Siblings Without Rivalry – A Book Review

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Categories Behavior, Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Discipline, Family, Individuality, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Siblings, Theme Week6 Comments

A mother of twins reviews Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry is by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. If you missed my review of How to Talk… you can check it out here to get a sense of the prevailing philosophy behind these books. In a nutshell, Faber and Mazlish promote empathetic communication between parents and children and collaborative solutions to conflict.

While Siblings Without Rivalry is NOT a book centered upon the unique challenges of raising multiples, its sibling-centric focus does make it very applicable to most parents of twins. The authors wrote it as a follow-up to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk because they felt they had not had sufficient space to fully explore sibling conflict in the first book.

The most important prevailing theme throughout Siblings Without Rivalry is that parents should acknowledge and respect children’s feelings, particularly toward their siblings, without minimizing or sugar-coating them.  If a child says, “I hate Owen! He always ruins my stuff,” then rather than saying, “Be nice to your brother,” a parent might say, “You really seem angry at your brother! You wish he’d take better care of your things.” Allowing both children to express anger and validating their feelings can help them to work through the conflict on their own, increasing both their autonomy and their sense of belonging within their family.

Other Interesting Takeaways:

  1. Wherever possible, parents should stay out of conflicts between children, and instead provide them with tools to work through their disagreement together. The general formula prescribed for intervening when necessary is:
    •  Acknowledge each side’s anger: “John, you want to watch Curious George, but Kristen wants to watch Elmo, is that right?”
    • Appreciate both sides of the conflict, and express faith in their ability to come to a fair solution: “Wow, that’s tough. There’s only one television, and both of you want to use it. But I know you can come up with a solution that works for both of you.”
    • Walk away.

    I admit that I find this approach a little hard to fathom. My children are two, and while they can express (loudly) what they want, they don’t grasp the idea of compromise. Or patience. But I really like the idea of giving kids the tools to work out problems on their own without requiring Mom or Dad to resolve them. (Note that the book DOES provide a different approach for handling violent conflicts. A parent would never be advised to walk away from a fight that could cause real harm to either child.)

  2. Resist the urge to compare. I think that as twin parents, we generally know better than to do this, but comparisons can pop up in unexpected places sometimes. (“Look, your sister ate all HER food…” for example, or “Your sister put HER jacket away…”) Rather than comparing one child to another (“Why can’t you put away your toys like your brother does?”) describe the behavior that you see: “I see your blocks on the floor.” Or describe what needs to be done: “Please put your blocks away.” Likewise, be careful of comparing one child favorably to the other. Rather than saying, “You are a better eater than your sister,” describe the behavior that pleases you: “I see that you ate all your carrots!”
  3. Don’t allow your children to be locked into roles or personas. People seem really inclined to do this with twins. People often make references to one of my twins as “the shy one” or “the artistic one”. And when they were small babies, a stranger once asked me which was “the good one.” Never tell your kid, “Why are you always so mean to your brother?” The child walks away thinking, “Yes, I know I’m mean.” A better approach is to set a positive expectation for the child: “I know you can be kind to your brother.”
  4. Rather than treating children equally, strive to treat them uniquely, according to their needs. Instead of focusing on doling out identical servings of food, ask, “Do you want a little bit of _________ or a lot?” Instead of saying, “I love you both the same,” say, “I love you because you’re you! No one could ever take your place.” Give time according to need, as well. “I’m spending a lot of time helping your brother with his project right now. It’s important to him. As soon as I’m finished, I want to hear what’s important to you.” And then tune in and engage with the other child.
    This idea really resonated strongly with me. I remember being aware that one of my children really “needed” me more when they were small babies, while the other was more independent and able to accept help from others. I felt guilty about that at the time, feeling that I had somehow neglected the more independent child or affected our bonding. Now, with the space of time, I’m aware of how my relationships with my children have evolved, and I worry less about how much time I’ve spent with each and more about the quality of the time I’ve spent with each.
  5. Set expectations about boundaries of conflict. If kids hit or use name calling, say something like: “You sound mad, but I expect you to talk to your brother without hitting or calling him names.” And then provide some alternative strategies. “Rather than hitting, draw me a picture of how you feel.” “Rather than hitting your brother, go hit this pillow.” But note that insisting upon good feelings between children can lead to bad feelings or lingering resentment. Allowing bad feelings between children can help them to work through those feelings and have a more positive relationship in the long run.

 Overall Impression

As with How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, a few ideas in the book made me think, “Well, that sounds nice, but what do you do when THAT doesn’t work?” In general, though, I found Faber and Mazlish’s philosophies on how to treat and talk to siblings to be intuitive and thought-provoking. I was even able to (tactfully) suggest alternative ways to think about  and talk to my twins to other family members. All in all, I found it to be a very interesting and helpful read, but as with any parenting book, one should approach it willing to apply what makes sense and ignore what doesn’t.

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Multiple Identities

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Categories Attitude, Individuality, Infants, MoM Groups, Mommy Issues, Other people, Perspective2 Comments

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I urgently googled everything about twin pregnancies.  I started writing on this website.  I joined our local moms of multiples group.  When people told me I needed to talk to so-and-so who is a mom of twins, I took every phone number or email address.  Stories of sleepless nights were swapped over (a quick) coffee in during maternity leave with local twin mommas, and my first night “out” was to a meet n’ greet for my MoM group when my babies were 7 weeks old.  When I was stressed, I turned to this blog, other twin websites, or emailed other parents of twins. I gritted my teeth when parents of kids who are 16 months apart say it’s “just like having twins.” While nearly all of my friends are moms, I rarely reached out to them, thinking they won’t “get” it, or I wouldn’t feel the same connection as I would with someone who has lived this experience.

However, I’ve noticed recently, that I’ve not had the interest to attend the new moms’ coffees, and while I’ve reflected on dozens of different topics on which to write a blog post, they’re related less and less to a solely twin mom experience.  When did this happen?  All the sudden, it seems I see myself just as a “mom,” with the “twin” qualifier no longer being the first and foremost descriptor of my experience.   All the things that made new motherhood harder with two babies (feeding two at one time, having two babies wake up in the middle of the nights instead of one, not being able to manage getting two babies out of the house on my own) still apply.  I still felt that having two is truly the challenge of a lifetime that you can only understand if you’ve been through it.  (I also still don’t think that having two kids 16 months apart is the same thing as having twins!)  But, it seemed less important to me to try to explain it to others.  Could it be that I’m becoming more confident, knowing that I’m doing all I can and trying my hardest, regardless of how hard others think it is?  Or is it that, now that my babies are smiling, interacting with each other, communicating with us, I’m experiencing double the reward, as well?  Is it that, I’ve found my support (some mothers of multiples and some not) and that feels sufficient?  I can’t quite put my finger on it.

A similar phenomenon I’ve noticed, is that, while others used to turn to me pretty frequently with their struggles, friends of mine with young babies are not venting to me about their experience.  Rather, they’ll start to, and quickly cut themselves off saying, “I feel bad complaining to you,” or, “No matter how tired I am, I’m sure you’re more tired.”  Let’s be honest, they may be right.  But, are we not all struggling with the same thing here?  Whether we’re moms of quads or singletons, five kids or only children, aren’t we all, essentially, wanting to feel like others validate our struggles, understand what we’re going through, and celebrate the joys of parenthood along with us?

Identity is something I’ve thought much about, both in forming my own, and how I hope to help guide my kids in this process.  How important is the “multiple” part in your identity of being a mom of multiples?  Is it sometimes more predominant than the “mom” part, or is it just an adjective?

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Her Very Own Look

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Categories Identical, Individuality, Older ChildrenLeave a comment

My identical daughters have really begun to relish having different styles. Although they technically still share all their clothes (except underwear and socks), they’re beginning to show preferences for different items. They also express their individuality through their hairstyle choices. Until about age 3, my identical twin daughters sported identical haircuts.

Identical twins with identical cuts. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
What can I say? Bowl cuts are adorable on toddlers.

I know that the American tradition is to wait until the first birthday to cut a baby’s hair, but they needed their first trim well before that. They were born with a lot of hair, and apart from the lanugo, it’s stuck around.

Fully haired twin babies from Her Very Own Look at hdydi.com
These babies have always had full heads of hair. This was well after their second haircuts.

Soon after they turned 3, it was time for a change. As I wrote at the time:

J and M have been due for haircuts for a while. They’ve always had the same haircut, simply because I’m not creative enough to come up with two ideas. This time, though, I decided that they needed different cuts, purely for practical reasons.

J has been going through phase where she wants minimal fuss for her hair. She’d rather wear it loose or with a headband. She’ll wear a ponytail in a pinch, but barrettes and bows are out. Given her impatience with her hair, I elected to chop off much of the length and return to shoulder-length hair.

M loves to show off different styles. Depending on the day, she’ll tell me she wants two pigtails, a ponytail, a little ponytail on the side and another on the back to keep her side-parted hair out of her eyes, barrettes, a bow, a headband, a braid, or some combination of the above. I elected to keep her length and just take an inch off her hair. After her haircut, she couldn’t stop talking about the braid (plait for my British readership) the stylist had done on her right side.

Identical twins look quite different with different hair lengths and styles. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
Thus begins the journey to the girls’ own looks.

J let her hair grow out for a while and both girls, again, had long hair.

Identical twins with identical hair. from Her Own Look hdydi.comHer Very Own Style from hdydi.com
J and M both have their backs to the camera. J is wearing blue and M black and white.

When she was 5, J began to chew her hair. Warnings and punishments, rational explanation and frustration, reasoning and emotional pleas, all of it failed. It was time for serious action, in the form of another drastic haircut.

Identical twins look quite different with different hair lengths and styles. from Her Own Look hdydi.com
J went super-short this time around.

J kept the short hair for a few more cuts, but then decided that she wanted to match Sissy in length. She had successfully broken her chewing habit. I noticed J developing a distinct taste for massive bows and flowers in her hair. M decided that she wanted bangs. I wasn’t convinced that it would work, but she stuck to her guns for over a month. I gave in this summer and had to admit that she was right. Bangs look fabulous on her.

MSJ
J’s hair wasn’t quite as long as M’s, but it got to a good length. She also took to wearing headbands with big bows or flowers almost all the time. Her signature look was in development.

When we got ready to head to our favourite kid hair salon, Pigtails and Crewcuts, last weekend, J pulled a photo off the wall. She told me she wanted short hair again, and illustrated with her own short short hair from a couple of years ago. She seemed sure. The stylist took 6 inches off before even starting to shape the cut.

Jshort

mlong

My daughters love being identical twins, but know that they don’t have to present themselves identically to the world. They can be identical twins with different hair.

Do your kids have matching hair?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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In Which My Daughter Does a 180 on Having Her Own Room

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Individuality, Loneliness, Overnight, Parenting Twins, School-Age, Sleep, Talking to KidsTags , , , Leave a comment

My daughters are at a turning point. Being together 24/7 at age 7 as they more deeply explore their distinct interests is grating on each other. M loves to sing and J sometimes just wants her to stop humming. J likes to see the bright side or educational opportunity in every challenge, while M just wants to have the freedom to feel and express her frustrations.

I’d sent the girls off to get ready for bed Sunday when J flounced out of the bathroom and threw herself into my lap.

J: M’s annoying me.
Sadia: Have you talked to her about it?
J: Yes! And she won’t stop!
Sadia: Just find somewhere else to be.
J: silence
Sadia: There are moments when I get frustrated. Sometimes the thing I do is go to a different room and do something distracting.
J: I can’t do that. We’re sisters. We’re in the same place. You don’t get it. Being an adult is so easy.
Sadia: hiding a smile Adulthood has its own challenges. You know, we do have an extra room. Do you want your own room?
J: How would you fix the bed back together?
Sadia: I was thinking you could sleep in the bed that’s already in the guest room.
J: Yeah! I’ll do that tonight.
Sadia: Oh! You need to let your sister know what’s going on so she’s not surprised.

I hadn’t anticipated J’s response. I thought that the idea of sleeping alone would horrify her, as it has done every time Daddy has brought up getting separate rooms. He and his sister were 13 months apart and in the same grade. He cherished the sanctity of his own space.

Five minutes later…

M: getting louder and louder But I don’t like sleeping by myself!
J: M! It’s just for a month.
M: Mommy, J says I’m annoying and she won’t sleep with me.
Sadia: I know, honey. It’s like when you told her last night that she couldn’t sleep in your bed because she was annoying you.
M: It’s not the same. I don’t like sleeping by myself. I only sent her to a bed in the same room. Who’ll sleep with me?
Sadia: What if I sleep in your room?
M: I guess. My bed. I need snuggles because I’m without my sister.
J: It’s for a month, M. In one month I’ll try sleeping in your room if you’re not annoying. If you are annoying I’ll go back to my room for one more month.

With little fanfare, J went to bed in the guest room. We read a chapter of Little House on the Prairie together in J’s new bed. The girls said their prayers.

J: … Thank you, God, for giving me a mom who understands my needs…

The new arrangement lasted one night. In the car yesterday evening, J brought up having come to snuggle with us around 2:00 am when she was suffering a snuggle deficit. She reports our having had a conversation. I didn’t remember it at all. I didn’t think of my lack of memory as a big deal, but J interpreted it as “sleep talking”. She has an inexplicable terror of sleep walking. After many tears and endless attempts on her part to get me to remember the discussion and on my part to show that there was nothing wrong, she elected to sleep in M’s bed for comfort.

I wonder where she’ll decide to sleep tonight. At least she’s convinced that I understand her needs. From my perspective, it’s all a big fat mystery.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Separate Schools, Two Weeks In

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Categories Classroom Placement, Individuality, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, Same Gender, School4 Comments

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Two weeks ago I posted about separating my twin boys for preschool, into two different schools. We are in the second week and still adjusting, but here’s a little update on how its going so far.

Both boys started on the same day, even though their schedules overlap only one day a week. We moved around my husband’s work schedule so that day he goes in much later than he used to, since we effectively have to be in two places at once. We stood on the porch and did first day of school photos, obligatory backpack shots, and lots of hugs. Even though only one kid got on the bus, the whole family waited outside for the bus, and his brother insisted on wearing his backpack too. Our little guy got on the bus that first day without a tear. Mommy, however, was not as tough. Yup, I cried. Not as much as I expected, and not as much as I had been in the months before this big day.

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Other kid’s private preschool has a very, very gradual, drawn out intro to preschool, in stark contrast to the school district’s put-them-on-a-bus-and-see-them-later approach. They have a two week orientation period which I suppose some kids probably benefit from, but our kid is ready to get going already. They only go for 1 hour, and instead of drop off, the first day was with the parent the whole time, the subsequent days the parents drop off in the room and get them into their routine before leaving. This Mommy is ready to just drop the kid at the curb, kisses and hugs and on your way, kiddo. The kid wants to know when they get to play at the playground (since they are only there one hour there’s no playground time.) Looking forward to starting for real next week. (and yes, I am one of those rip-the-bandaid off fast people.)

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Here’s a brief rundown of things the past two weeks.

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Kid 1:

  • Got kid onto bus, less than 1 hour later the bus company called (Mommy panic!) but only to tell me to expect him home a full 30 minutes before the original time they told me. Good thing we changed around Daddy’s work schedule.
  • Got a call from the social worker at the school even before he was home the first day telling me that “He was a little sad” when they put him on the bus, which I think is social worker speak for “Flipped his $#&!” when it was time to leave school. Which I guess is good he was having fun.
  • He had an ID tag on his backpack for the bus driver with contact info, but both our home address and phone number wrong. He got home safely anyway. If you ask where he lives he will tell you, “At our house!”
  • Day 2 on the bus and school day was without incident from the kid, but waving at the bus with the other kid, a nosy neighbor walked by adding, “But aren’t they twins? That one must have something wrong with him if he’s taking that bus to school.” IN FRONT OF THE OTHER KID. Gee, thanks.
  • Monday morning the bus driver was 20 minutes late, stopped way past the house, nearly to the neighbors yard and upset the poor kid so much thinking he was forgotten he cried getting on the bus and could be heard screaming as they drove away.
  • By Thursday the second week the novelty has worn off and he no longer has any interest in going to school or riding the bus. It was a major issue getting him to put on clothing and get outside for the bus. Thankful he gets Fridays off so we can not have that discussion for a few more days.

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Kid 2:

  • Went to the first day of school and had a total meltdown when the teacher told him the playtime was done and it was time to read a book. This was the first of many over-sensitive, emotional, sobbing outbursts we’ve seen since the first day of school from the typically laid-back, easy going kid.
  • Teachers told us he’s holding his own but it is obvious he misses his brother quite a lot, he talks about him constantly
  • He runs up to the bus when it arrives back home and has even run up the steps to hug his brother. It’s incredibly sweet.
  • By the 3rd day his brother was at school, he was so volatile and sensitive that I asked him to clean up his Potato Head toys and he sobbed, “But I didn’t get to give brother a hug AND a kiss before he left!”
  • He started a weekly story time session at the library, an extra activity he gets to do alone, since he doesn’t have school as often as his brother. The teacher said he did great and was one of the top participants in the activities and a great listener.
  • He told us he did not want to go to school this week because he wanted to be home for when brother’s bus came back.
  • After the bus nearly missed the house, he put on a Batman outfit because he thought meeting his brother in a Batman suit would cheer him up. (It did.)
  • His teacher at school said he was playing well with the other kids and was much happier than the previous day.

All in all, it hasn’t been bad, but it’s definitely been a transition. We have upped the frequency of random and seemingly senseless meltdowns. It’s heartbreaking to see how sad they are apart, even though they seem to both be enjoying school. They don’t yet “get’ the days of the week so it is confusing them who has school which day, and their behavior definitely shows they are hurting. With time we will all adjust to the new normal, but these first few weeks are pretty emotional.

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Time together and apart at playschool

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Categories Classroom Placement, Identical, Independence, Individuality, Preschoolers, Same Gender, SchoolLeave a comment

My daughters (R and S) are starting their third year of playschool next week.  They’ve been going to the same mothers’ day out program for those three years.

First day of Playschool - 2011 (age 2)

The first year, they went together to the toddler room. I don’t think the teachers learned much about their unique personalities that year, probably because even as parents we didn’t see many difference developing.  The teachers tried to support the girls as individuals by taking them to the bathroom separately, but it was challenging with a group of 1.5 and 2 year olds to be that structured, especially when potty training.

First day of Playschool - 2012 (age 3)

Last year, the girls went together one day a week and by themselves each one day a week in the 3 year old room. This gave the girls time at school by themselves and time at home by themselves with me.  It was during this last year that they really started developing their own unique personalities.  Their classroom teachers also recognized those differences. They told me how the girls behaved differently when they were together and apart.  R was more interested in crafts and writing her letters.  She also enjoyed helping the teachers.  S liked playing with the dolls and stuffed animals but sometimes she’d play with the cars and trains.  When they were at school together, they usually played together with each other but not with the other kids.

On the days they were at school alone, they made their own friends and ate lunch with other kids. R, who could write her name, even visited the 4-year-old class, which challenged her social and academic skills a little. The teachers encouraged this independence by separating them in different work groups or seating them apart at lunch time. R and S’s classroom teachers and many of the other teachers at the school could tell them apart. At home, I was able to include the girls in different activities like doing errands with me, playing their favourite games and helping in the kitchen.  I don’t need to tell you how much easier some tasks are with just one “helper.”

Soccer camp - Summer 2013 (age 4)

Next week, they’ll start going together one day a week and by themselves one day each again. I’m excited to see how they develop their own personalities even more over this year. At home, I’m going to work with R on her reading; I think she’ll be reading by Christmas. I think she gets bored without a challenge and that leads to potty accidents and baby behaviours. With S, I’m going to go at her pace. I think she has ideas, but she’s a little quieter so her sister and brother get to lead more. I’m curious to see what interests of her own emerge.

Even though kindergarten is still a year off, I’ve been talking to the girls about it.  They are quite definite they want to be in separate classes. I ask if they’ll be lonely by themselves, and they tell me “we will ride the bus together every day.” Since they look so much alike and their personalities are very similar, I think the time apart will let them explore their interests and develop their own identities.

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When Separation Isn’t a Choice

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Categories Behavior, Classroom Placement, Development, Difference, Education, Independence, Individuality, Parenting, School, Special NeedsTags 3 Comments

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If there is one topic that comes up in twin-Mom blogs, forums and groups more than any other, it is whether to separate your twins in school. It’s a hot topic and everyone has their own best answer. There are laws on the books in many states allowing the parents to choose, but in reality it comes down to the principal and teachers’ willingness to do what is best for the kids.  Parents argue, teachers argue, each side cites studies and anecdotes. Before I was a Mom of twins, i probably wouldn’t have put much thought into it. When my boys were born it seemed so far away, and there were so many other, more pressing matters, like sleep.

Fast-forward to age 3-almost-4 and we’re on the precipice of preschool. But the decision to separate was made for me, without any real choice. Whether I could or would choose to put my boys in separate classes in kindergarten and beyond, I know for certain I would not have chosen to separate them at age three. Starting next month my little boys, my babies, will be starting preschool in two different classes, in two different schools in two different parts of town.

We’ve gone back and forth over the past three years whether to even put them into preschool. Long ago, before their second birthday, I quit my job to stay home full time, and had a pretty decent home preschool thing going on with them. We did fun things, they learned a ton. But by their third birthday, one seemed to be really “getting it” with complex language, learning letters and numbers, explaining complicated concepts. The other deferred to his brother for the answers. We started to see problems with behavior, outbursts that were beyond 3-year-old tantrums. He would be agitated, impatient and inflexible.  Early Intervention is available to kids under 3 who show signs of developmental delays, but he and been on track up until his 3rd birthday, so we never had any reason to call. After age 3, those services are provided through the local school district. Between January and May of this year, he went through several screenings at the school district’s preschool program, and they determined his delays sufficient enough to warrant services through the school district. He does not have a diagnosis other than “developmental delay” in the district’s qualifications. He will be starting there four days a week in September (meanwhile we are waiting for an appointment with a developmental specialist as well.)

My other son will be attending a local private preschool, the one we intended for them both to start this year. As luck would have it, some of our closest twin playmates will also be in that class. He will be going only two days a week, one of which overlaps with his brother’s school days. We have been trying to build it up all summer as a great chance to do fun things at school and how amazing it will be to run home and tell your brother. But truly, it kills me to separate them. I know they are very attached to each other. The few times we have split them up to run errands or take them to an appointment, they only worry about the other. One will tell perfect strangers in a store about where his brother is and what he is doing at the time. They speak in plurals “we would like a snack.” and do everything with the other in mind (like swipe two yogurts from the fridge, one for each!) We had a brief separation in swim lessons when one kid moved up to the next level and the other wasn’t quite there. The instructor asked if we preferred to hold the one back until they were both ready, but that didn’t seem fair. The first class they were apart the one who wasn’t quite ready refused to go in the water and cried the entire 30 minutes. He also refused to do the lesson the next three weeks.

So in a few weeks, I am going to load up my 3-year-old with a backpack full of school supplies (My Baby! School Supplies?!?!) and put him on a school bus (which I am told is outfitted with car seats for little guys.) while his brother and I wave from the lawn. On alternate days I will wait for the bus and then take the other kid to school in our not-a-school-bus Minivan. (and if you don’t think that is a Big Thing then you don’t know 3-year-old boys.) They will spend 15 hours a week apart. Neither will have his brother there when the class celebrates their birthday. My heart breaks for them. When we talk about school starting, one will invariably say, “But I will miss my brother!” while I fight back tears. It will be great to finally have one-on-one time with each, but I can’t help but feel the other will be missing out. Or maybe we will be missing out while he is having a blast at school. One of the arguments I have read so often about separate classes for twins is that they are different people and need different experiences, but can find each other at recess or lunch and still maintain their bond. I love how close my boys are to each other. I want them to excel and I want what is best, but I also want them to have each other and not feel like we are taking one away from the other.

Will this be great for both of them? Absolutely. Is it going to be the toughest adjustment we’ve faced so far? Undoubtedly. But I hope we can get each the level of help he needs to excel in school, and we will all work together so that maybe, just maybe, I can exercise my right as a parent to chose whether or not they will be together in Kindergarten after all.

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 3-year-old twin boys who have already packed their backpacks several times with favorite toys and random treasures, ready to start preschool next week. Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

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Establishing Them as Individuals at School

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Categories Individuality, Parenting, Preschoolers, School, School-AgeTags , , , , , 2 Comments

I distinctly remember one of the most frequently asked questions during my pregnancy was, “Are you going to dress your twins alike?”  I really hadn’t given much thought to it, and I’m pretty sure I gave a pretty vague answer.

At our baby showers, we got lots and lots of duplicate outfits.  Thus, much of the girls’ first year was spent with them looking much like each other.

When I finally started buying the bulk of their clothes myself, I found them matching about half of the time, and the other half of the time, they wore coordinating outfits.

(There are reasons for this, as I’ve finally realized…from shopping lots of end-of-season sales and often finding duplicates more readily than separate outfits…to the ease of doing laundry…to the simplification of picking outfits for the day…but that’s another blog post.)

For the last couple of years, I’ve let the girls choose what they want to wear.  Some days one will say, “I want to look like Sissy,” and some days they’ll choose something different from each other.  With the exception of a few more formal situations where I like to select their outfits, this has been fine with me.

Before the girls started three-year old preschool last fall, though, I had a revelation, sparked by an incident at a park.  The girls were dressed alike, and a three- or four-year old came up to me and asked, “Why are they wearing the same shirt?

Well, duh, Kid!  It’s because they’re twins.  😉

And then it occurred to me…while it’s super cute to most adults to see pint-sized mirror images, matching from head to toe…that might just seem a bit “odd” to the average preschooler.

Between this and my motivation to try to help the girls be seen as individuals, I promptly went shopping to expand the girls’ back-to-school wardrobe (after I’d originally vowed they had more than enough clothes to start the school year).  I wanted to make sure they had plenty of non-matching outfits, at least to get them through the first month or so of school.

There were a few times I allowed my girls to wear matching outfits to school, but it was long after their teachers – and more importantly, in my mind – their classmates, had gotten to know them as individuals.

This was definitely the most thought I’d ever given to the girls’ “clothing strategy”, and I felt really good about where I’d landed.

And then I had to laugh when, on the first day of four-year old preschool this fall, my B asked, “Mommy, can we please wear the same thing so people will know we go together?

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The girls settled on coordinating outfits for the first day of school

Do your multiples dress alike?  Does that change based on the situation?  Do you think it impacts how people view them?

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and about overthinking parenthood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Identity Crisis

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I was folding laundry when my 7-year-old daughter J bounced out of her room to talk to me. She lay down on the carpet and looked up at me.

J: I feel weird.
Me: Oh?
J: I’m uncomfortable.
Me: What about?
J: M (her twin) has been eating dessert and I haven’t.
Me: I thought you didn’t want dessert.
J: That’s what’s making me feel weird. M wanted dessert and I didn’t. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Me: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Perhaps M has a sweet tooth like me, and you don’t feel like having sweets so often, like Daddy.
J: That’s possible. I love Daddy. This might hurt your feelings, but he’s my favourite parent.
Me: That doesn’t hurt my feelings. You absolutely should love him.
J: He’s my second favourite person, after M. But I still like sweet things.
Me: Sure, of course you like sweet things. You probably just don’t crave them as much as you get more mature.
J: Is M getting more mature?
Me: Absolutely, but not in exactly the the same way at the same time as you. You’re different people.
J: No we’re not. We’re the same people.
Me: Um.
J: It doesn’t make sense. It we were born together, it doesn’t make sense we mature and different times and lose our teeth at different times. I don’t like it.
Me: I can understand that it feels uncomfortable, but you and M have always been different people. You have a lot in common, and it doesn’t change your love for each other or your closeness to have differences.
J: I guess.

I’m sure that these are only the beginning stages of a long and bumpy road to individuation.

Have your kids ever expressed to you how they feel in relation to their multiples?

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Connections

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Yesterday, shortly before 1 pm, my phone rang. It was summer camp. M had been complaining about feeling unwell, and was running a mild fever. I went to pick her up, and asked J whether she wanted to stay at camp or come home with us. J decided to come home because she didn’t see the point of being at camp without her sister.

When I walked to the back of the room to retrieve backpacks, lunch bags and water bottles, a counselor I hadn’t met before approached me.

“I just wanted to say that your girls are just so sweet,” she said to me, smiling. “I saw J crying and asked her what was wrong. She was worried about M not feeling good. She said, ‘She’s my entire world.’ I totally get it. I’m a twin.”

We talked about the counselor’s relationship with her twin brother. She told me that they were the only twins out of her 22 siblings. I thought I’d misheard her, but she confirmed that she had 12 sisters and 9 brothers. (This makes my brain and ovaries hurt simultaneously.) Even with that many siblings, the twin relationship was a special one.

This sort of thing happens to me all the time. Adults we cross paths with, from teens to the elderly, tell me not only about how their sister-in-law’s cousin’s stepmother’s great aunts were twins, but often about their own experience of being part of a set of multiples. I once had a woman stocking wine at the grocery store tell me that her marriage counselor had advised her to stop expecting her husband to be her twin. That advice had saved her marriage. (I’d never met the woman before. People in Texas talk to strangers, and on just about any subject. It’s why I like it here.)

I love how much my daughters care for each other. I know that the teenage years may be especially hard for them, as J and M individuate not only from me, but from each other. It’s nice to hear from adults how precious they hold their connections to their twin siblings and that my daughters’ affection for each other resonates with them. It also helps me rest easy. I don’t need to force my girls to be separate individuals. They’re quite different without my having to push them to be different, but to deny the primacy of twinhood in their lives would be dishonest.

Maybe in 10 or 15 years, it will be J who smiles at the way a pair of young twins interacts with each other, seeing a reenactment of her magical connection to M.

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