honoluluadvertiser.com

Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Agonizing over twins isn't worthwhile

By John Rosemond

Q. What are your feelings about separating twins in school? With my girls, one appears to be the leader and one the follower, but they are good friends. Will separating them lead to problems in their relationship, or is it vital to each child's individual development? I've heard both sides argued eloquently.

A. Yes, the constant cacophony of competing opinions had caused child rearing in America to become every bit as confusing as American politics.

Once upon a time, everyone agreed on how to raise kids, and no sweat was poured out over details such as whether to separate twins in school. This consensus was shattered when parents stopped listening to the calming common sense of their elders and began instead to hang on the every word of parenting "experts" like yours truly. To create a market for ourselves, we had to make child rearing and children seem complex; so complex that the average bear became convinced that only the experts people with capital letters after their names knew how to navigate parenting's labyrinth (which is littered with psychological land mines, as everyone knows) and come up with the right answers. This mythology has created a state of codependency between professional experts and lay parents within which the experts depend upon the dependency of their parent audience a convenient arrangement.

Fifty years ago, a mother would have asked this question of her mother, her children's grandmother, and her mother's answer would have been informed by nothing more than experience and common sense. Regardless of her answer, Grandma would have assured Mom that this was no big deal in the larger scope of things; that it was nothing to agonize over. Parents agonize over such things today because we experts have manufactured the notion that every child-rearing issue, no matter how small, is fraught with apocalyptic psychological ramifications. So parents mothers especially spend disproportionate time arranging the apples on parenting's apple cart, all the while worrying that one bad decision could upset the cart.

Up until recently, if separation was possible, twins usually were separated in school. This was thought to be practical. For one thing, it was less confusing for teachers, who did not have to concern themselves with who was who.

For another, it lessened the possibility that the "follower" twin would feel herself to be in the "leader" twin's shadow. But if separation was not possible, then twins were not separated. I'm sure that there are adult twins out there who feel they were better off being separated, others who feel blessed that they were never separated, others who wish they had been, and still others who wish they had not been. In short, the outcomes of such decisions are difficult, if not impossible, to predict, which is why agony is fruitless.

As for me, I am for separation, if it's possible. I cannot imagine that separating them would damage their relationship. It will provide them the opportunity to lessen their dependency on one another and enlarge their social spheres. If, however, separation is not possible, then I don't think it's going to matter that much in the long run. Most important, I think you'd be doing yourself a great disservice by losing sleep over it.

Wait! I have an idea! Flip a coin.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents' questions at www.rosemond.com.