My husband and I took our three-and-a-half year old daughters to a little “play date” session at a local private school. Really, of course, this play date was an admissions event.
Already, I have a number of reservations about applying to private schools. I grew up going to public schools, and overall, I got a fine education. I realize I was lucky and that I grew up in neighborhoods with good schools.
Additionally, private schools are expensive, and my husband and I hover in that middle range of the middle class where we don’t make enough to send our kids to private schools, and we don’t fall into the range of people who qualify for financial aid.
But, we live in the Los Angeles area, where good public schools are few and far between, so we have to hedge our bets and explore lots of options for the time being. At least we live in a neighborhood where the public school has a good reputation. So, my husband and I agreed to just check out all the possibilities and watch where the chips fall.
So that’s how we found ourselves at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, taking our kids to meet strangers who would be evaluating their academic and social prowess.
This particular school has a stellar reputation, and a number of friends of mine have sent their kids there. I also have a number of former students who have gone to this school, all with the same rave reviews.
So I went with the best expectations.
When we got there, we were invited into a large multi-purpose room where there was friendly kiddie music playing. The kids were all playing with the giant blocks and having a nice time.
I watched as a teacher approached Dinah and asked her to come with her. Suddenly, seeing this teacher approach only Dinah, I realized that they were going to separate the girls for the session.
I went up to the teacher and asked if this were the case. She wasn’t even aware that there were twins coming! And she said that yes, they probably were going to be separated, and that if they came to the school, they would probably be separated then too.
Now, as a teacher and a parenting writer who regularly receives electronic news feeds about twins and multiples, I am a double ringer. So, I decided not to make too big an issue out of it. After all, I figured, maybe Dinah and Djuna would do fine being separated. Who knew?
But, I couldn’t help thinking, that the current trend is not to separate twins in school. There is even a law being proposed in New Hampshire that would prohibit schools from automatically separating twins in school. (Read here for more information.)
The kids all eventually scampered out with their respective teachers, and it was hard to see, in all the hustle-bustle, just which kids were with which teachers.
Dwayne and I waited in the room with the other parents, and the kiddie music continued to play in the background. We chatted with a family we knew, but I was distracted, thinking that my always-together girls would be apart.
In fact, they were separated. The parents were invited to wander through the school for a bit, and we caught sight of Dinah and Djuna at different times in the playground. They seemed content enough, but somehow sedate, not my sparky, sparkly daughters.
As a teacher, I get it. I know that the teachers only wanted to see the girls in their individual state. That’s OK. But would you say to a tiny, young individual, “You know, we want to see how you do this try-out session without your right arm. If you are truly strong and smart, you’ll figure out how to cope without that arm. You have another one, after all.” The cherished all-American value of independence is different for tiny twins.
How can I explain to people who don’t have twins that being a twin is an integral part of their existence? That when I was in the hospital with one daughter when she was one-and-a-half that she woke in the night, calling for her twin? That on the few occasions when we have separated and done different things with the girls, that they run to each other and hug when they are reunited? That they have a multitude of jokes that only they understand?
Things are different as twins grow older, I’m sure, and I know that different twins have different needs too. But, shouldn’t teachers at least ask what’s best for my twins? Funnily enough, without my husband and I asking the girls specifically, they have both told us that they missed each other yesterday morning.
It made me have a newfound appreciation for Mama Pete, the woman who runs the girls’ current preschool. She’s over 90 years old and has been running her preschool for over 50 years. In her holiday card to us, she wrote something along this line: “Dinah and Djuna still pretty much stick together, but that’s completely appropriate for twins at their age.”
Thanks for your wisdom, Mama Pete.