jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Kindergarten Times Two, Twins


Watching her twin get his hair cut
August 2014

It’s raining teeth around here. Teeth and fingernails and hair. Little pieces of my children’s bodies are paring off, peeling away, to be swept off the porch, swallowed whole or caught in my fist. And besides the tooth fairy, and my husband and I, no one seems to be marking these changes.

The boys after haircuts (and no, these aren't the twins...)  August 2014

The boys after haircuts (these two aren’t twins)
(Three teeth lost this weekend between them…)
August 2014

If they were cicadas they would scream as their skin split and bared their shiny bodies. If they were caterpillars they would retreat to cocoons where their bodies would literally melt into a snot looking blob before turning into wings to fly, fly, fly.

Mica and Reid attended orientation for kindergarten this past week. In their brand new classes their twin cubbies are marked by small wooden butterflies with their names in markers, each cubby down at the opposite far end of their classroom halls. Those halls are mirror images, as in Through the Looking Glass, where their twin existences overlap, but shine boldly unique, foils for one another.

When they were born I thought the twins would look more alike. I saw them for the first time after leaving the delivery room ensconced in neighboring isolettes in the NICU of Pennsylvania Hospital. But what with Mica’s craniosynostosis and skull surgery, and Reid’s diminutive stature, and of course their different genders, they seemed impossibly different. By the time they were 18 months old I would enter their rooms with the ends of their cribs only a foot or two apart, and I would catch them throwing stuffed animals from one crib to the other and back again, playing games invented out of  joy or boredom.

There was never a secret shared language, but there has always been a filling in for one another, as if their twin bodies were a single conflicted person divided into two distinct piles: I will be physically strong and you will be bizarrely creative. You will love words, reading them, writing them, juggling them in the air, and I will like fabric and wood and cardboard that can be sewn or taped or glued. When you are kind, I will be mean, when I am patient, you will writhe with anticipation. If I listen, you ignore. If you are scared, I will offer comfort.

So for the first time in forever, their days will be split by a wall with a door they can peer through, but only open with permission. She will be here and he will be there.

Two halves of a conflicted whole  August 2014

Two halves of a conflicted whole
August 2014

Today while running I listened to the latest TED Radio Hour podcast on learning. Science writer Annie Murphy Paul talked about how children in the womb learn, how newborn babies hear their mother’s music, her digestion, her voice, how their first cries are even accented in their mother’s native language. Their brains are figuring out unbelievable things during their nine month journey to the light, from what they like to taste to which voice belongs to Mama.

As I ran and listened I couldn’t help but picture an early ultrasound six years ago where the technician said she couldn’t quite make out where one twin ended and the other began because they were sort of entangled, facing one another, their right hands pushing towards the other. Like they were dancing. Or communicating. Or trying to stroke each other’s face through the individual sacs that encased each of them.

I read a beautiful post by an amazing blogging Mama considering the possibilities of her new kindergartner: Will he be patient? Will he be kind? Will he be the mean one or the antsy one slightly out-of-control? Will my child be the smartest, the strongest, or the weakest, the late-bloomer? And the answer of course is yes. Yes, yes, yes. Yes, to all these things.

Experience has taught me that in kindergarten this year Mica and Reid will play and learn, succeed and fail, feel joy and frustration. They will be cruel and kind. They will each be the best and the worst and mediocre-est in turn.

And then they will come home so exhausted that they cannot even mange a temper tantrum, or so excited that they cannot listen to a single thing I say. They will sit in the back row of the minivan interuptting one another in order to be the first to tell me what they ate for lunch or how many monarch butterflies hatched today, or they will hit each other in their neighboring carseats, or they will sleep.

But I wonder if they will ever stop midway through their kindergarten days to peer through the glass door to see their opposite, the shell to their goo, the strength to their weakness, the neighbor from the womb, just to check in and make sure they are each still right there, just on the other side of all that divides them.


Ready to take on the world
August 2014

22 comments on “Kindergarten Times Two, Twins

  1. Kelly
    September 2, 2014

    The shell to their goo. Love it! Big kiddos!!

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      Oh, thank you. We should all find the shell to our goo, am I right?
      And yes, they are all-of-the-sudden HUGE!

  2. Jan
    September 2, 2014

    Beautiful children and writing. Your kids are so lucky to have you to capture all these firsts.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      Too sweet of you to say. I am glad to have this little repository to tuck their stories, lost teeth, new accomplishments and so on. Thank you for being part of it, childhood besty.

  3. Burns the Fire
    September 2, 2014

    Thanks for this lovely reverie on the particular magic of your twins. Congrats to all for their first day of school!

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      And thank YOU for reading and commenting. The last first day begins tomorrow. Then what? Do I write? Do I print? Do I clean? Do I run? Do I get the car repaired? There are too many options!!!

      • Burns the Fire
        September 8, 2014

        You know what I think: WRITE, PRINT, drop off car and run home to create some more. Clean in tiny increments, every half hour when you must stand up to move your body.

  4. omnimom
    September 2, 2014

    Love this! My girl/boy twins just started nursery school. They aren’t separated (there is only one class), but I am curious how their lives will unfold apart from each other in this new setting.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      It’s amazing to see. They both love school, but differently. And they haven’t minded being apart. Boy/girl twins have their own kind of magic.

  5. Amy Reese
    September 2, 2014

    What a beautiful piece, Jen. The shell to their goo. Love that, too. At the school where my kids used to go, they would keep the twins together in K-2nd grade. It’s just what they did, I’m not sure exactly why. Anyway, I could see it would be an adjustment to lose your partner in a twin. I always think it would be cool to have opposite genders with twins. You get to experience their growing up with different sexes at once. Did I say that right? Hopefully, you know what I mean. Congrats! Oh, Kindergarten, it’s the sweetest.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      I’m telling you, I love the different gender twins. I mean, you get what you get and you don’t get upset… but honestly, I was hoping for boy/girls. More because they won’t compete with each other but they can still be there with each other. Then I gave them each a same sex sibling only a year and a half older or younger, so the competition thing is bound to happen anyway.
      But seeing how two people could have so much of the same and yet still be so very different makes you realize how people are just programmed, by gender, by nature , just in general.

  6. Jenn Berney
    September 3, 2014

    I’m so in love with how you describe the physical world of children growing–the fingernails, the hair, the teeth. My own son seems to be the last one of his crew to lose a tooth–not even a loose one yet. I don’t know why in the world I’m antsy for that. Things are changing fast enough.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      So with three teeth in one weekend, I have to say, Reid (girl twin) doesn’t even have a loose tooth anywhere. And she’s got some weird molar cutting into the back of her mouth?What?! Weird. And yet she’s fully reading. And he doesn’t know what the letter K looks like. Chapter books vs. “What’s da lettah K?!” But no matter. Things really are changing fast enough.

      • Jenn Berney
        September 17, 2014

        Ha, your son and Smoke have the same kid-accent.

        • jgroeber
          September 20, 2014

          I LOVE that kid accent. Whenever anyone suggests we work on his Rs, I get defensive. I just love that kindergarten voice.

          • Jenn Berney
            September 25, 2014

            I’m so glad you said that. Just yesterday Smoke’s teacher asked if she could refer him to the school’s speech pathologist and I felt a little heartbroken, and then ridiculous for feeling heartbroken.

            • jgroeber
              October 1, 2014

              Full disclosure: they sent me to speech in kindergarten for my Rs (or ahs, as I surely said.) I had a severely hearing impaired older sister so it made sense. But even now, I just love that sound. My other half can also work a Boston accent, sans Rs. I just love it too much! I say we take back the ahs.

  7. talesfromthemotherland
    September 6, 2014

    Like everyone… shell to their goo wins by a landslide, it seems! Doubly lovely post.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      Ha! We found some ocean clams yesterday at the beach so like a good mother (and illegal clammers), we brought them home. I shucked them (which was horrifying) and chopped them (which was much more horrifying, because apparently, they never die) and made stuffed clams. It made me rethink the shell to goo metaphor, but only a little. Ack!
      And thank you for the compliment and for stopping by. Next time I’ll save some stuffed clams for you, ‘kay?

      • talesfromthemotherland
        September 7, 2014

        Oh how I love stuffed clams! Where were you on vacation? Sounds heavenly!

        • jgroeber
          September 9, 2014

          Not even vacation. The beach at which we found the clams is actually closer than their school. As it should be… 😉

  8. Pingback: On Learning to Read, A Study in Adjusting Expectations | jen groeber: mama art

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