Viva la Diferencia: Not in Cuba!

I was so very fortunate to have an informal talk with Dr. Beatriz Marcheco-Teruel when I visited Havana last month. Dr. Marcheco-Teruel established and directs the Cuban Twin Registry. She described how she trained workers to do outreach in many Cuban provinces to record twin births and to determine zygosity, birthing practices, and birth order. She told me that the majority of twin births in Cuba occur naturally as opposed to by cesarean section. She also mentioned that it would be highly unlikely for twins born in Cuba to be reared apart or even adopted. If the parents were not in the picture, the twins would most likely be raised by extended family members or housed in a residential setting with weekend visits to family.

She was intrigued and excited to hear about how much our culture emphasizes individuality and separateness in the rearing of twins. I described how we advise parents of twins to give their children nonalliterative names, to dress them differently, to encourage alone time with each twin, and to prepare the twins for separate experiences. Contrary to our way of thinking, Dr. Marcheco-Teruel explained that Cuban families of twins emphasize and maximize similarities in twins—not differences. She explained that encouraging identicality contributes to emotional and economic efficiency.

She invited me to return to Havana at some future time to talk about my parenting philosophy to television and radio audiences. She is convinced that many people would be curious and excited to hear about such radically different ideas and practices. Certainly our child rearing trends in the United States for twins, as well as singletons, reflect our cultural norms and expectations about uniqueness, individuality, and singularity.

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