Gift-giving poses special challenge for parents of twins, triplets

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While the parents of multiples arguably have double -- or more -- fun at the holidays, they have to watch out for the green-eyed monster all year.

When Bobbie Scherff’s 3-year-old twin daughters Nicole and Natalie received different dolls last year, she had to call Santa Claus and ask him to return the next morning with the same doll Nicole had received for Natalie.

The North Huntingdon woman, 29, also has a younger daughter who often mimics her siblings.

“I hate when I have to buy three of the same thing, but otherwise there is a fight,’’ she said.

When her twin girls were youngsters, Diane Bonnett of Penn Hills recalled buying one a camera and the other a television — specific gifts the girls had said they wanted for Christmas.

“Kim tried trading her camera for that TV all day, and Pam said no," Mrs. Bonnett, 57, recalled. “It lasted a whole year until the following Christmas when Kim got a TV and Pam the camera.”

“'I never made that mistake again,’’ she said.

With 19-month-old twins, a girl and a boy, Michelle LaBorda, 40, of Murrysville, said she sometimes can’t win for losing.

“They each have baby laptops. Even if they have the same thing, they want the one the other one has,’’ she said.

Years ago, Barbara Henry, 54, of Greensburg, bought one of her identical twin daughters a toy hand-held vacuum that the child wanted.

There was so much fighting between the girls that Mrs. Henry went out the next day to buy a second one.

The twin daughters of Linda Rombach, 53, of Plum, however, did not fight over each other’s presents. Each had composed her own list for Santa.

Sharing such anecdotes as well as concerns about raising multiples is the mission of the Pittsburgh Mothers of Twins, Triplets & Quads organization, of which Mrs. Henry is president.

“It is about friendships and understanding, because parents without multiples haven’t a clue,’’ said Roxanne Lindgren, 62, of Penn Township.

The club, in its 49th year, meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month from September through May at Monroeville Assembly of God, 4561 Old William Penn Highway, Monroeville.

The local club is a member of the Pennsylvania Organization of Mothers of Multiples Clubs and the national Multiples of America. It has 25 members. Dues are $25 annually.

They sponsor activities, such as hayrides and holiday parities; make items for women's shelters and other organizations for women and children; and sponsor a scholarship fund for a high school student in the eastern suburbs who best expresses in an essay the pros and cons of being a multiple.

A resounding sentiment for each member is that the one of the best things about multiples is each has a ready-made playmate, which helps at home and beyond.

“When they go into a new situation, they always have their best friend with them,’’ Jessica Feerst, 36, of Plum, said.

One of the biggest challenges, she said, is carving out unique identities for each of the children.

The individuality of the twin daughters of Ann Patterson, 56, of North Versailles, was publicly heralded when the girls were 7 and  won the ''least alike same sex twin contest’’ at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Festival. One was in pink with frills, the other dressed in jeans and sneakers, she said.

Angie Billings, 71, of Wilkins, said each of her twins, a boy and girl, demonstrated a clear-cut personality in childhood.

“Linda mothered Jimmy,’’ she said.

According to club members, parents of multiples have to be careful when it comes to holiday spending.

The identical sons of Karla Scott, 60, of Churchill had similar tastes and wanted the same Christmas presents, such a s a bike, basketball, and truck. To keep costs manageable, she shared their list with relatives.

Jessie A. Foster, 61, of Penn Hills, said she kept her holiday spending in check for her twin boys.

“I always told them, ‘Give me a list with five things, and you’ll get three.’ ’’

The Blahovec triplets of Youngwood -- two girls and a boy -- seem to have found a way to keep the girls happy when it comes to giving and receiving.

For their birthdays, Cydney received a fancy outfit from her godmother, and sister Abby was given a gift card.

“Abby said, 'I’ll take my Target card and buy the same thing,’’’ their mother, Lisa Blahovec, 40, recalled.


Margaret Smykla, freelance writer:

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