Marissa Bader has been writing and editing pieces on parenting for several years, but her latest writing covers a topic that hits very close to home: her three children, and in particular, her 6-year-old twin daughters.
“I was working on an article last year about the importance of treating your kids like individuals,” she said. “Not just twins, but all siblings. Kids are so different from one another but often, even with non-twin siblings, we lump them together.”
Bader wrote the illustrated book The Only Me, the story of twin sisters Paige and Stella, and Stella’s quest to be an individual, not to always be lumped together with her twin.
She said the words flowed quickly, but even then, she wasn’t sure what to do with what she had started.
“I kept coming back to the story, and adding to it, and adding to it,” she said. “I thought maybe I could do something with this.”
Bader reached out to editors who specialize in children’s books, and they put her in touch with Arlene Soto, a Denver-based book illustrator.
“I sent her the story and we talked about it. She has three daughters and I have three daughters,” he said. “We have this connection.”
Soto told Bader that she had some ideas and quickly sent over some sketches.
“Immediately the first sketch she sent me of these girls for the main characters, it was totally right on,” Bader said. “She created all of the illustrations and which totally brought the story to life.”
Given that the book borrows from her real life, Bader said that she did talk to her kids throughout the process. Such as asking them how they feel when people confuse one for another, or think it’s strange that the two aren’t more similar.
“They like it when people confuse them because they look nothing alike, but they think it’s funny and they pretend that they’re each other,” she said. “But they don’t like it when people buy them matching clothes. And this year, one of my twins said ‘I am done doing dance, I only want to do soccer. I’m not a dancer,’ whereas the other twin said, ‘I don’t want to do soccer. I only want to do dance. I’m a dancer.
The book also features an older brother. And while her oldest is a girl, she said that the character in the book is modeled after her twins’ big sister.
“I really tried to take all the characters and kind of infuse bits of each of my kids in all of them,” she said. “I told her, ‘Big Brother is definitely modeled after you, but there are parts of you, if you really read it closely, in all the children characters.’”
Bader said that her own twins developing individual identities was the idea for the book.
“The idea really did kind of stem from that and just seeing how different my girls are,” she said. “I have many friends who are twins, and they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just been so annoying our whole lives; confusing us or expecting us to be the exact same person and we’re super different.’”
The early reactions have been very positive, and not just from kids.
“People of all age groups, I’m finding, are liking it and relating to it, which is my goal,” she said. “It’s been really fun to hear people’s reactions to it, for sure.”