When we chose to put our twins in separate classes at school, I thought that we would be shielding them from unneeded and painful comparisons from teachers or classmates.
But as first grade progressed, I was also thankful for separate classes for a different reason: I didn’t want Micah and Benji to compare their abilities to each other.
We had always told them that they had different gifts and abilities and we tried really hard to never compare one boy to his twin in a negative way.
But one day, all my efforts came crashing down.
It was our first Child Study meeting. I shook hands with the many teachers in the room, eager to meet the people on our team.
One teacher was a reading specialist that had been working with both Benji and Micah during the second semester of school. I asked her how Benji was doing in her small group, and her answer shook me to my mother-soul.
“The first time I met Benji I will never forget what he told me,” she said with compassion and tenderness. “He pointed to Micah across the room and said “That’s my brother, Micah. He’s smarter than me.”
I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me.
I was shocked–I had never heard Benji say anything like that before. I didn’t even know he was aware of any difference between himself and Micah.
I thought that the separate classes had created a buffer of safety from the bleak reality that brought us to that Child Study meeting that day.
I struggled through that meeting.
I struggled not to cry.
I struggled with the realization that my son felt he was, in some way, inferior to his brother.
I struggled to know how to address this issue with Benji.
What I didn’t know then was that I would have to discuss it with Micah first.
(This is a hard part of our story to write down–just being honest, ya’ll…)
A few weeks passed. It was homework time after school, that dreaded time of day. As usual, Micah finished his homework first and was anxious to go play.
“Come on, Benji! Are you done yet?”
“No! I’m not DONE!”
“Micah, leave him alone. Go play by yourself for now.”
I tried to encourage Benji to focus, knowing that he really wanted to go play too. Homework was usually the lowest part of our day. We both wanted to be done.
A few minutes later Micah was back, quietly whispering the answers to Benji.
Benji was getting frustrated. “MI-CAH STOOOOP!!!”
“Micah, no! That’s not the way. Go play! Leave him be.”
“Come on, Benji! This is EASY–”
And Benji came unglued.
“IT IS NOT EASY MI-CAH! IT. IS. NOT. EASY. FOR. MEEeeee!!!!!”
There was a lot of yelling, screaming, throwing books, papers, and pencils. Benji ended up in his room, under a pile of pillows.
I tried to talk to Benji for about 20 minutes but he was deep, deep in The Funk. So I went back to Micah.
“Honey, it wasn’t helpful to tell Benji the homework was easy.”
“But it was easy.”
“Not for him.”
“Well, it was for me.”
“I know. But you and Benji are different people.”
“Well, I’m better than him.”
It was a deja vous gut check. “What do you mean?”
“I’m better than him. I better at the Wii. I run faster. I do my homework faster. I’m better.”
I didn’t want to have this conversation. Not now. Not ever. But it was happening. How do I celebrate strengths, affirm their weaknesses, and still ensure equality? This, right here, right now, was where my Twin Parenting had to get real.
“You and Benji are different people,” I repeated, struggling. “You are different, but equal. You are good at some things. And Benji is good at some things.
“And just because you can do some things better than Benji doesn’t mean that you are a better person than he is.
“What we do, or don’t do, doesn’t determine our value as people. That comes from inside,” I touched Micah’s chest. “Right here. Every person has value. No one is ‘better’ just because they have different abilities.”
It took him a while to understand. In fact, after I had the same conversation with Benji later that afternoon, I was unsure if either of them fully understood the truth I was trying to share.
“Smarter” and “Better” can be really ugly words, especially in a home that has twins. Comparisons can be so devastating and destructive, especially when they come from within. I tried to shield my boys from these issues by putting them in separate classrooms, but I couldn’t protect them forever.
And as much as I didn’t want to have that conversation with them, or address these issues, it was the right conversation to have, for that moment…and for life.
At this point in our journey, it wasn’t about school, or learning disabilities, or SPD–it was about shaping the character of my sons, and doing all I can do preserve the beauty of their relationship.
Because, ultimately, that’s what’s really important: Character, Relationships, and Brotherly Love.