If you’re having trouble identifying identical twins, read our article about a mother’s experience for helpful tips and advice.
I was at a basketball game recently with Eric, one of my identical twin boys. A girl walked by him and said, “Bye, Eric.” I was momentarily thrilled that she knew which twin he was until I heard the dreaded, “or Earl.” I asked Eric if that happened often. He shrugged his shoulders and said “yes.”
Telling identical twins apart is often no easy task. It’s especially difficult after birth. Fortunately for my husband, our extended families and me, one of my twins was born with a birthmark on his neck. Since it was technically more of a mole than a traditional birthmark, we made a quick assumption. “Mole” meant ” Eric.” Life was simple – that is, until Eric wore a collared shirt. Then we were in trouble.
One of the things we did, which is quite common, was to assign each twin a color. In our case, Earl usually wore clothes with green and Eric with blue. We also paid quite a bit of attention to their personalities. As many moms will attest, twins generally develop a personality in the womb. In the case of my twins, Eric seemed to be pretty calm but Earl was another story – very active. Even at delivery, Earl was the one who required more attention. These traits still continue today. Eric is easygoing and Earl needs just an extra bit of attention, whether he’s injured, sad or full of gusto.
Take a look to learn more about types of twins : Fraternal vs. Identical Twins – What’s the Difference
There are many ways parents can tell their identical twins apart. It became very obvious to us that our boys had different cries. We could always accurately tell who was crying, even through a baby monitor riddled with interference. The personalities seemed to come through, and the sounds themselves were different.
Many parents are also able to tell identical twins apart by the size and shape of their faces. Eric is slightly larger than Earl and has a rounder face. That was true when he was born and is still true today, despite their growth spurts, exercise and eating habits, etc. Earl’s face is a little more chiseled.
Sometimes parents have to depend on tricks for telling their babies apart. Many a parent has painted a toenail or kept hospital bracelets on for a period of time. Designating a color for each child is also popular. So is dressing them differently. Some have even sewed identifying tags on the outside of clothing to help them figure out who is who.
Another trick we used when capturing childhood and family memories is that we always had Earl positioned on the left side and Eric on the right. That way we never had to study faces or look for birthmarks – at least in photographs.
Looking for tiny physical differences can be a big help. Our boys happen to be mirror twins. Each boy has a little bump on the edge of one ear. If they face each other, like they were facing a mirror, the bump is on the same side. These bumps are often a clue for us.
While we know our boys are identical (we had their DNA tested), we can always find other small physical distinctions. After birth, we soon discovered that Earl had a light “café au lait” mark on his face. He also has more freckles, especially across his nose. In school and sports photographs, Eric always drops his chin. Eric’s hair is flatter while Earl’s hair will almost go “Elvis” on us. Earl can have a more pensive demeanor while Eric is generally always cheerful. And their voices are definitely different.
As a parent, I always felt my identicals didn’t look identical at all. Yes, the features are similar, but the boys look very different to me. I am always a bit shocked when people, even grandparents on occasion, say they can’t tell them apart. And now that Eric has had his mole removed, I’m sure it’s even harder. Our biggest crutch is gone!
Ask any set of identical twins and they’ll tell you that it’s important for people to take the time to get to know them and to be able to recognize them as individuals. After all, no matter what the DNA says, no two people are exactly alike.