Twins Switched After Birth
Twins Switched After Birth
December 20, 2011
Someone recently asked me how parents of identical twin babies can tell them apart. My first reaction was that even identical twins have tiny differences that a parent would notice. And I’m sure parents of twins have a labeling system. How hard could it be?
Then I reflected on how many times – in other walks of life – the average person screws up incredibly simple tasks with no provocation whatsoever. In all likelihood, lots of twin babies have been accidentally switched at home, thanks to tired mothers, careless fathers, forgetful grandparents, and disgruntled babysitters.
I can imagine being in that situation myself. I’d strip down both babies to give them an efficient and simultaneous diaper change, and say to myself Remember the one on the right is Ryan. Right is Ryan. Right is Ryan. I’d be all proud of my memory trick right up until it was time to dress them in their identifiable outfits. Then I’d be wondering if the memory trick was right is Ryan or Bob is Nearest the Bed. I’d be too embarrassed to tell my wife I mixed up the babies and I’d settle it with a coin toss.
I know, I know. You’re going to say twin babies usually have ankle bracelets or some sort of identifier that can’t be screwed up. But no system is perfect. Sooner or later, my wife would hand me a new set of baby bracelets and ask me to change out the old ones. My incompetence is like rain on a flat roof. If there’s a hole, I’ll find it.
Anyway, back to the original question: Does it really matter if you mix up the twin babies after you bring them home? I gave the question some brief but intense thought, and I concluded that it didn’t matter at all. Arguably, all you’re doing is switching the names of the babies, and not the babies themselves. It’s the ultimate victimless crime. And yet it still seems very wrong.
If you’re the father of adult identical twins, here’s a good prank to play on your spouse. One day, out of nowhere, casually confess that decades ago you switched the babies’ bracelets when they were three weeks old just to see if your wife would notice. Explain that when she didn’t notice the switch, you didn’t bother to fix it, figuring it didn’t matter. You might want to record your wife’s reaction on a hidden camera. That could be gold.
This seems like a good time to remind you not to get marriage advice from cartoonists.
On a related note, I’m wondering why there has never been a movie about identical twin criminals. One twin might commit crimes in front of witnesses, and on security video, and yet no jury could ever get past reasonable doubt. The trick is to make sure the other twin has no alibi at the time of the crime.
This is also a good time to remind you that you shouldn’t embark on a crime spree based on the advice of cartoonists, no matter how awesome it might be.
And yes, I’m still running for president of the United States. There’s a good chance I’ll forget the nuclear codes and accidentally disarm the country. But consider who I might be running against. Ron Paul would stop guarding the nukes. Newt would scare North Korea into a preemptive attack. Obama has been bitch-slapping Pakistan for months, probably because he stopped smoking. There’s no clear choice here.