Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tough Decisions

Twins are tough. I know...obviously. I assumed they would be more difficult than a singleton from a simple exhaustion perspective. I expected to have double the late-night feedings, double the diaper duties, double the potty training trials, double the toddler tantrums, double the sleep deprivation. I expected these things and managed to weather the storm pretty well, I believe. What I didn't expect, and find myself ill-prepared for, is the difficulty I've experienced in treating them as individuals. Of course they are individuals. They are as different as night and day. However, they have a tendency to get lumped together as "the twins" and treated as such. Because they are the exact same age and being raised in the exact same household, I look at them and I expect Sophie to be able to do everything Nicky can do and vise versa. Unfortunately, that is far from the case. This was painfully apparent at their soccer practice last night. Sophie ran immediately onto the field and began kicking the ball around. She followed directions. She played hard. She hung on every word the coach was saying. She stayed with the group and played soccer to the best of her abilities. Nicholas, on the other hand, wandered around aimlessly. He sat in my lap for a long time on the sidelines. He played with his older brother in the dirt of the baseball diamond. He kicked a soccer ball around by himself, far away from the action on the field. When I repeatedly tried to encourage him to play with the team, he responded by saying, "I don't feel like I want to play soccer today." He didn't feel like it...and he didn't do it. I tried not to be disappointed, but I admit to feeling a tinge of sadness because Nicholas was not capable of doing what Sophie seemed to be heartily enjoying.

Recently, when I took Sophie and Nicholas in for their four-year check-up with their pediatrician, she voiced concern about them not being in preschool. Unfortunately, preschool is not free. With two of them, preschool is outside the reach of our budget. We've looked into every program possible. We make too much money to qualify for Head Start or other such "free" preschool programs. However, we do not make enough money to cover the cost ourselves. With two children, the least expensive preschool I could find would still be $300 a week. Try as we might, we can't extract $1200 a month from our already tight budget. So we have tried to find other, less expensive, programs to socialize the kids with other children. Hence, we are doing soccer. And ballet is next on tap for Sophie. Starting Monday, they will attend a two-hour Early Child & Family Education class entitled "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" every Monday morning at Lucas' school. We will likely keep them in that class for the entirety of the school year. I am not concerned about them academically. When we did their preschool screening through the Minneapolis Public school district, they both scored extremely high. They know everything they need to know to start kindergarten. They are both, without a doubt, academically ready for kindergarten. However, I am not sure they are socially or emotionally ready. Our pediatrician put the thought in my head that perhaps we should wait another year to start them in kindergarten. Because they have a June birthday, they will be two of the youngest kids in their class. She indicated that many parents whose children have summer birthdays choose to wait until they are six to start them in kindergarten. I admit that I do not know what to do.

Actually, I am not so much concerned about Sophie. She is shy, but she is a people-pleaser. She does what she is told and beams with pride when she accomplishes a new task. She follows the rules. I think she could be ready for kindergarten now and will most certainly be ready by next fall. Nicholas, however, is another story altogether. Nicholas just recently completed potty four years old. He does things on his own his own time. He has trouble following directions at time. He is still prone to melt-downs and tantrums. When things don't go exactly as he imagines they should, he melts into a heap on the floor. He still exhibits that toddler propensity for order and consistency. He has to eat with an orange spoon. He has to sit on the same end of the couch every morning. He doesn't always deal well with changes in plan or routine. In many ways, he is still like a toddler, navigating this scary world. Perhaps it's because he is a boy? Perhaps it is because he is tiny and frail-looking, so I have always treated him like a baby? He IS my baby. Whatever the reason, he is much less mature than Sophie. I really worry about him starting kindergarten next fall. I have visions of him hiding under his desk. I can see him running from the teacher. I can see him flat out refusing to do whatever the teacher is asking of him. These behaviors are not at all outside the realm of typical Nicholas.

So what is a mom to do? I don't want to separate Sophie and Nicholas. However, I don't want to hold Sophie back when she is ready to soar. At the same time, I do not want to push Nicholas into something that he is not ready for, setting him up for failure. Or even worse, starting them next fall only to be told down the road that Nicholas needs to repeat kindergarten. What would we do then?? I want all of my children to be successful in school. I want them to enjoy school.

See...this whole twin thing is tougher than it appears.


lbts1048 said...

I started both my kids a year late for kindergarten and they both have May birthdays. It was without a doubt one of the the best decisions I've made for them. They were both academically ready, but not socially. On the other hand I've known a number of people who just had their kids repeat kindergarten. While they worried about it seeming like they "failed" the first time what ended up happening was the second time around they were the ones who knew everything about how kindergarten worked and ended up being class leaders during their second year and that confidence carried on into the following grades. Maybe you could do the first year of kindergarten with them in class together and then separate them the next year? Good Luck!

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