relationships

What's the best course of action for educating twins?


twins in class

There comes a time that, as the parent of twins, one has to make a crucial decision:

Should I keep them together or should I separate them?

This is a particularly pressing decision to be made in the case of identical twins.

Think about it: they share the same DNA, they look exactly alike (to most people outside of the immediate family) and they are, by most accounts, at the same stage of development. The natural course of action that is taken is to keep them together, at least for the early days of preschool and Kindergarten.

My boys are figuratively joined at the hip, doing almost everything together including bathing, playing, sleeping and fighting. They are each other’s best friends and worst enemies, depending on the day and time. They love each other. They despise each other. And if they had the maturity to provide some perspective on their relationship, I have no doubt that they would not have it any other way.

Yet, like most parents of identical twins, I’m acutely aware of the natural inclination to treat the children the same. After all - it’s easy to get lulled into thinking that the kids are two parts of a whole, that they are more or less the same, because of the simple fact that, to the untrained eye, they look the same.

In spite of this fact, they are individuals, reality that becomes increasingly important to them as they navigate the world, correcting those who think that they are their brother - and vice versa. Without being an identical twin, it’s hard to imagine always being mistaken for someone else, or, on the flip side, having someone who looks exactly like you. It must be simultaneously annoying and amazing.

Fraternal twins are often grouped together by outsiders as well, though not as much, especially if the twins don’t look alike, or are of different sexes. While the incidences of comparison are not as high as they are with identical twins, the tendency to do so by outsiders exists nonetheless. Teachers who have a pair of twins in their class - identical or fraternal - often naturally make comparisons between the siblings, as it is human nature to do so.

During the early stages of socialization, e.g. preschool, daycare and Kindergarten, it makes sense to take the simple route and put them together in the same class. This way, there’s no trauma at the prospect of being alone in a new social environment without the comfort of that sibling that will be their guide, confidante and friend, no matter what.

But the time will come where a choice must be made: should they remain together, joined at the proverbial hip to offer support to their sibling, or should they part ways, venture into the world (or classroom) alone and gain their independence?

The right answer is not an easy one, and as a parent having to make this choice, its particularly stress-inducing.

Like any critical decision, the pros and cons must be weighed in order to make the right decision. This is a tricky one, as there good arguments on both sides of the fence - a fact that doesn’t make it easier for the parents in making a decision. As a parent struggling with making a decision about what the right choice is for my kids, I know I’m not alone. Knowing that the choice made will have long-reaching effects on my kids makes the decision to separate the twins - or not - even more daunting. To this end, I thought it would be a good idea to list both the positive and negative implications of separating twins at school. Here’s what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Separating Twins at School

Pros:

  1. Each twin is better able to foster a sense of individuality
  2. Dependency on each other is decreased, allowing each twin to gain confidence in their own abilities
  3. The incidences of being compared to or confused with the other twin is eliminated
  4. The absence of the other twin provides an environment where each twin can “grow” into their own personalities and characters
  5. Competition between twins will decrease when they’re not in the same classroom daily
  6. The absence of the other twin as a “built-in” friend and companion will allow each twin to form friendships with other children

Cons:

  1. The comfort of knowing that their twin is immediately close by is removed, a fact that may increase anxiety amongst some twins
  2. Twins often rely on each other to provide support emotionally; twins who are separated may have increased difficulty relying on others for a certain level of emotional support
  3. The effect of emotional distress and anxiety that some twins may feel being separated from their sibling may affect their academic progress in school
  4. Parents of twins separated at school will have to navigate double the amount of school-related activities on behalf of their kids (two separate parent-teacher interview appointments, two separate parent volunteer days at school, etc.)

Conclusion: While I’d love to say what the definitive answer is to this question, unfortunately the jury is out. While it may appear that solely on the basis of pros and cons, the scale tips on the side of separating the twins, this is not necessarily the case. Each set of twins are individuals and their ability to positively advance in school, separated or not, depends on a number of factors. These include the personalities of each twin, their ability to adapt to change, and the level of mutual reliance on each other. It would be great to have a “one-size fits all” answer but as we all know, most important decisions related to kids are not ever simple.

On a related note, here’s an extreme case of twins being separated at birth with an incredibly positive outcome:

Separated at Birth, Reunited on Facebook

So what are your thoughts and experiences about separating twins at school? Is it a good idea to keep them together or better to separate them? What are your reasons for the choices that you made? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Let’s End the Myth of the “Evil Twin”

by Samantha on January 31, 2015

There is no "good" twin and "bad" twin in the pair - let's end this fallacy

Good twin, evil twin

It was an otherwise mundane Saturday at Costco.

With three kids in tow, I sauntered through the aisles, plying myself and the kids with free samples and piling up my shopping cart with bulk items, many of which I didn’t really need.

We lined up in the checkout aisle and I took a deep breath before the final total was told to me by the cashier (it’s always more than you think it’s going to be when shopping at this particular store).

Making our way to our car, with my boys sitting together in the front of the shopping cart, we were stopped by what looked to be a kind-hearted woman. Smiling, first at me, then at the kids - with a focus on the boys in particular - she stopped me.

“Are they twins?,” she asked.

“Yes. They’re identical,” I responded.

“Awww! They’re so cute!”

“Thank-you!,” I replied.

Looking at both of them with wonderment and curiosity, I thought I knew what she was going to ask next.

She’s going to ask me how I tell them apart, I thought to myself.

I was sure that this question must have been coming because it’s often one of the first things that people ask when they see identical twins - at least it has been in my experience.

Imagine my surprise, then, when she hit me with this doozy:

“Which one is the ‘good’ twin and which one is the ‘evil’ twin?”

She was serious.

My first thought was a mix of confusion and bewilderment as I tried to make sense of her question. “Good” twin? “Evil” twin? Was she for real?

Within a few milliseconds, my confusion simultaneously turned to anger and irritation about her presumptive comment.

How does one answer such a question? Was I to just respond - in front of both of my twins, and my 11-year-old daughter as well - “Oh, THIS one. THIS one is evil, this other one is good.

Was that really her expectation?

The mythology surrounding twins - particularly identical twins - is particularly fraught with the erroneous perspective that there is a “good” twin and, therefore, a “bad” one. Like Yin and Yang, black and white, opposites must co-exist and apparently this truth must be the case with identical twins. Its apparently not enough for some to accept that twins - identical or not - are not necessarily polar opposites. There is no “good” or “bad” twin any more than there is a “good” and “bad” set of siblings that haven’t had the unique experience of being born on the same day (or just a few minutes apart).

Identical twins, by definition, are certainly similar in many ways. From the obvious - how they look; to the not so obvious - their thought processes, they way they relate to each other and others, and other quirks of their personalities. That being said, they are individuals - not “good,” not “bad,” just  - different. Yet there seems to be a desire amongst some to attribute polarities to each twin. This needs to stop.

As the parent of identical twins, it’s hard enough to try to foster feelings of independence within them on a day-to-day basis. Imagine having someone who looks exactly like you? Of course you’d want to be seen as an individual. Kids will misbehave - whether they’re a twin or not - it’s a normal part of being a kid. So why is it when a twin misbehaves, they’re automatically labeled as “bad” or “evil?” Ironically, they are perceived to be the same (particularly in the case of identical twins) yet opposites. How is this logical - or fair?

Surely there are sibling rivalries that exist amongst twins, but the same can be said for any siblings, twin status notwithstanding.

There are no polarities when it comes to twins. No “good” one vs. “bad one;” no angelic child versus evil spawn, no duelling forces, vying for the top spot in their respective categories. There are just kids - warts, scabbed knees and all. Though the mythology and expectation of opposite-minded twin siblings is appealing to some, it is, fortunately, untrue.

To the woman who very rudely asked me which one of my kids was “good” and which one was “evil,” and to the many others who believe in this false dichotomy, so sorry to disappoint.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

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The Sting of Disinheritance

by Samantha on July 1, 2014

Do We Owe Our Kids Our Money After We're Gone?


Sting

You think that kids of celebrities have it easy? Think again.

Sting’s surprising announcement that he’s not leaving any of his vast fortune to his children was a shock to many. How could this multimillionaire leave his kids to have to *gasp* work for a living? It just didn’t seem right.

According to the rock legend, his decision comes from his personal philosophy about children not having things handed to them on a silver platter, even if  - as in the case of his own progeny - they come from Rock royalty. The rock superstar says that he will continue spending the money he’s earned as he has been doing all along, paying his staff and allocating it whenever and wherever he darn well pleases. He maintains that he’s spending his money now, not saving it up in a tidy sum to be disbursed amongst his children in the event of his death.

The news has gotta sting for his six children who are likely very aware of their father’s estimated $300 million net worth. After all, they’ve probably had more than comfortable lives as a result of their fathers’ vast income, in spite of what Sting maintains.

Even so, the idea of pending poverty or, at best, the life of a “working stiff” must be sobering considering the fact that the family home is an Elizabethan Lake mansion located on a 60 acre estate near Stonehenge. The obvious question that crosses many of our minds is “why?

Why would someone of such considerable means choose to make a decision that flies in the face of convention and leave his kids with bupkus?

Good-old mean-spiritedness, stinginess and general bad parenting attributes have been suggested as the reasons for Sting’s decision. But is he really in the wrong?

My initial reaction to his news was probably a common one: that his choice regarding money is hurting his children in more ways than one. Of course, they must feel incredibly pained, knowing that their father has consciously chosen to exclude them from a future windfall following his death. Having the knowledge that a parent has actively and purposefully decided to limit financial comfort for their children and instead, relegate the kids to a life of working for a living seems a tad harsh, particularly when the parent is of considerable means.

Yet, upon further reflection, it seems that Mr. Sumner has a point.

It would be very easy for his children to kick back and chill, knowing full well that regardless of their success in life or lack thereof, they’d be driving down “Easy Street” (likely in a customized and really expensive luxury vehicle) once old Dad had kicked the bucket. In many situations where incredible wealth is a foregone conclusion, this is more commonly the behaviour that kids of the well-to-do display, sadly. After all - why bother working hard and making an effort to achieve something in your life - at least financially - when a monetary windfall is a matter of course?

Not so for the children of Sting, however, as he had apparently advised his kids of their lack of inheritance early on. “They have to work. All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate,” he explained.

As a result, all of his children have grown up knowing that they would not be handed an automatic ticket to la dolce vita and have planned accordingly. By most accounts, they are doing well.

Did the knowledge that daddy’s money would not automatically be disbursed to them give the kids more incentive to work hard and achieve something on their own? Perhaps. But, more importantly, one of parenthood’s most important lessons - that in the real world, nothing is handed to us on a silver platter - was demonstrated by Sting’s actions. In other words, the rock superstar prepared his kids for one of the harsh reality of life: no pain, no gain.

The fact of the matter is that without the solid values of good old-fashioned hard work, focus and intestinal fortitude that result in a strong character, parents are leaving their kids ill-prepared for life’s challenges. Living a life unfettered by the day-to-day hurdles that most of us experience may sound ideal but the reality is that those who have been given this “gift” have also been presented with a disadvantage as well. We all know that when the going gets tough, whether personally or professionally, that’s when we need to draw upon our inner strengths that have been cultivated over the years. Working hard, sometimes struggling, and building a thicker skin gives us the toughness that we require when life doesn’t go as planned.

For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” Except, that is, if you’re the child of a mega-millionaire. Then, what’s often required is very little as you reap the benefits of your parents’ hard work without lifting nary a finger. Kids in these circumstances are very often, sadly, unprepared for hard times or worse - they may never gain the emotional strength that results from the difficult life challenges that so many of us face.

Understood: Sting’s situation is atypical as most of us could only hope to earn $300 million in our lifetimes. But the point being made is still the same. The value and importance of hard work is something that all children should be taught; it is perhaps more pressing that children of the very wealthy learn these principles at an early age. Sting may not be leaving his children his earthly financial possessions but ironically, what he’s giving them is far more valuable. The lessons learned from his decision are beyond any price tag that even a man worth $30 million or more could afford.

Harsh? Perhaps. A lesson learned? Absolutely.

Do we owe our kids our money after we’re gone? No. What we owe them are the skills and abilities to navigate life successfully and (hopefully) happily. Money is not necessarily part of the equation.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here: Sting is Right to Deny His Kids a Big Inheritance

 

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 Image courtesy of www.sting.com, photo credit: Kevin Mazur

 

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Diversity And Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

by Samantha on May 22, 2014

kids diversity

“Mom, why does she look different?”

This is a question that many of us have had to grapple with as we raise our kids in an increasingly multicultural and multiethnic society. As a person on colour myself, I’ve been on the receiving end of the question and can still remember an incident (one of many) that happened to me as a child.

I was about eight or so, and was leaving a large department store with my mother. Another child, about the same age as me, saw me, turned to her mother, pointed at me and asked “Why is she Black?”

The mother looked mortified, said “SHHHH!!!” and quickly scurried the child out of the store. I was left standing there with my own mother feeling confused and ashamed, though I wasn’t sure why. My mother, thankfully, spoke to me about why people would have questions and that curiosity isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Oftentimes, questions such as this are a starting point for some very important discussions that parents can have with their children.

It’s all about how we as parents handle these types of situations when they occur. Our responses are going to set the stage for how our own children behave in future. “Monkey see, monkey do,” as they say. For this reason, it’s so important to instill not only an understanding of other cultures and ethnicities, but a respect and interest and celebration of them as well.

Living in Toronto, I’ve been very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible range of these cultures and ethnicities. It’s one of the things I love about the city and appreciate that my children have had the opportunity to be learn about diversity. Unfortunately, not all places are as diverse and there are still situations where children are being faced with being the object of another child’s questioning, just as I was so many years ago.

For parents who are trying to raise children who are more culturally and ethnically aware, regardless of their locale, there are some things that can be done. Following are six tips for parents who want to raise kids who have an appreciation for diversity.

Diversity and Kids - Top 6 Tips For Parents

1) Friends Not Foes - There’s nothing like a good friendship to make a child want to learn more about a person’s culture. Children are naturally curious and are drawn to new people and ideas. Encourage your kids to have relationships with a variety of peers from different backgrounds and ethnicities. The opportunity for learning and understanding as well as making a new pal will be well worth it.

2) Food For Thought - Are you stuck in a Meatloaf Monday or Taco Tuesday treadmill? If so, how about mixing things up a bit and exposing your child to some other food options? Having different foods around the house and serving them for meals is a great way of teaching kids about other cultures. Check out some different recipes from other cultures online or invest in a cookbook that specializes in meals from around the world. Your child will likely love it and it will give you a starting point for discussions about diversity.

3) The Inside Story - Reading is always a great activity for kids and in this case, even more so. Go to your local library with your child and check out some books that highlight other cultures. These can include historical and factual-type books as well as anthologies that combine cultural tales and stories. For smaller kids, help them choose picture books at the library and read cultural stories with them. They’ll appreciate the novelty of the stories and will be more likely to remain interested.

4) Talk the Talk - There’s nothing like immersing oneself in another language to fully understand the nuances of a culture. Of course it’s somewhat different for a child, but getting children interested in speaking a new language is a great first step towards diversity appreciation. Whether it’s through classes at school or taking lessons after school or on weekends, language is a great portal to understanding another culture.

5) Lead by Example - As parents, we have a job to do and one of them is realizing that our children will follow the examples we set. If we convey negative or suspicious attitudes about other cultures and ethnicities, our kids will pick up on these and replicate our behaviour. “Monkey see, monkey do” is real so keep this in mind and remember to convey a positive and open attitude about other cultures, particularly around your children.

6) Culture Club - Fairs, festivals, events - these are all great opportunities to open up your child’s understanding of those from other backgrounds. Wherever possible, attend cultural and ethnic celebrations with your children and expose them to some of the great traditions that so many celebrate. Take your kids to culturally-focused events and immerse them in the customs of others. By doing so, your child will have a greater appreciation for others and will learn something in the process as well.

To read this article on HUFFINGTON POST, click here.

How do you teach your child about diversity and other cultures? What advice do you have for other parents who want to expose their children to other cultures and ethnicities? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!

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Nelson Mandela and Kids

In 2013 we lost Nelson Mandela.

A role model, a teacher and an undying supporter of human rights and equality, he was cherished by so many around the world. Regardless of their race, colour or religious affiliation, he united us through not only his words, but his actions and treatment of others. He taught us so much and was the epitome of strength in the face of adversity.

Mandela was an inspiring figure and  person who underscored the importance of some of the most basic of life lessons that many of us are striving to follow. For parents in particular, Mandela’s messages and actions form the basis of some of the most important learnings that we can pass on to our children.

The life lessons that he taught us are simple but powerful, and if we’re successful in passing on these on to our kids, we’re doing well:

1) Anything worth having is worth fighting for - Nelson Mandela was committed to seeing justice for the oppressed people of South Africa. In his prolonged fight against Apartheid, including his considerable prison sentence, he showed the world that the strength of our convictions is worth the difficulty that we may have to endure in order to realize our dreams. In other words, it may be a long and difficult road to get to where we want to be, but if it’s worth having, it’s worth making the journey.

2) Patience is a virtue - If you want to see the epitome of patience, just remember the 27 years in prison that were served by Nelson Mandela, before his eventual release in February, 1990. The strength of this ability alone makes all of our  kids’ demands for things now seem trivial and trite. Remind them of the importance of patience and the ability to wait for things next time they say that they must have something immediately.

3) Remain true to your principles - It’s often hard for kids to understand the importance of integrity and staying true to one’s values. This is particularly the case as kids grow up and pass through their “tween” and teenage years. In spite of what their peers may tell them, they often know that what they’re being tempted to do is wrong. As Mandela taught us, it may be difficult to stand against the majority but doing so for the sake of your beliefs is worth it in the long run.

4) All people are equal and therefore deserving of basic respect and dignity - All people. A tough thing for many of us to remember and even tougher for kids. After all, it’s often only with maturity and life experience that we gain the empathy, understanding that results in a kinder heart. Remember Mandela’s most important lesson and one that he gave up most of his life fighting for: that we’re all equal and accordingly, should treat each other as such. 

5) Forgiveness - It’s easy to stay angry and much harder to forgive. Nelson Mandela showed us the power of forgiveness and the ability that we all have to extend this courtesy to even our most hurtful opponents. Teaching a child to take the high road and not hold a grudge is a lesson that will fare them well in their lives well beyond their childhood. As Mandela rightly said as he walked out of the prison gates after 27 years of incarceration: ““As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Finding the strength to forgive after even the most difficult of experiences is an ability that will make our children stronger and happier people overall.

What life lessons have you learned from Nelson Mandela? Which ones are the most important to pass on to your kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of www.huffingtonpost.com
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Monday Musings: Does Birth Order Affect Personality?

November 4, 2013

  So what are you? Are you “The Smart One?,” “The Responsible One” or do you get a free pass because you were “The Baby” of the family? If you were the firstborn in your brood, it may be likely that you’ve displayed traits of maturity and responsibility a lot more than your siblings. Conversely, […]

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How to Clean Your House in 15 Minutes or Less

June 28, 2013

The phone rings or you get a text: “Hi! I’m in the neighbourhood and I’m coming over. See you soon!” You freeze. After all, if your mother-in-law, long-lost friend from grade school or pastor is in the area, it’s really hard to tell them “no,” and that they can’t come over. There are repercussions, you […]

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Baby Name Shame

May 25, 2013

Anal? Rogue? Lucifer? These certainly don’t sound like names that would adorn a sweet and cherubic bundle of joy, but surprisingly, they are. Though hard to believe, parents have actually bestowed these lovely names on their children, leaving their unwitting charges to fend for themselves in the playgrounds of their futures. Whatever would possess a […]

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Stolen Baby Names and Other Nonsense

March 23, 2013

Are baby names verboten once you’ve “claimed” them? We’ve heard this story before: a person (usually a woman - sorry, but true) has dreams since childhood about what they’re going to name their first son or daughter and tells everyone they know. This person - let’s call her “Childhood Friend #1”  has known their future […]

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Monday Musings - What’s the Hardest Part of Being a Parent?

February 11, 2013

What’s the hardest part of being a parent? If you ask this question to anyone who has had the experience of being called “Mom” or “Dad,” you will get a variety of different answers. While many of us revel in the amazing and precious moments that parenting provides to us, we can’t deny that it’s […]

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