Two, Because We’re Twins

Our children present an interesting mirror to us. We might catch glimpses of our younger selves in them, reflect upon our experience at their age, or imagine our parents’ experience now that those shoes are on our feet. The Ella Zoo is as much about being a parent as it is about the antics and attributes of a growing girl.

My first born, my beautiful little Ella, gave birth to my motherhood. As a new mom, I learned alongside her, slowly pulling myself up to my parent stature. Although now it seems obvious, one of the things that took time to realize was how a unique aspect of my and my husband’s childhoods would influence our parenting. My husband and I are both identical twins.

No, my twin sister did not marry my husband’s twin brother.

And yes, I assumed a question and answered it.

Because I expect questions whenever it is revealed that we are twins. For example, my husband and I are also often asked, Did you have twins? (No. Our two children are both singles.) But when we were younger, in reference to our siblings, it was always: Who is taller? Who was born first? Who is smarter?

Comparison was not only inevitable— people marveled at how incredibly alike my sister and I were—but also necessary in order to tell us apart from one another.

I was taller. She was thinner. I was better at sports and art. She was better at math and history. I was older, by five minutes.

I love being a twin. But I am also an individual.

Born of this experience was my desire to be recognized without being set apart as less than or greater than my sister. Surely there was something about me that might simply be me. And so by being identical, I learned to value difference.

It was not something I expected to draw upon to parent my two very different children. But eventually I realized, though more direct for twins, comparison was inevitable and frustrating for all children. As a mother, I needed to remember to offer what had been so important to me: to allow ample freedom for their changing natures, recognize their emerging selves, and celebrate them as masters of their individuality.

That was how the child in me became the most suitable mother for my children.

Chicken or the Egg

How could any mother put one of her children first?

In the time since I published my book, the question I most often hear is, “Are you going to write another?” My answer is immediate and honest, “Of course I am.” The second half of my response is admittedly crafted for social ease and so is both brief and inadequately simple, “After all I have two children. I need to write one for my son.”

Sometimes, mothers gasp. Admittedly, I have written a love story of a book dedicated to one child and not the other. There’s a reason for this, of course. It may have a little to do with Ella being my first born, but my transformation from designer into author involved more, just as the transformation from woman into mother involved more than pregnancy and birth.

Which is why, following one of the many insights gleaned from parenthood—learning to put myself first on occasion—my second book now in progress will be a novel.

But, my first book will always be uniquely special. The Ella Zoo is my favorite love story. Not the girl meets boy variety where over time two once unknowns become closer and closer until they are one. It is that story in reverse. How a woman finally meets the one she’s always known she would love but the child, who was once literally one with the woman, grows increasing independent until one day, she leaves home. The ideal motherhood is the immense joy of witnessing the creation of a successful adult. And it is the most miraculous love story of all time.

Now, after a few gasps, I’m ready to share a revised and much longer second half of my response. Briefly, although about Ella, The Ella Zoo is much more. It is about motherhood and so, while there will be a third book to dedicate eventually, my first book was always equally about my son and the attention he received that too often my beautiful, strong and fiercely independent daughter once did not, not as obviously.

Follow my blog as I share my parenthood story behind The Ella Zoo and my first borns.