When I first learned that I was expecting twins, I knew the inevitable question of whether or not to place them in separate classrooms would arise. You know, when the time came.
I'm a strong advocate of parental choice when it comes to multiples in the classroom and feel that, if faced with the decision, parents should be given the opportunity to choose whether or not their children stay together or are placed in separate classes.
Little did I know that I'd be facing a similar question a few years earlier than I anticipated.
The past couple of months have been very stressful in our house. Liam is going through some sort of ultra-needy/high anxiety phase and really, really doesn't like it if I leave the house. It started out gradually; he'd only throw a fit once or twice a week and be extremely difficult at bedtime. Soon, though, it escalated to every night. Finally, it culminated with a neighbor (a particularly nosey neighbor) calling us one night at quarter to 11 to complain about Liam's crying (little did we know that he had opened a window near the foot of Ella's bed and was essentially screaming, across the lawn, directly into the neighbor's bedroom window - he has this amazingly loud, torturous cry/scream that can drive you to the point of wanting to tear the skin from your face which, miraculously, he can stop in an instant once he's satisfied). [Note: lest you think he behaves like this all the time, let me assure you that he doesn't; this was extreme behavior that has since been remedied...I don't want you thinking I've got the screaming kid from hell; he's an amazingly sweet, loving boy.]
The next day, nosey neighbor, who claimed not to have slept at all the night before (despite absolute silence from our house the moment she called until the next morning), "helpfully" brought over some resources that might help us. She's one of these "it takes a village" people, and while I'm all about reaching out to people and asking for help, I generally go to my mother or siblings, not my crazy, nosey neighbor who has far too many opinions on how J and I should be raising our children (hey, lady, thanks, but no thanks and raise your own kid!). Once I recovered from absolute mortification and frustration, I decided that I needed to change my routine in order to better suit the kids' needs, even though the kids are with me all day long and the bedtime routine that we'd been going with provided them nice time with J, and it was really the only time he got to spend with them during the week.
Gone are my nightly workouts at the gym and Daddy-centered bedtimes. In are outrageously early morning workouts for me and Mommy-cenetered bedtimes. I changed up the bedtime routine and now all is well in our world. I can't even begin to tell you how much of a morning person I AM NOT. Our new routine has been working well, but now Liam has started these middle of the night wakings that are killing me. Fear not, I'll figure this out, too.
This is all a really long intro into my real quandry. Liam has always been more emotionally needy than Ella. She's fiercely independent and far more emotionally mature than he is (I think this is pretty typical of girls at this age...the emotional maturity, that is). Since Liam started exhibiting this behavior, I began toying around with the idea of perhaps sending Ella to some sort of preschool program and having special "Mumma and Liam" time while she's at school. Mind you, I'm not keen to send either child off to school for a variety of reasons (not the least of which is that I'm not quite ready to start the 12-14 year cycle of incoming sickness each fall), and Liam and Ella have yet to be taken care of by anyone other than family. I don't use babysitters by design. We rely on and trust family and that's how it's going to be...until it comes time for school.
Ella is ready for school. I know that. I also know that Liam is not. At a very basic level, he's not potty trained, and most preschools have that as a requirement. My plan for this year was to homeschool them for preschool and send them off to pre-K next year. Ideally, the school I want to send them to is small enough that the question of whether or not to separate them doesn't exist. In the meantime, I've stumbled upon a local preschool program that I like and feel really good about. Ella (and, alas, Liam) seemed to really like the place and the teacher we met yesterday and, get this, it's actually run out of a gymnastics center and I know that kid is bound for gymnastics...so it seems kind of perfect.
I think my greatest concern is that she'll have a hard time leaving him, and/or that he'll have a hard time seeing her go. Liam and Ella are fabulously, sweetly, uniquely connected (if you'll recall, that's how naptime became a thing of the past in our house...he won't sleep in their room without her and she won't nap!) and do not like spending time apart from each other. Even if it's taking one for a quick run to the grocery store, the other is asking when (s)he'll be back. It's really quite sweet. I also know that separation coould be a very good thing for them. He could potentially benefit greatly from having one-on-one time with me (but how do I balance that out for Ella?). It may make him develop more confidence, for example. Although I'm not terribly concerned about his not being potty trained yet, seeing her go off to school may motivate him to finally get it done.
I know that, though they are twins, they are absolutely distinctly individual people who have their own needs. I just don't know yet how to meet those when it comes to school. Is it a good idea to separate them? Will he be jealous? How will I handle drop-off if he doesn't want to leave her there? What if she says she wants to go now, but when the time comes she won't leave him? How many, if any, mothers of twins do this? Should I just keep her home this year and send them off together next year, as planned?
There's so much more I could write about this...but I think I'll just stop here. Needless to say, it's not an easy decision, but I'm more than open to suggestions. What would you do?
ps - Let's not even go into whether or not I'm concerned about the H1N1 stuff. (I am to some degree, but am not an alarmist...but there's an argument to not send her to school this year...)