To separate or not to separate, that, for me, is the question. My five-year-old twins Claire and Oliver have spent approximately 99.9 per cent of their lives together, and they're not even conjoined. They were in the same class at nursery, they are in the same class at school, and they share a bedroom. The most open-minded of psychologists would doubtless be concerned. "Not good for promoting individualism," I hear them cry. "They need to find their own way."
I ask the twins what they'd prefer. "I want to be in the same class as Oliver," says Claire. Her brother stays quiet. "And what do you want?" I turn to him. "I want to be in a class by myself," he whispers.
It feels like someone has pole-vaulted through my stomach. Whichever path is taken, one of the twins will be hurt. Anxiety is followed by panic attacks, which segue into clumps of hair being parted from my scalp.
The evidence presents itself. Personality-wise, they're complete opposites. Claire's a social butterfly while Oliver's more solitary. There's not a competitive bone in Claire's body, but Oliver likes to be top of the class. "You would never guess they were brother and sister even," says Miss Perry, "because at school they never play together."
They never play together, yet sensitive Claire clearly finds her brother's very presence reassuring.
"What do you think?" I ask my husband. He sits on the fence: "I don't think it makes a difference. Whatever you decide is fine by me." The policy at the twins' school is to separate. I ask my best friend who is a primary-school teacher for her opinion. "It matters more for same-sex twins," she says. "But they spend all that time together at home, why not split them up?"
Why not? Because I don't want to upset Claire; and because I have a gut feeling and mother knows best. Doubting my own instincts, I phone the twin society's helpline. "There's no hard-and-fast rule," a lovely lady says, "but there will come a point in their lives when they have to be separated, and the later you leave it, the harder it becomes. Maybe now is the time to make them more independent."
The direction of the conversation is displeasing. I'd called looking for corroboration and my needs are not being met. Miss Perry will know what to do, she understands my daughter. At pick-up time I ask if she has five minutes. Miss Perry tells me she's been thinking about separating the twins a lot and that she's not certain Claire is up to it. "She's only five, it could just be too traumatic for her," she says.
Hallelujah, corroboration! I'm about to relax when Miss Perry continues, "But on balance, it would probably be for the best. Of course, we won't do anything without your say-so." She looks at me, expectantly. I take a deep breath. "Do it," I say.Reuse content