let's collaborate on a tip sheet re: why it's important that my child's teachers can recognize him

Thank you for all of your advice and support after my last post[-ing binge], regarding my suspicions that my boys’ kindergarten teacher has mixed them up more times than is really excusable.

After taking some time to cool down, I’ve decided:

  1. Their teacher is a good teacher. She is kind, she works really hard, and she cares about the kids.
  2. Ignorance regarding the importance of facial recognition seems to be widespread.

To turn this into a useful experience, I’ve decided to compose a letter/pamphlet/flyer/something to hand over to the principal or the local board of education, that explains why it is so important to learn to identify look-alike twins, triplets, etc. by sight.

I’d also like to touch upon some tips or information along the lines of: What do I wish my kids’ teacher/s knew going into the school year?

If any of you have experience putting your multiples in daycare, preschool, camp, elementary school, or beyond, please comment (or email, if you’re shy) with your tips and suggestions. Or share ideas based on your own experiences, if you are a twin or triplet.

My email is jen.diagnosisurine at gmail.com, but consider posting a comment because your thoughts might spark some ideas for other readers. It would be great if we could come up with a piece that we all could use as we’re putting our children in new situations.

Ranting Update On My Evolving Feelings About the Boys’ Teachers

Friends, thank you for weighing in on my previous post. (Also, forgive me for posting twice in a row as if this were my personal blog.)

Based on Mommy, Esq.’s comment on how it hurt her feelings to be confused with her sister, even though they had way different hairstyles, and on torie’s comment about how this should be a learning experience for the student teacher, I composed a fantastically diplomatic email to the boys’ teacher suggesting a handy mnemonic device for the student teacher to use.

She wrote back with what I took to be a tone (an email tone, you know) that said, “Yeah, yeah, lady.” I have gradually accepted being *that mom* to this teacher… After the second or third time I had to suggest she might have had my boys confused for important things like testing and placement, I figured our relationship may grow strained.

Aside: Did I update you on that? Because after I asked a bunch of times I got an email that pretty much confirmed someone mixed up either the boys or their paperwork for some length of time.

Anyway. After the “yeah, yeah” response, I tried my hand at mining my 6-year-olds for info. First I asked P if their friends know who they are, or if they have to ask. He said most of their friends know. Then I asked about the teachers. He said, “Not so much.”

“Mrs. Johnson [school guidance counselor] knows us. And [librarian] is having me help her learn who is who. And [classroom aide] knows us but she said she doesn’t want us to get our hair cut the same! But [classroom teacher] and [student teacher]…” He shook his head. “…Nope!”

My feelings can best be summed up in language that is inappropriate for HDYDI.

My follow-up questions revealed that his classroom teacher mixes up their names all the time. “Like Daddy and I call you the wrong name sometimes?” I asked. He said no, not like that.

This is gut-wrenching. First, that this woman hasn’t been able to get them straight the entire school year… And maybe this is an argument for separating multiples in school, but mine wouldn’t have handled that well at all and we shouldn’t have to sacrifice their emotional well-being to protect them from people being lazy morons.

Second, this situation makes it even more likely that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups for the first half of the school year, with the more competent boy placed in the remedial/intervention reading group, and the more challenged boy placed in the reading group for kids who are doing just fine. I can hardly believe this really happened.

Third, my heart breaks for my little boys who are actual people who deserve to be recognized and called by name and valued as individuals. How can you love or even like a person if you don’t recognize him, or can’t differentiate him from another?

This has happened despite never dressing them alike and maintaining different haircuts (one almost buzzed, one long and shaggy) the whole school year. Their names don’t start with the same letter or rhyme. They don’t sit together. They hold their faces differently. They have different friends and different mannerisms. Somehow, though, the fact that they are twins conveys free license to never really look at them.

Judging by the comments on my last post, this isn’t a problem exclusive to identical or even same-sex multiples! Being born as part of a set is dehumanizing enough that they’re reduced to the level of purebred dogs that no one but the owners can tell apart, and that’s okay and shouldn’t be at all offensive or surprising.

I’m fired up, people! I want to send a letter to the principal, the superintendent, and the United Nations, but I fear retaliation against my fellas. Internet, you’ve never steered me wrong. What do you advise?

the crazy twin vs. the smart twin

At bedtime one night, P was being wild and I asked him to settle down. He replied, “Sometimes it is fun being the crazy twin, because you can do stuff you’re not supposed to.”

I was puzzled.

“So, are you the crazy twin?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “And G is the smart twin.”

He said all of this with a big smile on his face.

Immediately I knew he must have caught an episode of “The Suite Life with Zack and Cody,” although this is a theme in plenty of shows and movies featuring twins. Ugh.

I gave both boys the obligatory pep talk about how neither one of them is the smart twin or the crazy twin or the anything twin. I told them I didn’t want to hear anything like that again.

The boys have started to get interested in seeing twins on tv and in movies. It’s only been in the last year or so that we’ve met other sets of multiples that look alike — it’s still new to them. Unfortunately I haven’t found shows where the twins are just normal — a little bit alike, a little bit different, and doing their thing without their twin-ness being the main point of their presence.

Any recommendations?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.

further adventures in twindergarten

Do you like what I did up there? Twindergarten? When I thought of that this afternoon, I dislocated my shoulder patting myself on the back.

Okay. I must preface this post by saying I love the boys’ kindergarten teacher. Love her! She’s the perfect teacher for them, and I hope my youngest will also have her in two years.

That being said, I have some serious concerns over whether their teacher might have gotten their testing mixed up.

When I got the boys’ report cards, I was surprised by two things:

  1. They were drastically different, and
  2. P had a ton of “I” for “insufficient progress” marks, while G had none. This was surprising because P reads and prints and spells a lot better for me at home than G does.

At my conference with their teacher, I broached the awkward topic of whether there was a chance she’d gotten the boys confused. Their teacher said she’d re-assess them to be certain, but that the boys’ test scores back up P being in the “intervention” reading group, and G being in a regular reading group.

Since then, I’ve compared everything they’ve brought home. And I’m pretty sure P is not the one who should be in the “intervention” group. I got a few more papers home today and was struck by the difference between the boys’ work…

I know both of them will be fine and they’re both smart kids, but I’m worried about G getting lost if he’s the one who needs extra help. P hates school, and I wonder if it could have anything to do with this — if he isn’t being challenged, or something.

This is one of the most awkward situations I’ve faced as a parent of twins, second only to the awkwardness of trying to breastfeed the twins discreetly in an unlocked room at my in-laws’ house.

Has anyone else dealt with anything like this? I’ve brought up my concerns (multiple times), and I feel like I have to trust that she has reassessed them… but I haven’t heard anything back from her and therefore I have to assume nothing has changed with their reading groups, etc.

Aside: While the boys look alike and are probably identical, they’ve had different haircuts since the beginning of the school year and are never dressed alike. So suggesting someone has mixed them up long-term is potentially insulting… and like I said, I love their teacher!

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4 and 8. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she chronicles the many disasters narrowly averted using only her pluck and the assortment of household objects found in her 2001 Pontiac Montana.

separating multiples in the classroom

We’re officially on summer break, here. Unfortunately, summer is fraught with challenges for me and my twins. Things like swimming lessons and bike rides and water and parades and fireworks… Sigh.

Today the boys begin Safety Town, a pre-kindergarten program designed to teach safety basics like crossing the street, learning one’s address and phone number, calling 911, etc. I harangued the school into telling me the boys’ classroom assignment for kindergarten, and we went by and met their teacher. They liked her, liked their classroom. I’m overjoyed that they’ll be together, and so are they. For kindergarten, in our district, parents can note on the registration form whether they’d like their children placed with or separated from any other child. For multiples, the school makes certain the request is honored.

My boys are very close, and struggled in preschool when they were placed in separate groups, especially in the beginning of the year. By the end of the year they still disliked being separated, but were able to participate and keep from crying. We have all-day kindergarten here, so the full days 5x/week will be a big adjustment from three 2-hour days at preschool. I knew I didn’t want them to tackle that adjustment separately.

But I’m already worrying about first grade. I’d planned on separating them after kindergarten, but then my daughter had such a wonderful first grade teacher that I’d really like all my other children to have him, too. I started researching keeping multiples together after kindergarten, and found some interesting information supporting keeping multiples together until they request to be separated.

This sentence, in particular, caught my attention:

Many people view the bond between multiples as unhealthy — a dependency, a limitation that excludes outside relationships, a suffocation of individuality, a font of jealousy and rivalry.”

I absolutely find this to be the case. People comment on my boys’ relationship the way they commented on the kids having pacifiers beyond an acceptable age. It’s as though it’s an unhealthy crutch that society will tolerate, to a point, but just barely.

Meanwhile, I’ve spoken with several twins in real life (as opposed to online) who have related how painful the school separation was for them and their co-twin. These people are healthy, normal adults with separate lives now, so I can only assume the school separation happened before they were ready, and eventually they were ready and made that separation, internally, on their own.

Maybe my boys will be ready for separate classrooms in first grade, (and then I’ll just have to feel sorry for the one who doesn’t get the awesome teacher) but if they aren’t, I feel empowered to request they be placed together.

What have your experiences been with separating your kids in daycare or school, or even placing them in separate bedrooms? How has it gone?

Jen is a work-from-home mom of  5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 7. She also blogs at http://www.diagnosisurine.com/.

You are your own expert

At our last MOT club support meeting, one mom mentioned how she was having major sleep problems with her kids.  So much so that she managed to get an appointment with the one and only Dr. Ferber, who practices here in Boston.  I was intrigued, as I have been a vocal defender of the good doctor ever since we “Ferberized” at 6.5 months.  I know a lot of people object to his CIO method, but I thought it was wonderfully effective.  Then, I heard the advice he gave my friend and thought it was so far off the mark that I actually had a viceral, physical reaction.  I almost felt betrayed.

The specifics of the advice aren’t important, and I’m no pediatrician or sleep expert.  But it was illuminating nonetheless.  It really reminded me how we all have to pick and choose our experts, and what advice we choose to ignore and what we choose to accept.  There’s a million “experts” out there. Could be someone with a published book in paperback and a lot of acronyms after their name.  Could be your mom or a neighbor or even a blogger you read.  I think we all wish it was as easy as picking up a single book or asking a single person for advice, and having all of the answers nice and neat in one place.  But no matter how complete a theory someone claims to have, it never works 100% for every kid.

For instance, while I’m a huge believer in Ferber’s ideas about sleep associations and his CIO methods, I also think his suggestions for bedtimes and naptimes are ridiculous.  Maybe I’m more of a Weissbluth person… I follow his nap schedule almost to a T, and am strongly in favor of early bedtimes.  But I think he ignores sleep associations, and sometimes I think newborns just need to sleep in bouncy seats or swings and it’s not the end of the world.

And that leads me to the second thing I was reminded of: how strongly we sometimes hold to some of our core parenting beliefs. While I don’t think strict rigidity is the ideal, I do think it’s important to have a few things in which you believe strongly, that you prioritize over other things.  For some it might be a commitment to frugality or “going green” or positive discipline.  For me, I think the thing I hold to more strongly than almost anything else is a regular nap schedule and early bedtime.  Any suggestion of infants or toddlers going to bed later than 8PM is likely to give me heart palpitations.  (Mine are in bed by 7, religiously.)

Do I think an early bed time is the “right” thing?  Of course, or I wouldn’t do it.  But it’s not the only idea out there, and there’s people who aren’t going to place the same priority on that as I do.

Anyways, my point is this: you are the expert on your kids.  By all means, read up on the different theories.  See what the “experts” have to say.  See what your mother has to say.  See what your fellow MOT’s have to say.  But know that you’ll probably pick and choose.  You might love half of what someone has to say, but blatantly object to the other half.  Parenting and the millions of theories out there are just a big smorgasbord.  Think it all through, but only take what works for you.

So, readers, who are your favorite experts, and why?  And what bits of their advice have you completely thrown by the wayside?

Mom and two kids

Foodie Friday: Good food related advice

I was at gymnastics class with the kids this morning, waiting for the doors to open and the hoard—ok, maybe 8—of toddlers to run into the class. The moms were bemoaning toddler eating habits. One mom was upset that as of three months ago, her little boy ate everything and now he won’t eat meat or vegetables. Another one said her kid sometimes doesn’t eat anything all day. My guys, of course, were busy looking around for the plate of cookies that had been out two weeks ago, when they’d been there last. They do have long memories for cookies. Anyway, the manager of the place heard people talking and shared the best advice he and his wife had gotten when he was expecting his first baby several years ago. Their friend is a pediatric nutritionist at one of the big teaching hospitals nearby and they asked her for feeding advice. They were expecting something about using only organic foods or avoiding all processed sugar—-and instead, she told them this:

“When she’s a toddler, don’t worry about how much she eats. Toddlers will eat what they need to. As long as she’s growing ok, don’t stress about how much food she eats each day.”

Pretty good advice, huh? It is similar to what www.wholesometoddlerfood.com talks about, another resource that I have found helpful recently. I know I tend to have pretty big eaters and not to stress too much about food consumption (and no, mine won’t eat meat either), but I still think this is a good mantra to have in the back of your head.  

What’s been the best food-related advice you’ve gotten? Share with the rest of us!

The Best Advice

I’ve been thinking about the title of our blog.  I feel that I need to pass along wisdom about “how I do it” but lately I’m not sure that I’m doing it very well.

My husband and I got through pregnancies, deliveries, infancy, toddlerhood, tantrums and potty training.  We knew it would all pass (although we were pretty sure he would walk one of the girls down the aisle and tell the groom-to-be that she wasn’t potty trained yet).  But now I find myself at a new challenge in parenting and I feel like a newbie all over again.

You see, apparently aliens came recently and stole my lovely 12 year old daughter and replaced her with this creature who doesn’t listen, obey, pick up, bathe, or. . .you get the picture.  It’s positively scary around here, not knowing how this person who looks a lot like our former daughter will behave.

So I’ve been thinking of plunging into parenting books again, and seeking advice for myself.  I’ve also been thinking of advice I’ve heard from wise women that is resonating again with me.  These two things may help someone else, so I’ll repeat them to you as I repeat them to myself.

Little people, little problems; Bigger people, bigger problems

This came from a mom I worked with many years ago.  Her children were much older than mine.  That simple statement has often helped me get perspective.  When kids are little, tantrums and potty training can seem very stressfull.  Hang on, you will all survive and confront bigger issues.  When you look back in the future, this all wont seem like such a big deal.  I’m sure I’ll survive my current worries to face the stresses of my daughters driving and dating.

Pray, and trust

This came from a mother friend in Church, and I wont begin to try to convert anyone to prayer here, but the sentiment rings true – have some faith that things will work themselves out.  I was picky about some foods when I was a kid, and now I love them.  My sister and I fought, and then grew very close.  Release worries to a higher power and know that some things will change with time.  You can only beat your head against the wall so much, sometimes you have to let go.

That is “how I do it” today.

You can meet my twins and their alien sister at Lit and Laundry.