Which twin is older? (and should you tell them)

Joe Rawlinson by Joe Rawlinson - May 22, 2019

As a parent of twins, I’m pretty sure that you know the answer to the question “which twin is older?”

It is, of course, the child that was born first.

Which twin is older? (and should you tell them)

Should you tell your twins which twin is the oldest?

One of your twins is older than the other. But should you tell them who is older?

Even though twins are born on the same day, one of them’s coming out of mom before the other. They could be seconds apart (but more likely a couple of minutes apart), depending on the type of delivery.

Strangers or family or friends will ask, “Which twin is older?” long before your twins ask that question. I share some responses you can give strangers in a moment. But first, what to do with your twins…

Should you tell your twins who is older? We did. We did from an early age, and it hasn’t been a big deal. Now, granted, our girls aren’t teenagers yet, but even with those mischievous toddler years behind us, it hasn’t been a problem. Most twin parents I’ve talked to aren’t afraid to tell their twins which one is older.

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Telling Your Twins Who Is Older

When it comes time to tell your twins, consider a few of these things:

It might not even matter to them which twin is older. If they don’t bring it up, maybe you don’t have to bring it up either.

Alternatively, you can bring it up preemptively so that they know, “Well, you were born two minutes before your sister.”

(RELATED: Still expecting twins? Will you be having two boys, two girls, or boy/girl twins? Answer these quick questions to see what several old wives’ tales claim you’ll be having….)

In our situation, one of our identical girls was born two minutes before her sister. And we haven’t really made a big deal about it. They both know who’s the older one and who’s the younger one.

Guess what? Their birth order doesn’t seem to matter.

As a family, we take turns rotating through activities or taking turns for everything. For example, we take turns doing an activity with daddy or simply saying a family prayer. We rotate through all of our kids. There’s no discrimination against the older or the younger child in the mix.

If you as a parent don’t make a big deal about which twin is older and don’t give preferential treatment to one over the other, then your kids will follow a similar pattern. They’ll follow your example.

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make

Twin Toddlers

How to Answer the “Which Twin is Older” Question with Strangers

While this may seem obvious to you, determining which twin is older is a source of intrigue for strangers who feel prompted to ask you probing questions.

When you are at the store with the twins, a random person will ask “which one is older?”

Why does this even matter to someone who doesn’t even know my family? Are they hoping to see a difference in an older versus younger child?

Here are some ways you can respond:

(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)

“This one” or “she/he is” – this response will likely answer the questioner.

“He is [insert time] older” – so for our girls, we’d say “She is 2 minutes older.”

“Hey, they’re twins. They’re the same age. They were born on the same day.”

Twin Gender Predictor Calculator

Alternatively, you could tell a tall tale and stump the person questioning. For example, “this one is two weeks older”. At first, someone would say “OK, that’s nice.” but then be wondering how that is even possible.

Feel like talking for a while? Tell them the Nigerian legend that the oldest twin actually pushes the younger twin out of the womb. So the first born is really the youngest.

Answering the “which twin is older” question from strangers is one thing. Fielding the questions from friends, family, or the twins themselves is another story. You should discuss as a couple your approach for answering this question with people you know. You don’t want to be too snarky in your response.

Does it Matter?

Regardless of which child is older, you must ask yourself if it matters who is the older twin.

In Biblical times, the firstborn got the birthright, the inheritance, and the responsibilities those entailed. That was a big deal. If you were born second, you lost out.

(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)

Remember the story of Issac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau? Esau was older but sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for some pottage. Oops. This became a source of conflict for generations to come.

In our modern age, the oldest child typically has more responsibilities and expectations just because they are the oldest when compared to the rest of the children in the family. This dynamic is different with twins because they are the same age. You don’t want to give preferential treatment to one over the other just because of a few minutes difference.

Which of your twins is older? By how much time? Let us know in the comments.

Pictures by Donnie Ray Jones and Nathan

4 Critical Mistakes Expectant Twin Parents Make
As a parent of twins you know that the firstborn is the oldest. Should you tell your twins which twin that is? Here's how to handle this common question.

Further Reading

Dad's Guide to Raising Twins book
Don't forget to pick up a copy of the definitive guide to raising twins. "Dad's Guide to Raising Twins" was written for fathers of twins to help guide you through the first several years with twins. Click here to learn more about the book and get your copy.

24 thoughts on “Which twin is older? (and should you tell them)”

  1. Joe thanks for the article. So true! I am a dad of boy/girl twins.. They just turned 21! Who was born first has always been asked… People want to make sure “the girl” is the baby of the family…. And the older brother is the protector! They are always relieved when we confirm the birth order….. Keep up the great work!

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  2. I plan to tell my boy/girl twins that they are the same age. Since they were born by C-section, and the doctors decided which twin came out first, my hope is to downplay the “who is older” issue. We’ll see. They are only 10 months old so those questions haven’t really come up yet. 🙂

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    • @Melissa – yes, 10 months is a little early to worry about that. We haven’t made big deal out of age difference in our house and life goes on just fine.

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    • My twins are 4.5 years old now and they don’t even know which is “older.” We always answer with “We don’t say, ” and if pressed I politely say that if they were born by c-section, they often come out differently than if they were born vaginally. The way ours kids were born impacts the answer so it doesn’t really matter.

      They’re usually stumped and have learned something new so they’re happy enough by that point. If they press harder, I ask what’s wrong with them and why it matters so much.

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  3. My boys are 5 months. But 3 lbs difference in weight so I always say big and little brother.
    Funny thing. The bigger boy is older…..1 whole minute!!!!!!!
    Forever I’m going to say older and little bro.
    Love it.

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  4. I have ID boys, conceived at one time and split into two babies. They are the same age. When people ask who is older, I answer that they are the same age. When asked who was *born* first, I answer Baby A. I’m really baffled that there can be any other answer for ID twins.

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  5. The question has always baffled me. I have boy girl twins, 8 months. Baby a is our boy who was born first, but our girl was older in utero.. by two days. Looking at them developmentally, I’d estimate she’s half a month ahead of him with almost everything- she’s also bigger. In telling strangers that our little boy is older, I often get responses along the lines of, “but she’s bigger?”
    Oh! And I LOVE it when people ask if they’re identical

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  6. My ‘eldest’ son was born 2 minutes before his younger brother, but at almost 2 years old he’s several inches shorter due to some growth issues and still doesn’t have any hair, whereas his brother has a full head of curly locks. People ask us how much older the younger brother is, and are always shocked when i answer that they are twins!

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  7. Due to emergency cesarean, our boys were actually born at the same time, each had their own set of medical personnel. However, on the birth certificate they are listed as 1 minute apart for some hospital policy.

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  8. Joe,

    My boys are 3 months old. People ask…..”are they twins?”……I reply that it was a BOGOF “Birth one…get one free ” offer……

    While they try to get around that, they ask “who is older?”……I reply….” The boys are deliberating on that, they’ll revert with a response”

    Reply
  9. We’ll talk about it with them. The wife’s family has a thing where the mother tells them their birth story in their birthdays, so they’ll get the full story.

    They swapped baby A & B designations on the C-section day, so the one that was supposed to be first came out second.

    Funny thing was we had picked out what we wanted the first one to be named, but when it switched babies it didn’t match him. So, we swapped them.

    We tell people, because it’s no big deal to us. It’s just 2 minutes.

    Reply
    • @Doshy – That’s interesting that they got swapped due to the c-section. Your plan to sharing with the twins sounds great. As you said, it is just 2 minutes.

      Reply
  10. I am an identical twin. My brother and I own a business together. I found this article a fun read! My parents never shared the Nigerian folklore, but occasionally Dad would say days or so older for one of us. I didn’t get the hilarity until much later.
    I am legally 27s older. My brother and I say 30s. And it doesn’t matter two licks to either of us who is older. We’ve both acted like the younger dumber brother at times, and inversely both portrayed the role of older wiser brother with the younger under wing.
    I think we didn’t care, because our parents never made it a thing. You see on tv how the firstborn claims birth rights and such. I think that’s a tradition better to die off.
    Teach your twins that they are better together, and that one is strong where the other is weak and vice versa. It wasn’t until we got we realized specificities to our strong suits. So seek to understand, nurture and guide your twins towards learning how to operate together. If two people grow in strength side by side for their entire life, they have many strengths and advantages as a team that others don’t.

    Reply

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