To Separate Twins or Not to Separate—a Difficult Question
As a mother of two sets of twins, one thing that I’ve grappled with since the four of them started school was whether or not to place them in separate classrooms each year. I always believed strongly in giving each twin his/her own individual school experience as well as the opportunity to make his/her own friends, etc. I was forever worrying that they would be lumped together as “the twins” and wouldn’t be seen for the individuals that they are or that one would be overshadowed by the other either socially or academically or both. And then came Covid.
The year the world shut down, all four children were in separate classrooms. Before the Covid shutdown, things seemed to be going smoothly with the four different classes. It was a bit challenging to juggle on my end as far the homework assignments and such, but it was totally manageable. And then, suddenly, we were all thrust into something unimaginable. Not only were we teaching our children at home, but we were navigating new technology that some of us had never used before. At first, the Zooms and the Google Meets were a novelty and since my mental and emotional states were in “let’s do this” mode, keeping track of all of the kids’ different online meetings was doable. But as the days and weeks wore on, some days I had trouble just getting out of bed, never mind figuring out who was going to be on which device for which Zoom at which time.
When they were getting ready to return to school last year as part of a hybrid model, I was in a conundrum about what to do with classroom placement. Do I attempt to put them in four separate classes again? Do I bite the bullet and see how they do placed in the same classroom as his/her twin? Thankfully, I am surrounded by a wonderful community of moms of multiples and had the opportunity to debrief about options with my closest twin mom friends. One mom mentioned that if they were in the same class, it would not only keep us grounded as moms in these challenging times, but also limit exposure to Covid by having them with only two groups of children, rather than four.
The year went fairly smoothly under the circumstances and I kept a close pulse on how the kids were handling being together. I listened when they told stories about friends and when they told me about who they played with at recess, etc. It sounded like they were all feeling grounded with his/her own friends and it did not appear that any of them were feeling lost or overshadowed by the other.
As the year forged ahead, it was decided that the children would return to school full-time in April. At which time, my husband and I were presented with a new option. The principal called me and explained that there were too many students in the second grade to maintain social distancing guidelines, so they would have to add another second grade class to meet the requirements. She asked if we would be open to moving the girls into this new class. Just when I thought our big school decisions were done for the year, here comes another! On the one hand, moving them into the new class would mean leaving a teacher whom they loved and the friends and classmates with whom they had come to form bonds. Decisions, decisions. In our set of girl twins, one is more outgoing and has a much thicker skin than the other. She is also more self-assured and you might even say she can be feisty! Her twin, however, has struggled with confidence and wears her heart on her sleeve. Academics don’t always come easy to her and being in the small class in the hybrid model was a huge help to her. In the end, we made the decision to switch her to the smaller class, which had been working so well for her and keep her twin in the original class. At first, the transition was difficult for her and I felt like the worst parent in the world for switching her from her element. But, with each passing day, she made new friend connections and relished the greater amount of attention she was able to receive from the teacher in the smaller class. In the end, it was the best decision for her and she was able to finish out the year feeling more confident and independent.
Then it was time to do placement for this coming school year. The teachers all reached out to us to ask our preferences about keeping the twins together. Before I started to obsess about the decision once again, I responded to the teachers and asked how they saw the twins within their classroom lenses. My husband and I know how they are at home, but since we can’t be there to observe them in the classroom setting, I relied on feedback from the teachers. Both teachers expressed that they had no concerns about either set of twins being together again. They said that they each maintain their own relationships and are not reliant upon each other in any way.
There are certain aspects of parenting twins that are always tricky and I think the separate classrooms decision will forever be one of the toughest. For us, we keep learning about our kids and what works best for them along with consulting their teachers. There is no definitive right or wrong, but just like with everything else in this world, people will try to tell you what to do one way or the other. Know your twins. Listen to your twins. Observe your twins. They will always be your most important guides in decision-making no matter what.