Seeing Double

Identical twins Evan and Shane Thompson, 11, share a love of adventure for activities like dirt biking, but insist they remain individuals despite identical lists of activities, sports, interests and even school classes. - Cynthia Woolbright
Identical twins Evan and Shane Thompson, 11, share a love of adventure for activities like dirt biking, but insist they remain individuals despite identical lists of activities, sports, interests and even school classes.
— image credit: Cynthia Woolbright

Evan and Shane Thompson, 11, don’t see the resemblance between them at all.

They don’t see the matching dirty blonde hair, similar body frames and almost mirroring smiling faces.

To them, they are just brothers. Ask them how they differ past their staggering similarities and they’ll be happy to tell you, beyond their genes, they’re nothing alike.

Shane is older by 15 minutes. Evan is hyper and Shane more intellectual. Evan is sensitive and Shane is assertive. They ride different dirt bikes, wear different jersey numbers for football and soccer, and Shane is good at science, while Evan isn’t.

The Thompson boys are among the hundred of sets of multiples who are born each year. In 2002 alone, 132,535 individual multiples were born, according to a Centers for Disease Control annual report. Of that 125,134 were twins and 6,898 were triplets. Of the 4,021,726 total U.S. births 3.1 percent are twins, according to the same CDC report.

On South Whidbey, it’s easy to see double. Stop by a local school and experience deja vu because there’s a handful of twins at each. Head to the park and witness double the toddler trouble.

Double delivery

Jill and Mark Winford of Freeland are just getting a taste for life with twins. Their children, Andrew and Catherine, were born March 24, 2004.

The first three months were an endurance race for the Winfords, already proud parents of Jack, 4.

“The nursing was a constant endeavor,” she said.

But already, Jill Winford is learning a twin parenting essential: ask for help.

“It’s so incredibly different than having one baby at once,” she said.

In the midst of the double diaper duty and double feedings, Mark Winford feels he and his wife benefitted.

“We bonded more,” he said. “If there’s only one child only one parent is needed at one time, but here both of us are needed.”

Andrew and Catherine Winford are fraternal twins. They were conceived when separate eggs in their mother’s womb became fertilized, resulting in two completely distinct pregnancies in the womb at the same time.

“I don’t see raising twins as any different from any other good parenting,” Jill Winford said. “We always try to treat them as brother and sister who happen to be born at the same time.”

Identical twins, such as the Thompsons, occur when a single egg splits into two. DNA testing or blood-typing is the only way to determine whether multiples are look-alike fraternals or identicals.

Since identicals Cassie and Courtney Bosman of Langley came into the world, everything’s pretty much been the same. They were both born Aug. 10, 1990 to Larry and Brenda Bosman. Both weighed 4 pounds 10 ounces. Fourteen years later, things remain the same.

They both play soccer, softball, run cross country, track and snowboard. They both like shop class. They might go to the same college, but are still deciding.

When they were infants they shared the same crib, would hold their heads up to find each other, and eventually would hold hands. But, 14 years later, Courtney can’t wait to have her own room.

Although the teenagers might be double the trouble at times, Brenda Bosman said twins have actually made her life easier.

“Because they like the same things and are in the same sports, I take them to the same places instead of having to run around,” she said.

Whether a mom of twins or “singletons,” as non-multiples are called, Bosman said it’s necessary to find how to do activities cheaply. Her family don’t try-out for expensive sports teams and heads to the mountains midweek for the reduced rate.

Twins, not really

Peter and Paul Hayes both tilt their head to the left, both deep in thought during a conversation Thursday. When the phone rings, Paul hands Peter the phone and an unknowing child is told by his uncle — not his father — that he can go play at a friend’s house.

“He didn’t even know it was me,” Peter Hayes laughed.

Ask Peter and Paul Hayes if they’re twins and they’ll emphatically say, “no.”

Yes they’re born on the same day, the same year, and roughly the same time. But they are identical twins within a triplet set.

Peter was born first, then Paul, and lastly sister Peggy, July 7, 1962 in Baraboo Wis. They are the middle three children in a family of 10 to parents Mildred and John.

Peter and Paul are literally mirror images of each other, officially classified as “mirror-image” twins. Their noses crook in opposite directions, they’re right and left handed, and they often raise opposite eyebrows. Peter, a teacher at the Whidbey Island Waldorf School, is artistic while Paul, a software technician, tends to be analytical.

At their age, they are able to understand what younger twins go through during their adolescence and what they will soon miss.

“Something about that changes as a person matures,” Peter Hayes said. “Before it felt like we were one person in two bodies. Now as adults it’s different — we grew into two different halves of the same person.”

When they were younger, one of the two would pick up the phone to call the other, only to find his brother picking up the phone at the same time.

“It wouldn’t even ring,” Peter said. “I would just know something was wrong or he was upset.”

It was in college they found a downside to being twins.

“I’d lay down all this ground work to get a girl to date me, but when she found out I was a twin, she’d end up dating my brother,” Peter said. “This kept happening.”

At 11, the Thompson boys already understand.

“Make sure your girlfriend doesn’t call your twin ugly,” they said. “We’ve had that happen.”

The Hayes brothers admit to switching places in school, and even while wearing different football jerseys, no one noticed.

“I’ve always felt that was part of the program of being twins,” Paul said.

They still do twin pranks now, only unintentionally.

One day, Peter was on the ferry and gave his wife a kiss. Someone thought it was Paul and walked up asking what the couple was doing together.

“They kept wanting to know why I wasn’t with my wife,” he said.

Polar opposites

While they’re not polar opposites, Ashton and Lynda “Keppi” Ross aren’t identical either. The Ross girls are part of another distinct type of twins known as “polar twins,” meaning they have different physical characteristics even though they were conceived when a single egg split.

When they were first born, Keppi said, it was difficult to tell them apart. But today, people often have no clue, or question when they claim to be twins.

“’Huh? You’re a twin,’ is the usual response,” Ashton said.

Looking at the girls, they couldn’t appear more different. Their mother, Donnalee Paul, will report they don’t exactly act the same either. The Differences began when Keppi fell during her first attempt at walking. Ashton gave it a try and ran. Keppi swam first and swallowed water; Ashton dove in and swam laps. Keppi fell off her bike when learning to ride; and Ashton pulled the training wheels off and rode away. Keppi wouldn’t talk, so Ashton was the interpreter. Keppi is daring, funky and sometimes elegant in her attire, while Ashton is a T-shirt and jeans girl who wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. Ashton, an eighth-grader at Langley middle School prefers math, Keppi, a ninth-grader at South Whidbey High School, prefers physical education.

“It used to be annoying because there was always someone there copying me and following me around,” Keppi Ross said. “But I’ve also always appreciated someone being there for me.”

Whether he similarities are apparent or not, most twins are sensitive about that label. In the case of Evan and Shane Thompson, the boys want to be considered as individuals first.

“We’re not ‘the twins,’ we’re Evan and Shane,” Evan Thompson said.

Yes, it’s Courtney and Cassie, Evan and Shane, Peter and Paul, Andre and Catherine, Ashton and Keppi. They’re individuals, who just happen to share genes or who were born the same time.

“Remember, twins are just people living in odd circumstance,” Peter Hayes said.

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