Summer Camp Makes Me Cry

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Categories Anger, Childcare, Fear, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Products, Safety, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , 5 Comments

summercampOur school district has a 12-week summer vacation. I’m a single mom with a full-time job, so I have to find somewhere safe and fun for my 7-year-old daughters to spend the summer months. According to our divorce decree, my ex-husband is supposed to get 30 summer days with the kids when he’s stateside, but he had to decline that right this year, so arrangements for the entirety of the 12 weeks fell to me.

I pored over summer camp brochures. My kids qualified, academically, for the highly rated Summer Wonders program for gifted children, but the full-day program plus extended care (for two) was well outside my schedule requirements as well as my budget. I finally decided to go with a local YMCA program for 11 weeks and Girl Scout camp for 1 week and let the kids pick specific options.

A friend made all the transportation arrangements for Girl Scout camp and kept my daughters after camp until I got home from work that week. The paperwork was more than a little frustrating–why would a day camp require that I provide scans of the girls’ medical insurance cards?–but the kids had a fantastic time.

Most of the YMCA weeks were to be spent at a school location at one of their basic camps. Each of these basic camps has a weekly field trip, weekly swimming outing and fun activities all day, every day. The kids are obviously happy and well-cared for, and the counselors make sure that I knew the schedule, providing daily updates on a whiteboard, a printed schedule, and verbal reminders.

For a few weeks,  we elected to sign up for a few “special” camps: tumbling, cheer-leading, soccer and cooking. These camps last from 8 am to 1 pm. Outside these hours, kids can additionally register for full-day camp, and the YMCA staff is responsible for transitioning the kids from one program to the other.

Once the kids were actually at their special camps, they had a blast. The counselors were fantastic. J, being petite, got to participate in the most fun part of all sorts of cheerleading stunts. She’s a “flyer.” M couldn’t stop talking about her dribbling, defense and scoring skills.

The administrative side, though, was just horrendous. I thought that, once I’d filled out the forms, paid out my $400 deposit ($15 per week per child for 12 weeks plus some base deposit) and paid the first week’s tuition, things would go smoothly.

Not so.

In week one, I was the first one to mess up. I showed up to the school-based camp location instead of the specials place. One of the counselors made some calls to help me figure out where J and M should be. They were signed up for tumbling camp… except that they weren’t. I managed to register M and J on the spot for the school location and left them there while I tried to chase things down. As I said, the on-site staff, the people who actually deal with kids, are professional, accommodating, and infinitely helpful.

What had happened, it turns out, was that when I signed J and M up for tumbling camp (or perhaps when they got around to entering them into their system), the camp was full. So someone took the initiative to move my $30 deposit for the week to be a credit against another week of camp, without ever bothering to communicate the change to me, and effectively leaving me without childcare for that week. When I tried to point out that the appropriate, polite and professional thing to do would have been to inform and consult me, the manager simply said, “Well, I have no idea who did it. Jeff took your paperwork, but he would never do that. I can’t look up who did.”

Great. Thanks. That makes everything better. Obviously, my first impression of the “special” camps wasn’t fantastic. Neither was the second.

What I had gathered from the (incomplete) information on the YMCA website and from several conversations was that I could drop the girls off at the full-day location between 7 and 8 or bring them directly to their special camp at 8. On the first day, I decided on the latter. I easily located M’s soccer coach, signed her in, and began to seek J’s cheer instructor.

I asked for a location at the front desk. I was pointed to a room in the building. We went in and it was empty. It was 7:55. I called out, thinking that I was simply failing to see someone. There was no response. I went to the childcare program offices for help.

“We don’t run that program,” said the ever unhelpful Jeff. “You’ll have to ask at the front desk.”
“I already did,” I told him. “They told me to go to room X.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“There’s no one there.”
“Oh, you should take her down to the [location] for the full-day program.”
“Now?”
“Yeah.”

I loaded J into the car and went down the street to the full-day location. Drop-off was easy, and J and I made sure that the counselor knew that J was supposed to be going to cheer camp. I left, my heart easy. I knew Sophia, the woman running the full-day program, and I knew she’d make sure everything was ship-shape.

When I returned in the afternoon to pick up the girls, Sophia was there. “I was so surprised!” she said. “I came in around 9, and there was J! It was so nice to see her.”

That didn’t sound right. At 9:00, J should have been at cheer camp. I mentioned my confusion. Sophia looked at her paperwork and confirmed that J should have been taken to cheer. She promised to look into it. J told me that she’d repeatedly told her counselor that she was in the wrong place, but I imagine that the counselor is accustomed to the petulant and unrealistic demands of 7-year-olds.

Within 10 minutes of our leaving to drive home, Sophia called. She’d called a couple of people. She and her counselors had messed up, she told me. By the time J and I arrived that morning, the posse of kids destined for special programs had already left. I assured her that, while I appreciated her taking responsibility, there were plenty of others who had given us misinformation.

The next morning, we were there at 7:50. M’s drop-off with her soccer coaches went smoothly, but J’s was again problematic. I went to the classroom in question, and it was filled with serious looking types in suits. I again went to the front desk. I tried to express to the man there that I was seeking the cheer instructor, and he informed me that he wasn’t the person I should talk to. I asked who I should talk to. He told me that no one I should talk to was there yet. I asked who, among the people there, could help me locate my child’s coach. He finally gave me the phone number for the head of the program. I went back to my car to get my phone, called the number he’d given me, and left a message. She still hasn’t had the decency to return my call.

On the way back to the classroom (for the fourth time in 2 days), I ran into a friend whose daughter was also in cheer camp. They’d be meeting in the grass that morning because of the meeting taking place in their regular location, she told me. By the time we found them, the other kids were in a circle, stretching with the coach. A woman–Carrie? Casey? I’m ashamed to say I was too upset to have retained her name–asked if I would like to sign J in. No, I told her. I wanted to talk to her.

I told her the whole story. By the time I was half way through, I was sobbing. I told her that I was entrusting her organization with the care of my children, and their behaviour wasn’t filling me with confidence. I trusted Sophia, I told her, to make sure that my kids were safe. She’d earned my trust over months of consistent communication, thoughtful and gentle discipline, and excellent time management. Sophia knew and cared for my kids. I hadn’t gotten an impression of caring from the other administrative staff. The not-my-problem attitude wasn’t winning any brownie points.

Carrie (?) looked into the whole tumbling fiasco. She took a screenshot of the oddball transactions and put it on the accounts manager’s desk for him to investigate. She explained to me that getting full-day kids to their special camps was the responsibility of the full-day counselors. I told her that I had already spoken to Sophia and worked out that part of it. I did ask her why, when J was missing yesterday, I didn’t receive a call to tell that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. A lot of kids, it turns out, just never show up, so they don’t bother calling no shows. I recommended that the two programs get on the same page about what should be done with kids who arrive in that grey time between 7:50 and 8:00. Parents would understand, I assured her, if we needed to stay 10 minutes. Just tell us that instead of sending us on wild goose chases.

Sophia called me later that morning to check in. I assured her that I felt that she’d done what she could. I let her know, though, that a coworker of mine said that he’d had similar issues at the location 15+ years ago. It was time to fix some things. She listened to my recommendations and promised to follow up. She even thanked me for giving her a parent’s perspective.

  • Assign a person who is physically present to be in charge of parent communication at all times throughout the day, and make sure that all staff members know who that person is.
  • Coordinate between programs so that managers know where children should be taken at what time.
  • Provide clear and consistent expectations for drop-off times and locations to all employees and train them on answering questions with patience and a sense of ownership of the problem.
  • Send email or written confirmation of registration records to ensure that parents have the same impression as the YMCA of their child’s schedule.
  • Along with written confirmation of registration, send parents a list of assumptions. Who is responsible for our child at different points in the day? Where, precisely, are we supposed to go to drop them off and pick them up? What should they bring with them?
  • Train data entry staff on appropriate handling of unusual cases or insist that they check with a manager before making modifications.

Honestly, I don’t have much confidence that they’ll fix anything. I’ll just have to trust that Sophia will notice even if everyone else loses track of my children. And this will be our last year of turning to the Y for special camps.

Edit: June 26, 2013, 11 pm CDT – Things got worse today. Read on.

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Twins Explaining Twins

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Categories Childcare, Community, Education, From the Mouths of Multiples, Frustration, Identical, Older Children, Other people, School-Age, Singletons, Talking to KidsTags , , 5 Comments

I’m going to try something new. I’m going to let my twins write, or rather dictate, this post on twinhood. They started to tell me a story on the drive home from summer camp that seemed appropriate for this audience. My 7-year-old daughters could have typed this up themselves, but it’s much faster for me to simply transcribe our discussion.

Abridged Version

M: Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M and J, posed back to back in matching dance costumes,M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did… I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” … “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example…. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.”

J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day… And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”

Real Time Version

Sadia: So, what should the title be?
J: Nocturnal Twins and Identical Twins.
Sadia: Uh… Well… Okay.

Long pause

J: Did I say, “nocturnal?”
Sadia: Yeah.
J: Is that right?
J and M are both wearing South Asian attire, but in different styles and colours.M: How are twins different from identical twins?
Sadia: Identical twins are one kind of twin.
M: But it’s a twin? What’s another kind of twin?
Sadia: Fraternal.
J: Fraternal?
M: What’s a fraternal twin?
Sadia: Ones that come from two different eggs.

Potty break.

Sadia: So, shall we start again?
M: Yeah. Mommy!
Sadia: What? I’m writing down our conversation!
M: Mama!
Sadia: Mm-hmm? Okay. J, you were telling me a story in the car.
J: About what?
Sadia: About the girl… wait… was it you, M?
J: No, me. About what?
Sadia: giggles
M: No it was me. I told you about the girl who said that because we weren’t wearing the same clothes…
Sadia: Yes. That story.
J: One second.

Trash break.

Sadia: Okay, so why don’t you get started? M?
M: giggling at my typing Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did.
Sadia: gasps
Sadia, J and M making facesM: (whispering) You gasped.
Sadia: I got it!
M: You forgot the… waves her hands to indicate italics.
Sadia: I’ll do it later. I just want to get the content now. So, J.
J: running off Yeah?
Sadia: Where are you?
J: returning Hmm? Yeah?
Sadia: I understand that you…
M: Mom, I’m not done with the story.
Sadia: You’re not? Oh.
M: I told the girl. Wait, where are we?
Sadia: “She said, ‘wrong’.”
M: Oh, yeah. Right. I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” (laughing) Okay, back to where we started. I don’t mean started. I mean stopped. (giggling) You’re typing it down!?
Sadia: Yep. Okay. Continue, pleeeeeeeease.
M: “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example.
Sadia: Mm hmm. It’s a good example. (long pause) Is your story done now?
M: No. So, ah, oh yes. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.” The End from M.
Sadia: I love you.
M: Hello to J!
Sadia: All right, pumpkin. You ready?
J: For what?
Sadia: To tell your story.
J: What?
Sadia: You were telling me you gave her a bit of a class?
J: Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!
Sadia: If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to hear what you told her.
J: Uh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhhh.
M: Mom, can anyone do this? I mean, read this?
Sadia: Yeah. Is that okay?
M: Mm hmm.
Sadia: I’d really like to hear your lesson.
J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day.” Am I true?
Sadia: 100%, baby.
M: giggles at my typing again
J: M!!! Stop giggling! Stop giggling!
M: “100%, baby!”
Sadia: Was that the whole lesson?
J: Mm mm. “And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: But if I write it, people will know. Or did you tell her, “Don’t tell anyone?”
J: I told her, “Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: So, I can write it, and that’s okay?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Was that the end of the lesson?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Well, you know what? I think you guys handled that situation very well.

And we followed up with a hands-on lesson in editing.

Do your kids know that they are multiples? Have they ever encountered a multiplicity denier? How do they handle misconceptions?

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Together

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Categories Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, Identical, Independence, Older Children, School, School-AgeTags , , , , , Leave a comment

I’ve made an informed decision. My daughters will be in the same classroom for second grade.

I solicited opinions from the people who know best what the classroom dynamic is between my identical twins, their teachers and counselors. Not only are all four of them thoughtful educators who know my daughters very well, one of the teachers is herself a twin and one of the counselors is a mom of twin boys.

While the general approach was that separation was often good for twins in general, no one seemed to have serious concerns about J and M being disruptive, distracted or under-performing should they be in the same classroom. M’s teacher clearly leaned towards encouraging apart time, but her concerns were general rather than specific. I was looking for reasons to reject my daughter’ preference. After all, I’m trying to teach them to make good decisions for themselves and dealing with the consequences of the bad ones. Their father didn’t care either way whether they are in the same classroom next year.

The only people with extremely strong opinions were M and J themselves, and they want to be together. I’ve asked them over and over whether they still want this, and they’re not budging, not even while in the middle of heated arguments with each other.

The feedback that I was going to weigh the heaviest was that from J’s classroom teacher. He teaches the girls separately for math and together for language arts. I do have to say that I feel for him. During Reading and Writing Workshop, he has not only my identical twin daughters, but another set of identical twin girls too! He says he calls someone the wrong name just about every day, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have trouble telling his students apart. I still sometimes call my daughter M by my sister’s name. They look, sound, and behave nothing alike. The only commonality is that they both let me kiss them on the nose.

But I digress.

Here’s what J’s teacher said: “I really think they will do great either way you decide. In second grade they wouldn’t see as much of each other as they do now if they are put in separate classes, so that is one thing to consider.”

I did consider that. As Dr. Segal mentioned in her post, just a glance at a twin to know she’s okay can help a child focus in class. My daughters have friends in common, but they have different best friends. They play together, but they’re as often apart as together at recess. They don’t feel the need to dress alike and have made their mark at school both as individuals and as sisters. I suspect that M and J know exactly what they need to be successful.

To round out the perspectives I got, here’s what M’s teacher had to say:

I appreciate you taking my opinion in consideration.
J and M are doing extremely well in separate classrooms. I think they need to learn to be apart from each other for longer periods of time. Granted they are in separate classrooms, they spend half of the day together during Writing and Reading workshop due to the nature of the Dual Language Program.
I can tell you from being a twin myself that being apart from my sister was very beneficial for us. We learned to speak up by ourselves whereas when we were together one or the other always spoke up for both. Being by ourselves taught us to be individuals.
I see it as the best of both worlds….time together and time apart!
Thank you!
And from the counselor the girls are closest to:
Since they are already in dual language together and are in class together part of the day, I think the teachers would be most helpful in letting you know how that works. During group with me, I noticed that they finish each other’s sentences/interrupt each other and are a little sillier when together, which is typical of sisters.  That makes me wonder if that would happen in class if together. On the other hand, they are also very helpful to each other and get along very well. Since I had them in a small group, I think their behavior is probably different in a large classroom setting. I would lean towards suggesting they be in separate classes, especially since they have dual language together part of the day. But I am comfortable supporting whatever decision you make.
This time next year, we’ll be making this decision all over again. It’s a new decision every time.

 

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To Match or Not to Match

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Identical, Older Children, Same Gender, School-AgeTags , 7 Comments

My 6-year-old twin daughters’ closet contains some duplicates, but not many. When the girls were toddlers, I did dress them alike with with some frequency. We were still going through the enormously generous supply of mostly matching clothes for our baby showers. As they’ve grown, though, they’ve matched less and less. First, they stopped wearing exactly the same thing, although they’d generally coordinate their outfits. If one was wearing a skirt and Tshirt, so was the other. If Sissy was wearing a dress, then so was Sissy.

They don’t bother much with that these days. We don’t even get matchy matchy for formal photos any more.

J, M and Sadia, all in different sweater dresses.
Photo by Brandi Nellis

While I don’t think that my identical girls look a thing alike–their voices are an altogether different manner–people still get them confused. Just yesterday, I witnessed a schoolfriend try to get J’s attention by calling her M. It didn’t work. I wonder if that has something to do with their opting to dress differently.

Yesterday, M pulled out a favourite black sweater dress to wear to school. Her sister J is wearing it in the picture above, and we have two of them.

J’s eyes lit up. “Wanna match?” she asked her sister.

“Sure!” M replied.

“I don’t want to any more,” J responded.

And that’s why I don’t bother shopping doubles any more.

How do your kids feel about wearing matching or coordinating outfits?

Sadia is the single mother of almost-7yo identical twins, M and J. They live in Central Texas, where Sadia works in higher education IT.

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Shelter in the Storm

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Categories Older Children, Safety, Talking to KidsTags , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

I feel incredibly petty having used the word “terrified” to describe myself a couple of days ago in light of the recent tragedy in Boston. To be honest, I haven’t reached the point of feeling frightened. Mostly, I’m horrified. My reactions today have been a lot like those I had in the first hours of September 11, 2001. Disbelief. Anger. Horror. Sadness. Helplessness. Of course, there’s an enormous difference in scale between today’s horrific attack and the unthinkable and reality-changing events in New York and at the Pentagon a dozen years ago. Another difference, on a personal front, is that I now look at the world through the eyes of a mother.

My daughters are more aware than a lot of their peers of current events. Being the daughters of a soldier who has served three tours in combat, they are keenly aware that war happens and evil exists. The poem that M wrote at school two weeks ago shows that she’s not exactly sheltered.

Soldiers are heroes,
On hard times go to war.
Loving all people.
Dying sometimes
In wars,
Ending their lives.
Right to fight for the good.
Sacrificing themselves.

“Bad guys” are more real to military kids than to a lot of their friends. While we keep the worst of what Daddy has been through from J and M, they know that he goes to war and that it’s dangerous. Still, there are some dangers they’re not old enough to cope with at 6 years old, not in the way that the news media cover them. Today’s bombings are among them.

I usually listen to public radio in the car. Before I got out of the car to pick my children up this afternoon, I switched over to a Laurie Berkner CD. I did the same thing in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting. I believe that it’s important to teach my children to be citizens. I believe that they should know and care about current events and people outside their immediate sphere. I also believe that there are some forms of ugliness from which they still need and deserve to be protected. I believe that one of my jobs is to filter information that is just too difficult or complex for my daughters, for now. There will be plenty of time for them to experience the full weight of the world when they are older.

We only turn our television on once a month or so, but even if I were still in the habit of catching the local news, the TV would be off today and for the next few days. We’re going to be avoiding the radio for the next while, even music stations, because they do often broadcast snippets of high profile stories. PBS has an excellent guide to how to handle exposure to and discussion of disturbing news events with children of different ages.

Over the next hours and days, I’m going to have to figure out how to handle it if my daughters hear about the Boston bombings at school. They have a lot of older friends, and other parents may not be as vigilant as me at keeping the news and its disturbing images out of their homes. Kids overhear teachers talking all the time. I think I’ll just make some sort of open-ended statement in the morning: “If you hear about something in the news that you want to talk about, remember that you can always come to me.”

As with all things, if we need to discuss today’s tragedy, I will be honest. I will tell the children that I, too, am scared and sad and angry. I will tell them that I don’t understand why some people are so broken that they would want to hurt others. I will tell them that I know that we live in a mostly safe world, but that unexpected tragedies happen and that I find that very frightening. I will remind them that most people in the world are like Daddy the soldier, Grampy the firefighter, their great uncle the policeman, and all the wonderful teachers and mentors in their lives. Most people are there to protect them, and they are safe, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

Do your kids see or hear the news? Are their certain stories you filter? At what age do you think it’s appropriate to start and stop shielding children from media coverage of disturbing developments?

Sadia is the mother of 6-year-old twin daughters and a former US army wife, now divorced. She lives in the Austin, TX area, where she works in higher education information technology. She is originally from the United Kingdom and Bangladesh.

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Safety in the Big Bad World

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I know that my job is not so much to protect my daughters from the big bad world as it is to prepare them to tackle it increasingly independently as they grow. Despite the urge to wrap them in a protective cocoon of parental control, I force myself to let my nearly 7-year-olds experience the world and fight their own battles, within reason.

For Easter, my daughters received small kites from their father and stepmother. We live on a quiet suburban street, so when my daughter J begged to fly her kite on the sidewalk while I cooked dinner last week, I agreed, trying to hide the knot of fear in my throat. I watched her from the kitchen window. She raced up and down the sidewalk, never going more than two houses away, never getting too close to the street, laughter pouring out of every pore.

The next afternoon, J’s twin sister M joined her, although they were back in the house in minutes. The kite had landed in a tree, fortunately within my reach. The grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices I was working on didn’t take too long, so there wasn’t time for any more kite flying that day.

On Thursday, when I arrived to pick my children up from after school care, there were three police cars parked at the intersection where I turned to park. I asked the caregivers what was going on. They shooed my daughters away to retrieve their backpacks and quickly told me that a man had attempted to abduct a boy at that intersection. The boy got away, but was injured. No one there was sure how badly he was hurt, but a policeman had stopped by to talk to the after school caregivers, to tell them what was going on and to ask questions. The would be abductor had escaped.

I briefly considered not telling my daughters what I’d just learned, but decided that they needed to know that vigilance was important. They’re outgoing little girls who befriend others easily, and lack the instinct to distrust strangers. I told them what I knew, leaving out the part about the boy having been injured, and told them that I was going to ask them not to go out of the house without me, except to our fenced back yard. I promised to take them kite flying in the park after church.

J’s questions were about the boy and what the police were doing to catch the bad man. She walked around our house with me to ensure that all our blinds were closed before bed, and was generally satisfied with our safety. M refused to be in any room without me that first night, but has since relaxed.

I don’t think I’m overreacting. My kids still spend all day at school and after care without me. I still let them let go on my hand on the way to dance class or church or stores once we’re out of the parking lot. I’m just not ready to let them out of the street unless there’s a trusted adult with them. Eventually, though, I’m going to have to let them explore the world without me. I can only pre-screen their peers, teachers, and mentors for a little longer.

That terrifies me.

Sadia is raising her 6-year-old identical twin daughters in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is divorced and works full time in higher education IT.

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Twin Accent, but No Twin Language

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Categories Classroom Placement, Development, Language, Older Children, School-Age, Speech Therapy3 Comments

A surprising proportion of people ask me whether my twin daughters ever had their own language. They didn’t.

I find myself apologizing for the girls’ lack of twinspeak, more correctly known as cryptophasia. Perhaps it was because we used Baby Sign–J and M starting signing at 7 months of age–that they didn’t need a special language with Sissy, I find myself responding. Or perhaps it was because I also spoke to them in Bengali. After all, my entire academic background is in linguistics and I write for a mother of multiples blog. I should be a fountain of cool twin language trivia.

I confess that J and M sound very alike today. I used to have no trouble distinguishing their voices, but even I get their voices confused at least once a week. I have to remind them to open their phone conversations with Daddy with a comment about who is speaking. When she gets very earnest, M tends to click her tongue before every sentence, and J takes more pauses, but hardly anyone can tell their voices apart. In fact, a friend of theirs who happens to be blind describes them as having one voice rather than distinct voices.

In recent months, I’ve been getting questions about the source of the girls’ accent.  They get comments on their accent at school too. According to M, the older girls in their afterschool program consider it “completely adorable.” We were talking about homonyms the other day, and J offered up “short” and “shirt” as an example. M nodded in agreement. I told them that those words were only homonyms the way that they pronounce them. “Board” and “bird,” too. They have no trouble spelling the “hospital,” but pronounce it “hoss-ta-pole.” They both say “posichun” and “ackchun” for “position” and “action.”

Both M and J went through speech therapy at age 3 to tackle articulation delays. To my ear, they still sound significantly younger than their classmates, but I’m not in any hurry to push them back into speech therapy, since comprehension by others is no longer a problem.

All that I know from linguistics about the acquisition of language and accents would lead me to expect my children to sound more like their peers than their parents. They should be saying things like “y’all” instead of “you guys” like me, although you might be surprised by how twang-less today’s central Texas accent is. They’re in separate classrooms, but it doesn’t seem that that’s quite enough time apart for them to mimic their other classmates’ pronunciation more than each others’. It appears that, despite their lack of a twin language, my daughters’ twin accent indicates that their sisterly relationship has more of an influence on how they speak than any other.

Despite having grown up in Scotland, England and Bangladesh, after 15 years living in the USA, Sadia has come to sound resoundingly Valley Girl. Her 6-year-old twin daughters, J and M, attend an English-Spanish dual language first grade program in the Austin, Texas area. Their Spanish has a way to go before they can duplicate their Olympian feats of  conversation in that language. Unfortunately, Sadia doesn’t speak Spanish and cannot report on whether her daughters’ twin accent extends to that language too.

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Do your twins match?

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Categories Behavior, Older Children, School-Age, ToddlersTags , 16 Comments

Do you dress your twins alike?  I’m a firm believer in giving my twins choices in many things, and clothing has turned out to be another surprising one.

I was given many coordinating outfits when my twins were babies, and I really think there is nothing more adorable than two tiny people in matching footy pajamas.  As you can see from this picture, however, my twins are quite a bit older now.

As soon as my kids could dress themselves, I gave them the freedom to select their own outfits.  My job was to deliver clean clothes to the drawers and pair up the socks.  Their job was to dress appropriately for the weather.

They seldom wore the coordinating outfits on the same day, but when they turned about 7 years old, they started asking for matching shirts.  While big sister was away at sleepover camp, they had “twin camp” at home, and proudly wore their matching shirts while they concocted activities to do together.

Now they have about a dozen matching shirts and sweatshirts that they have picked out together, and they plan ahead the night before they wear them.

I asked Jungle Boy why they dress alike, and he said “Because it’s fun!  And it’s a twin thing.”

Who am I to argue with that?

Do you dress your twins in matching outfits?

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