If there’s one issue that seems to prompt a lot of debate amongst twin mums, it’s birthdays. There are some very strong opinions regarding who to invite, how much cake to give them, and how many presents to provide – and even whether to have a party at all. I find it all a bit mystifying, to be honest: maybe everybody could just do what they want? For what it’s worth, here’s my take on some of the ‘issues’. If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to read any further, the remainder of this blog post can be summarised thus: “Do whatever the hell you want”. I’ll talk about our birthday experiences in a separate post (or else this post will be 5,000 words long, and you’ll miss your own children’s birthdays while reading it). And – obviously – this is all just my opinion. DO.WHAT.YOU.WANT. I won’t judge, and nor will anybody else worth worrying about.
“Oh my God, my babies are turning one! Do I have to have a big party, like everybody else I know seems to want to do?”
It’s true that a lot of twin parents choose to have a big celebration for their babies’ first year, even though there will inevitably be miserable people muttering about how the children themselves don’t even know what’s going on. That’s not really the point: for most parents, it’s more of a ‘holy shit, we’ve survived the first year with twins – high five to us’ commemoration, and a good excuse to get together with friends and family. I think everybody, singleton and multiple parents alike, deserves a bit of a moment where you high five yourself like this: babies are hard work.
“Oh my GOD, my twins are now turning two/three/four! Do we need to have a huge party? Why do people have such big parties for their kids? It’s so over the top! It puts so much pressure on parents! It’s just showing off!”
This is where a lot of twin mums need to breathe into a brown paper bag and calm themselves down. You do NOT have to throw your kids a party. At least one of my friends chooses to not throw parties for her kids – her singleton daughter had her first birthday party when she turned five, and her twins haven’t had a party. Other friends have continued the ‘birthday play date’ approach, just inviting a few friends. And other people have had big parties at home, or big parties elsewhere. It’s all good: everybody should do what they want, and everybody should also not care about what anybody else does! If you genuinely think that people are judging you for having a big party, or not having a big party, then I’d gently suggest that you need to think about your relationships with your twin mum friends, because if that kind of Judgey McJudgerson behaviour is going on it is not nice at all. Surely the important thing in all of this is getting together with your kids, their little friends, and their lovely parents, and having a bit of fun?
(Spoiler alert: we like parties, so we have a big one each year. Even though it means quite a lot of work for me, I like organising it and I love being at parties, so it’s a pleasure to do it.)
“Do we really need two cakes? That’s so much cake!”
It is a lot of cake. Here’s my advice: remember that it’s easy to go up to two cakes later, but it’s pretty difficult to go from two cakes down to a shared cake once your kids have fervent tastes regarding cake decoration, so start as you mean to continue. There would be a full revolt in our house if I suggested that we have just one cake now, but I’m going to prime my friends to bring an empty Tupperware container to the kids’ upcoming party, so they can each take a decent chunk of cake home with them – otherwise we eat cake for two weeks after the party.
“Holy shit, am I expected to actually make the cakes? Other Mums’ cakes look like something off Pinterest – bugger that for a game of soldiers…”
Again, do what you want! Buy the cakes from the supermarket, or buy them from a professional, or bake them from scratch, or bake them from a mix. And decorate them with icing, or fondant, or lollies, or whatever else your heart desires and you can be bothered actually doing.
But here’s the thing: once you’ve ordered in the cakes and saved yourself a couple of days of fiddly decorating work, it is VERY hard to contemplate ever making the cakes again.
“But throwing a party is so expensive! Who can afford that kind of thing?”
We afford it by putting a small amount each payday into a dedicated ‘celebrations’ bank account. From that, we pay for room hire, bouncy castle hire (super cheap through our awesome multiple birth club), the cakes – oh, and literally all of Hattie and Joe’s birthday presents and Christmas presents, plus all other birthday presents we buy throughout the year for friends and family members. It’s the way forward, people.
“Ah yes – PRESENTS!!! How many presents do people take when twins have a party?”
This is where there is a very big divide amongst twin mums – so much so that it’s quite funny to read any posts about this question on multiples-related Facebook groups. Twin mums seem to be divided into two camps:
Camp 1: each child celebrating a birthday should receive a present from each child attending the birthday. In other words, if a set of twins attend a set of twins’ birthday party, the poor mother of the twins attending the party should buy four presents for the event – two per birthday child.
Camp 2: each child celebrating a birthday should receive a present from each family attending – so, when twins attend twins’ parties, the attending family bring two presents – one per birthday child.
I am firmly in Camp 2. The idea of buying four presents seems crazy to me, and thankfully it’s not even something that my twin mum friends and I have had to discuss: we’re all on the same page with it. I can understand the situation if you’re taking twins to a singleton’s birthday party – then, the argument goes that, when the singleton comes to your twins’ birthday, they’d bring them a present each, so your twins should therefore take a present each in order to keep things reciprocal.
Another related issue is all about whether twins should be given a shared present, and the general consensus is that no, they shouldn’t: they’re individuals, presumably with individual interests and tastes, and should be treated as such. But – again – do what you want. If you know the kids’ mother well, ask her. They might really want a big board game or something, and given that they’re around $50 a pop these days, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to buy that as the sole present.
“Do we need party bags, and a face painter, and all that stuff? Can’t the kids just play?”
Yes, most definitely – and especially if you’re having the party at home and there are lots of toys lying around. I think kids are so excited by a party at all, and by all of the sugary food they get to eat, that they really don’t notice at this (under-fives) age what’s going on. So if you can’t be bothered with any of that stuff, I can assure that the kids won’t care, and the other parents will be happy too – less ‘stuff’ to clutter up their living rooms!
However, if you’re having the party in a community hall without any playground or other play facilities, you probably want to think about something for the kids can do. Playing music on your phone for a few games of Musical Statues can easily do the trick, plus a round of pass the parcel (with grownups’ help if you’re dealing with people aged three and under) – and a lollipop under every layer of wrapping is a smart move to avoid meltdowns.
“We live a very healthy sugar-free life, and little Tarquin has never tasted chocolate. Can we please all agree to not have lots of sugary stuff at the parties?”
Good luck with that. I make my peace with it by reasoning that my kids don’t eat fairy bread and cupcakes every day, so having it once it a while won’t kill them. And you can easily include options like fresh fruit kebabs, and savoury sandwiches, in order to balance things out a bit. Of course, if your child has serious dietary issues it will be good to let the party-throwing mother know that, and she may well do her best to accommodate it (or you can bring some food yourself, which is often the safer route when serious allergies are a factor). At the kids’ third birthday party we had a set of twins with food allergies, and I did manage to include two or three options that they could eat, so they were happy with that. They couldn’t eat the birthday cakes, however.
AND THE BIGGEST ISSUE OF ALL:
“Oh my GOD: one of my twins has been invited to a birthday [usually of a singleton kindy friend, and probably even more often once kids start school], and the other one hasn’t! What should we do? Has the singleton’s mother just made a mistake? Doesn’t she KNOW that I’ve got twins? How can I expect one child to stay at home while the other one is at a party? Maybe we should just skip the party entirely? ARGH!!!!”
I’m hardly even exaggerating here – I’ve read posts from twin mums that really do sound like that. And I freely admit that it isn’t a situation that’s affected us yet, and I’m sure that it might be a source of temporary contention when it does finally happen. But come on, people! Other children are free to invite (or not invite) anybody they choose, just like our kids are free to do. As parents of twins, we spend so much time talking about how important it is for people to respect them as individuals – but, as soon as it happens, half of us are outraged. We can’t have it both ways. I think it is a real shame if the twin who was invited misses the opportunity in order to appease the child who wasn’t invited. It may be tough, but that’s life: we don’t always get included in everything, and our kids need to develop sufficient resilience to cope with it – we, as parents, should help and support them to do that, rather than enabling them to view everything as ‘not fair’ if they don’t get exactly the same opportunities and experiences as their siblings.
And besides, another big issue for a lot of twin parents is the challenge of spending time with our children separately. If you’re dealing with pre-schoolers most parents still attend parties with their kids, but once they’re big school kids, being dropped off at the party is totally normal – so you could drop off one twin and go and do something lovely with the other one! Hooray!