GWALTNEY TWINS, l-r, Maddox, 4, Tyson, 6, Mason, 6, and Braxton, 4 are the sons of Selina and Benji Gwaltney.
The number two has special standing at Southside Elementary School this year where there are 10 sets of twins enrolled in school, and surprisingly enough, four of those sets belong to just two families.
Both the Gilbert and Gwaltney families have two sets of twins. Selina and Benji Gwaltney have four boys who are fraternal twins; Francina Mitchell and Eddie Gilbert are the parents of two sets of boy and girl fraternal twins.
Braxton and Maddox Gwaltney, both 4, are in Pre-K; Aubrey and Alexander Gilbert, both 5, are in kindergarten; Tyson and Mason Gwaltney, 6, are in kindergarten; and Ethan and Faith Gilbert, both 7, are in 2nd grade.
“There’s never a dull moment,” says Francina Mitchell, of having two sets of twins in the house.
Like Mitchell, Selina Gwaltney says keeping to a schedule is important to maintaining order. “Everything is structured because there are so many of them,” laughs Gwaltney. “They are four very bright personalities, but all four very different.”
Neither mother says she expected to have a second set of twins. Mitchell, 36, who has twins on her side of the family, says, “With the first set, I thought, if God gives me two I hope it’s a boy and a girl, and I got that, and then when I found out I was having a second set, I thought, what am I going to do! I love them, though, I wouldn’t trade nothing for them in the world.”
Mitchell says her twins are all in separate classes. Gwaltney, 41, says that is also the case for her oldest twins, but she wanted her younger boys in the same class.
“Maddox, the youngest (last born), he’s my little fighting spirit. He’s like the glue that holds all three of the boys together. He gets up and gets dressed first and gets in the car with his seatbelt on first,” says Gwaltney. “Tyson (the first born) is the other motivator. He helps keep the two in the middle going.”
Mitchell says her children also help one another.
“Faith helps out a lot, pretty much anything I need she and Ethan help out, they try to help me keep everything in line,” she says.
Both moms say they are lucky to have strong support systems to help with the multiple multiples.
“I get myself ready first at 5 a.m., then around 5:30 a.m. I wake them up, and they dress themselves in the clothes I’ve already laid out. They brush their teeth and wash their faces, then I give them a snack and my mother-in-law cooks them breakfast and drops them off at school,” says Mitchell, a C.N.A. at a nursing home in Thomasville.
Gwaltney, who has worked as a personal trainer and in physical therapy, says her boys’ grandparents, Linda and Bobby Gwaltney and Debra and Bob Jones, all of Cairo, are “shuttle buses” who help make sure the twins get where they need to be.
Although her twins are all boys, dressing them in matching outfits is not a priority.
“Some days I’ll dress them alike, and some days they want to be different,” Gwaltney says.
After school, the busy atmosphere continues at the Gwaltney house. “They all have homework, and all have soccer practice, but they love it. They all enjoy school,” says their Mom.
Kevin Strickland, principal of Southside Elementary who has worked nearly 20 years in education, says this must be a banner year for twins at the school. “I have worked with twins in the past, but not this amount of twins. Additionally, having two sets of twins within one family is rare for any school let alone two sets of double twins like we have this year,” Strickland says.