As charged as I was when I wrote my last post, this one will seem rather banal to some. I'm okay with that because this blog is about balancing the many sides of twinlife - mom, working woman, and me!
Yesterday we registered the kids for kindergarten. We have been evaluating the big question - to separate or not to separate - for several months. Our decision is based on our kids' history, our experience in separate classrooms, our experience in same classrooms, our kids' feelings, conversations with their current teachers and their future principal, and all of my reading on the subject.
I can summarize the reading easily - the answer to separate depends on the situation, and ultimately, no decision will permanently impact your children.
Despite the expert advice and the assurances that we will not ruin our children's lives with this one decision, the choice is not easy. We had always assumed that we would separate them in kindergarten. We want to see our kids as individuals, not as a pair, and we felt that keeping them in the same class increased the likelihood that everyone - teachers, friends, friends' parents, and us - would see them as "twins," rather than as M and R.
We separated them for their first year in preschool to help develop their independence. The split worked well, with neither child missing the other. For 7.5 hours per week, they enjoyed their isolation from each other, from twinworld. The separation caused anxiety for me as a twinmom, which I wrote about at the time, and managing connections with 26 families (two classes of 14 kids each), some of whom knew the twin connection and most of whom did not, proved to be time consuming and challenging. Managing different homework, different experiences, and different birthday party invites for two children of the same age added to the burden for me as a twinmom.
These challenges are certainly ones that parents of different-aged singletons face. However, singleton parents have a chance to adjust to school before being hit with the second wave of families, homework, and overall kid management. Twin parents are smacked in the face with everything at once - learning to "do school", developing a parent network, and developing standards of "equality" and "fairness" when life is clearly neither. And for these reasons, a single class is much easier to manage, at least until the family has adapted.
I know that it is easier because the kids are in the same class this year. We only had one option with an extended day at the preschool, so we, somewhat hesitantly, put them together this year. The shift has been amazing in terms of family management, and, more importantly, it hasn't negatively affected the kids. They do not cling to each other, and, in fact, according to their teachers, they rarely interact in the classroom.
Their success in the same classroom this year threw a wrench into our established plan. Evaluating the shift to a new, much bigger school next year, where none of their preschool friends will attend, has caused us to look more deeply at our children's needs. Separation for over 6 hours per day, the shift to a new school where they do not have established friends, a history of anxiety with our daughter, and the timing of these changes with my tenure year -- though we think we could separate them, we have decided to keep them together for one year, to make the transition to public school easier on them and on our family. The principal of their elementary school agrees with this path.
Yesterday we made this decision official by writing it on the forms for the school. Then my children made me proud by answering all of the questions that the teacher asked them, including telling her their phone number. Of course, being children of today, they need to know more than one phone number - Mama's cell, Daddy's cell, and the house phone (which we never answer). When the teacher asked my son to say his phone number, he looked quizzically at her. I said, "Mama's number," to which he quickly replied, singing the number to the tune of Jingle Bells, just like his Granna had taught him.
Ironically, just behind us in the registration line was another set of B/G twins. Their parents have decided to separate them next year. When they told us their decision, my mind immediately questioned our own. Should we separate them? Would it be better for them to learn independent from each other? Will my son dominate my daughter in the classroom? But then I remembered all that we had considered - and that this one year will not impact them permanently. So I wrote on the form "keep twins together." Big decision made.