To Separate or Not to Separate: School and Twins
The hard part about twins is not how you do everything in duplicate. It's about the constant additional decisions you need to make (especially if you are a terrible decision maker like me). It's not just whether or not to breastfeed, but whether to breastfeed simultaneously or pump and bottle feed both babies simultaneously or whether to skip breastfeeding at all. Or breastfeed separately. Or bottle feed one and breastfeed the other--at the same time or separately.
The topic du jour once twins hit preschool or kindergarten is whether or not to keep the twins in the same classroom. Do you keep them with the same teacher so they have each other as support or do you separate them into two different classrooms so they can build more independence from one another?
The pros and cons are endless and every therapist and their mother has an opinion. Keep twins in the same classroom so they're not in constant competition comparing teachers, keep them in the same room so they receive a similar education, keep them in the same room because you are recognizing that they do have a unique bond and to separate them is cruel. And the therapists on the other side of the hall are chanting their opinions: separate them into two classrooms because absence makes the heart grow fonder. Separate them because they need to develop their own tastes, friendships, opinions without looking towards their security blanket for confirmation. Separate them to ensure that they find their own voice.
The only problem with accepting advice from a book or third party is that they don't know your children--your unique children who are not a case study in a book, but instead, very real human beings who can't be reduced to a two-dimensional example on page 56. It's fine to collect schools of thought and ask your friends and family for their opinions, but at the end of the day, each set of multiples needs to be considered within their own unit because blanket statements tend to smother rather than warm the people they're over.
My advice is to skip the books and website that preach a single solution and instead gravitate towards the ones such as this resource on iVillage that gives both sides of the story and allows you to choose-your-own-adventure at the end of the page. The important message to also take away from that article is that the decision isn't permanent. It can be changed sometimes mid-year or at the very least, by the next grade.
The other piece of excellent advice from that article is to speak with other twin parents and hear what worked for them as you try their experience on your unique family. I'll take that a step further and say that it's even better to read blogs and get to see the story unfold in real time as twins remain in the same classroom or split into different rooms. The situation isn't boiled down to a few afterthoughts in conversation, but instead is presented raw and honest.
Physiomom tackled this question this week. Though she was advised by the principal to put them in separate classrooms, she questions the soundness of this idea and states: "Moreover, one twin is more a leader while the other is more of a follower. If they are separated, they may have separation anxiety and also stressful particularly for the twin who is more dependent on the other twin."
Jen's twins at Jen's Genuine Life started kindergarten this year in the same class. She made her decision because they had never been separated before and she didn't want to begin during a time when they were already stressed about starting kindergarten itself. She ends with the sound advice about weighing professional advice: "Not every set will benefit from being in the same classroom and not every set will benefit from being separated."
Belgian Waffle asked for advice for her own twins. While she initially thought they should be kept together, she began to notice that one twin was dependent on the other: "They said that Daniel wants to play with Michael all the time. Some days, Michael does not want to play with Daniel (fair enough) and then Daniel gets cranky (who could blame him?). Apparently, there are never times when Michael wants to play with Daniel and Daniel does not want to play with Michael. Their advice would be to separate them at school."
On the Flipside has the benefit of time--her twins are now 16-years-old and she comments in a post that people stop her all the time and want to hear whether she kept them together or not as if they are a glimpse into the future. She writes of her movement to make the decision rather than the school: "It ended up not being all that hard to convince the Principal of the school and school Counselor that they were MY children and if there was a decision to be made - it was GOING TO BE MADE BY ME. And ... if there was was a mistake to be made - it would be mine!"
Lastly, Wii Fit Mom of Twins moved houses in order to make the decision herself. While they were in the process of looking for a new home, they needed to switch where they were looking in order to incorporate a public school that was open to allowing twins to remain together. It wasn't just for the twins--this mother has a unique situation that needs to be considered and keeping the twins together helps the entire family.
What did we do with our own twins? We've decided to keep them together with the decision to revisit the question with each grade and always do what we think is best taking into account their own feelings on the matter (and please please please let them have similar feelings on the question). The interesting thing that happened for us when they started school is that they switched positions. The child who used the other one as a security blanket suddenly became confident and the one who had always been the leader became shy and scared. We thought that the decision was going to be better for Twin A without harming Twin B, but in reality, the inverse came true with Twin B benefiting while Twin A plows through the day charting their own path.
If you're a parent of multiples, did you separate them or keep them together. And how did you make your decision?
Melissa is the author of the infertility and pregnancy loss blog, Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. She keeps a categorized blogroll of almost 1500 infertility blogs and writes the daily Lost and Found and Connections Abound, a news source for the infertility blogosphere. Her infertility book, The Land of If, is forthcoming from Seal Press in Spring 2009. She is also an editor at Bridges, the awareness consortium. Bridges latest 100 Words Project is currently open through October 2nd and would love to hear your voice.