«Keep a copy on the bookshelf, because you will find yourself going back to it many times as your multiples grow and develop into adults.» – The International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations
«What sets this book apart from others on multiples, is it is written from a triplet child’s perspective (albeit a now adult one), and provides a refreshingly new approach to understanding the sometimes fascinating, often challenging world, of being born as a multiple.» – Multiples NZ
«It’s not often you learn something whilst feeling like you are having so much fun but this book hits the spot.» – Twins Trust
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If you’re wondering what it feels like to grow up and be a twin or a triplet then this is the book for you.
Identical triplet Kari Ertresvåg interweaves psychologist advice and observations on life as a multiple with hilarious anecdotes from her own, covering the logistically challenging early years, the perplexities of teenagerhood, and the clarity that comes as an adult.
With humour and honesty, Kari lays bare what it feels like to grow up as a twin or a triplet—covering everything from what it’s like to share friends, an underwear drawer or one’s birthday, how to deal with incessant comparisons and layers of confusion, to what it’s like to enjoy a life-sustaining bond yet still needing some time apart from one’s twin or co-triplets—to jump-start reflections for parents and ultimately make life easier for twins and triplets.
Kari talks as a triplet child, cutting to the heart of the question parents of multiples ask—how do I foster individuality in my children while also nurturing the bond between them—with her heartfelt, honest and thought-provoking Parent like a Triplet.
Here is the book that The International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations says you should “keep on your bookshelf, because you will find yourself going back to it many times as your multiples grow and develop into adults”.
Read the first chapter
Introduction: how one became three
Like everyone else, I began life as a fertilized egg. But mine—well, mine kept on splitting. One became multiple.
This book is everything I have learned from being an identical triplet, everything I’ve ever wondered about and everything I wish my parents had read before my sisters and I came into the world. It’s the book I wish someone had thrusted into my hand as a teenager and that everyone around me had read. In short, it’s what I hope is a funny but also secretly serious look at what it means to be a multiple, whether identical or fraternal.
This book is a parental battle guide to twins and triplets
I began thinking about writing this book when I turned 31. That’s when it hit me. It could have been me: that was my mother’s age when we were born. It’s also the time I realized that if I were to offer any advice at all, I had to be able to speak only as someone’s child and not already be a parent who, let’s face it, would know better than dish out advice left, right and center to anyone juggling multiple babies.
Indeed, I drafted most this book before I had a child of my own, which at times means an author with expectations on the other side of reasonable. But throughout it is a book written with lots of love for parents of multiples, meant to amuse, comfort, and above all make you think, Ah-ha, I get it now.
If you’re a parent looking for practical tips on how to foster individuality in your children and the bond between them, I got you. On the small-scale, I will tell you how to dress your children so that others can make them out as different people, why shared gifts are right up there with liver stew, homework and early bedtimes, and how to make sure a shared birthday still becomes each little person’s very special day. I’ll also tell you what psychologists say about twins’ shared social world as little, how comparisons and competitions play out, and why our quest for individuality is more driven than what most people experience.
What’s also in this book are all the things you might not think about or be aware of as a parent, like why you should scrap the word ‘separation’ for ‘pause’ whenever you ponder some alone time for your children, why your children might not perceive each other as in-built best buddies, and how to avoid the frankly bleak situation where they feel responsible for their co-multiples’ happiness at all times.
Many parents will undoubtedly find comfort in reading about the life-sustaining bond many multiples enjoy (indeed, we live longer than singletons (and that would be the Bridget Jones-y term researchers have come up with for all non-multiples) due to our close social bonds), but only going on about the wonderful bits won’t resolve the things that make it trickier than necessary to be a multiple. This book is therefore also my beef with the many myths surrounding twins and triplets, about pitfalls to steer clear of or hiccups to anticipate. Because I genuinely believe that if I can do my part in pointing out what’s clearly and obviously not working, we can deal with that and then go back to belly laughs.
And related to that, this is a book that gives some insight into a seeming twin and triplet conundrum: If we truly enjoy the closest bond between people on this planet, why do many of us opt for some geographical distance between ourselves and our fellow clones come adult life? For much of our adult lives, my triplet sisters and I have chosen to study, work and live in different countries. I once made a triplet mother cry after telling her this, for she saw a broken bond looming on the horizon for her boys if they were to spend long periods apart. On the contrary, I told her: it might enable them to hold onto their closeness.
This book is also a triplet’s quest to finding answers to all things multiple
Fellow identical twins, triplets and quads are likely to be just as baffled as I first was when I learnt that we indeed fit the very definition of a clone, that people mistake us because brains function like lazy archiving systems, pausing at whoever first fits most of the criteria, and how we really should have rooted for being either first born or first home from hospital as that multiple tends to become the parental favorite. I also hope you will enjoy hearing someone else discuss the many irks of sharing DNA, like having positively unhelpful siblings point out issues with your body because it’s their body too, of people losing all common sense in their quest to find differences where they expect there to be none, and obviously, how tricky it is at times to be perceived as potayto, potahto.
And for all fraternal multiples, who perhaps picked up this book to learn if the grass is in any way greener, I trust you will be relieved to learn that you in many ways pulled the longest straw. Researchers say your parents were more likely to let you go your own ways when little and pushed less hard on your twin identity. You might be surprised nonetheless to learn of the ‘couple’s effect’, of how nurture, that would be your environment, might have masked your true nature and that having some time apart from your co-multiple(s) as an adult might indeed have made you more like your twin.
That said, whether we share 100% (identicals) or 50% of our DNA (fraternals, just like regular siblings) with someone else, fraternals and identicals are fellow team members. We face comparable challenges and growing up as a multiple is psychologically more challenging than growing up a singleton, whether you’re of the identical or fraternal type. More so than typical siblings, we need additional help in figuring ourselves out as unique individuals. Also, the many myths about what makes up a twin makes it harder for all of us: many fraternals feel cheated of the status as ‘proper twins’ (no doubt this happens more in in France where fraternals are tactlessly known as ‘faux jumeaux’, meaning false multiples) and most multiples face the challenge of being constantly compared with just the one or two.
And, if you’re a partner of a twin or triplet hoping for some input that will help you understand the bond between multiples, it’s in here as well. You might like to jump directly to chapter 17 where I have tucked in anecdotes and research to make you immediately look more gently at your partner and where I also prove the Internet forum user ‘Twinhell’ wrong: the twin bond is not marriage kryptonite.
Worldwide there are more than 125 million living multiples. That is equivalent to the population of Mexico. So, who am I to tell you all of this?
Obviously, I don’t hold the answers to what it’s like to be a multiple. Partly because of the statistics at hand, which hold that a pair of identical twins is born every 50 seconds and reveal that one in 30 pregnancies results in twins while one in 1000 ends up as triplets.
Add to that the fact that it’s not just down to whom you ask but also at what age they are when you ask them. The experience of being a multiple is not a constant, it’s a scale. And in my life, I have slid up and down that scale.
If you’d met me at sixteen, when I was finally on my own—on the other side of the world as an exchange student in Costa Rica for a year—you would never have known I was a multiple. It was a chance to be just me in the world—there was simply no way anything would be about the three of us unless I told people about my sisters. So I didn’t. Halfway into the year, when my sister Mariann flew down from Guatemala, where she was an exchange student, for a two-week visit, people around me were startled.
“Whoa, I never knew!”
“What, there’s two of you?”
No, just the one, I recall thinking.
Yet, if you’d asked me about being a triplet at the ages of eight or ten, however, I wouldn’t have known what to answer. Self-reflection hadn’t kicked in.
“I’ve never known or been anything else,” I would have protested at your silly question before, depending on the day, also telling you:
It’s so, so much fun. While Mum and Dad were out, we raided the cupboards and made six cakes. Two were actually edible.
It’s rubbish. They beat me to our shared underwear drawer and only the bad pants were left.
They’re both really stupid.
If you had asked the four-year-old me, I wouldn’t have understood your question. I know that for a fact, because a family legend says we came running home from the playground one day to tell Mum and Dad the news: “Did you know that we’re triplets?”
“Yes,” they told us, “we knew that.”
But, between the ages of twelve and seventeen, I was hyper-aware of the fact that I was a triplet. This was the time of my life when I was trying the hardest to figure out who I was in the world, while everyone else seemed content filing me under “the triplet.” I often thought of how much easier life would have been if I’d been a singleton, a fraternal twin, or someone else, anyone else, someone who wouldn’t have been mistaken for my sisters. Someone who would be seen. Someone who wouldn’t always be compared.
And today? Today I believe I won life’s jackpot.
Thankfully, my aim is not to speak on behalf of all multiples but to make you feel what it might be like to be a multiple, especially of the identical kind. Other books on twins and triplets, prime contenders being those written by parents, will contain vast more advice on the practicalities of twins and triplets than this book. That’s not my ballgame. I am here to shed some light on the psychology of growing up a multiple, and to do so from a child’s perspective.
In this book, you will find plenty of studies and facts, but I’ve carefully tucked in anecdotes as I believe you’re more likely to remember the advice I seek to share if I tell stories rather than just letting you piece together statistics and academic studies.
Now, a little caveat before we properly begin: Most of the stories I’m told about my childhood starts with the words “one of you”. Yet, this is entirely my story. And, just like life itself, being a multiple is a messy story, full of paradoxes we all happily live with.
So, here’s ours mine.
- Foreword by Joan A. Friedman (visit Joan’s website to read the foreword)
- Introduction: One became multiple
- Chapter 1: Twinning: how one can become multiple
- Chapter 2: Why ‘how do you do it?” is the world’s most grating question for parents of multiples
- Chapter 3: Need a pep talk before having multiples? Here you go! (Listen to Kari reading this chapter in this video on YouTube)
- Chapter 4: The big baby mix-up: parents should give themselves time to bond with their multiples
- Chapter 5: Stubborn twin myths and what to tell your children
- Chapter 6: The crash-course in dressing multiples
- Chapter 7: It’s all about the pauses: why parents need to give multiples time apart
- Chapter 8: Why every day shouldn’t be a sibling playdate and how to help twins maneuver friendships
- Chapter 9: Being samebody: the pros and cons of having body doubles
- Chapter 10: Identical multiples are clones, yet allowed to differ
- Chapter 11: When your in-built buddies don’t count: why adolescence might be tougher for twins
- Chapter 12: Competition in the triplet lab: why multiples should get their own class at school
- Chapter 13: How to make a shared birthday a child’s very own
- Chapter 14: She’s the pretty one: dealing with physical comparisons
- Chapter 15: Build a bond with each child and between your singleton(s) and multiples
- Chapter 16: Leaving comparisons behind—leaving to be just me
- Chapter 17: Romantic relationships for multiples: the truth
- Chapter 18: Copacabana grandmas
- Goodbye and acknowledgements
- Further reading
«What sets this wonderful book apart from others on multiples, is it is written from a triplet child’s perspective (albeit a now adult one), and provides a refreshingly new approach to understanding the sometimes fascinating, often challenging world, of being born as a multiple.» (Kirsty Saxon, Multiples NZ)
«A must-read for parents and parents-to-be of multiples. Keep a copy on the bookshelf, because you will find yourself going back to it many times as your multiples grow and develop into adults.» (The International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations)
«An extraordinary book, deftly written with humor, authenticity, humanity, and insight. An incredible compilation of parenting tips and advice for parents of multiples and multiples themselves. (Joan A. Friedman, author of Emotionally Healthy Twins)
«It’s not often you learn something whilst feeling like you are having so much fun but this book hits the spot. I’m sure lots of parents and multiples alike will get something from the highly entertaining stories within.» (Keith Reed, Twins Trust)
«A truly entertaining yet chock-full-of-awesome-advice book.» (Lucie’s List)
«Written with just the right amount of humor and the interwoven personal anecdotes, Parent like a Triplet is a must-read for new parents of twins and triplets.» (Joleen Greenwood, author of Identical Twins: Adult Reflections on the Twinship Experience)
«What a delightful read! Parent like a Triplet offers invaluable insight into what it is like to grow up as an identical multiple.» (Dara Lovitz, author of Twinsight)
«A multiple parents bible to come back to again and again! The insight that Kari’s book provides is unlike any dry textbook you get handed in the doctor’s office when you first see the multiple flutters of heartbeats. (Elly Turner, mother of identical triplets)
«Kari’s book is the ‘bible’ I have been missing. An honest, heartfelt, positive and uplifting book about life as a multiple that will change how you parent your twins or triplets.» (Sandra Moberg Ryan, mother of identical triplets)