Parents of multiples face many difficult decisions from the time their babies are born: do we keep them in the same crib or do we separate them;, do we buy a double stroller and wear the third baby or do we just buy a triple stroller?
It did not feel like a difficult decision to keep my boy, girl, girl triplets together for the 2nd-grade year. When they told me they wanted to stay together, my immediate reaction was to support their desires.
My husband and I didn’t spend a lot of time weighing the plusses and minuses of keeping them together or separating them. Like many multiples, my triplets do not spend much time apart. They shared a very cramped womb space together eight years ago, they went to the same preschool, for a while they attended the same extracurricular activities, and they sleep in the same room each night.
At home, they always play games and color together with a healthy amount of bickering in between. When they sit on the couch to watch TV, they sit as closely as possible to each, their arms and legs lightly touching. My older daughter sees the undeniable connection between the triplets and she often feels like the fourth wheel – longing to be a part of their special bond. I did not want to play any part in separating the beautiful bond multiples share by separating them in school.
Most parents I know who are raising multiples have already separated their kids into different classrooms by Kindergarten. The choice was easy because of certain dynamics in the classroom between their multiples, such as fighting in class, competition, or one multiple relying on the other to help with school work.
I always felt proud that my triplets didn’t care to be separated and, according to all of their teachers, they haven’t been a negative influence on each other in class.
With all of this compelling evidence telling my husband and I that it would be okay to keep them in the same class, I had immediate doubts about my decision at the beginning of the 2nd school year.
What I noticed was that my daughter V, who is in speech therapy and learns slower than her brother and sister, was feeling discouraged. Being in the same 2nd-grade class as her brother and sister made her feel inadequate. She would come home every day those first few weeks of school with tears in her eyes telling me that she didn’t want to go to school anymore. She explained to me that she was still working on her sight words when her brother and sister had memorized them a long time ago. She was still learning her basic addition facts when her brother and sister had moved on to multiplication. She was only on the green beginning spelling list when her brother and sister were on more advanced lists.
She was happy for her brother and sister, but being in the same class with them feels to her like a constant reminder that she doesn’t measure up. It makes her feel like she is not as smart as her siblings, which is not true – she just learns differently.
Friendships are also a struggle between the girls. Being in the same class together, they are competing for friendships. One day Jenna will be best friends with V and the next day she has chosen her sister instead. If they were in different classrooms, it would be easier for them to create special friendships as opposed to competing for the same friends.
As the year has progressed, the triplets have carved out their own paths in the classroom and feel more comfortable with their special talents. Sometimes they share friends; sometimes they forge a new path just for themselves.
In some ways, being in the same class has made them be better people; V has to work harder to keep up with her siblings with school, and the girls have learned how to forge their own friendships as well as work together to appreciate the same friends.
My recommendation to all moms of multiples who are wondering whether they should keep their twins, triplets or more in the same class or separate them into different classes, is to think about the following:
- Do they fight at school?
- Are they a distraction to each other at school?
- Does one rely on the other(s) for help socially or academically?
- Is one extra competitive with his/ her siblings?
- Has one expressed inadequacy in comparison to his/her multiple siblings?
The person with the most in-depth knowledge of the dynamics between your multiples at school is their teacher. Sit down and talk to their teacher and ask the questions above. Find out if it would be the teacher’s recommendation to move them into separate classes the following school year or whether they are doing well together.
Many multiples spend every waking moment in life together, from the womb through childhood. I recently realized that it would be a welcome break for them to be apart those six hours in class every day. Perhaps when they got home, they would appreciate each other’s company more instead of getting on each other’s nerves.
No matter how much our multiples love each other, and how much as their parents we cherish the special multiples bond, it is important that they each get their own space to grow as an individual rather than a pack.
Next year my triplets will be ready to conquer their own classrooms and spend those hours at school apart. This will be a step toward independence and an opportunity for them to spread their little wings and find their own way through the forest.