The Importance of Good Public Communication

This post is a co-authored piece by me and my 7-year-old daughters.

Good Public Communication

Mommy: Where we live in Texas, we're not accustomed to cold weather. 100 degree days in the summer, we can handle. We know how to stay cool and safe. 32 degree days with precipitation? That's not within our realm of competence. We don't know how to drive on the ice. Our cities don't possess the equipment to render roads safe. Call us wimpy. My children's safety comes first.

J: This morning, we were getting rushed to be ready for school on time. Well, it happened that when we were almost at the front of the drop-off line, the news told us that all of RRISD was closed for a 2-hour delay. They were supposed to tell us that at 6:00 in the morning.

M: And it was 7:34. Super late, actually.

Mommy: Hearing about the delay on the news, I stopped and asked the teacher supervising the kids entering school if she knew what was going on. She said that her mom had called to tell her about the delayed opening. I asked whether I should just take the kids home with me and she said she would.

M: The car skidded when we were about to turn out of the loop. We were super-upset and mad at our school.

J: The skid was real creepy

M: Creepy. Right.

Mommy: The whole point of school delays is to keep kids safe by minimizing traffic during dangerous road conditions.

M: Well, that didn't happen today.

Mommy: I'm so disappointed in the school district. School starts at 7:45. The school district has a policy of announcing delays by 6:00 am. The RRISD website was down this morning, so I checked the local news. Austin ISD announced their delay at a reasonable time. I received a text about the delay at 7:44 from our school district. The email with the same announcement arrived at 7:49. I'm unimpressed.

As one friend put it, “I'm grossed out by how the schools are behaving. Are they just being stubborn? At what cost?”

As I'm typing this post, I receive an email from work. At 8:16 am. After about 1/4 of my team decided for ourselves that driving in wasn't worth the risk

Due to worsening road and weather conditions, The University of Texas at Austin will be closed until noon today.Students, faculty and staff who are already on campus or on their way to campus will still be able to enter their offices or classrooms even before the university is officially open for operations. They should make a personal decision on what is best for their safety.Decisions about delays and closure are made based on the best available information officials have at the tine. At 3:00 AM, the forecast and predictions indicated a safe opening. Weather conditions have changed, and we are now delaying campus opening to promote the safety of staff, faculty and students.

Okay, Central Texas. I'm not impressed.

M: *giggle* I like! It's funny!

Update 9:22 am: Just got a call from RRISD declaring all schools closed for the day. Even more disappointed than before. At least they apologized: “We sincerely apologize for the late decision… Please know that it was not our intent to put students, parents or staff in harm's way.” Too little, too late?

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, who are budding writers. 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.

 

Establishing Them as Individuals at School

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?

DSC_0448

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.

back to (home)school with twins

Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

Teacher Gifts

Photo Credit: Naenia Ivella

Photo Credit: Naenia Ivella

It’s the last week of the school year, so it’s time to show my appreciation for my daughters’ teachers in the form of gifts. There’s certainly no obligation to give a gift, but I think it’s a nice gesture. I’d venture to say that most of my friends get their kids’ teachers, at least their classroom teachers, end-of-year gifts.

Last year, I had three teachers to thank: each child’s kindergarten teacher plus the first grade teacher into whose class they both skipped mid-year.

This year, I was astonished to find myself writing 19 thank you cards to go with the teacher gifts I’d picked up. My initial reaction was, “This is nuts… and crazy expensive.” A few hours later, though, a different perspective occurred to me. There were 19 different people, at least, who’d taken the time to nurture and teach my children during their first year at this new school. They were the reason that my divorce, our move away from Daddy, and my ex’s remarriage didn’t appear to have had too much of a negative impact on the kids. These 19 people were among those who’d provided the structure and stability in which my daughters have flourished. They’re the ones who put smiles on J and M’s faces when I drive off to work, so I can confidently leave them in the care of others–these very others–11 hours every weekday.

The people I shopped for were

  • M and J’s classroom (math, science, social studies, English, Spanish) teachers (2)
  • “Specials” (art, music, P.E.) teachers (7)
  • Talented and Gifted teacher (1)
  • School counselors (2)
  • After school care counselors (6)
  • Principal (1)

Usually, I make thank you gifts. I’ll make a teacher’s favourite cookie or try my hand at a non-allergenic recipe for a treat another has mentioned that they can’t eat any more. I’ll cross stitch a small piece of art on a topic covered during the school year, or make a special bookmark.

This year, I just haven’t had the time. I resorted to gift cards for Amazon or iTunes, except for four recipients: three are pregnant or have just given birth and the other is also a MoM. They got goodies from my gift stash. When I see baby gear or art kits on sale or discover a book I really love, I buy several to keep on hand for baby showers and wedding or birthday gifts. I limit my stash to 5 baby gifts and 10 art kits or books, because my house would get even crazier than it is otherwise.

Since this year’s gifts were pretty impersonal, I put an extra effort into the thank you cards. Usually, I would just have the girls make cards themselves. This year, though, I wanted each person to know that I had noticed their efforts for my daughters. I wanted them to know that they’d made a difference. I especially wanted the teachers I haven’t met to know that my daughters talk about them at home and remember what they’ve taught them.

M’s been dreading today. She doesn’t want the school year to end. Part of it is that she doesn’t like change, but the other part is that she genuinely loves school. The gifts I give my daughters’ teachers pale in comparison to the lifelong gifts they’ve given my children: a love of learning, a boost in confidence, and a sense of security.

Do you give teacher gifts? To whom? What are some good gift ideas?

What Makes Her Special

When I stopped by my daughters’ school to drop off birthday cupcakes (for J’s class) and doughnuts (for M’s), the principal spotted me and asked me into her office. She must have seen the look on my face–or perhaps she’s merely accustomed to people’s reactions to being called into the principal’s office–and set me at ease, saying, “I need to brag on M.”

“Did M tell you what happened last week?” she asked after we were seated.

“I don’t think so.” M told me a whole bunch of things that happened last week, but none of her stories featured anything principal-worthy.

The principal told me that one of her 4th graders, normally a sweet boy, has been acting up recently. In one incident, he sat next to M at lunch and asked her what happened to her face. M began to cry.

At this point in listening to the story, I began to cry too, which made the principal join in. It was a major tearfest.

Let me give you a little background.

These are my daughters. I don’t think it’s merely maternal pride that makes me think they’re both awfully pretty.

Twin sisters

J is on the left, in green. M is wearing blue.

They are identical twins, but by developmental happenstance, M was born with a facial cleft (think cleft palate, but higher in her face and not affecting her palate), while J was not. M has been seeing a craniofacial specialist since birth. The appointments were every 3 months at first, then slowed to being yearly, and are now every two years. She hasn’t needed surgery, and there’s nothing wrong with the function of her nose. It just doesn’t have a defined tip. The cleft also causes her eyes to be wide set and has given her a widow’s peak hairline. All of it combines, in my mind, to give her an adorable anime/china doll look.

M’s doctor warned us that, even if there was no functional issue with her nose, kids get mean about appearance around age 7, and we could always opt to consider surgery if it was needed for M to have a healthy self-image. Honestly, I haven’t given surgery much thought. M is a well-adjusted kid. It’s not like M’s unusual look has never come up before. When kids have asked why she has a “funny nose,” I’ve responded by saying it’s so that we could tell her apart from her sister. When I overheard a little girl telling M that her nose was “too small,” I responded by focusing on its purpose. “Does it breathe?” Yes. “Does it smell?” Yes. “So is it too small to do its job?” No.

I’ve told M that she has the world’s most kissable nose, and she permits me 5 kisses exactly at bedtime on her “kissy nose.” A while ago, J told someone that a good way to tell her and M apart was her pointy nose, in contrast to M’s flat one. I considered freaking out and then realized that she wasn’t attaching a value judgment to one look over the other. Part of me worried, though, that having an identical twin will eventually add insult to injury. There will always be J there to show M what she would have looked like without the cleft. It’s never come up, though. I hope it never does. It helps that, while my girls value the twin relationship, they also relish being individuals and having some differences from one another.

Let’s return to the principal’s office, shall we? As you may recall, there was crying.

The 4th grader had been mean, and M had cried. It took a while for him to admit that he’d acted wrongly and with intent to hurt, so by the time he was ready to deliver a real apology, M was back in her 2nd grade class. She was called out into the hallway, and he apologized.

“It’s okay,” she told him. “You already said sorry, and I forgave you. People say that stuff to me all the time. It’s fine.”

Just to keep the tearfest going, the little boy began to cry. He was ashamed.

“It’s not fine,” the principal told her. “You’re a beautiful girl, and it’s not okay that people say mean things.”

“But I forgive them,” said my amazing, extraordinary child. “I love this school!” And she skipped back to class.

Tonight, at dinner, J was distracted by her dessert, so I took the opportunity to talk to M about this whole thing. “I heard you were extremely forgiving at school. [Your principal] was pretty proud of you.”

M beamed.

“Wanna tell me about it?”

She told me essentially the same story I’d heard in the office. I reiterated what the principal had said, that she didn’t need to just accept people’s cruel words.

“But Mommy, it’s okay. They can say what they want. It’s my job to forgive. I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why they would want to be mean about what makes me special. My kissy nose makes me special. What’s wrong about that? I don’t know why it’s like this, but it makes me special.”

There was nothing wrong with that, I told her, and by a major act of self control, kept the tears in this time. Would she like to know why her nose was special? She did want to know, so I explained in very simple, objective terms the nature of her cleft. I also pointed out that it was responsible for her widow’s peak, which she calls her “heart hair,” since it helps give her a heart-shaped face.

“I love my heart hair!” she said. “That is part of what makes me special too.”

She went on to tell me that her teacher had told her about being teased as a child for not speaking good English. Her sister’s teacher told her about being teased for having a big nose. I added my own story. I told her my tale of being teased for my eczema. I told her that I’d never realized I was pretty until I was 18.

She gasped. “But Mommy, you’re beautiful.”

“So are you, baby girl. I’m so glad you already know it.”

“Me too. I’ve known ever since Nicole told me I was beautiful when I was very small. That’s why she’s such a good friend,” she said.

There was nothing more to say.

Sadia lives with her now 7-year-old daughters M and J in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher education information technology.

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 Unending Question of Classroom Placement

I hereby declare that it will be high school before the matter of classroom placement will be resolved for my daughters. It’s now been three times that I thought things were settled, and it’s up in the air again.

Right now, my first graders in separate, but co-taught dual language classrooms. They’re apart for most of the school day, but together for language arts and recess. They have the same teacher for math and science, although they’re taught at different times. They sit at adjacent tables during lunch. They reunite immediately after school at post-school daycare and, once a  week, at group piano lessons.

On Friday, the first graders at my daughters’ school went on a field trip to the Texas State Museum and park. When I asked about their day, M went on for a good 30 minutes without pause about the NASA-related exhibit. She’s been fascinated by Neil Armstrong for years. J also told me about the great time she’d had.

Then both girls told me how much they’d missed each other. They’d made their way through the museum in classroom groups instead of as a single group, and didn’t get to see each other except briefly at the park. Even though their classes had occupied the same bus, they weren’t partnered up to sit together.

“Mommy, can we be together in second grade?” M asked me.
“Please?” J added.

I tried to understand how strongly they felt about this request, and they held firm.

I sent off an email to the girls’ teachers and counselors to get their opinions:

J and M told me this morning that they would like to be placed in the same classroom for second grade. While my preference has been to keep them in separate classrooms during elementary school for a number of reasons, I do think that they’re old and mature enough to have a say in the matter. I’m not yet sure if this was a fleeting response to missing each other during the field trip yesterday or is a considered request.
I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about M and J being placed in the same classroom. Do you have any particular concerns about this prospect for next year? I’d like to make sure I have all your opinions before I determine how serious the girls are and make a request one way or the other.

As I have in the past, I’ll let you know where we end up

Sadia and her identical twin daughters M and J live in the Austin, TX area. Sadia is a single working mom. J and M will be 7 years old next month.

"I Had No Idea She Had a Sister"

J is standing in front of wall of art, showing off her paint and collage chameleon.Our local performing arts center recently hosted an exhibition of elementary art from around the school district. One of my twin 6-year-old’s works was selected for display.

I confess that I’d completely forgotten about the open house. When I picked the girls up from after-school care Wednesday, I planned to take them shopping for shoes. They reminded me of our priorities, in a hurry. We made it to the exhibit by the skin of our teeth, a minute before the teachers began to dismantle the displays. While the artwork has been up for several weeks, the open house/teacher meet-and-greet was 2 hours only.

M had been the one to remind me of her sister’s exhibition. “We can’t go shoe shopping,” she told me, “because sisters are much more importanter than selves. We have to see J’s chameleon.”

J spotted her piece within seconds of our arrival. While we were oohing and aahing, her art teacher arrived. Once the handshakes and hugs were over with, the art teacher said to J, “I didn’t know you had a sister!”

“They’re actually in the same grade,” I told her. “Twins.” I immediately felt an urge to slap my forehead. Why did I need to volunteer that? What difference does it make? This was J’s moment to shine.

On cue, M’s art teacher arrived, saw M, hugged her and introduced herself to me. “I just love having M in my class,” she gushed. “She’s such a hard worker, and so articulate!”

J’s teacher looked M’s, and said, “Did you know she had a sister? I had no idea J had a sister!”

“No, I didn’t know. M’s a wonderful student!”

This moment was why I chose to have my girls in separate classrooms. They’re independent enough that I didn’t think it would hurt to be apart, and I wanted them to learn that they excel and are valuable as individuals as well being on display to the world as a pair.

M was a little perturbed on the drive home. “I don’t think I’m a very good artist,” she said. “I wasn’t picked.”

I quickly corrected her. “No, sweetie, that’s not it at all. I think the teachers had to limit themselves to one piece per grade, and yours just wasn’t the one your teacher picked for first grade. You’re an excellent artist.”

M perked right up. “J got picked. I just love her chameleon.”

J was miffed. “You’re just being jealous.”

I started to say, “No,” but M interrupted me. “I’m not jealous! I’m proud of my special Sissy.”

And I’m proud of my special girls.

Sadia’s 6-year-old daughters attend a dual language first grade program in a public school near Austin, TX. She feels very fortunate to be in a school district that can still afford to include music, art and physical education, as well as the Spanish and English immersion experiences. Sadia is a single mom and works in higher education information technology.

Guest Post: Separating Twins at School by Dr. Nancy Segal

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Nancy Segal, the director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State, Fullerton.

Nancy L. Segal, Ph.D.
California State University, Fullerton
nsegal@fullerton.edu
drnancysegaltwins.org

The biggest dilemma regarding twins seems to surround the arguments for and against separating them at school. There is no simple answer to this question, but I strongly urge that there be no policy one way or the other. That is, each twin pair should be evaluated separately, taking their particular needs into consideration. I am, therefore, very much against mandatory separation of twins, a policy that is upheld strictly in some school districts.

Some schools maintain that twins will not grow up to be independent individuals if placed in the same room as their twin brother or sister. This is, however, not a research-based practice. It is known that when friends go off to school together for the first time they are more comfortable in their new situation, more interactive with other children and less likely to cling to their teacher. Interestingly, no one worries that two such children might not become separate, independent individuals!

Going to school for the first time can be a little daunting for some children, and forcing twins to separate from their parent and from their twin at the same time may be a lot to ask in some cases. A solution is for teachers to arrange for separate tables within the same classroom so that twins can see each other (that is often the only thing they need!), but develop separate friendships. I once tracked twins during recess and found that while identical were together more often than fraternals they were not together all the time. Often, just a glance at the twin was enough to make them feel relaxed and happy.

We also need to be mindful of twin types. Identical twins are in a very different situation than fraternal same-sex twins who, in turn, are in a different situation from opposite-sex twins. Identical twins may be confused by their classmates and teachers, due to their matched appearance. If identical twins are placed together parents should have them wear different outfits or hair styles, or even wear name tags! It is important that people learn their names and address them as such. Fraternal twins (both same-sex and opposite-sex) will probably not be confused—although some people may forget which name goes with which twin in the case of the same-sex pairs. Same-sex fraternal twins will generally have different interests and abilities and may benefit from separate classrooms in some cases. Male-female twins may benefit from separation for other reasons—little girls mature ahead of little boys socially, intellectually ands physically. Girls in these pairs tend to mother their brothers, behavior that may not always be beneficial for the boys. Above all, however, all decisions regarding school placement for twins should be rendered on a case-by-case basis and evaluated periodically by parents and teachers working together. Young pairs, regardless of twin type, may benefit from being together during the early school years.

A word of additional caution: I have worked on cases of older identical twins who have been falsely accused of cheating on exams and projects because they produce similar scores and essays. If identical twins are in the same classroom, they should never sit together while taking tests!

Separating Twins at School

For more information about all sorts of twin-related subjects, please visit my website at drnancysegaltwins.org.

I Know I Can't Be Objective

My 6-year-old daughters are being evaluated for the Talented and Gifted program at their elementary school. If they qualify, they’ll get to participate in more in-depth study of certain subjects than their peers. The dual language program at their school, in which they participate, already incorporates components of the Talented and Gifted curriculum, and their teachers do a great job of giving them assignments that keep them challenged and engaged. Still, I really do think that they’d benefit from the additional small group environment of TAG.

Every parent knows that their child is special. I think there are very few parents out there who’d describe their children as average, even though the average child is, well, average. I’m not even going to pretend to be objective. In my eyes, J is the sweetest, most thoughtful child to ever grace the earth. M is the funniest, and it takes every iota of self control not to spend every second of every day kissing her most kissable nose. They are both brilliant. It’s a good thing that the people evaluating them for Talented and Gifted services aren’t their parents.

But, wait.

J and M both brought forms home from school yesterday. I’m supposed to fill out these “Scales for Identifying Gifted Students” comparing them each to their age peers. Under Language Arts, one criterion is, “Reads or speaks with expression to create meaning.” Under Creativity: “Is an excellent improviser.” Leadership: “Is sought out for peers for advice, companionship, and ideas,” and “Is viewed as fair or caring.”

I cannot be objective. I just hope that the teachers reviewing these forms know that no parent can be, and are looking more at the examples I provide than the rankings.

I also struggle not to compare my girls to one another. They’re incredibly evenly matched, but J is just a little more interested in current events than M. J was the one who cried every day of the Arab Spring uprising in Libya, while M merely listened to the news and commented. M is just a bit stronger in math. While J is content to work on multiplication and calculations of area, M has leapt ahead into volumes and higher exponents. I imagine that if I were the mother of just one of them, I wouldn’t pause to mark their abilities in those areas as “Exhibits the behavior much more in comparison to his or her age peers.” I’m not the mother of just one. I’m a mother of twins, and I can’t help but compare them to each other. I know I’m not alone in this; my friends who have several singletons frequently talk about how a younger child compares to how the older one was doing at the same age.

The girls’ dad gave me the pep talk I needed soon after I photographed each page of the forms and emailed them to him. “It is important,” he wrote to me, “not to compare our daughters with each other because is it not an accurate measuring stick. For this, I think we need to try to compare them to the other children we see and are familiar with.” He talked through with me some of the areas I was waffling on, and some of the areas that he was uncertain of, not having been around the girls very often this year. He was pleased to learn that J has developed an interest in World War II, and that M is started to want to read more about Native American life before European contact.

I was pleased to have his thoughts, his perspective, and his partnership in co-parenting our children.

Of course, my ex thinks our girls are even more brilliant than I think they are.

Do you aim for objectivity in parenting? How do you achieve it?

Sadia tries to stay half a step ahead of her genius 6-year-old identical twins in Austin, TX. She is assisted in her efforts not to spend all day kissing her daughters by escaping to her full time job in higher education technology in Austin, TX. Her ex-husband is currently stationed 900 miles away with the US Army in El Paso, TX.