Saturday, January 22, 2011

TWINtensity....starting school

November.  Coordinated polos from Grams.  Matthew with the classy socks and sandals look.  Wearing a Germany hat so we can blame it on being raised in Europe!  (Fairly obvious anyway since my kids are the only kids in Queenland wearing shoes in the summer!)
When I started this blog two years ago I thought I’d have a lot to say about the twins. Good news for those of you struggling with young twins is that, as they get older, they just turn into kids.

Now that mine are four I find myself forgetting to tell people they are twins when they ask how old my kids are. (Australians really seem to want to know and strangers ask me about my family all the time.) My daughter just turned 11, that guy over there is 8 ½, and the younger two are 4, I tell them. Damon generally clarifies. Twins. And I kind of nod my head and go, uh yeah. It just doesn’t occur to me anymore that they are twins. They’re both 4. But that’s it.

Andrew is still a peanut for an 8 year old and Matthew is shooting up fast. Our friend and neighbor, Robert, was watching the three boys swimming last week when he kind of shook his head, carefully observed the three blonde heads and said, wow, they could all almost be the same age couldn’t they?

Two of them are, I said.

It had never come up before.

While that twin thing had my complete attention for a couple of years, in the meantime they have become my children and my family.

But, in the spirit of the blog, I figure I’ll have a go at the twin thing again for a bit. To celebrate two years of rants and raves.

Aidan and Matthew start school on Monday. Prep here in Australia, the equivalent of kindergarten in the USA. And I thought about some of the issues that might raise.

To be perfectly honest, it really hasn’t raised any.

Same class or separate classes. This used to be a big deal. But nowadays we’re allowed to be a little flexible with it. I am really fortunate that our current school principal has twin boys herself. Some years they were in the same class. Some years they were separate. Schools nowadays seem to realize that the needs of children will change over time.  The old mantra was that siblings needed to be in separate classes.  Now, it varies.  I think a lot of kids start out in the same class in the early grades and then split as they get older.  It is easier logistically to have kids in the same class.  But some twins don't get along.  Some rely too heavily on eachother.  Each child has individual social and academic needs.  I even know of one set of twins, in GERMANY, who are in separate GRADES.

Aidan and Matthew are in the same kindergarten class this year, along with another set of twin boys. There is a second mixed kindergarten/first grade class in the school, but having barely reached the cut off as it is, I don’t think this came into the question. (Did I really just translate – terribly – out of the German?!!!)

August in Germany.  (That's right Aussies, sweats and long sleeves in HIGH SUMMER!)
You can dress em up, but they still act like clowns!
I’m not going to worry about the rest of it. Matthew is light years ahead of Aidan in writing, reading and math…meaning that he is doing it. (I’d love to take credit, but he just seemed to pick it up on his own. Mostly it was him badgering me to learn a letter, or add some numbers, and me banging away at the computer or doing the laundry and telling him to go ask Ryan or Andrew. He did. They helped. Does that in any way count as homeschooling?!)

But Aidan is more verbal and more social.

So that my guess is they’ll both be ready for first grade this time next year. And we’ll deal with classroom issues then.

Bookbags. Lunchbags. Clothes. Should they have the same or something different?

Well honestly, I never saw the fuss with the clothes. (Students in Australia wear school uniforms – which is THE BEST INVENTION EVER!) But even before….sometimes – especially with shoes and outwear- selection was limited and we got what we needed. And it generally matched. Other times we had hand-me-downs that didn’t. (I’ll admit – I did like to coordinate – they looked great with their coordinated raincoats, bike helmets and Laufrads!)

Most gifts are matching. Lots of the cute stuff I find I buy twice. (Who has got the energy to worry about two separate outfits?) Or when we found two of the same sneakers on sale for 14 AUD. Got em.

But the boys are four and they are dressing themselves. Which means that sometimes they match and sometimes they don’t. (And more often than not one is wearing a striped polo shirt with checkered shorts. Or socks with fire engines on them. Under their sandals.) And really, WHO CARES?

I have a friend in Germany whose two twin boys INSIST on wearing the same clothes, buying the same sports equipment and the same schoolbags. How will people know we are twins otherwise, they ask. (They are not identical.)

Is it sad that they only identify themselves as twins? Should she be asking the shrink why they aren’t developing personalities separate from one another.

Or should she just let them be 8 year olds?

October in Bayern, Germany.  Coordinating sweaters from Meka.  Let's face it, I love that coordinating outerwear! 
Same with the lunchbags and bookbags. Aidan and Matthew have coordinating orange backpacks – with their names on them – as a gift from my mother. Very cute. They have been using them in Germany for years.

They’ll have matching lunchbags. Because that was what was in stock. (With their names on it, but with identical lunches!)

Matthew has a red book bag for his homework. Aidan has a blue one. Because Matthew likes red and Aidan likes blue. This also makes it easier for us to tell them apart at a glance. It also worked out so nicely with the bikes and helmets….one set in red, one in blue. No matter if the Germans felt a red helmet with kittens on it wasn’t manly enough for a boy. I am always thrilled when they pick something different so that I can easily tell them apart!

So there it is. Nice to have different colors because it simplifies id.

Otherwise you write their names (or initials) on it. Really. At least one will be able to figure out a few letters fairly early on. And point it out to the other one.

And, as my friend with the 8 year olds says, THEY know whose is whose even if you don’t. (My problem is when one is missing, because then both of mine or quite positive that the remaining one is theirs!)

So, Aidan and Matthew start school Monday.

My two little men…who just happen to be twins.

January in Queensland.  Aidan and Andrew showing German pride.  Matthew in the middle - looking like he COULD be nine months older than Aidan, which is what everyone who asks has been trying to figure out before they do ask!


  1. And here I thought when I started to read this post that you were gonna announce that since you had survived one batch of twins you were gonna try for another.:)

  2. Hey, good and interesting post. Twins are fascinating.
    So tell me, what are you doing to assure your kids will stay bi-lingual? It is a huge advantage and not to be lost. Even if it is German! Bilingualism has amazing effects on the brain. Did you know that? It makes kids/adults more open and - my favorite thing - broadens their horizons!

    So how are dealing with this?

  3. Is there a way to TRY for twins, Brenda?! 'Cause we just got lucky the first time!

    And Peggy is going to push me, huh?! The bilingual thing is ONE of the TWO reasons I did NOT want to move here. (The other was distance from family in the USA and friends in Germany.)

    Although I can't say I grew up BILINGUAL - we spoke Germany when I was a child and switched to English when we moved to the USA - I grew up HAVING SPOKEN another language fluently and also AWARE that there ARE other ways to live. That there is MORE than the USA out there. I believe this is way I never became TOTALLY American, but I see it as a strength and opportunity too.

    My older two will retain the German. I have to be realistic that my younger two will most likely only know it as a SECOND LANGUAGE not as a bilingual one. I have met another German mom - who however speaks LESS German to her son that I do - and have spoken to the language teacher at school. I intend to speak only German with those two adults and with the kids in their presence. It's how we worked English group in Germany.

    Once we are set here we will look for the German community in Brisbane.

    And Ryan wants to start a German Club at school.

    The best I can do is keep it up at home - a bit - and get involved in the German clubs here - to EXPOSE the kids, make them AWARE......I agree with the advantages. (Although Ryan has had BIG problems being schooled bilingually, I believe MOST kids can do it.)

    I want the kids to retain their heritage, their pride, and that piece of themselves that DOES think in German (what I think I lost in the USA)....and yes, keeping them aware and open to other languages and cultures.

    It will be a SECOND language though, not a bilingual one....I have to be realistic. And also realize that the advantages of that second language - as you point out - are MORE than tha language itself.

    (And remember I hadn't spoken German in 25 YEARS when I picked it up again - fluently but with an accent most couldn't place - in Stuttgart.)

    EVEN if it IS German. I LIKE that. Yes, as hard as it is to believe in Europe, German is NOT a world language.

    Funny enough, now that the kids are in the school - and everyone is SO impressed that they speak German - they are willing to hear it more at home too!

    Will have to get a string going on this though - _ know Sabine's kids have switched to English in CA - even though both parents are German. ANd Erika - whose husband is German and whose two kids were born in Germany - is also in the USA. Be interesting to compare.

    Also know a bunch of French/American families living in Germany doing the TRILINGUAL thing.

    Showing that no matter how much money you have, or how thin you are...