The decision was finally made when we were having lunch as a family one weekend in March.
We were doing some simple numbers and maths questions with our four-year-old twins, Leo and Cassian, and one of the boys kept answering for his twin brother.
Even when we asked them a question each, the same one would always answer, never really giving his brother the opportunity to speak up.
It’s completely normal for one twin to be more dominant and for them to be competitive and this wasn’t the first time we’d seen this happen. But this moment reassured my husband and me that giving our four year olds space to be individuals at school was the right thing to do.
So, at last, we made the difficult decision to put them in different classes when they start reception in September.
Once the decision had been made we felt a huge sense of relief. As well as coping with our own conflicting feelings, we’d also had many people asking us what ‘our plan for the twins’ was and it felt good to finally have a concrete answer.
Life as twin parents can be exhausting and frustrating. Someone always needs something, is asking us questions or wants a snack.
But, while it can sometimes be overwhelming for us, it must also feel intense for the boys themselves. They spend almost all of their waking hours together and have shared a bedroom since the day they were born.
While they don’t often verbalise it, I think sometimes they really need some space and solo time, away from each other.
Our boys are non-identical twins – so they’re just brothers born on the same day, one minute apart. Like all siblings they have very different personalities, interests and strengths and school is going to be a great place for them to develop these without being compared to one another.
But, while I know they will both benefit from the separation, I am worried about how they will cope being apart from 9am to 3pm, five days a week.
We are a very close family, brought even closer by the Covid lockdowns. When they weren’t able to go to nursery, it was just each other and their older brother, all of the time.
Yes, they argue – but they also play together so sweetly, care about each other and make each other laugh. While they’re not reliant on each other, they are so used to the other being there.
I’m not sure how it will feel for them when they’re not.
The decision on two classes was made harder by the fact that when we asked them what they’d prefer, one said he’d like to be with his brother and the other said he didn’t.
Of course, this was wholly predictable given they have opposing opinions on most things in life at the moment. But it was also quite a difficult conversation to have with them because, ultimately, we had already made the decision and were 99% sure they would be in separate classes.
The question was posed in a wider conversation about starting school, what it would be like and who would be with them. We already knew the answer each twin would give and as we expected, the twin who said he wanted to be in the same class as his brother is the one who can’t get a word in edgeways sometimes.
But, ultimately, we feel he will benefit more from having his own space and friendships.
We’re well aware that he might find starting school a little trickier at the beginning but we’ll be there to support him and we’ll also be asking their teachers to keep an eye on them.
And so we’d make the same decision again – even if they had both said they wanted to be together.
The ‘together or separate’ question was one we were asked a lot by friends and family members.
Almost everyone agreed that ‘separate’ sounded like the right decision for us which was reassuring, even though of course it was purely a matter for us to decide.
We spoke to other twin parents who had older children and also those making the same decision for September as us. Every family is different and must do what is right for them, but in most cases the twins were separated.
I hate it when people ask if we’re ‘splitting them up’ though. It makes it sound like we’re ending a relationship and forcing them apart. The reality is that we have their best interests at heart and want them to be happy and thrive.
Now, there is no doubt in our minds that this is the right decision for our boys.
The set-up at the school is very free-flowing, with indoor-outdoor play areas, which means they will still see each other during the school day.
One thing that has reassured us is that the school allows parents to give names of friends they’d like their child to be in a class with, which means both boys will have familiar faces with them on their first day.
When we told the boys about their different classes and teachers they took it really well. They’ve had a ‘stay and play’ session and know that their big brother will also be there keeping an eye on them, so it’s an exciting time.
I feel reassured that there are other twin parents who will empathise with the situation and have the same concerns as us. And no doubt they’ll also be panicking about the double WhatsApp groups and how to deal with playdates and parties when you’ve got two children in the same year group.
It’s going to be a rollercoaster!
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