Separate Ways

Playing 'telephone' with cups in the bath.

Playing 'telephone' with cups in the bath tonight.

Today was bittersweet.

This is the last day of the twins’ co-op preschool. At the end of August they go their separate ways: M will start regular preschool, and C will go to a school for children with developmental disabilities. My anxiety over the ever-widening gulf between them is beginning to feel overwhelming.

As if sensing my fear, C and M were playing like actual siblings tonight. They were near and — more importantly — seemingly aware of one another. They were playing and laughing and, at one point, C reached out and hugged M without prompting. M, instead of pushing C away, leaned into the hug and smiled.

And so I continue to learn to let go, even as I hang on.


  1. Our middle child had multiple neurological impairments and we all struggled as a family – he has an older sister by 4+ years and a younger by 5.

    I struggled with all of the challenges that were presented to us over the years – he is now 26, a college grad, BFA in Painting and living independently. But at the beginning I mourned. Why wasn’t my child “perfect” like the other 2? Why did we have to deal with this? Once my mourning period ended, I recognized what his perfection was and how I could tap into it and help it to blossom.

    He is an accomplished young man. Warm, loving, funny, charming, handsome, with a good moral compass, compassionate and kind.

    Your sons came from the same place and shared so much. Yet they are different. It sounds like you are celebrating their differences. Although they won’t share the same kind of education, they will both get what they need to be the best possible students and humans they can be. As parents you and your wife should be proud of how you parent them individually. Twins or not, they are separate souls with so much to offer others. Your son is not disabled, he is differently-abled and as time goes on you will see the richness of this more and more. You are a GREAT parent!

  2. I once read that for mothers, the process of mothering from birth onwards is about progressively learning to separate from the being that was once a part of you. I would imagine that for twins, it is the same way: learning to be apart from someone with whom you share chromosomes!

    I am a godmother to twins, and have observed another set (who are identical but still adjusting to their adoptive family) as part of my professional training- both older than C&M. The fierceness of the love, and the competition, is as wild as any natural phenomenon I’ve ever seen- and as natural. They will never lose their bond, and even if they were just both going to different schools, they would benefit from that separation. Both of “my” sets of twins are in separate classrooms for that reason. The boys will thrive. You’ll see:)

  3. Too sad, and too joyful, all at once. One of the tropes of raising twins seems to be that you “take care of raising two kids at once.” Obviously you didn’t end up with exactly that luxury. But I appreciate the way you search for, and find, the unique brilliance that each of your kids possess.

  4. Jill Longenecker June 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    My son with Autism will soon turn 17 yo. I remember the first couple of years after he was diagnosed (age 2), it often was very hard for me to see typical children his age because it was a reminder of how much he was falling behind. Yet that is what you, as a father of twins, see day in and day out.

    The good news is that eventually the grief and pain gives way to acceptance and valuing your child for who HE IS, not who you thought he might be. And acceptance does not mean giving up. I used to think that. But I now know it doesn’t. I’m a fierce advocate for my son and spend considerable time working on his various therapies, funding issues, meeting with the school, working with home staff, etc.

    Acceptance doesn’t mean you stop working to help him reach his potential. It just means that you can quit comparing and really value HIM for his sweetness and his uniqueness. His path is just more extremely different. But the journey, although extremely difficult, is amazing.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Jill. Yes, I’m definitely in the acceptance mode. In fact, I’ve actually come to appreciate — and love — many of the ASD symptoms and signs. My concern about the twins isn’t so much that they are different, but that they aren’t as close as I would like. Nonetheless, I have to trust (as my wife reminds me) that with time and work, their bond will grow stronger. In the meantime, it is like having two children in parallel galaxies, rarely interacting with one another. Sending them off to separate schools seems so unfair, but I take comfort in the concept that it may only be a temporary situation, if C can ultimately attend an integrated school.