Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Not Twins

A and M are exactly 12 weeks apart, each born on a Thursday.  We actually have pictures of M as a baby in my hospital room to meet A for the first time.  I gave a stack of them to M because there are some great pics of her with her dad.


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.



  1. This was so interesting! And I loved the pics-- they are GORGEOUS! I am happy you survived the science fair. I don't think I could have!

    1. Thanks! I am just SOOOO glad science fair is over...until next year with D :)

  2. Miles was born six weeks before Hannah. We too have hospital pictures of the two of them together. When we lost Hannah he was utterly devastated--for a long time.

    For a long time it was hard to be with him because we could see what we were missing, and knew he was missing his playmate. They were always together.

    As I was reading this, I was imagining having both Miles and Han in the house and my mind boggled at the thought. Good grief. Then, to have TWO science fairs? Somebody please just kill me now!! OMG!!!

    I imagine it IS hard to balance both their academic needs.

    They are utterly adorable, and I'm so glad they have each other. You're doing an amazing job, Peg. You have good kids. :o)

    1. Thanks! We think they are pretty special. I can't imagine how hard it must have been on Miles and on you guys having a reminder of what you're missing.

  3. Oh they're lovely!

    It dawned on me when my second child was born that as parents we do have to treat the children differently (according to their own abilities and personalities). It can seem unfair (from the child's perspective) even if the children are different ages. I imagine this feeling is heightened when children are in the same age bracket. You've captured them beautifully.

  4. My brothers are twins, and I've always found it anywhere from amusing to disturbing the kinds of comparisons people want to make between them that no one would feel compelled to do with anyone else. It's a strange problem, and it never quite ends.

    All I can think for your son is that we enjoy success, but we learn from failure. Not that second place is actually failure, but maybe when the emotions aren't running so high he'll be inspired to even greater things. I think his project sounds amazing.

    1. I had no idea your brothers were twins!! I always thought they looked alike but now it makes sense. Not being actual twins and being of opposite sexes certainly helps in our circumstances. It's the logistics sometimes that makes things difficult and I think it's harder on both of them given there academic differences. A doesn't always get the praise he wants so I don't hurt M's feelings and M always feels compared to A and her self esteem is so low. A few days later A was over the 2nd place after a 10pm trek through the woods searching for wood frogs in vernal pools. During the (kinda creepy) hike, we talked about how this was REAL science and field research and no judge could quantify that. At the end of the day, I just love how much they love each other and their special bond is amazing whether they are twins or not.

    2. I love the idea of the creepy hike. And yes, you are dead right. My brother works with herpetologists (Google 'robo-frog' and his work will pop up) and he's been quoted by the BBC and writes a million grants, but the real work is in the field and wandering around in the dark in Panama, etc. Some of the very best never get acknowledged, but they do it because they love it.

  5. Wow! 10 pm trek to search for wood frogs gives you an A+++ in the parenting world.

    (I'm glad you're still writing)

    Just a few thoughts -- have you hooked up with any herpetologists at local colleges? They might be really interested in A's research and encouraging of his work. It's really, really cool that he's found his passion and is doing real science. I'm a biologist and it's great to see a kid who is so passionate about his subject.

    My younger daughter has fairly significant learning disabilities, while her older sister is a straight-A, all-advanced-classes kind of student. They're four years apart, so it's a different set of dynamics. Our younger daughter's school makes a big deal about focusing on growth. So on their math tests, they show the improvement from the pre-test as well as their final score. So, yes, the final grade might be a 75%, but she increased from 10% on the pre-test. I think another important thing with learning disabilities is to try to focus on strengths as much as possible. Schools (and parents) can sometimes spend so much effort remediating weaknesses. And while that's important as well, success in life for kids with challenges will come from finding and exploring their strengths. It sounds like M has good interpersonal skills, which is a huge plus.

    There are a lot of lovely stories about kids overcoming learning challenges. Crow Boy is a gorgeous picture book set in Japan that would be appropriate to read with your littlest one, but maybe M would hear the message. Similarly, Patricia Polacco has a lovely story "Thank You, Mr. Falker" which is autobiographical (she grew up with dyslexia).

    Good luck!


    1. Thanksn so much Davidah! I have really appreciated all of your comments. A is actually a member of our state's herpetological society and two of the founding members live near us and have been wonderful mentors for him. He goes on hikes with them and one of them is the naturalist at a local regional park and has offered him a job when he gets old enough to help run events and camps for kids on reptiles and amphibians. They have been a wonderful support for him since he was about 7. His youtube channel has also been a great resource as he's been able to link up with other kids and some adults who love herping. He gets great advice (and sometimes help with his latin names for different species). That avenue has also helped him pursue his filming and photography interests.

      Thanks also for the book suggestions. I think I'll get the Crow Boy book for us as a family. We really try not to make a big deal about grades in this family at all but it's hard in the traditional academic setting where achievement is based on testing. M always does well on assignments that showcase her creativity.

      Thanks again!!

  6. I just discovered your blog through Korinthia K.'s blog and I'll be following. I am raising four girls including twins and the johnson-McCormick blog never fails to uplift me - they adopted twins and have a little girl. I am glad Science Fairs are not a thing here in Canada - it seems strange to me to involve parents that much.

  7. Hi Peg!

    Just a quick note to let you know I've posted some CW pics (and the Wren Building--I can't seem to help myself...) this evening and it made me think of you. :o)