I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Unit

A couple of days ago I read a post over on Jen's blog. The topic of that post (and before you read this one, go and read that one) is something which has been turning over and over in my head since I read it. It's especially interesting to me in light of the fact that we are considering, for the first time, putting out kids into separate classes.

Now I probably could have just replied with my thoughts over there...but then I find my thoughts on this are too big for just a comment. So I hope you'll forgive me Jen, as I wax lyrical about this for an entire blog post- I promise I'm not triplet mum bashing.

From the beginning, we've aimed to treat our kids as individual people with individual interests and needs. We did not make a big deal of it - in fact we pretty much just treated them in the same way we would have treated siblings of different ages. At the same time, we tried to instil in our kids the importance of family - and very often when the 3 of them go somewhere, together, DH will remind them, "Don't forget to look out for one another." Where I think I differ from my blogging friend is that I see these things as two separate entities. You can teach you children about the importance of family, about blood being thicker than water, about siblings coming before friends... but you cannot 'teach' your kids to actually be friends. You can teach them to be kind to one another, to respect one another, to look out for one another's best interests...but you cannot force them to like one another. Nor can you force them to always do what the other does. Suppose one gets an invite to a playdate of a friend the other does not particularly care for. Does that mean the first one will miss out because their sibling has no interest in going? How disappointing to miss out on things - or be forced to participate in things - simply because your siblings are doing it, too.

I also think that their relationship is strengthened by the opportunities we give them to be apart. We have a family requirement that each child do a sporting activity, and we prefer it be different for each kid. What we've found is that they share a lot more with one another - "I did the coolest thing at Scouts today!" "I learned a new dance step!" "Will you come and see my gymnastics performance?" - all of these are fairly typical comments in my house. This morning DD2 taught both DD1 and DS a simple tap dance move and they spent the ride to school talking about how they were going to practice it at lunchtime. This wouldn't have been nearly as fun - nor as good a lesson in sharing - if they always did the same thing.

Similarly, I have noticed that my kids LOVE to spend time as individuals with their friends - it's a treat for them. They share so much of their daily lives, that sometimes interacting with same-age kids who are not their relatives is almost like a mini-vacation. They get some space from one another - and it makes them feel special. We don't allow them to come home and boast or gloat about it, but we DO allow them to go to their friends and come home with happy smiles and shared excitement. In many cases their shared friends have loved having them over one at a time because it's a novelty for them as well. "Today I'll have DD1 over and then next week I can have DD2 over," is something which I've heard from their friends quite often. It's not at all about shaming the other kid because they didn't get invited, it's about sharing and learning that life is not always equal and balanced.

There have been times when I have wanted to wrap up all my kids in cotton wool, shut out the rest of the world, and make everything equal and fair for them. I very quickly realised that it was ME who wanted this, not them. Sure, they cried when someone didn't invite them over...but in most cases we managed to turn that around into a learning experience. And, not surprisingly, some time later it was the other child who had an invite while the first child did not. I understand very well the desire to keep our children from hurt - but I also understand that it's an impossible task which you could spend the rest of your life failing at spectacularly.

When it comes to triplets - or just siblings of any age - I think you need to teach them the lessons of love, and kindness, and consideration for other's feelings - if those people are related to them or not. I also see nothing wrong with teaching the importance of family - but part of what families do is revel in each other's successes, and commiserate with their disappointments. How can you do that if these things are always the same? I believe children need to be given the opportunity to be their own shining lights, even if there are two equally bright ones right next to them.


Claire - Matching Pegs said...

Em, I read the other post, and it made me feel a little bit uncomfortable.

I feel well qualified to offer an opinion, having (as you know) grown up as a twin.

I think your take on things is way healthier.

While many outsiders would call us collectively "the twins", our own family was at pains to treat us as quite separate entities.

We had our own tastes, interests and friends. Sometimes these friends were in common (which is still the case today) but often they were not. We still knew each others friends, which meant we had a really wide social circle.

We only spent pre-school and grade 6 in the same class - it was fine in preschool, but a disaster for harmony in grade 6. We were too competitive, and also needed a break from each other, so we were not together 24/7. Separate classes gave us more space to "shine" in our separate areas of interest - Julian in Maths, and myself in English/Art, but it was more complex than that. Eg. I was actually very good at Maths too, but not as good as Julian, so when we were together, in direct competition, I felt a bit stupid.

We knew we could find each other in the playground, if we needed each other.

Every mother (of more than one child) faces the disappointment of one child being invited to a party that the other is not. It is just a lesson in the realities of life - there are disappointments and we need to instill in our children some resilience for dealing with them.

I think that to bully another family into inviting your additional children is really poor form, and does everyone involved a disservice.

emzeegee & the hungry three said...

Yes, Claire, exactly! I couldn't work out why I could not get that post out of my head and it's because it makes me uncomfortable as well. Just seems like there are so many things wrapped up together which, to my mind, are not at all the same issues.

Very interesting point you raised about being competitive - I know my own kids have often said, "Well, I'll never be as good as (other kid) so I don't even try very hard," or similar sentiments. Or "ask (other kid), they will know" when it's entirely possible THAT child knows themselves!

It's a very interesting thing - because while I feel to separate them totally (as in 3 different schools) would not be a great idea, I've really started to think that different classes will do them some good. It's the whole "find one another in the playground" if they need one another, but offer them the opportunity to shine in the classroom I think we need.

Thanks,as usual, for your insight!


Danielle said...

Ok, I agree with both you and the other blog. You, in general, as (something you may or may not know) I too am a twin (my sister died when we were 11) and that is how we were raised, to do seperate things, with our different group of friends. However, I see what the other lady is saying, as I was raised, and raise my kids, that if a friend comes over, they MUST "slot in" with the family.....meaning two things.
1) I am not going to change around ANY kid, and will go mad on them/ be stupid/ have a messy house as if it were just my own family.
2) Under NO circumstances are siblings to be left out. My kids all play together at home, and a friend must adhere to that too. I will NOT keep my other kids away for the friend and co to play one on one. They must all get along, and play together, as that is what happens when their is no friend there. It worked for me when I grew up, and works so far for my kids. I think that was the first point the other blog was getting at; that a kid came over, and only played with one kid even though the other one wanted to play.
And the being in the same class? My sister and I were for about 50% of primary school, and thank the Lord we were in yr six. She died at school, and if we were not in the same class, I would not have been with her as she took her last breath. I am grateful every day for us being in the same class, but I guess that was a bit of an extreme circumstance!

emzeegee & the hungry three said...


All points well taken... but I'm missing my snarky commenter. :)


Danielle said...

Sorry, will try better next time! ;)