Even before M became an official member of our nuclear family, people thought A and M were twins. They look enough alike, but more importantly, the bond between the two of them is blatantly apparent. We often remark that A is M's security blanket. M is the usually the first person A goes to with a joke or when he's bored and needs someone to get into mischief with. When M first started at our school, the older kids who didn't know the whole story were convinced they were twins. While A would quickly correct the error, M would smile broadly and declare, "why yes, yes we are twins!"
I would never claim to understand how it is to parent twins, especially in those early years. I watched my sister C go through it and was in awe of how she survived those first 6 months.
I get the question about their twin status now that they are official siblings. It comes when people ask the ages of our children or when they see them together. M is the older of the two, but it's sometimes easier to lump them together as the 8th graders or the 14 year olds. Regardless of how their sibling connection has been made, I regularly experience what it must be like to parent biological twins.
Wow...it is tons of work and a lot more complicated than I ever thought. The school aspect is pretty tough sometimes when both of them are stressing out about science fair or a big social studies project and I have to help both of them. It has been pretty difficult to navigate their academic paths at the same time given their stark differences in ability. An 88 on a math test of M is awesome! An 88 for A often begs the question, "hey, did you study for this?" If they were in different grades, I think it would be a little easier. The last two years they have also been in the same homeroom given their different math classes, so most of their other classes are the same prompting a day-to-day comparison, and playing the tricky game of meeting each of their academic needs.
Last Wednesday's science fair awards ceremony was a perfect example of this daily struggle (on steroids). As I've described before, A wants to be a herpetologist when he grows up. It is his passion. He did his experiment on a lizard's bi-hemisphere brain and hypothesized which side were they most likely to strike at prey and which one would yield more accurate results given the side of the brain controlling instinct. It was fascinating and he spent weeks filming all of the cricket feedings of his geckos (yes we have 4 lizards in this house), collecting the data, analyzing and creating elaborate charts. His board was neat, colorful and included pictures he took of his lizards that were spectacular. He spoke with confidence and passion during his interview and the last judge said his was the best project he had seen all day. He came in first place last year in his category, so he was convinced that all of this work was going to result in another top finish and suspected he'd be up for best in show.
M also had a good project. She tested how accurately people can identify the location of a sound. She had a clever title and her board was neat and organized. We kept the math at the basic level. Even with the simplicity, I basically did her project for her from design, data analysis, building charts, writing the abstract, etc. She didn't understand any of her research and at one point argued with me that 29 out of 30 meant 29%. It wasn't as bad as last year, but things like science fair highlight M's difficulty in basic math and executive function. We got through it with a lot less tears and I was truly proud of her for doing her best.
Like many things in life, middle school science fair judging is subjective and not necessarily fair (no pun). Each kid gets three judges and you don't have the same three judges look at each project in a given category. At this point, you can probably guess what happened.
They both got second place in their respective categories. M was thrilled. A was devastated. He barely kept it together while at school. The tears flowed in the car. M, on the other hand, was understandably thrilled since she's never gotten any academic accolades...ever. Talk about complicated parenting. Trying to comfort the one for getting second place, while high fiving the other for the same accomplishment. To make things worse, A, who never makes M feel bad for her challenges or bad grades, knew that I helped M and that she didn't work as hard as he did. His project was also completely centered around his passion which made him question whether or not he'll be able to follow his dream. This last part was a bit over dramatic, but trying to point out the big picture to him at that point was, well, pointless.
I know that going through life together is a huge benefit for both of them. M makes A chill out and be silly. A provides M with a comfort and gentle, but tough love that she needs to keep an even keel. I joke about how in high school, she's going to get him dates and he'll keep her out of trouble. In the dark moments or instances of panic in the middle of the night when I once again question our decision to adopt the girls, I can look to their relationship and remember how right it is for them to be together as siblings. That's not to say that it isn't always easy, but keeping their love in mind helps.