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Is preschool too soon to separate twins?

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She goes from being full of energy to sullen and sleepy within the space of an hour. She constantly wants to eat junk food. She fights with her sister over who gets to wear the new yellow and pink shirt, and who’s going to marry Steven, a boy at their school. She rebels and disobeys her mother one minute and treats her like her best friend the next. She whines and gets upset over little things, and at the same time is asking all kinds of Big Questions: how are plants made? Where do people go when they die? When will I have boobs?

Is this a four-year-old or a fourteen-year-old I’ve got here?

For weeks, this has been Elsa. The kid is going through a rough time, and she’s been a challenge for us as parents. She does a lot of whining, a lot of testing. She also tends to be rough with Clio, and frequently does things just to piss her off, e.g. tearing a drawing or knocking over a Lego castle she’s made, all while smiling cruelly. She’s not only a teenager, she’s the mean popular girl.

And yet, she’s not so popular of late, it seems. In an interesting role reversal, Clio has become the social butterfly — at play dates, she’s off playing while Elsa tends to stick close to us. At school, apparently the other girls in the class are excluding Elsa, while Clio is “in.”

Clio keeps offering “helpful” advice on this last point. Yesterday in the car on the way to church, she was lecturing Elsa on the topic: “Elsa, I think maybe Jaclyn and Ava and Giulia don’t let you play with them because you don’t share with them. And maybe if you shared with them or maybe if you just sneaked in and started playing with us they would be your friends. And maybe I can help – I’ll try to help, blah blah blah…” until finally I was like, dude, Clio, let’s hear from Elsa, OK?

Elsa said she did share. Or she tried, anyway. But they still didn’t want to play with her.

(Insert sound of mother’s heart breaking here.)

I’m guessing that Elsa probably is being a bit of a pain in the ass at school, if her behavior at home is any indication. But I’m not sure how to help her, beyond repeatedly complimenting her when she does a good job sharing and making it clear that hitting / grabbing toys / etc. is not OK. I’m trying to encourage the girls to play different things, too, and give each other a little space sometimes.

Because I wonder if part of this really is Elsa wanting a little more space and independence to do her thing. And to have more parental attention (maybe it’s part of the reason she’s acting out?).

For the first time, Alastair and I have been wondering if it might be a good idea to put them into separate classes at preschool next year. It seems like the fact that Clio is interacting well with the other kids in the class might be complicating matters in some way. Is it possible that the other kids are even, subconsciously, “choosing” one of them, or trying to wedge them into a good/bad oppositional thing, or am I way over-thinking here? And I think Clio’s constantly trying to talk about and counsel Elsa on the subject — and possibly meddling at school — is probably not helping matters.

Is preschool too young to be separating twins? We’ll talk to their teachers, of course, but my hunch is it might be good for them. Any other parents of twins out there — or people who are twins themselves — have thoughts on the subject?

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Photo: Elena Clamen

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