Saturday, 23 November 2013
My wife and I have been planning and doing road trips with our twins since they were nine months old. That first trip to Niagara Falls was my bad idea, but it, at least, taught me a great deal about what you need to do, both to prepare for a road trip, and how to make it successful. These tips for both organizing and during a road trip should help make these summer family ventures more enjoyable. 1. Plan ahead! Start off by making a list of everything you will be bringing. My wife not only does this, she checks off each item as it is packed, and if it is an annual or regular trip such as our family takes to the cottage, then she revises the list on her computer. She also highlights items that still need to be purchased. When our twins were very young, obviously things like diapers were on this list. The toys or travel games you will bring will likely change. And even the need for a stroller or a portable play apparatus will not be needed as the kids grow older. It is also important to be aware of things such as your children’s nap (if applicable) and bed times and try to plan travel around these as much as possible. 2. Since you are driving, think of where you might stop to eat and/or for washroom breaks. A GPS, if you have one, may be able to help in this regard. Smart phones and tablets have apps that can find the nearest restaurant or gas station. My personal favourite travel app is “Timmy’s Me” which locates the nearest Tim Horton’s (a Canadian and northern US fast food and coffee chain) location and can even narrow the list down to the drive thru locations only. The AAA and CAA still offer map routes and flip chart style directions from any point in North America to another if you are a member. 3. Strollers should be approached on a trip by trip basis. It really depends on a few factors. An important factor is how much you might use the stroller and for what purposes. One thing that you might not have thought about is how dependent or not your kids are on a stroller. And in certain situations, cost may also be a factor. We had a large, heavy, and expensive Mountain Buggy Urban Double and two small, cheap umbrella strollers. We rarely used the last two items. When we went to the cottage, the large double stroller was a must. We would take long walks in the countryside with it. We packed it into the back of our vehicle, on top of all our other luggage, and baby equipment. But when we travelled to Disney World when our twins were about to turn four, they didn’t want to be in a stroller anymore. After much debate, we took a chance and considered renting a double stroller at the parks at over $30 a day. But after testing the kids out by walking in the Magic Kingdom on day one, we never did rent a stroller on that trip. We sold the double stroller shortly afterwards. 4. Have the kids help you pack their stuff as much as you can. When our twins were only two or three years old, we would get them to select a stuffed animal to bring along with a couple of other toys that would go in the suitcase. Our twins now help choose their clothes each day for school and so we let them choose some for when we are going away as well. They can also pick out such items as beach towels and pajamas. As I mentioned in an earlier tip, we also let them choose a DVD to bring, if we are bringing the portable player. The more they feel included in the packing, the fewer problems you will have when you are at your destination. This also gives them something to do rather than bother you while you are trying to pack up. You might also want to pack them a separate suitcase so you don’t have to rummage through your own clothes, to get their stuff out. This strategy further allows you to pack your own clothes and necessities at your convenience. Happy traveling!
Wednesday, 13 November 2013
So it has been just over two months since our boy and girl started in a new school and in separate classrooms for grade one. At their previous school, they had been in the same class for two years of kindergarten. We thought that grade one was the year to separate them, but since they were moving to a new and larger school, we had requested they stay together for one more year. Instead, the school separated them, as apparently they do for all sets of twins. My son has three other twin children in his class, and some of their siblings are in my daughter’s class. At least they were placed in classes next door to each other that are connected by a pod area. They also happen to have gym class together. A teacher told us that at the class placement meetings, the teachers placed all the twins first because there are so many of them in the school! So how is it going so far? I will start with the only negative and finish with the positives. The homework schedule is a little confusing. The grade one teachers plan together so their programs are very similar but the homework is scheduled for different days for each of our children. This is due to the fact that each class has a different day to go to the library to exchange books, and this affects the scheduling of everything else. Not everything is done exactly the same way either, but as a teacher myself I wouldn’t expect this. Sometimes, to make our lives easier, we do the same homework together on the same day when it is possible and feasible. But this is a small inconvenience compared to the fact that they each seem to be doing well in their own classroom. They still walk together to and from school and spend about an hour each day in the before and after school care program, along with time spent at home. They can play together at recess and lunch if they choose, but usually don’t as they have, for the most part, separate groups of friends and different interests. This was the case even in kindergarten when they were in the same classroom. They also have the gym class together, and this has been, for the most part positive. There was one occasion of one twin tattle-tailing on the other, but there was also the time that when my son was hurt, he picked his sister to go with him to get an ice pack. And one day, when my son was off sick, I got a phone call to come get my daughter who was complaining of not feeling well. I believe she was a little ill, but I found it interesting that she complained to her teacher only during gym, which was probably a reminder of two things: her brother was away and she missed him...and he was probably at home watching movies! But clearly, despite not being in the same class together anymore, they still do find comfort in the other twin being there at school. But the thing that I think is best for both of them is that they aren’t being compared to each other, which isn’t really fair in the first. Our twins do not have to worry about being reported on, by each other, for minor transgressions in school that otherwise would never have come to our attention. Separation has been very good for our twins, but that was because it was the right time to do it, not because it would be the best for every set of twins.
Saturday, 12 October 2013
About a year ago, I was using an online scheduling program that our local elementary school was utilizing in order to book meetings with our twins’ senior kindergarten teacher. I chose two meeting times, back-to-back with the teacher, for each of our twins. A warning then came up on my computer screen suggesting that I should leave at least fifteen minutes in between appointments so that I would have adequate time to make it to the second one. My immediate reaction was that this computer program was not set up with twins in mind, despite this normally being sound advice. I ignored the suggestion and kept my two appointments, one right after the other. Since both my wife and I are elementary teachers, we have been on the other side of the meeting table many times, looking into the faces of parents. But these interviews were our first opportunity to do so as a parent, particularly with boy and girl twins in the same class. Booking the interviews is probably the first thing that you will be doing. The best way to think about the interviews is to treat them as you would with any two siblings. Even if your children had the same French teacher, for example, you would still want each interview to be separate. And if your twins have the same teacher, be sure to book two separate times, even if they do back on to each other. Otherwise, always allow a few minutes to go from one interview to the next, because teachers do sometimes fall behind their schedule despite best intentions. Each school will have its own set up for interviews, and some will include the child. It is not uncommon for chairs to be left out for the next set of parents and their child to sit and wait outside the classroom. If this is the case, then it is a good idea for your twins (or any other sibling) to bring a book to read, or a hand held video game console (on mute) and to wait outside the door. Take my word, along with other teachers, when we say that having any sibling in the interview is usually not a good idea. The brother or sister can be very distracting, and really should not be a party to the conversation between you, your child, and the teacher. If you must bring in the twin sibling, make it clear beforehand that each child is to read quietly and not get involved with the other twin’s interview. If you are having back-to-back interviews with the same teacher, try to discuss each twin separately, and avoid comparisons. Treat the interviews as individual ones, just as you treat your twins as separate and unique people. I would suggest bringing your child’s report card with you and writing any questions you have on sticky notes located near the item you are asking about. The teacher may offer his or her own comparisons of your twins, and if he or she does, try to ignore them, and redirect the conversation back on the twin you are discussing. And, try to keep track of the time so that you can spend as equal an amount as possible on each of your twins’ scholastic issues. Hopefully, these tips will be helpful when it comes time to discuss each of your twin children’s educational progress.
Monday, 26 August 2013
Recently, on the Parents of Twins Facebook group that I belong to, there was a question about whether when twins are invited to a birthday party for one child, should they bring one or two gifts. First of all, I found the entire discussion fascinating, so much so that I am writing this blog entry. What made it so interesting was how different the opinion was, and how passionate people seemed to be about what they felt the right thing to do is. I am not going to suggest that there is a right answer to this question, because there is not one. I will tell you what I think, but first I want to share some of the opinions of my fellow twin parents. There were a few who seemed to feel that it didn’t really matter because it provided you with two options. You could either bring two smaller gifts or one larger one. What I will throw in to the mix, is that you (and your twin children) need to be okay with receiving either one or two gifts when it is their birthday. One parent even suggested that the twins could decide but the value of the gift would always be the same, and as long as they stayed within the budget, it didn’t matter. I am not sure how this would work with our six year olds, because they have almost no concept of money yet, and how much things are worth or cost. At least one parent suggested that it depended on whether each twin got his or her own invitation or whether they got one together. Fair enough! Many parents argued that one gift from both was sufficient, but that they would have each twin make or send a card, I think this is a very nice idea, because it acknowledges that each child was invited separately. Some seemed to suggest that one party means one gift, but I don’t think it is as simple as that when two children are attending. The other problem that I see with one gift is that you would want to choose something that both children can and will want to share. My twins are not only a boy and a girl, but for the most part they have completely different interests. For one birthday, our children received only one gift, a really nice one, but it was very clearly only for my daughter. Now in fairness to the parents, they might have felt that my daughter was the invitee (which truthfully she was) and decided the gift should be for her. I guess that is another way to think about it, especially if you feel that both twins were invited because of only one of them, but I am not sure that my son understood it. My feeling on this issue is fairly simple. Two children are invited and attending and therefore each should bring a gift for the friend. For their birthday party, we hope that each of our kids will receive a gift (even if it might be a little smaller than normal) so that each feel that their birthday party is special even though it is shared. There is one other thing to consider in this situation. Send only one child. We have done this on a few occasions, and not just because only one child could attend. If only one of our twins is friends with the invitee, then we might send only him or her, especially if the other child has already attended a few by him or herself. In such a case, we would probably just send one gift from the attending child. I am not sure if my writing has solved anything, but it makes for an interesting discussion.
Monday, 29 July 2013
The first part of the camp separation test is done, and it was a huge success. First of all, the kids loved the camp! They did not spend much time together during the camp day, but did ride on the bus together. In fact, this particular camp creates a seating plan for the campers and so my son and daughter sat together both ways. They also usually saw each other at swim times, but were not in the same group for instructional swims. My daughter had one advantage to my son, as she had a friend in her cabin group. This had been prearranged once we knew the two would be attending camp at the same time. Unfortunately for my son, a class mate and friend of his did turn up at the camp, but since neither family knew the other was attending, they were not in the same group. On the first day, they reported to us that at recreational swim time they had played together along with the friend of my daughter (who also is friends with my son). The next day, apparently the two girls “fought” over playing with him. But by the time the two weeks were concluding, each was playing with their own friends at swim time, and enjoying their own activities. This week begins a new challenge, with our twins attending separate camps at totally different locations. Each of them does not know anyone at the camp (although my daughter did recognize a few faces from her school). She, unfortunately, fell ill on the first day, so her experience is difficult to gage at this point. My son really enjoyed himself, and I had no trouble dropping him off in the morning. He seems like me in the sense that he picks activities he enjoys and he will make friends through the activities. Perhaps this is just a guy thing. My daughter makes friends very easily, but takes some time to warm up to new situations, and so is more secure when she knows someone, but not necessarily her brother. She takes after my wife. One thing that helps in this case, is that the location of the camp is at the dance school she attends, so she is already familiar with it. At this point, both my wife and I feel that our kids are ready for the classroom separation. The first week off from school, and prior to camp, when they were constantly at each other was further evidence of this! The first camp session went very well and it actually mimics what school will be like, with the school bus ride being replaced by before and after school care, and swimming being replaced by recess. If they can handle being at different camps, there will be little doubt left...not that there is much now, that they will be fine once September and school arrives.
Tuesday, 2 July 2013
A few months back I had an article published in Twins Magazine about making individual time with each twin. This is also one of the chapters in my book. One idea I suggested was taking each child on errands with a different parent. Today, this plan worked to perfection. Now it certainly helps that we are both currently off work, and so I spent a few hours with our son, and my wife did the same with our daughter. My wife was going for a pedicure, and so taking my six year old girl along was not a difficult decision. She has gone with her before. My daughter plays on her Leappad while she waits her turn, and afterwards my wife took her out for an edible treat. It was a little more tricky with my son. You see our errands involved shopping, although two out of the three stops were specifically things for him. My son very much dislikes shopping. We also had to pick up a few food items. So in order to make the outing more appealing (for both him and me) I decided that we would also go for lunch at our favourite family eatery. I really enjoy having a meal or a treat with just one child (although helping him across a small table is more challenging than when my wife and I each sit with a child). We had a really good time together, and he cooperated extremely well for all the shopping, and was very helpful. With twins, these times out with just my son or daughter less than I would like, so when they occur I cherish them. I hope that I can have a few hours with just my daughter soon, although I think it might be something diffferent than a pedicure. I did, however, recently bake with her using her easy bake oven, which was a lot of fun too!
Friday, 21 June 2013
So our twins finally know that they will not be in the same class next year. They are going to a new school for grade one and the school is unable to keep them together. There are several sets of twins and triplets in kindergarten alone! The principal, however, to her credit has made sure that they are in classrooms that are next to each other, and in the same "pod." We had requested this if they were not together. So in preparation for the move to the new school, my wife and the kids went on a tour of the school, and each child was shown "their own" classroom. We hadn't actually told them yet that they would be separated because nothing is official until it actually happens. But also, because we hope that camp will be a good test for daily separation. They have done lots of programs separately from each other, but have always been in the same class or day care room. Since we have always had to secure their day care spots during the summer, this will be the first time that they will be at camp. At first they will be at the same camp, but different cabin groups as boys and girls are separate. However, they will travel on the same bus back and forth and will know at least a couple of kids on the bus. My daughter will also have a friend from the school we are leaving in her group. Then our twins go to different specialty camps and we have to transport them to different locations. Neither know of any friends attending, so they will have to make new ones. I am thinking that this should be a good test for their separation, and it couldn't come at a better time. And anyways, as a teacher I am quite aware of the inherent resiliency of children. School class separation at this point is probably the best for them, and so camp will be the perfect preliminary for the main event in September.