I tend to think of Miss M and Miss R as sisters first, twins second.
Certainly there are times that the twin issue comes up, but it is usually in one of two categories: social context, and developmental behavior.
Social context is usually just, 'are they twins?,' asked by a stranger. I'm used to that, and we actually get it much less often than many twins, since they are different heights and builds. I've had people look at them, glance away, frown in puzzlement, look again, look at me, look at them, and then ask, oh-so-carefully, 'how far apart are they?'
I can see them thinking - wow, they look close together, but maybe too close in age, they act like the same age, but they look different ages, that one is big, the other one is petite... aaaahhhhh!
I don't mind saying they're twins, in the social context. It solves the other person's puzzlement when I say, 'five minutes apart.' AH, twins. Not identical, then? (That's usually asked as a question, which is fine with me, because I'd rather people ask than make assumptions.) Not genetically identical, no.
They do look like sisters, at least. And act like sisters. Unfortunately, that's where the developmental level of twins comes in. They're both at the same stage, which means they can escalate each-other's issues quite quickly. Bonus, neither of them can wait longer than the other, or understand even a little more what it means to wait while I handle the other's problem. I can't sequence the handling of issues - ever - on their developmental level. It's the same. Developmentally, they're twins, more than sisters. Some twins are different developmentally, mine have different personalities, but are at the same level despite that.
We don't much talk with them about being twins, either. We don't say 'get your twin' or 'share that with your twin'. The label we use is usually just their name, not even sister. If we group them verbally, we tend toward 'the girls' and 'the boys.' We usually clumping by age-level activities, and that's the split we have - older boys, younger girls. "Are you taking the boys with you to the store?" "Are you willing to start up a movie for the girls?"
For individuals, it is always the name - we don't even use 'son' or 'daughter' much - it isn't, "son, can you bring that over here a sec?" it is "G" or, yes, Mr G - literally "Mr G" sometimes, and not Mr His-full-name, that being something we started as a nickname by accident (perhaps in response to the serious nature of Mr G). It stuck, and rolled downhill to the other kids.
Anyway, labels and nicknames aside, Miss M and Miss R are still twins in there somewhere. This means that inevitably, there will arise the question of 'together or apart at school?'
So far, they have been together. The schools (both the current one and the one they will attend for elementary) allow parents to choose whether to place twins in the same classroom or separate. Sometimes the choice is obvious, as it was when I was taking Mr B in for his pre-1st-grade assessment, and a set of twins came in... one was answering questions for the other, and each time she did, her brother would leap at her and try to hit her, but he also refused to speak for himself. The assistant principle laughingly asked, "so, you want them in the same classroom?" General hilarity ensued, along with a pained expression from their mom. Sometimes it is obvious to all (and in this case the children in question were equally horrified that they might be stuck with each other) that together doesn't serve either party.
And sometimes it is clear that together is not a problem, or solves problems. If they provide a layer of security for each other in the tender emotional years (which is what, through college? 75? 90?), this isn't wrong, any more than placing a child in a class with their best friend is wrong. It is only a problem if it creates a problem, and research shows that when there's a problem, separating the twins tends to just shift the problem onto a peer relationship - it is an internal skill that is lacking, not the fact that they are twins. They can learn the skill with their twin as well as with their peers.
So. Separate Miss M and Miss R? Or not?
The answer usually lies with asking the twins what they want, and asking the parents what they see as the typical function together versus apart. Still, somehow most people assume that the twins in question will both want to be together, or will both want to be apart. People tended to raise their eyebrows in alarm when I said (over the last two years) that Miss M wanted to be apart, and Miss R wanted to be together.
Now what? To separate violates one's need, to stay together violates another's. And again, we can't choose based on developmental capacity - we can't say, 'this one will understand this better and has greater developmental ability to cope with not having needs met, so she will be the one whose needs aren't met.'
Up to now, we opted to leave them together, and the teachers said they would keep them separate within the classroom as much as possible. It really wasn't too hard, and it happens all the time with friends who are having a problem with each other, so the skills are built in. Together but maintained separately worked out well enough.
By the end of the year, the strong need to be with her sister had eased for Miss R, and the strong need to be apart had eased for Miss M, but they still tended to interfere with one-another whenever they had an unresolved upset carried into school. They know each-other's buttons, and push them at will. The teachers handle it well. But ... Something in me suspected more and more strongly that apart would serve them better, even if it would be really inconvenient for us (two sets of classroom activities to attend, for example).
Conversations with the school ensued - what did they think? What did they observe? Combined with our observations, it came down to: try separate classrooms for a few weeks, and see. They regularly have to move a child from one room to another early in the year due to personality, style, or social fit, so this is really no different.
This morning I got the email with the classroom assignments, asking me if I wanted to change my mind and place them together instead of apart. Gulp. Quick, do a mental double-check!
I do think it will work just fine. I've asked the girls, and they've leapt about and been excited over it, singing and dancing. I'm not sure they understand all that means, though. Nor do I know exactly how to respond - just highlighting the upside may leave them unprepared for the downside. Spending more time than they need on the downside preparation may leave them overly concerned with that. Just dumping them in with minimal preparation and letting them feel their way through seems unkind. And, what if, and maybe, and do I know for sure, and what if the other...
I'll follow their lead, I know. But I always start out with the ruminating. Which isn't wrong, but can quite easily lead into 'over-thinking' instead of problem-solving. One hour of ruminating is about as much as I can do before I start stressing myself out. (see 'AHHHH!' above!)
So, now, let that go, and problem-solve.
What is the problem? Hmm. The problem is that I am worried that they will struggle with this choice. The problem is not that they are struggling with this choice. So the problem is my own worry, not their problem, which so far doesn't exist outside my own mind.
I do have a valid concern that they need to be prepared for the change - both of them function better with advance warning, which is handy (oh, it would so suck if one stressed out with advance warning and the other thrived with it...). So, I can provide them with the information they need. Just information, though. Not my emotional load, no carry-forward of my early memories of standing in a strange classroom feeling too alone. This is their beloved school, with the teachers they adore, where they'll be in the classrooms they've been sneaking into for a year-plus, ready in mind even if not in learning skills to be there, be big, be one of the older kids they already admire.
Problem-solve, not over-think. Right. The anxious knot in the belly is untying. The emotional load is back to my own processing of my own childhood, empathy for the child-I-was standing alone and scared in a strange room with strange kids. That is me, not them. Miss M and Miss R know most of the kids who will be in their classes, from last year. They know the classrooms. They know the teachers. This school is theirs in a way my kindergarten wasn't mine (though in elementary school, I owned the place - the teacher's lounge, the library, the office, they were all my stomping ground, even if I was too shy with the other kids to have more than one friend at a time... that helps, remembering that sense of ease. I can apply that here.).
Deal with present time, not past, and not too much into the future. Sketch the future out only in pencil, and lightly, with concept bubbles and not linear tracks. Meta-parenting only enough to find the need in me, find the need in them, separate the issues, and problem-solve.
Deep breath. Exhale.
Separating the twins isn't so scary. Okay, it is, but it is my own issue, not theirs. For them, it is only another adventure.