My very informal study has shown that enrolling my five-year old daughters in separate classes makes their hearts grow fonder.
Separation during the school year
Throughout the school year, I have them in separate classes. They have been separated since the early days of preschool when they were around two years old. One of them was not really hitting the milestones for verbal ability. Why should she learn to speak when she: (1) had a sister who could speak for her; and (2) had a sister who understood her without speaking…? As soon as they were in separate classes, the nonverbal child started speaking– and so intelligibly! Turns out she had a lot to say all this time! It was almost as if she needed some space from her talkative sister to have some silence that she could fill with words. Since that validating experience, we have confidently kept them in separate classes for the school year.
Togetherness during the summer
But the summer is different. They request every year to be in the same bunk. And I allow it. It makes my life so much easier! As a mom of twins, I will always have to pack two of most things: two bathing suits, two towels, two lunches, two water bottles, two pairs of flip flops, etc. But get this: when the girls are in the same bunk, I just have to pack ONE tube of sunscreen. It may not sound like a big deal, but it feels like I am getting a little break when I just toss that ONE tube in the bag with all the other doubled-up stuff. Also, I only have to ever communicate with one set of caretakers and learn only one set of bunk rules.
What I’ve noticed recently, however, and it’s only – heaven help me – two weeks into the summer: they fight so much more in the summer than during the school year. During the school year, I pick them up from school and as soon as we arrive home, they run up to their room and start playing with each other. During the summer, I pick them up from camp and as soon as we arrive home, they go their separate ways. One might retreat to her room while the other sits at the kitchen table for a snack.
I also notice that play dates with one other child go miserably in the summer. At least one of my daughters will cry because she will have been somehow excluded by my other daughter. They are so excited to have a friend who is not their sister that they compete for the friend’s attention. And inevitably, one of my children feels left out when the other is gaining the good graces of the friend. During the school year, however, my kids play nicely with (and equitably share the attention of) the guest.
I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the time that they are apart during the school year is beneficial to their relationship. They tend to appreciate the other and they get along better outside of school. And, correspondingly, their time together during the camp day is detrimental to their relationship. They are more easily irritated with one another and there are more conflicts outside of camp.
I’m not saying the keeping-them-together-at-camp is not sustainable. It’s just less enjoyable for them – and me – and any friends who come over for a play date — and anyone I complain to about the problem.
But, again: we’re talking one sunblock tube and one set of counselors. So it’s a toss-up. 😀