Does birth order matter? Are you the oldest? The youngest? Or somewhere in the middle?
And what about the age gap? Is it a year that separates you from your siblings? Or ten?
How much do those two facts make us who we are? How much do they inform our personalities, our status within the family, our lives?
Is L who L is (and am I who I am when I parent her) because she's the eldest? Because she was nineteen months old when she stopped being an only child?
Am I who I am when I parent her (and when I don't) because I'm the eldest too? Because I was two and a quarter when I stopped being an only child?
And if that order and that gap matter, what about when the gap is only a minute? Does it matter who's the elder then?
What about these two? Who's the younger here?
One of these pictures was taken at 10.10 am on Thursday 11 December 2008; the other at 10.11.
They may, or may not, be in the right order.
I know who's who. I know who's older. I know who's the "big (and little) sister". They, as far as I am aware, don't.
My father is nearly 71. He is ten minutes older than his brother. As a fraction of their age, that difference is *reaches for calculator and one remaining brain cell* 0.000019 (I think).
Does it matter? Oh yes. You hear them, on the telephone across the Irish Sea, bickering like my three year olds. And the clinching argument?
I'm the oldest.
Here's a fact. My girls were born by c-section. In theory,
therefore, the surgeon could have just grabbed the nearest one. Birth
order set by convenience. But she didn't. They don't. They go, deliberately and by
choice, for "Twin A". The lead twin. The one whose head, unchanging (I am told) from your
earliest scans, is nearer the cervix. The one who would have come first
however they were born.
You can say it doesn't matter. But if that's true, why do they go to that trouble? It's not as though we've got a title to inherit...
So should we tell A and S? It's not a big secret. It can't be. It's on their birth certificate, as it is legally required to be. (In England. In Scotland time of birth is on the birth certificate for everyone.).
They will find out, anyway. Either when they see their birth certificates or because someone (probably L, and no, I don't know how she knows, will tell them). And at first, I wasn't that bothered. I felt it was just a fact, and not one to get het up about. But as they have got older and as they continue to jostle for position, to find a level with each other and in the family, I find I don't want to give them a fixed hierarchy, an immutable fact that makes one, whichever one, "better" or "worse".
I find, now, that if adults ask, which, occasionally, they do, I bristle. Why does it matter? I want to say, although what I actually say is mumble or Oh! Look! A thing! But I find myself increasingly reluctant to answer, which I would have done, and did, quite happily when they were tiny.
My brother and sister-in-law, who also have twins, claim they can't remember who was born first. Now clearly that's nonsense (it's on their birth certificates too, after all), but I wonder whether it's not actually quite a good line to take.
Age gap? I will say. What age gap? You were born at the same time. You're twins. That's what twins are.
And when the biological confusion that will create all gets too much I will tell them that in France they (apparently) say that the second twin to be born is the elder. After all, he or she must have gone in first...