Tuesday, September 16, 2008

They are not just twins - a letter to the Governor

This letter has not been sent but this is a real piece of legislation being considered in my state.

Dear Governor,

I'm writing to ask that you veto House Bill 469 which is on your desk awaiting your signature. A friend who doesn't have children thoughtfully forwarded me an email from a group of parents of twins and multiples who are working to get the bill signed by you. The bill would (in the words of the email alert) "allow parents to make the choice about keeping their twins in the same classroom or splitting them up rather than having the superintendent or principal making a unilateral decision for all twins".

My poor friend, who I have not seen or really connected with in a few months because our schedules haven't been in sync, got the proverbial earful from me in my reply.

I think the parents behind this bill need to get over the "twin-ness" of their children. I speak from experience. I have identical twin boys but I will be damned if the sole focus of their identities are that they are twins. I also have a singleton daughter. Is she less special because she isn't a twin?

Teachers have 18-22 kids in an elementary school class. They cannot be expected to remember what two identical people are wearing each day. And then what if, like yesterday, the siblings-who-happen-to-be-twins want to wear the same outfit? Do I tell them they can't because it might confuse their shared teacher?

One of the more horrid things that happened to the boys while at a parochial school for one year where they had to wear uniforms (because we couldn't get full-day kindergarten in our town) was during aftercare the counselors would just say "I can't tell you apart so I won't call your names". My sons were basically called "hey you!" for a year at aftercare. It particularly drove one of my boys nuts. He hated it.

Multiple siblings interact differently when they are apart (as with all siblings). Sticking multiple siblings together in a classroom only perpetuates the notion that they can only function as a paired set or unit, not as individuals. I see on a daily basis how my sons are looked at differently when they are together then when they are alone with me. Just the other evening on the subway it was uncomfortable seeing how people would outright stare and point at my sons. Even with people that we see frequently we still are asked twin questions and comments. But when it is just one of the boys with me he is not stared at by strangers and is talked to like the individual he is. I want their classroom experience to be about them as individuals.

And why, my dear friend pointed out after reading my tirade, do parents of multiples get this privileged choice of which classroom their children are assigned? Shouldn't all parents get this choice?

The alert ended with the salutation "twin-cerely" which is what set me over the deep end to author this letter. Please veto the bill.


Soccer Mom in Denial

PS - I did call your office to ask you not to sign the bill. The poor guy answering the phone was just shocked to hear that I opposed the bill.


Goofball said...

Hmm interesting topic. Never thought about it.

I totally understand your point on individuality of twins and not to treat them as "twins".

Why should they have a choice when other kids can't? True

But what if they really wish to be in the same class themselves (and because of the same age...they theoretically can unlike some of their other siblings): do you think they shouldn't then in order to stimulate their individualism and the teacher's confusion?

I guess I don't know the "normal" procedures well enough to truly understand the difference this bill is going to make. Otherwise, it's the school who decides? So they can or cannot be in the same class, as the school wants to organise it? And now the bill gives the ultimate choice to the parents and not the school? Hmm that does sound like discrimination to parents without twins.

very tough subject though.

soccer mom in denial said...

Goofball -

Thanks so much for such a lengthy and thoughtful response. Right now, in my state, twins and other multiples are unilaterally put in seperate classrooms but in some cases a school only has one or two class per grade so in those situations some multiples are placed together.

These parents are demanding that they chose which class their kids go to. In some ways it ensures that their kids always get the "good" teacher. I just think our schools are overburdened enought that they shouldn't have to accomodate a preference versus a real need (e.g. learning disability, emotional or behavioral issues, autism).

Heather said...

A friend of mine has boys that are twins too. She and her husband both have a twin as well. They also have an older daughter. I've never referred to her boys as "the twins" as I've heard many people do. I think they're extra conscious of not labeling them as "the twins" which I think is great. I'd hate to be lumped together as though my sibling and I were one person.

That bill definitely sounds like the parents are trying to get preferential treatment because they happened to have more than one child at the same time.

I also agree that school districts have other things to worry about than to have to deal with each family seperately.

Kate said...

And these are the things that legislators work on.... ???

soccer mom in denial said...

Heather -

I love the sound of your friends. I never refer to the boys as "twins". It isn't that I deny they are but I don't want them only defined by that label.

Kate -

Yes, this is what legislators do. If people organize - and these parents are organized - and make lots of noise (e.g. calls, emails, visits to the state house) legislators will do anything to appear "responsive" to their constituents.

Imagine if these folks put this kind of energy into, oh, affordable housing policy or making sure ALL SCHOOL CHILDREN have resources to learn and grow. Wouldn't that be lovely?

Alex Elliot said...

I just heard about this from a friend of mine. I was surprised that there was a set of twins in her daughters class. It only surprised me because when I was growing up twins were always separated. Anyhow, we had a discussion about the bill.

Anonymous said...

My question to everyone would be:
What if they made your children stay in the same class and you could not seperate them?
I don't think that the bill is just for parents that want their children together it's also for parents that want their children seperated. It's really about having the choice not about what your choice is.