We all know it’s challenging to be a new mom. Now, imagine having not just one baby, but two or even three! If you are a parent of twins or triplets, you should make sure to mark 20 February in your calendar. That’s when the new book “Parent like a Triplet” by Norwegian identical triplet Kari Ertresvag is out, offering a rare first-hand glimpse into what it really feels like to grow up a multiple, especially an identical twin or a triplet.
While not out yet, the book’s already won over many a twin expert and parent of multiple, who describe it as “a bible for parents of multiples”, “funny, honest and heartfelt” and “like having a conversation with an old friend”. The International Council of Multiple Birth Associations has even put a picture of the book on the front page of its website, telling parents to “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.”
We asked author Kari a few questions:
1) Your book seems to have struck a chord with parents of multiples and twin experts. Why do you think that is?
The book is built up around stories, with psychologist insights and research interwoven with personal anecdotes. I hope that makes for quite an entertaining read for sleep-deprived parents, and I also believe that the stories make for a more persuasive read, as you then better understand the reason behind the advice and reflections as an adult.
2) Is your book only for parents of multiples or does it include tips also for parents with just one child?
It’s first and foremost written for parents of twins and triplets and anyone interested in the psychology of multiples, but there’s also insights that would benefit any child with a sibling. A friend with daughters aged three and five, said it was an eye-opener in terms of avoiding comparisons between her children and making sure she set aside some special mummy time with each of them separately so they would be seen just on their own.
3) What is the main difference in parenting multiples besides the fact that you only have two hands and too much work?
It’s psychologically more challenging to grow up a twin or a triplet. We need additional help in figuring ourselves out as unique individuals. All children need to eventually separate from their parents to become complete, little people. We multiples have this process a few times over – we need to learn to be on our own apart from our twin(s), to rely on ourselves and feel we can be our own persons.
Parents need to be aware of how life as a multiple is often one under a magnifying glass. As one researcher put it, “Only multiples have the burden of being born together so that every stage of their development can be compared directly with their multiple siblings.”
In the book I go through how parents may end up exaggerating differences and assign personality traits too early, leading to self-fulfilling prophecies. I also look at how friendships are different for twins, why adolescence might be tougher, why just being a multiple increases our chances of an eating disorder, how being a twin or a triplet might complicate romantic relationships, and numerous other issues so that parents can tackle these head-on.
5) What are the pros and cons of being a multiple? And are there differences between twins and triplets? I know several twins who have identity struggles because they are constantly compared to each other, they attend the same school etc. Is it better to be three?
I believe I won life’s jackpot and research also shows that the close social bonds between multiples mean we live longer than most. But, one of my aims has been to nuance that picture. Because only going on about the wonderful bits won’t resolve the things that make it trickier than necessary to be a multiple. As an example, the perception of the twin bond as the holy grail of relationships make some parents hesitant to let their children have time apart and can lead other parents to think they can’t invite only one twin or one triplet to playdates, meaning that these invites might dwindle down to nil.
While triplets, at least identical ones, are likely to get more attention than twins, I believe triplets at times have it easier than twins. There’s research that indicates that twins are more dependent on each other than triplets. As one researcher said: “Twins only have each other while triunity gives more choices.” I get that. Over the years, I’ve had someone else I could turn to if I was upset with one sister: my other sister. Also, I’ve often thought of the twin world as one that runs on the binary system, while triplets more often end up on a spectrum when people start comparing. Being a trio throws people off the scent. No matter how hard someone tries to pin you down, there is often one category missing and it’s also harder to keep track of three people’s labels at all times.
6) You have cooperated with several specialists on the book, can you tell us who they were and what is their field?
Psychologist and identical twin Joan A. Friedman, one of the world’s leading twin experts has written my book’s foreword. Joan was the expert I nodded along to while doing research for my book, as she is very clear on the need for parents to nurture individuality and how in the end it comes down to giving twins the same choices in life as singletons.
In addition to insight from twin psychologists such as Joan, I’ve included insight from twin studies, the field of epigenetics and even forensic cognition, which helped explain that people mistake us because brains function like lazy archiving systems. I also found it interesting to learn that, for adults, just knowing that children are multiples seems to affect the memory, so that identifying them as individuals and calling them by their names becomes an impossibility. And obviously, if you knowingly add to that confusion by playing up the twin gimmick, you’re not lending other people a hand in differentiating and knowing your children.
7) What is the big take-away for those who read your book?
Here’s one that’s quite easy to remember: If it smacks of being gimmicky, don’t do it. If it helps to distinguish, do so.
“Parent like a Triplet” is available to pre-order on Amazon and will be out on 20 February. If you’d like to read a bit already you can download the first chapter for free from www.parentlikeatriplet.com. You can also find Kari online on Instagram and Facebook.