twins moms talking

“He’s The Easy One” vs. “He’s Easy” — Do You Hear the Difference?

At a recent playground outing, my friend, another twin parent, was complaining about a streak of bad behavior from her twin son, who had just turned three. He was hitting his twin sister, not following the house rules about where he may eat food, and seemed to cry at the tiniest obstacle. My friend was confused because, prior to this recent spell, her son had been very pleasant and easy-going.

She said, “I don’t know what’s going on — he used to be the easy one!”

I understood what she meant — her son, in comparison to her daughter, had been much easier to manage. But I cringed when I heard the phrase “the ____ one,” which I myself have said in the past about my twins. I know it’s not the best way to express the sentiment.

Here’s why:

Imagine 14-year old twins hearing a parent’s friend comment, “Ohhhh…so he’s the academic one.” The twin adolescent who was not labeled “academic” hears that he is perceived to be not academic. What does that make him then? What is the opposite of being academic? Does it make him “not smart” or “less smart” by default? What’s the point in trying to get better grades? he might wonder. This is how people perceive me – it must be true. My brother is the academic one, the smart one. I am the non-academic one, the dumb one. Not only do labels represent people’s ill-conceived perceptions, they have the dangerous consequence of leading to self-fulfilling prophecies. What’s the use in studying and doing homework? I’m not the smart one anyway….

In sum, by saying “the ___ one,” you risk unintentionally implying that the other twin is the opposite of the description. Imagine the converse of “the pretty one,” “the athletic one,” etc. It’s not exactly a self-esteem booster.

What the twins say:

Twin interviewees reported to me that comparisons made them feel angry or resentful toward not only the one who compared them, but also toward their co-twin, to whom they were being compared.

So next time you’re tempted to say “the _____ one,” remove the words “the” and “one,” and simply use the adjective. Instead of “he used to be the easy one,” say, “he used to be easy.” That will take the other twin out of the story, where she, being the entirely unique individual that she is, should properly remain.

PHOTO CREDIT: Donnie Ray Jones