twin discrimination

by gurumommy on October 19, 2010

in hot topics

Are parents of twins being discriminated against for having too many kids??? Susanna Meadows says it’s true in the NY Times Complaint Box last week!  She writes that ‘when you’re outnumbered, you learn to up your game — fast. I had twins almost three years ago and decided to stay home with them. I needed to play zone defense if I was ever going to get out of the house.

When we first went to the playground, it felt like a round of pinball with multiple balls boinging everywhere. Then I figured out I could keep a better eye on my two boys by backing up for a wider view. Soon I was brokering sandbox accords for one son while watching the other skitter across some distant apparatus. By the time the guys were 21 months, we were sharing steak-frites at a Paris cafe. Doing two things at once had morphed from an expression into reality.

So imagine my surprise when I went to enroll in a Trees and Saplings class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, part of a program that teaches children about the joys of gardening, and found a “No Twins Allowed” sign nailed to the clubhouse door. Or it might as well have been. Apparently, the garden has a policy requiring one caregiver for each child.

The director of children and family programs explained that if in addition to paying double the $175 tuition for six classes, I wanted to hire a baby sitter to help me take care of my own children, well, then, the “Harvard of Flatbush” would accept our application. At this point I might have said something like, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but that did not stop her from mentioning the possibility of a baby-sitting scholarship.

I explained that mothers of twins were not like other mothers. They’re saggier in the gut, perhaps, but reliable gold medalists in the wrangling competition. The folks running other classes in the area have always welcomed our lopsided ratio — some even offer twin discounts! Perhaps the garden could let us try? If the boys were disruptive, I promised, we’d readily drop out. Please?

She did not need any time to think. The answer was no. Then she offered that rage-making drivel peddled by bureaucrats since the invention of the stapler: If I make an exception for you, she said, then I have to make an exception for everyone. Indeed, over on the Brownstone Brooklyn Parents of Twins Club message board, the topic was boiling faster than the latest double breast-feeding debate. “I’ve been taking classes with the boys by myself since they were 3 months,” wrote one mom of 20-month-olds. “I generally have friends in the classes and we all help each other with each other’s kids.” A single mother of twins was seething: “I could have arranged to have another person with me, but it made me so mad that I decided not to enroll.”

One parent called it “blatant discrimination,” while another lamented, “I can’t believe they’d exclude all the 3-year-old twins in all of Brooklyn.”

Kate Blumm, a spokeswoman for the garden, said that with “the pedagogical philosophy we have for this program and age group, we find that this ratio works best.”

At home, we have a pedagogical philosophy, too. We emphasize the importance of independent drawer-dropping if one twin has to go and Mommy’s busy wiping the other guy.

Ms. Blumm went on: “Seeding, mulching, watering. Our experience is that those specific educational activities are best accomplished with one adult per child.”

I wish I could just be mature about it and say: “Keep your stupid trees and flowers and beautiful wide open spaces in the middle of the city. Who needs ’em?” But I do. And so do my kids.

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