"They're not twins, they're surviving triplets..."

I was at Disney/Epcot recently, waiting to take my kids to the “lunch with a character” and we saw two children about 3 years old. I thought they looked like fraternal twins, but my wife did not. I asked the mother if they were twins, and she said in a very direct and informative manner:

“They’re not twins, they’re surviving triplets…”

And she walked away with her kids. We discussed this, and the term “surviving” implied a loss of one of the kids at birth… of course, they could have suffered a recent loss. In any event, being around so many kids could certainly stir up feelings.

In any event, it was hard to understand her need to educate a complete stranger rather than say “yes” or “we had triplets, but one died” or something like that.

Is it just me or is that a strange thing to say to someone? I didn’t say anything at the time, but what better place to ger some opinions?!?

Hoooo, boy. Hope those kids are saving up their birthday money, 'cause I guarantee you they’ll be needing therapy in about 20 years.

A family member of mine pulled something similar. Their first child died hours after being born. Their second was born about 15 months later. The amount of guilt they piled on this kid for managing to survive while his brother did not is staggering. He’s in his 20’s now, and is just starting to come around to the fact that he had fuck-all to do with his older brother’s death.

I can’t imagine how much more guilt would’ve been thrown on there if he were “the surviving twin”.

Reminds of a Christmas card a friend got a few years back from his old army buddy; each year, it was signed by the mom and dad and their three kids. Then one year it was signed by mom, two kids, and lastly by one of the kids - with blessings from heaven.
What do you say to that?? “I’m sorry”, doesn’t quite fill the void.

A simple child
That lightly draws its breath,
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met two little twins one day
They were at Disneyland.
Their hair was thick with many a curl
And held with rubber band.

They had a rustic, woodland air,
In T-shirts they were clad:
Their eyes were fair, and very fair;
Their beauty made me glad.

“Sweet children, there are two of you,
Twins, I guess you be?”
“No, we’re surviving triplets—
One’s dead, but we are three.”

I dunno, I am hesitant to criticize anyone’s methods of dealing with losing a child until I have been there first. I agree that the kids should be carefully watched to make sure they don’t suffer ill-effects from being constantly reminded of their lost sibling.

But I work in an organization where I see a lot of NICU parents. And a lot of people who lose their kids after long, painful struggles in the NICU. And one of the biggest question the moms ask is “What do I say when someone asks me how many kids I have?” and they haven’t gotten over the loss of that one.

It’s a heart-breaking, no-win situation IMO. Again, I’ll try to walk a mile in their shoes before I nitpick on their manner of speech.

I agree. The fact is that the kids are not twins. I’m not sure how I’d approach the situation, but simply ignoring one of your children’s existence because he didn’t last as long as the others is macabre.


I agree that you don’t want to forget about the dead child, but I’m not sure that explaining it to complete strangers is the best way to keep that memory alive.

I had a co-worker who miscarried a 5.5 - 6-mo. pregnancy. She took pictures of the fetus and passed them around the office. It barely fit in her hand. I just don’t see how that kind of sharing is going to be comforting. But of course, you don’t say anything. It’s just heartbreaking to see a person go through that kind of pain.

I don’t see a problem with it. You asked, she told you the truth.

This reminds me - I saw an old Burns & Allen short which must have been from the 30’s. The setting was a hospital, and Gracie was a nurse. George was playing straight man.

This is from memory, but it resonates in my mind as possibly one of the worst jokes ever. :frowning:

It isn’t just you that thinks that is kind of a strange thing to say to someone.

My mother works part time in a day care program and there was a set of twins there for a while who were being referred to as the “miracle twins”. Aparently they were concieved through in-vitro-fertilization. That also struck me as being information that not everyone needed or wanted to know. As well as being a potentially burdensome way of describing the twins.

On the other hand, is it fair to ask the parents to pretend the other child never existed? (Especially if the third child did not die at birth but died sometime between then and now?).

Hopefully as time passes that mother will figure out a way to balance her need to honor the memory of her lost child with the needs of the living twosome. Not being a parent, I hesitate to try to figure out the right way.

I have an uncle who is a surviving twin. His brother had spina biffida (sp?) and many other problems and died at about a month old. As a result, my grandmother never disciplined Richard thinking he was her miracle baby (born when she was over 40). He has a load of behavioral problems, domestic violence issues, etc.

Robert was always fondly remembered, but my grandmother said she had 6 children, not 7.

Me neither. But phungi asked a question, and the answer to the question wasn’t “yes.” I don’t know what else the woman might have done while still respecting the memory of her child.


Not telling every passing stranger of the demise of one of your children is NOT ignoring him or her! What’s macabre is insisting on telling everybody and their uncle that you had a child who died.

Idle comments like “cute kids” and “are they twins” are just that–idle comments. It’s rude to reply to idle comments, even nosy ones, with information that will make the asker feel guilty about asking. If someone told you that your kid was cute, would it be appropriate to respond “well, she’s cute now, but she was horribly deformed when she was born and had 76 surgeries in her first 9 months. Wanna see a picture of her ‘before?’”

Honoring and remembering a loved one does not require informing every person you may happen to meet of their death.

On the other hand, she could have just said “No, they’re not”, and dropped it.

I don’t see how that kind of sharing is going to be comforting, either, but then again, I have never (Thank God) been in that situation. We have no way of knowing where that woman was in her grief process. It could be that, for now, she really has to share on such a deep and honest level with anyone and everyone in order to get some closure and peace with the situation. Perhaps she had spent a few years saying, “Yes, they’re twins” outwardly and inwardly being torn apart by guilt and grief because she thought she was not honoring her third child.

Yes, in some ways, it is something that gives one pause to hear, but it’s a tough situation no matter how you look at it.

phungi. “Surviving triplets” as “a loss of one of the kids at birth” is you and your wife’s surmise, but not necessarily what was meant or what happened. The death might have been something as tramautic as a flu earlier this year the children caught all at once from which one succumbed.

So: Creepy? Maybe. People handle grief in strange ways.

Predicting therapy for the two surviving triplets is a little overboard.

Hmmm… I never thought of it, and assumped that 2:3 triplets were twins persent of each other, I guess not (anymore)

appreciate the comments. Yes, I was wondering if “surviving” meant that the loss was at birth.

definitely an awkward situation, and i was not going to respond “yeah, I know what you mean, my two are the two out of three who successfully made it past conception… we lost our first”

interesting dialog… I just might have to sign up for a full membership!

It’s really not. I’ve lost a child and I don’t always feel like sharing the details of what happened to my older child. It’s not ignoring Andrew’s existence, it’s my not wanting to burden a stranger with my problems. I still believe in reticence; my business isn’t necessarily yours.


Friends of our family had one of their children die soon after birth and came up with a pretty good answer when asked how many children they had. They simply said ‘We have two children now’ in a serious tone of voice. Anyone with half a brain could figure out that meant they had lost a child-- not planning another. It was accurate, not TMI, honored the child that had died, and didn’t make the questioner feel too bad about asking. People always felt a little bad anyway, since they’d unintentionally brought up a painful subject.

The triplets’ mom may still be a little sensitive, and it probably doesn’t help that she’s asked that multiple times every day. It was a bit harsh of her though.