Pushy Mummy top dog was touting tickets for the school social fundraiser. "Think not what your school can do for you, but what you can do for your school," she said, wearing a tight smile. It was easier to surrender than kick up a fuss, so I handed over the five quid and bought some peace. A "Bring-a-Dish Line Dance" did not appeal, and I planned to make our excuses on the night.
Maths lessons must have started. We were both busy – me making potato salad, my four-year-old daughter Claire trying to swirl spaghetti round her fork – when she suddenly asked, "Mummy, if there are three teachers in a room and then another three come in, does that mean there are six?".
I put down the knife, ran to the table and kissed her. "Darling," I fawned, "how very clever of you!" If Claire's figures were reality, that would be a ratio of one teacher to five pupils, and British state education would be beyond reproach.
We practised a few more sums with moderate success until it got to double digits and she was stumped. Her twin brother Oliver, however, kept adding and subtracting figures from 20 to 50, and couldn't be caught out. "A really difficult one now," I said. "What's 99 minus five?" Dim lights, drum roll, dramatic pause. "Ninety-four?"
It's important (though hard) not to make comparisons when you've got twins. They might be the same age, but they're different people with different abilities. Claire seems to have nabbed the creative and sporty genes, while Oliver's got an overdose of cerebral ones. We try not to make a big deal of it.
Bearing a platter of that potato salad (my closet barn-dancer husband refused to veto the school social), the last thing I expected was challenging conversation. The deputy head and I were chatting over a plate of chicken curry when he threw in a humdinger of a question: "Do you plan to separate your twins when we go two-form entry next year?"
An innocent enough question, but it's a topic that makes my lungs stop functioning properly. Much literature spouts the virtues of educating twins apart to promote individuality and prevent sibling rivalry, but the thought of splitting mine up makes me anxious to the point of hyperventilation. In their four-and- three-quarter years, you see, they've done just about everything together. That is, until the other day.
Claire was invited round to her new best friend's house after school. A kind invitation, but it excluded Oliver. "Do you want to go?" I asked. "Yes," she replied in a flash. Her certainty was surprising. "Oliver's not going, it's just you. Is that OK?" "Absolutely," she said.
We had the weekend to sit on it, and by Monday I was certain that Claire would refuse to go. But at pick-up time she skipped off with her new best friend without giving me or her brother a second glance.
On the way home, Oliver said, "Mummy, why haven't I been invited to anyone's house?". My heart tugged. "You will be," I said, "and we can always invite someone to ours." "OK," he said, "but when Claire comes home, I'll be there holding the door open for her."
So, what of the deputy head's question about separating the twins? I gave a wishy-washy "I don't know, maybe" answer. I do know, though. We're all going to have to be brave.Reuse content