The birth of multiples is becoming more common for our generation due to fertility treatments and women waiting until they are older to get pregnant. I just had a baby at the age of 36, while my mother-in-law remembers being 25-years-old and being treated like a geriatric patient in 1979 when giving birth to my husband.
Times may have changed, but parental stress about school and birthdays has not. Parents of multiples have double the workload for these matters, so read on to see how our amazing panel of twin mothers handle gift giving, starting school, hosting parties, coordinating extra-curricular activities, and dealing with birthdays.
But first, a quick introduction of the interviewees (aka: The Super Moms)
Anna: Mother of four with two older boys, and identical twin girls who are two-years-old.
Julie: A mom who was blessed twice with twins. Her oldest are eight-year-old fraternal boys and her youngest are fraternal girls who are just about to turn four-years-old.
Cortni: Her family has twin boys, in first grade, with a big and little sister for bookends.
Heather: The stork brought twins, a boy and a girl, the first time and followed up with a little sister. Her twins are currently in second grade.
Jen: A wonderful mother with three beautiful kiddos. Her oldest daughter is in Kindergarten, and has a brother and a sister who are three-and-a-half years old.
Q1: When it comes to your twins, what do you do for school classrooms?
Seeing our little ones start school can be an emotional experience. Parents of multiples have lots more to consider leading up to that first day of Kindergarten. The biggest consideration is typically whether they keep their twins together or apart for the school year. Splitting twins up may help foster individuality, but it also means twice the parenting workload due to different teachers, different rooms, different homework assignments, and more.
Anna: I believe we will have my twin girls in the same classroom for preschool and Pre-K, and then split them for Kindergarten or 1st grade. Since the girls are identical, most people can’t tell them apart and I think (keeping them together) could make it tough for classmates and teachers. We want them to gain new experiences and grow as individuals. They will always be compared to each other, but hopefully a little separation is beneficial.
Julie: We have the boys in separate classrooms. Our preschool teachers recommended it and it has been nice. It is the only time in their daily life when they are on their own. They have developed their own friend groups and interests. We have really seen them find their own identity being in different classes.
Cortni: Our school we are enrolled in has a policy that splits the twins up between two different classrooms. However, prior to that, we were planning to have the boys in separate classes to allow them to develop and grow into their individual selves. It seems they depend on each other’s strengths to compensate for their areas of improvement (both in academics and personality). To allow growth, we knew separation was the best.
Heather: Since our twins are a boy and a girl, they don’t have that need to be together all the time. Once they hit Kindergarten they were split up. The kids are on two totally different academic levels and don’t want to be compared.
Jen: They are not in school yet, but I am planning on putting them in the same preschool class. Most schools pressure you to split them up once they are in elementary, but I am not sure what we will do yet. My daughter is dominant over her twin brother, but she needs him emotionally. It seems cruel to split them up, but I understand why people say it is better. It just seems like it would be so much easier if we only had to deal with one teacher, one class, one set of friends, one set of homework assignments, etc. I still have a lot of thinking to do on that topic! This is a discussion I have had with almost every twin or multiples mommy that I have met.
Q2: How do you handle birthday invites, gift giving, and occasions when only one twin gets invited to a party?
I never know what to buy for my kids’ classmates when it come to birthdays. I have also had my fair share of heart to heart conversations with my younger kids because big sister is invited somewhere and everyone else is staying home. When one twin is not invited, his or her parent cannot use the excuse of an age difference, which made putting this question to mothers of twins really interesting. I love how understanding and good communication was a common theme in the majority of answers to this inquiry.
Anna: We’ll handle birthday invites just as normal siblings. If only one is invited, only that one goes. They will most likely experience this if in different classes at a big school. If both are invited we’d give two gifts.
Julie: When we receive birthday invites I usually text the parent to ask if they meant it for one boy or both and just start a conversation. I usually end up attending parties because I feel guilty about dropping off two kids. I have a dollar amount in mind when shopping for parties we are invited to. If both boys are invited they have the choice of buying two smaller gifts or one larger gift. That decision is up to the kids since they know their friends better than I do.
Cortni: The realization of birthday party invites didn’t really hit us until about preschool age. Our first experience was both boys were invited to the same birthday party with separate invites. I realized I needed to decide, Do I bring one gift or two? Because they are separate individuals and each got an invite, we decided to bring two gifts. We have also run into the situation where one twin was invited to a party and one was not. This was primarily due to one section of the grade being invited instead of the entire class. The dilemma then was that one twin was excitedly talking about the birthday party (at Chuck E. Cheese’s of course!) and one was not invited, but wanted to go. I procrastinated as long as I could, but then finally ended up calling the mother and asking if it would be okay if my other son could also come along with his brother to the party. Of course the mother was willing and said she was actually hoping he would. She didn’t send an invite to my other son because that committed her to sending the entire other half of the class a formal invite.
Heather: At first it was hard when only one got invited, especially when the twins were in preschool and in the same class. I hate to admit it, but sometimes I would ask if the other child could attend since they were friends too and it was a class party. I found that most times the parents didn’t realize my children were twins. Regarding gift giving, if both are invited I typically double the price I normally give and give one larger present.
Jen: If only one was invited to a birthday party then how I would handle it would probably depend on the age. If they are old enough to have their own group of friends then I would imagine they would understand why one or the other was not invited. If I felt that it was cruel in any way or that one was purposely not being included then neither of them would go. There are times when children want to only invite the boys or the girls in their classes so it would make sense that one would not be invited since they are boy/girl twins. As far as gifts, I would either let them both pick out a smaller gift or we would bring one present that was a bit more expensive.
Q3: How do you handle hosting birthday parties? Do you invite double the classroom, try to go by friends, keep it just to family, etc.?
My household is surrounded by family and we have great neighbors and friends, which means I struggle with this very question every time my child turns a year older. It is hard to find the balance between inviting everyone or keeping things small and intimate. Having two kids that share a birth date typically means that a twin mom must embrace the chaos and fun, while also having a consistent party strategy in place.
Anna: With our older two, we didn’t start friend/classmate parties until age five. Before that they didn’t care or ask for it so we’ve always kept birthdays simple and stress-free with close family only. When it comes to friend birthday parties, we also keep those smaller so I don’t foresee the girls having huge birthday parties.
Julie: We have had large parties, but each child get his/her cake or cookie and we sing twice.
Cortni: As far as hosting birthday parties, we haven’t crossed the line of inviting friends yet. To this point, we have managed to keep our parties to be with family only making it pretty easy. I have already anticipated the dilemmas I will be facing in the unfortunately near future with friend birthday parties. There are 38 kids in the twin’s class and 27 of them are boys. I can’t use the “invite the classroom” rule because each boy is in a separate class. Each boy has a consistent 2-3 friends they each talk about playing with so we could go that direction and invite 2-3 friends for each boy. However, I am hesitant to do that because I hate to leave other kids out or indirectly place social limitations on who they can be friends with and who they can’t.
Heather: We lived away from family until the twins were four-years-old, so we didn’t really have any big family birthday parties. Now that they are older and have numerous activities; it is hard to have an actual birthday party with family. We used to have one large birthday celebration. It was easy when they were in the same class during preschool. It was their turning seven-years-old birthday party, that was the last one the twins had together. It was an “American Ninja Warrior” themed party with an obstacle course. I had 35 kids at our house! For their eighth birthday, we had separate parties with 10-15 kids at each. The boys and girls don’t get along as well at this age, due to just normal age disagreements, so it was easier to separate them.
Jen: We have the added bonus of the twins’ birthday being close to Christmas so we have been celebrating very simply with just my husband, me, and the kids on their actual birthday and then having their party a couple of months later after the holiday season is finished. When they are older it might shift to half birthday celebration in the summer. We usually just do family parties anyway. Our oldest daughter is having her first friend birthday party for her 6th birthday. I imagine I will do the same for the twins. I think we will do one party, but they will always get their own cake and they are welcome to pick out different themes. So far, we have been lucky that they have chosen the same theme each year. This is another reason I think it would be easier for them to be in the same class because it means only one class to invite! If they are in different classes I would think we would just have to bite the bullet and invite everyone.
Q4: How do you approach extra-curricular activities?
My family is still learning how to find a balance between extra-curriculars and maintaining a routine that works for us. The answers below were interesting because they varied based on whether twins were fraternal, same sex, or identical.
Anna: For simplicity, we will sign up both girls for the same activities until at least age eight, I’d imagine. We only believe in one activity per kid at a time because we don’t want to burn them out or wear out the minivan any faster than we already are! Once they get their own interests, they can choose and we’ll never force them into activities they don’t like.
Julie: We started signing the boys up for everything together when they were younger and realized quickly they have different likes. So now we ask them, discuss it, and sign up if they want to. Some classes I couldn’t sign them up for when they were younger because it had to be a 1:1 parent/child ratio. I learned to call ahead and talk to whoever was in charge to explain I had twins and ask if there was a way for us to participate.
Cortni: As far as extra-curricular activities, we have been lucky because we have twin boys which means similar activities. At this age, we have been putting them in activities together in the hopes of exposing them to a variety of activities to see what sparks their interest. Just this year, I have started to hear one say he would like to try wrestling where the other prefers basketball. If this is still the case by the time the seasons roll around, I anticipate we will encourage each to participate in activities of their interest whether it is the same or not.
Heather: Since my twins are a boy and a girl, they are not in many of the same activities during the school year. I was able to have them on the same team during T-ball and preschool soccer though. However, when it comes to sports now, they are separated. My daughter loves dance and just finished her fourth year of it. My son loves football and basketball and participates through the YMCA. I try to sign them up for some of the same activities during the summer, such as: nature camps, skill school, and library events, but it is becoming harder. Also – my son loves academics and intellectual camps while my daughter is the artistic one. Next year will be much more difficult since she is on a traveling dance team and my son will be participating in sports that offer tournaments. We have a great village that helps me take the kids to all of their different activities.
Jen: This topic is definitely affected by the fact that they are boy/girl twins. Initially, I think we will sign them up for the same stuff until we figure out what they like. Eventually, the boys and girls won’t be on the same teams so our decision will be made for us. I will add that my oldest daughter and the twins have not done nearly as many extra-curriculars as many of my friends just because of the twin factor. We did not have the capability to get my oldest to stuff when the twins were really young and on the same note we are probably not going to do as many activities with the twins just due to the logistics of it all. I also work a lot of Saturdays, which makes it really hard for my husband to take care of all three kids plus get them to games, activities, etc. This is getting easier now that the twins are older.
Part two of this series is in the books and I loved hearing from these terrific moms of twins. A lot of their responses offered valuable insight and provided good information to me as a mom of singles regarding better ways to host parties, invite classmates, and evaluate extra-curricular activities.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this Moms of Twins series. In the meantime, leave a comment on our website to let us know what you think of this topic.