Children Lie

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to blog about this incident. It’s embarrassing to one of my daughters, but not atypical for children their age. Seven-year-olds lie and even steal. It’s developmentally appropriate, but not socially or morally acceptable. Maybe our story will help another parent know that she’s not alone in tackling these issues. Here’s what happened.

For their 7th birthday, I got each of my daughters a gift card to a local bookstore. I like to use gift cards to teach my girls financial decision-making. The finite balance on the gift card teaches them that paying with plastic should be treated as responsibly as paying with cash. When they run out, they’re out. It encourages budgeting and exercises their basic arithmetic while they’re shopping. They have to factor in sales tax. Whenever possible, I try to set up situations where my daughters spend their gift cards over multiple shopping trips. I figure it helps them understand the idea of debit and the longterm record-keeping required to track their gift card balance is a good exercise.

The gift cards I gave J and M were identical. Although I suggested that we simply write their names on each one, the girls elected to distinguish them differently. One of them decided that she would remove the hangtag from her card while the other left hers intact.

Nearly two months after our initial shopping venture, the girls asked to go to the bookstore this weekend. I asked them to grab their gift cards and buckle up in the car. I gathered up my things while they packed up theirs. The one who’d left her hangtag on let us know that she’d found her gift card, but removed the tag so that the card would fit in the wallet. The other child was upset, feeling that Sissy had gone back on an agreement. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find her gift card.

I happened to know where the second gift card was. Someone had just left her card lying on the floor of the living room last time we went to the bookstore. Despite two reminders, it was never put away, so I picked it up and set it aside.

I retrieved the gift card and discovered that it was the one with the hangtag still attached. My daughter had claimed her sister’s gift card and concocted a lie to cover it up. I showed her the gift card and she instantly knew she was caught. Sister didn’t even realize what she was witnessing. I explained it to her, and she was understandably appalled. Her sister had essentially stolen from her and then lied to cover it up.

The offending party volunteered that the appropriate consequence for her actions was my permanently confiscating her gift card. I didn’t want to do that, but I did tell her that she would not be spending her card on this trip. Sister not only forgave her, but bought the offender a book with her own card.

The next day, I took a moment alone to talk to my daughter about why she’d made the series of choices she had. She didn’t want to talk about it because she felt bad. I reminded her that she had made some pretty bad choices, and one of the consequences of those choices was feeling guilty. She was going to have to talk about it and she was going to have to feel bad. Once she finally agreed to discuss the whole situation, she explained to me that she knew that she’d done wrong by not putting her gift card away. All the wrong actions that followed were to cover up that mistake.

I told her clearly that lying and stealing were far worse than the original offense, and those were the choices I was truly disappointed in. Dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated. Mistakes happen and can be fixed, but lying was unacceptable.

I live what I preach. I admit my mistakes to my children. The only lie I’m guilty of is eating chocolate at work so that my girls don’t know the quantity of sugar I consume. I’m working on fixing that one. I even struggle with the mythology of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those feel like lies, even if our entire community is complicit.

This is another one of those ways in which parenting gets harder. You leave behind the sleepless nights and the diapers and potty training, only to have to help your children navigate morality and peer pressure.

What would you have done in my shoes? How do you tackle lapses in honesty?

Together

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.

 

The Toy Takeover – Part 2

You can read the first post about The Toy Takeover here.

I was inspired by the TV show Consumed to take another step in tackling the toys in our house.  In this show, families with way more stuff than us agree to put most of their belongings in storage for a month.  After surviving with the bare minimum of dishes, furniture, clothing and personal items, they are supposed to realize they don’t need all the clutter. I thought this approach might work for toys too. 

Before Christmas, I packed up a large cardboard box with all the stuffed animals in the living room. The truth is, I was tired of cleaning them all up every day. I put in the basement with the expectation that I’d be searching through it for someone’s favourite in no time.  After they didn’t mention the missing items for a few days, I thought I’d pick a day to go through it with the kids to pick out their favourites.  That was almost two months ago.  Guess what?  No one has mentioned the missing stuffies.

Since this unplanned first step went so well, I thought we could move further.  I was tired of the toy area being a mess and of the kids being overwhelmed when it was time to clean up.  So, I talked with the kids about how having so many toys meant there lots of cleaning up and not very much room to play. I tried to keep it simple by suggesting that we put some toys in the basement to make more room for playing.  They seemed to agree my idea was worth considering. 

All the toys

(Almost) All the Toys

On a weekend, I set out all the toys for them to look at.  I brought up the ones that had been “rotated out” and were being stored in the basement. With everything laid out, I suggested that they each fill one bin with their favourite toys. I expected them to protest or argue, or at least to negotiate for more toys, but they didn’t.  So, the rest of the toys went in the basement. I made it clear they could bring up a toy from the basement if they took one downstairs. That was about a month ago. Guess what? Again, no one has asked me to trade the toys. In fact, they are playing with more board games and puzzles now.  I think that having fewer options provides a space where they can see what is available to them.

 

R's Bin of Toys

R's Bin of Toys

 

S's Bin of Toys

S's Bin of Toys

 A chose to keep his train set, a hotwheels track, some cars and Perplexus.  

I won’t end with an overused quotation like “less is more.”  But, I will say that less is okay. All three kids were okay with choosing their favourites.  They were okay with watching us take the toy organizer and the other bins of toys downstairs.  And, they are certainly okay with clean up being so much easier.

 

Jenna is mom to a six year old singleton son (A) and 4 year old MZ twin girls (R & S).  She is also okay with less. In fact, she looks forward to moving toys out of the basement for the next multiples clothing sale, but she realizes that will take some negotiations.


The Toy Takeover – Part 1

One of the biggest challenges for me over the last year was keeping the house tidy. We had already hired a cleaner to help with the floors, dusting, bathrooms and kitchen. What was left was the daily clean up the trail of bits and pieces that seem to come with pre-schoolers.

Every time I entered a room, I’d be overwhelmed by the mess: the single sock abandoned in the corner, the hill of Lego pieces on the floor, the stuffed animal dormitory on the couch, the crumpled piece of paper with stickers that was someone’s “favourite craft,” a water bottle without a lid, and a doll shoe.

The girls were are still in their “in and out” phase where they could spend the day filling bags, boxes, containers and bins with bits and pieces.  They would put the game pieces and dice, hair clips, marbles, rocks, magnets and pompoms in a little box in their play purses.  Then they’d put the purses in bags.  The bags would go in a stroller, draped with a blanket.  As they trekked through the house on various adventures, the bits and pieces would be disturbed through the kitchen, under the dining room table, between the couch cushions, and on the stairs – times two, of course. Needless to say, getting everything back where it belonged, or a least off the floor, was more than could be expect of a three-year old with limited guidance from an exhausted parent.  And, I wasn’t much of a help since bending over was certain to make my world spin.  Over time, I gave up my level of tolerance for disorder increased. But this wasn’t a solution; it was just a reminder of where I felt I was falling short of my responsibilities as a mother.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf

One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf

So, I borrowed an idea from my mom:  the “one-at-a-time” cupboard.  I filled two cupboards with all the puzzles, games, cards, and toys with little pieces. The kids could each select one item from the cupboard.  When they finished with one toy, all the pieces were cleaned up. The lower cupboard had the puzzles and games they could play with by themselves, while the upper cupboard held the ones that need more parental supervision.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf

One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf

Did this help?  Yes and no.  The kids liked being able to see all the boxes of games arranged on the shelves.  They could easily select what they wanted and often asked to play games. But, I couldn’t contain all of the chaos in one set of cupboards.  I’ll share the next step in managing kids toys, in my next posting.

Figuring It Out In Real Life

I had read a lot of books and felt that I was well grounded in the knowledge of parenting well before I was married or had children. I had strong ideas of what kind of a parent I would be. But what I lacked was the never ending- around the clock- always demanding- sometimes draining- mostly uplifting- experience of raising real children. Like my sister-in-law once pointed out in a not so sweet tone ‘once you get your own children you won’t be so perfect anymore’  OUCH! (I totally deserved it!)

Once I experienced motherhood I realized that my well thought plans and straight forward approach didn’t work quite as well in real life as they did in theory. Not that the theory was wrong but real life is so much more complicated and sometimes I am at a loss as to how to apply the book knowledge to a certain situation.

My most recent ‘complicated’ experience started a few weeks ago. Video games entered our home. I was so not prepared for that. One night when I was working my husband had introduced Mario Karts to our oldest. Couple weeks later, when they had opened every possible new track, a package arrived in our house that contained Sky Captain. Now it’s on to the Monster Trucks.

Clearly the boy enjoys playing them. And I’m not completely against them in the lives of children. There just seemed to be ‘too much’ of it. From the beginning my husband and I talked to him how playing games is a privilege and not something he should take for granted. And there have been days when he’s lost that privilege and have had to go without playing all day, sometimes two or three in a row.

Here’s where it became ‘complicated’. I was feeling guilty for letting him play that much (what ever that much is) and at the same time I was thrilled he had found something to do that didn’t require my attention. Better yet, Beth and Joshua loved watching him race so they left me be also. WELCOME FREE TIME! But the quilt was growing as was his addiction. I had to intervene, for both of us. I was tempted to throw the games away but realized that would not address the problem. Something else would take the place of videogames and we’d be in this situation again. (And I also imagined him to grow up to be holed up in a room playing videogames all day long, not being able to hold onto a job or a wife and blaming me for ruining his life by not letting him play when he was a kid .. kinda like the relationship I have with Finnish chocolate because my parents deprived me of that when I was growing up. Yeah, totally blaming my lack of self disciple on them!). So what I needed were guidelines. I had mentioned this to a mom friend and she told me about an other mom who has her children ‘earn’ their TV time. Sounded like a good idea. After struggling to decide how much one workbook page meant in video time I settled for 10 pages (about 45min) = 30 minutes playing, usually separated in two sessions (Nathan’s choice).

Transition was much easier than I thought it would be. Nathan seems to be proud that he can ‘earn’ his game time. After breakfast he asks for his book and does the required pages. So far he has been satisfied with 30 min /day. My quilt has disappeared. A win win in my book!

(I should add that when my husband is home and he wants to play with Nathan that time does not need to be earned. That is counted as ‘quality time’ between Dad and a son. Because clearly, it is.)

How are you handling tv and video games in your home?

Hanna is a mom of ‘one and twins’ who’s trying to strike a balance between theory and real life. And to not ruin her kids while figuring it all out.

 

Teach a Child to Grocery Shop…

My husband has a very physical job, and our daughters, M and J, are incredibly active kids. It takes a little more effort on my part to fit exercise into my day, since I have a desk job, but I do my best. I will admit that I haven’t been good about working out since we moved to El Paso, so I’m thankful for Goddess in Progress‘s weight loss contest giving me the push I need to get back in shape. I like aerobics and Pilates, with the guidance of exercise videos in the privacy of my home. The twins and our cat join in with differing levels of effort.

Alongside intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, social responsibility, and self esteem, my husband and I believe that it is our responsibility to teach our children about physical well-being.

Unfortunately, our daughters’ school isn’t helping. Although they have daily physical education, they’re teaching the kids all about junk food. Cookies and slushies are available to purchase at lunch time. No carrots. No sliced apples or bananas. After school, there are cupcakes and cookies on sale, tempting the kids right before they exit the school and are handed over to their parents. On Halloween, each child was asked to bring a bag of candy for the school trick-or-treat event. Every classmate’s birthday heralds cupcakes with neon icing.

The other day, J volunteered to accompany me to the grocery store while M stayed home with Daddy. As I reached for the box of Cheerios M had requested, J asked whether she could choose her own cereal.

“Sure,” I told her, “But you have to choose one that has 6 grams or fewer of sugar per serving. Any more than that makes it a treat cereal instead of a breakfast cereal.”

I showed J the nutrition facts on the side of cereal box I was holding, pointing out where the sugar grams were. She picked one brightly coloured sugary cereal after another, rejecting each one for having too much sugar. I suggested that she’d have better luck if she looked at some granola boxes. She finally settled on Kashi Honey Sunshine.

ServeImage“Mommy,” J asked me, “can I teach M how to look at sugar next time when she comes shopping with us?”

She had her chance tonight at dinner, when M asked for a third serving of Welch’s sparkling grape juice. My husband told her that he thought she’d had enough sugar for the day, and offered her water instead. J showed M how to read the label and exclaimed, “38 sugars! That’s a whole bunch.”

“That’s true,” I told her. “This juice is a treat. We drink it for the flavour, not because it’s feeding our bodies. It’s fine to have a treat every so often, but it’s very important to make sure that we get all the different things our bodies need. We need protein to be strong, and fiber not to have hurty poops. Our body needs some fat to stay healthy, but not too much.”

For the rest of meal, the girls pored over the nutrition label on the juice bottle, asking about the different nutrients. My favourite was J’s reading of calcium as “Colosseum.” There was something quite lovely about the image of ancient architecture bolstering our bones.

I taught myself about healthy eating in my early 20s. Both my parents developed high blood pressure in their 30s, and I didn’t want to go down that path. Rich, fatty Bengali curries with massive quantities of rice must have contributed to their cardiovascular issues and my father’s subsequent Type II diabetes.

It certainly helps that both my husband and I love to cook. It’s hard to put too much junk in our bodies when we’re aware of every ingredient we eat. We don’t tend to count calories, and we’re not averse to eating out, but we try to be responsible, while allowing ourselves our treats. I’m fond of chocolate, and my husband of red wine.

I hadn’t planned to teach our girls to read nutrition labels at 5. I imagined that the model we set at home would show them how to make good food decisions. Peer pressure, though, is a strong force, and M told us today that she had bought 6 cookies at lunch to share with her friends. We don’t want the girls to feel like they need to diet or deny themselves the occasional sweet treat. However, we do want them to understand that while eating is a social and pleasurable activity, nutrition is the primary role of food. Food for taste alone is an extra, and to be taken in moderation.

Are you surprised to hear that junk food is being sold in elementary schools? What would you do if you discovered this in the school your children were to attend?

Classroom Placement: Part III – Full Circle

This afternoon, I received an email from my daughters’ school informing me that a spot had been secured in Mrs. G’s 1st grade classroom for our daughter M. She starts Monday.

Mrs. G is a great teacher, and a warm and lovely person. I once ran into her at the grocery store and we chatted for an hour. I’ve met her granddaughter, a sweet, well-behaved little girl. In the classroom, Mrs. G is loving but firm, supportive but demanding. Still, my head began to pound as I tried to think through the repercussions of this placement.

Our daughter J, you see, is already in Mrs. G’s class. At the recommendation of J’s kindergarten teacher, and following much agonizing soul-searching, we decided to allow her to skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of 1st grade to join Mrs. G’s class midstream. M stayed in kindergarten for a further 9 weeks, which brings us to today.

Having M skip to 1st grade mid-year is a no-brainer. The academic work is no challenge for her, and her wonderful kindergarten teacher took the time to make sure that M is emotionally ready. M even spent some time in the 1st grade classroom before the holidays to confirm that she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. My husband and I have already talked through the consequences of J being a year younger than her peers, and having one fewer year in school. The same concerns apply to M. Weighing everything, we decided to let J move on up when her teacher recommended it, and we’re simply doing the same with M. That headache has, for the most part, dulled.

The source of today’s headache is that M and J will be in the same classroom. A lot of thought went into our choosing to exercise our right to have our daughters placed in different classrooms when they entered school. In a nutshell, we thought that the girls needed to establish themselves as individuals, both in their own perception and in that of their peers. Texas state law gives us the right to demand that our daughters be separated, but I recognize that the school has already gone to lengths to accomodate the girls’ learning styles, prior education and emotional maturity.

I may be worn out by the emotional drain of trying to make the right decisions for our daughters in uncharted territory. I certainly don’t have any desire to fight the school. My husband and I spoke briefly this evening, and agreed that the basic goals of splitting the girls into separate classes had been accomplished. They have separate friends. They know that they are liked as individuals, and not just as a set. They have learned to rely on friends for companionship, and to do so without Sissy to fall back on. J and M understand that they don’t have to do everything together.

There’s an entirely new set of concerns now. Mrs. G’s class is J’s territory. Will M be treated as her own person by the other kids, or will she simply be seen as J’s twin, the target of all the attention and assumptions about twins we were trying to avoid?

The girls are a little hesitant about the change. M doesn’t want to leave her kindergarten teacher, whom she loves dearly. J isn’t quite ready to share her spot as class cutie. She was a little miffed at her classmates’ excitement when M visited last month. She told me that she felt that the girls who told M she was cute were “M’s 1st grade girls.” They usually tell J that she is cute; she’s the class clown. She didn’t say that it had upset her, but I could read between the lines. Mrs. G told me that she had sat M next to another child during the school day, but recess and lunch are a different matter.

Mrs. G is someone we trust to teach our children, so it’s time for a leap of faith. We can always request the school to place M and J in different classrooms next year.

What do you think? Should I be asking the school to accomodate M and J’s placement in separate classrooms for the rest of the school year?

Sadia and her husband parent their 5-year-old daughters in El Paso, TX as full-time volunteers. They each have income-generating careers on the side, she in IT and he in the military.

Classroom Placement: An Update

When I told you that my twin daughters were now in separate grades, many of you provided very thoughtful, thought-provoking responses.

The bulk of the opinions were on the side of keeping M and J at the same grade level, rather than having J skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of first grade to become a 5-year-old in first grade, while her twin sister M stayed in her kindergarten class.

I can’t say I disagree with any of the arguments, although we decided as a couple to skip J up.

Yesterday, J made an offhand comment that M doesn’t enjoy reading, and my husband decided it was time to take her down a peg. After I reminded J that it was M who had recommended The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales to her, Daddy told J that she was no better a reader than M was. In fact, there were hardly any skills at which any one of them was significantly more adept at than the other. M was unsurprised by this announcement, but J was visibly deflated. I think she’s better for her ego having been somewhat shrunk, but time will tell.

M woke this morning to tell me that she had had a bad dream. She had dreamed that she had to leave her kindergarten teacher to go to first grade. I told her that this was something that would eventually come to pass, and reminded her that her past teachers had, for the most part, remained in our lives after she left their classrooms.

Many of the moms who commented on our decision to move J to first grade noted that, while supporting the individuality of children is key, being a multiple is a real and tangible part of our kids’ lives. To ignore that fact is to ignore a key component of their self-image. It’s interesting that my mother-in-law and I made that same argument when we were trying to come to decision. My husband and father-in-law were on the other side of that. Could there be a gender component at play here? Are MoMs and FoMs basically different in their outlook? How would your male partners vote?

As it happens, we ran into M’s kindergarten teacher, her beloved Mrs. K, at a birthday party over the weekend. Mrs. K’s daughter is in J’s first grade class, so our mommy circles overlap. M was giddy at the sight of her teacher and firmly attached herself to Mrs. K’s leg while we talked. In the midst of smalltalk, Mrs. K told me that M wasn’t getting the benefit of interacting with peers to encourage her reading; she will be joining J’s first-grade class during reading time. She has made leaps and bounds in her time management, both at home and in the classroom, and her confidence has shot up. If she stayed on the this trajectory, Mrs. K said, she would be recommending that M also move to first grade in 9 weeks’ time. While Mrs. K can find work to challenge her, she believes that she would benefit from having peers who challenge her too. J’s first grade class is already at the state-mandated maximum of 22 students, so they would most likely not be in the same classroom.

Does the possibility of M now going through school on the same schedule as her sister change your opinions about the wisdom of having J bypass kindergarten?

To the teachers out there, is kindergarten any less critical a year to children who have attended structured pre-K programs, or does pre-K simply give them a better chance for kindergarten success?

When not pondering parenting decisions, Sadia and her husband work from home as a geek and on base as a soldier, respectively. With their identical daughters, J and M, they are exploring life in El Paso after having been Austin-area suburbanites for the majority of their relationship.

Classroom Placement: Part II – Separate Grades

I thought that once we’d decided that to place our twins in public school and in separate classrooms, we could sit back and let the kindergarten year unfold.

Some of you may recall that getting M and J into their kindergarten classes was a little stressful. Fortunately, both their teachers turned out to be skilled and committed educators who value their student’s individuality and learning styles.

In her second week of kindergarten, M brought home a list of her week’s homework assignments. J did not. A few days later, J told us that she was the only child in her classroom who didn’t have homework. We contacted her teacher, who informed us that she and M’s teacher didn’t think that their homework assignments would challenge them, and were working with a 1st grade teacher to get them 1st grade assignments to work on. J’s teacher hadn’t realized that M’s teacher had given her kindergarten assignments in the interim.

Before long, J’s teacher told us that both teachers would talk to the school administration about whether moving J and M to 1st grade would be a possibility. I panicked. I didn’t think my husband and I could look at this development objectively. He had been held back in kindergarten, and felt that he was worse off for it. It didn’t help that being held back put him in the same grade as his younger sister. My parents had turned down an opportunity for me to skip 5th grade, and I firmly believe I’m better off for completing school with my same-age peers. I couldn’t see any middle ground, and we were both solid in our beliefs. I took a less-than-mature route, and avoided thinking about the whole thing. Out of mind, out of mind.

As the first 9-week quarter drew to a close, J’s teacher told us that the principal had given J’s advancement to 1st grade her blessing. The decision was ours to make. M’s teacher, on the other hand, told us that she would like to keep M in her kindergarten class. While the academics were no challenge for M, she needed to work on time management. M inherits from me a degree of perfectionism that can be paralyzing. In her efforts to get everything absolutely right, she was having trouble completing her work. Her teacher felt that a year doing schoolwork that came easily to her would help her confidence and her ability to finish things on time.

To me, that answer was clear. There was no way I was splitting my twins into different grades. I spoke to my mommy friends, and they were all of the same mind. Whatever benefit J gleaned from skipping ahead could just as easily be accomplished by providing challenges at home. The potential impact to M’s self-esteem wasn’t worth it. This was a long-term fix for a short-term problem. It wasn’t like J was disruptive in class, or any less interested in learning than she had been before. Skipping the remainder of kindergarten would mean that J would be graduating from high school a year before her twin. No way.

My husband, however, didn’t see it that way. To him, the girls’ twinhood should be a non-issue. The question was not whether J should leave M behind, but whether J would do well in 1st grade. If J wasn’t ready to go to college at 17, she could do an extra high school year.

We went around and around. I wrote up all 19 parts of my argument so that he could respond to each one. He wrote up his 4-point perspective. We both kept “healthy, happy and whole” adulthood for our daughters at the forefront of our minds. Finally, I gave in. I hadn’t changed my mind, but he was much surer in his stance. His belief that J would benefit from being skipped ahead was stronger than my fears of harm coming to both our daughters. The argument that turned me was my husband’s statement that we shouldn’t let our fears hold our kids back when they were willing to try something new.

There was also part of me that gave in because my husband’s duties as a soldier means he rarely has a say in child-rearing decisions. He has been overseas more than he has been home in our children’s lifetime. I make most parenting decisions solo. I try to include him in big decisions, but I often can’t reach him, and whether something is a big decision or not is my call. My mother-in-law is my backup co-parent, but in this case, mommy and grandma came down on one side, and daddy and grampy on the other.

It’s been nearly two weeks now that our twins have been in different grades.

M is flourishing. She and J no longer share recess, and her confidence and self-discipline have blossomed with the realization that J’s old kindergarten classmates are her friends, not just because she’s J’s sister, but in her own right. Because she is the only child in her class who can already read, M gets to be her teacher’s special helper. J gets out of school 45 minutes later than M, so the two of us have a 45-minute block every day that is ours alone, for M to tell me about her day, for us to read to each other, for M to get her extravert time in.

J is doing pretty well. I realized yesterday that she’s unaware that she was the only child to transition classes this quarter, and we’re electing to keep her in the dark. She could use some modesty. They did have to find a new desk for her. She couldn’t see over the ones already in the room. She’s a head and a half shorter than her classmates.

Still, she’s made friends, and is learning that she isn’t always the best at everything. This afternoon was graced with an hour-long tear-storm because J had come in second in her classroom spelling bee. She had wanted to win. While I didn’t exactly enjoy that hour, I think it was good for J to learn that sometimes doing one’s best needs to be a reward in itself.

What with their different grades, their different schedules, and their different haircuts, J and M are definitely not perceived as “the twins” at school. Each of them is seen, liked, and valued for who she is.

I’m not completely convinced that this was the right decision. I spoke to an old classmate from elementary school. He and his twin skipped grades at different times. His message to me read, in part, “On a high level, the pros are that each twin develops their own circle of friends (sometimes overlapping) and that gives each of them a sense of independence. The cons are that the twin that skips usually uses it to create an air of superiority over the other twin (kids being kids and all).”

What would you have done in our shoes?

Sadia earns her paycheck doing geeky stuff at a university. The rest of her time is devoted to raising her 5-year identical girls J and M with her US soldier husband. She’s not sure where she’s from, but possesses British and Bangladeshi passports and an American green card. The family is still finding their way around their new home in El Paso, Texas.