News & Politics

Off They Go

The Pisner Quints Are Graduating From High School and Heading to College. They Talk About Growing Up Together, How They're Different, and What It's Like to Strike Out on Their Own.

The Pisner quintuplets are turning 18 and graduating from Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. Come September, four of them–Devin, Ian, Shira, and Michael–will enroll at the University of Maryland in College Park. Their brother, Elliot, is probably going to Salisbury State University, also in Maryland.

Why the break in ranks? His girlfriend is going there.

Can it be 18 years since the Pisner quints were Washington's "miracle babies," their birth heralding an era of fertility-drug wonders?

The Washingtonian covered the Pisners' pregnancy and the children's birth in an October 1983 cover story. We've revisited the quints over the years as they grew into intelligent, outgoing, unspoiled adolescents. Still, it seems they went from toddlers to teenagers overnight.

Nobody is more surprised than Pam and Dan Pisner.

"We're not ready for this," Pam says.

Since the day Devin, Ian, Shira, Michael, and Elliot were born, the Pisner household has been totally child-centered. The logistics weren't easy. Imagine keeping five kids of the same age fed, bathed, dressed, and equipped with glasses, braces, school supplies, and sports gear. The Pisners also had to coordinate everyone's transportation to doctors, birthday parties, orthodontists, haircuts, sports, and part-time jobs.

That routine began to change two years ago, when the quints celebrated their 16th birthday at the Motor Vehicle Administration. All five passed the driving test. The era of togetherness ended in the vroom of engines as the quints took off in different directions.

In the Pisner driveway are four cars and a van, the latter soon to be put out of its misery. The kids supplied two of the four usable vehicles. The 2000 Kia Sephia was a gift from the auto company after they did a car commercial. They bought a Mazda Protegé with money saved from their b'nai mitzvah.

It's rare to find all five kids at home and awake at the same time. Blame it on love and money–eachof the quints has a boyfriend or girlfriend, and each works 20 to 40 hours a week to earn spending money, save for college, and pay for car insurance.

Finances have always been an issue for the Pisner family. Pam is an office manager at the Food and Drug Administration; Dan does computer consulting from home. Their incomes keep the family afloat, but there's little left for extras.

The quints' work schedules have cut into their social lives. They know many kids at Sherwood whose parents pay for everything.

"It's made us appreciate stuff," Devin says.

"They've never felt that something is due to them," his father says.

The Pisners' budget hasn't stretched to include fat savings for college. According to the formula colleges use to assess need, this family with five freshmen in the University of Maryland system qualifies only for student loans. The Pisners face a new challenge–how to survive tuition times five.

All five wrote their college-application essays about growing up as quintuplets. You'll see some of what they said later in this story.

For Pam and Dan, daily life without the quintuplets is hard to imagine. Recently, they talked about replacing their van. Then they realized they won't really need a vehicle that seats seven.

Come September, they'll probably get a dog. •