Our twins have displayed different characteristics from birth and each year it becomes harder to believe they are brothers let alone twins; they share a birthday and some DNA but few other characteristics. They are so different we nicknamed them Hare and Tortoise and we realised that these two very different characters were going to need different high school experiences.
At birth, tiny Tortoise landed with a small squeak and slept silently through his first 48 hours in special care; Hare arrived noisy and robust. Tortoise was a dream-baby who fed well and quickly self-soothed, sleeping through the night by eight weeks. By contrast, Hare was exhausting; a fussy feeder who didn’t need sleep anywhere near as much as his depleted parents. He was the kind of baby you could spend two hours rocking to sleep at 2am only to start yelling at a volume perilous to glass immediately he sensed you were trying to lower him into his cot. Fast forward twelve years and you can count on one hand how many times Tortoise has woken in the night while Hare is still prone to regular nocturnal wandering.
Baby number three was born when the boys were aged two and one of the twins had to relinquish his seat in the double stroller. Hare couldn’t wait to run around, eager to be rid of the safety harnesses that curtailed his freedom, never spending another moment in a buggy. Baby four arrived on the twins’ fourth birthday so Tortoise had no choice but to surrender the stroller. He was not keen and if he had his wish, we would still be pushing him round in a wheelbarrow!
My sons, Hare and Tortoise
Tortoise is bookish, reserved and loves his own company; he reads encyclopaedias and maths textbooks for fun. Hare is a sporty, mischievous extrovert who cannot be quiet and craves constant companionship. Conflict breaks out when Tortoise is alone building complex Lego models and Hare is begging him to play soccer. As Tortoise ignores his brother’s entreaties to go outside, Hare will provocatively knock over the model to gain attention and big fights break out.
At sports and swimming carnivals, Hare enters every race possible and tackles each one with focus and determination. Tortoise enters the minimum one event and is usually so engrossed in a book when his name is called that he misses the race completely. He shows no remorse, glad the ordeal is over for another year and he can retreat to the solace of his book without fear of further disturbance.
They were so eager to drop the ‘twin’ label
Throughout primary school we requested separate classes for them – for both the benefit of the boys and the sanity of the teacher! – so acquiescing to their request for separate high schools was the natural extension. Hare needs a school which can channel his high energy in the classroom and challenge him on the sports field; Tortoise wants to be peacefully immersed in maths, music and science.
We visited several prospective schools with open minds and, with minimal parental guidance, the boys chose schools – one public, one private – which best matched their interests and abilities, relishing the chance to fly free of the “twin” label.
The decision to send them to separate schools was daunting and the logistics of transitioning from having four children at one school to four children across three schools had to be carefully considered; with twice the sports matches, concerts and parent events, inevitably I have sometimes had to choose to attend one occasion at the expense of another and the economies of shared uniforms, books, music lessons and homework projects are long gone. But their decision is proving to be the right one; after one semester, both boys are thriving and had very pleasing first reports. At home they still fight like caged tigers but the subject of the arguments has shifted from Lego models to the best way of doing long division and whether Japanese is more useful than Latin.
Treating your children equally doesn’t always mean you’re treating them the same
Some have questioned our decision to send one twin to public school and one to private but that part of the evaluation was easy – treating them equally doesn’t always mean treating them the same and each school is the right fit for each child.
Unforeseen consequences of the change are many; they no longer want to share a bedroom because Tortoise leaves earlier than Hare and needs to crash around looking for lost shoes and homework long before Hare is ready to awaken – the irony abounds! School holidays fall differently so on their birthday Tortoise will be at school, Hare will not, but they view this as a further advantage – a time for separate celebrations with unconnected friends.
Accordingly, to accommodate more activities in our already chockfull days, we do what all stretched and frazzled parents do who seek the best outcomes for their children – sleep less!