choose things separately -- the colors they wore, toys, etc. She also suggested separate classes at school when possible, different choices of friends and activities, and most important of all, for us to treat them as individuals, not a single entity.
At the age of 4, they went to preschool. Each went two days separately and a third day together. This gave each girl a chance to develop alone and also to have "time with Mom." In kindergarten they were in the same class, but had different teachers. In elementary school they were in separate classes for the most part.
They chose to dress differently, if only by color. They were not in the same homeroom in middle school, but had a class or two together. Many fellow students had no idea they were twins unless they were especially close to the girls.
By high school, they were distinct individuals, and at times competitive with each other. They did not share friends. One of my girls went on to college in Washington state, the other in Southern California. One is now a successful businesswoman; the other is a former graphic artist who is married, raising a son and helping with her husband's business. The twins are now closer than they were as children.
I think we did the right thing, thanks to that friendly neighbor. The twins in your column should have been given separate choices long before the age of 12, but it isn't too late. -- JANE IN CARMEL VALLEY, CALIF.
DEAR JANE: Thank you for sharing your family's story with my readers. The responses I have received emphasize that the experience of being a twin can be as different as their looks are similar. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: How appropriate to see the letter about identical twins on the anniversary of the birthday of your dear mother and aunt!
I am also an identical twin. My brother and I are now 57. As with individuals, each set of twins is unique. Some celebrate their twinness, some seek more individuality, some go back and forth, and some don't agree. The solution is to allow each set of twins to find the balance that is right for them.
When we were growing up, our mother wisely permitted us to have some matching outfits, but also some that did not match. On any given day, we could choose to dress identically or either one of us could make the decision to be distinct simply by selecting a non-matching outfit.
Today, we live in different cities, with very different careers, but get together or at least speak by phone frequently and consider ourselves quite close. -- DOUGLAS, BROTHER OF DENNIS
DEAR ABBY: I am a 14-year-old identical twin. Let me make something clear to everyone: Twins are not the same person! Just because we look alike doesn't mean we have the same feelings and personalities.
My parents have always dressed us differently. We have never worn our hair the same way, and we are in different classes and schools. We barely know each other's friends. I have never set foot inside her middle school -- and yet we remain extremely close. Please encourage your twins to be individuals! -- UNIQUE TWIN IN COLORADO
DEAR ABBY: "Twins' Mom" should realize that if she weren't buying the twins matching outfits, the issues of dressing differently would not exist! -- MARY H., A FAITHFUL READER