Twinfant Tuesday: Looking back

Our twins will be 5 next week. Crazy how time goes! I very clearly remember finding out that I was pregnant with them and it seems like an eternity ago.

We were living in Maine for my husband’s job. Our insurance didn’t cover pregnancy so I had not gone to see a doctor when I realized I was expecting again. Our oldest was 8 months at the time, still exclusively breastfed and I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant … I had scheduled an ultrasound at 16 weeks because I was concerned about my ever expanding figure. I was convinced something was wrong with the baby. The doctor put the probe on my belly and I started crying when I saw the two little creatures floating inside. After that I proceeded to freak out as I was counting the number of diapers I would have to change between the three of them ..  about 150/wk in the beginning.

I read some books about raising twins and about the do’s and don’ts of birthday parties (sing twice, don’t give a shared gift!). But mostly I enjoyed the pregnancy, was secretly relieved that the state of Maine (the insurance companies for hospitals actually) did not allow for VBAC with twins and agonized what we’d do with our oldest while we were in the hospital.

The babies came out after one routine visit turned to not-so-routine. One of them was having trouble. I was 37wks so the little mountain hospital felt comfortable delivering the babies. They told me that they had nothing but oxygen for the babies and if they needed anything else we would be med flighted to Portland, ME. There was no nursery, I was ‘expected’ to care for them alone.

I thought I handled the first year with grace and ease. I remember thinking how wonderful it was that there was a baby to take care of and then another! What a gift! What a blessing!

Looking back I realize that I was slightly crazy that first year. Since our oldest was so young it was easy to never leave the house. I know I went grocery shopping but I don’t really remember that. I do remember going to the doctor’s office with all three of them and feeling like they wanted to be done with us quickly. I remember being scolded by the doctor for waiting a month before bringing one of them in with what turned out to be pneumonia.  I remember being so tired of everyone touching me all day that I wished my husband didn’t find me so irresistible at night. I remember feeling inadequate and frustrated because I couldn’t multiply into three when they all wanted a piece of me at once and picking up one seemed to make the two others cry even louder. I once called my sister-in-law to meet me at a library parking lot to watch the kids while they stayed in the car so I could go and pick up a book I was waiting for (that I actually never read). I remember thinking that it was more important to pick up the house while the kids slept than take a nap.  … like I said, a little crazy..

Because having 2 babies (and a toddler) is a lot of work I eventually learned a few things to make it easier.

  1. Short routines: Our evening routine consisted of putting on jammies and nursing the babies. No baths, no books, no long of anything that would take time on the days when I was simply too exhausted to do ‘the routine’. I bathed the kids about every other week. When we just had one I aimed for once a week, with three of them it was too much to keep up with. No one ever told me that our kids smelled.
  2. No feeding schedule: I know this doesn’t work for everyone but I nursed on demand and I nursed a lot. When there was a baby that was crying I first nursed to see if they were hungry. That seemed the easiest way to solve the crying. I also felt bad that I didn’t have the time to snuggle with them as much as I knew they needed to be snuggled. If they were on the breast they were getting the snuggles in too.
  3. Strict nap schedule: I was crazy about their nap times. I was going to be home and have them take their naps in their beds. There were not many occasions that broke this ‘rule’. Because they napped 3x/day until they were past 2 it made for some really short outings. As for nights, none of our kids slept through the night until after 14 months. My husband thought I was a total push over in that regard but I just could not listen to a crying kid. I still can’t.
  4. Lowered expectations: I had a lot of ideals of what I thought were important and that I wanted to try to strive for. Like ‘being put together for my husband’, ‘picking up the house before dinner’, or ‘working out’. I gave up on all of those eventually for a time. Some, I’ve never picked up again. It took awhile but at some point I realized it was ok to ‘just be’. To sit with the kids on the floor, watch them play and take pleasure in their excitement as they discovered the world.

I do wish I had made a better effort to sleep when they were sleeping during the days. It always felt like such a waste of time. Even if I did nothing ‘productive’ I wanted to enjoy the quietness of the house when they were asleep. I was looking through the old pictures awhile back and was surprised to see the exhaustion on my face. And that’s another thing, I wish I had taken more pictures. I thought I would have everything permanently instilled in my mind but come to find out, lots of it didn’t stick. Must’ve been that sleep deprivation …

How about you? What are your strategies making the first year survivable? 

Hanna is a mom to 3 lively kids. She lives with her superb husband in the Boston outskirts and works part time in one of the nearby hospitals.They are loving the parenting thing and are starting the process of becoming a foster family. Her family recently moved ‘to the country’ and after some challenges with the old house everyone is adjusting great and are negotiating on what animals to have as pets. 

About school, part 1

Our oldest started kindergarten last fall. I was rather hesitant in sending him to a full day program* after having him home with me until then. I seriously considered holding him back a year (he’s an April boy) but at the end felt it was best for him to enter the public education at that age. We spent a month in Finland at the end of September and I was glad about the break it offered to him from school.

He’s a delightful and smart kid. Kinda introvert, takes after his Daddy, but has good social skills. I knew going to school every day would likely be a challenge but I did not anticipate the crying and begging that ensued most nights. He complained the ‘day was just too long, could he just stay home?’ He was counting days until the next weekend/holiday/vacation. It was puzzling because in the mornings he would be happily skipping to the bus stop and did not even look back to wave good buy.

Both my parents were teachers. I believe in good solid education. When I had mentioned the possibility of holding him back a year my mother did not believe I was serious**. Education is important. Teachers are important. I know this. But I also know my son. I know when he’s had enough and over the  Christmas break I decided I needed to do something. Something to change the course so that in years to come he would still have that desire for learning.

I had a meeting with his teacher (what a treasure she is!) and the principal in January. I wanted to pick him up at half day once a week (making his week 3 full days, 2 half days). The principal very reluctantly agreed to a trial for 6 weeks. We’re half way through that trial. It has made a big difference. But now I want more (of course I do!). I want to go to the next meeting and request he get picked up at half day every day. I can already see the principal object to this .. because ‘his school attendance is my responsibility’, that’s what she told me at the first meeting. Honestly, I could care less about his attendance. I don’t care if he misses music, or gym, or library or the social experience or does not get to practice lining up one more time …. What I care about is his well being, his enthusiasim for learning, him getting enough time to play and rest. He is 5 years old!

I realize that I have a different mindset than most of my neighbors. But I come from Finland where kindergarten is for 6 year olds, where 1st grade is no longer than 4 hrs/day (yes you read that right) and where kids score on top of the world year after year. I am all for great education. I am not for chronic fatigue at the age of 5. Or 6. Or 7. I’m also not entirely sure how to proceed with the principal (or with my son). Would love to hear your thoughts. And if you happen to know the MA education law could you tell me what my legal rights are to pull him out at half day, please?

 

*As of past fall our town offers full day program at no cost and while not mandatory it is strictly enforced.

** This was before she realized that kindergarten was for 5 year olds and was a full day.

 

Hanna is a wife of a wonderful man, a mother of a kindergartener and 4 year old twins. They make a home in Lexington, MA. She is grateful her own parents made her get a degree in nursing before letting her move to America. 

 

A look into our past

I recently came upon a letter I had written to the good people at the hospital that helped bring Beth and Joshua into this world. It brought back such memories of what our lives used to be like with two babies and a toddler. I miss those days! I was delighted to read the way I described both of them. For one I felt pride that I was able to think of so many differences in the sleep deprived state that I must’ve been when I wrote the letter. Secondly, I could still describe them in very similar ways (tho Beth’s cheeks have mostly disappeared). My only regret is that I did not write a letter like that every few months. How fun it would’ve been to look back on those and share them with the kids when they’re older. I guess I could start now ..

But here it is, for you to read. It is dated December 31st, 2008

Happy New Year!
I know I promised an update of the babies by the end of the year ..just didn’t think I’d be cutting this close. Nevertheless I’m sure you’re happy to hear that they’re doing great. I can’t believe they’re already 4 months! It seems like time goes by so much faster the second time around you have a baby ..or maybe I’m just busier this time around and don’t have the opportunity to focus on their every accomplishment?
Joshua is a great sleeper!! I was totally prepared not to sleep well for the first 6 months (since that’s how it was with Nathan) but he was about 2.5months when he started sleeping 6hrs/night. Now he often times sleeps for 8hrs without eating (and I have one engorged breast in the morning). He loves to linger on the breast for as long as possible. And every single time (no matter how long it has been) he’s heartbroken when he has to unlatch. Beth on the other hand is very efficient and quick feeder. She also likes to nurse during night at least twice. She used to be the one who easily slept in until 9am while Joshua got up early and watched Nathan and I play. 2 weeks ago they switched parts. They also seem to have gone from being on a similar awake/sleep rhythm to completely opposite during last week. While I enjoy having more time with them individually I hope they get back on track soon. I usually tandem nurse them once or twice a day to try to set them ‘right’ but sometimes it doesn’t work. ..Joshua’s heart murmur is gone. Beth spits up SO much, all the time. Joshua is very relaxed and easy going. He smiles so big it makes us cry. He’s absolutely adorable (and we still consider him our most beautiful child). Beth is more social and seems happiest when she is part of ‘something’. She likes to be held facing the action, being carried around and being played with. Joshua is the opposite. He loves to curl up in a tiny ball in our arms and make him self ‘invisible’ in the hopes that we’ll ‘forget’ about him and never put him down. In the morning when we pick Beth up she immediately starts babbling and gesturing with her hands like she’s wanting to catch up from where we left off the night before. Just adorable! Her smile comes easily and is super cute, partly because her mouth is so tiny and she’s got big cheeks!
I think they are developing just fine even if they seem to be behind Nathan by quite a few weeks. And Joshua seems younger than Beth in many regards. But they are adorable!! And they are a lot of work!! Sometimes we’re not sure in which order!! We ‘specially love the times when they seem to cry for no apparent reason ☺ They feed off of each other. And it’s even more fun when Nathan freaks out and starts crying too. There have been couple times when I join them. But mostly they are a lot of fun.
My carpal tunnel is still bothering me and I seem to have muscle atrophy from it. I’ll be seeing a doctor about it in January. Completely suck ☹ but it could be much worse, at least I can change diapers now without loosing all the feeling in them … the endless amounts that we go through every day! So that’s about it. Thank you for the roles you played in getting the babies safely to this world. We are trying to do our very best in raising them.
Wishing you a wonderful year of 2009!

What kind of memories do you have from when the babies were young? Did you write down their milestones or is it all a blur? (I recently had to fill out paperwork about their development and drew a complete blank on too many questions .. felt like an awesome mom).

Hanna and her husband live around Boston with their still ‘adorable and lot of work’ 4 yr old twins and 5 yr old big brother. And they still think they’re mostly fun!

Dentist Visit

I don’t like to go to see a dentist. I used to start crying as I walked in to the office. I think I got traumatized when I got my 2 wisdom teeth pulled twenty some years ago. But because of the awesome mom I try to be I was determined to make sure the word ‘dentist’ did not mean ‘time to freak out’ in my childrends’ minds. I took it upon me to brush their teeth twice a day, train them to love carrots and apples as snacks (which they totally do) and feed them 100% xylitol after meals.

I was going to do things right but when I heard the recommendation is to take a child in when they turn 1 I rolled my eyes. So we skipped that first year. When Nathan turned 2 I also decided to skip the dentist because it still seemed very unnecessary. The next year I took him, actually all three of them.

I had found a pediatric dentist office with a train table, DVD player and all kinds of other fancy toys that we didn’t have at home. I imagined the kids would play while I took them one by one to the back room for a ‘quick and easy’ check up. Oh boy was I wrong..

Nathan refused to open his mouth. I tried prying it open with my fingers until the dentist lady kindly suggested that it was probably enough and I should consider taking him to a place where they can ‘knock him out’. In the mean time Beth and Joshua were running between the play room to the back room and then back, completely ignoring my ‘stop running at this minute or there will be trouble’ looks. When it was their turn to have a turn they had seen enough example from Nathan and knew what to do. No one was going to count their teeth either.

When I lurked my way out of the office I was sweaty, frustrated and decided this was the last time they’d see me. I was going to wait until my kids understood what was expected and I was going to find a place where ‘knocking them out’ wasn’t the first recommendation.

Last month I took Nathan to see a dentist again. This time to an office with no train table and only a few toys to play with in a corner.
I had started to talk to him about going to a dentist few months back saying ‘when you turn 5 it’s time to go and see a dentist’. During the weeks we talked what the dentist would do this his teeth: count them, clean them, tickle and poke them. He’d sit in a chair that moved like Daddy’s machines and there would be a bright light and he’d get to wear some awesome looking protection glasses. He was excited.

The day came and he did great! Slightly nervous but no refusal to co-operate, even if he wasn’t ‘knocked out’ ;). I was very nervous of what they’d find because I had *gasp* not followed the recommended dentist schedule and I was certain if they talked to me sternly about its importance I’d break down in tears. At the end there were no cavities (or tears), the dentist lady was sweet to tell me I had done a great job brushing and flossing his teeth and to keep up the good work. Beth and Joshua did great waiting in the ‘kid corner’ and were devastated when they realized they didn’t get a turn (or at least the cool sticker that Nathan got). Afterwards we all went for ice cream and talked about the sugar bugs we were going to brush away as soon as we got home.

Now that’s a visit I look forward to duplicating!

How did you go about the ‘schedule’ and how did you get your kids to behave?

Family visit

My wonderful mother came for a (too short of a) two week visit with my favorite (and only) sister’s almost 7yr nephew. Oh the fun we had! The kids don’t have many cousins to play with on a regular basis so to have one living in the house for a whole 2 weeks was beyond amazing for them.

I was slightly worried how the whole language barrier would go but turns out kids are pretty good communicators with couple words, gestures and primal noises. It took them about 10 minutes after we arrived from the airport to be playing ‘jungle’ in the basement (and the pace never slowed down after that). By the second night Daniel requested that we make a bed for him in the kids’ room.

Nathan was in awe of this older boy who knew how to climb trees and dive and speak Finnish flawlessly. It was fun to watch him soak in the ‘wisdom’ Daniel so openly shared. They planned jokes on the rest of us with such a speed and creativity that I had forgotten existed.

Prior to the visit I had worried about spending tons of money on admissions to several of our planned activities. I was thrilled to find out that through our library we could get discounted admissions to a whole lot of places. I met a mom from CA at the aquarium who told me that their library has a similar program. So if you’re planning excursions with a load of neighborhood kids or your own you should totally look into that. Our budget throwing $95 admission fee to our Zoo became pocket chance when we flashed our library pass and were charged only $12.

I had hoped that having a Finnish speaking child in the house would produce some language development in my kids but to my disappointment I don’t think they now speak one more word of Finnish than they did before the visit. Daniel however developed his understanding of English by quite a bit and would tell me sometimes when I started to translate something that ‘I already know what that means’. We have a month long trip planned to Finland in the fall. Who knows, maybe by the end of that trip my children will dazzle me with their ability to form a whole sentence in Finnish! Until then we have many memories to cherish and are looking forward to making new ones.

How do you find deals on fun things to do with the family? 

Hanna is trying to foster the sense of Finnish heritance in her kids (and her totally awesome American husband) in the outskirts of Boston. 

Figuring It Out In Real Life

I had read a lot of books and felt that I was well grounded in the knowledge of parenting well before I was married or had children. I had strong ideas of what kind of a parent I would be. But what I lacked was the never ending- around the clock- always demanding- sometimes draining- mostly uplifting- experience of raising real children. Like my sister-in-law once pointed out in a not so sweet tone ‘once you get your own children you won’t be so perfect anymore’  OUCH! (I totally deserved it!)

Once I experienced motherhood I realized that my well thought plans and straight forward approach didn’t work quite as well in real life as they did in theory. Not that the theory was wrong but real life is so much more complicated and sometimes I am at a loss as to how to apply the book knowledge to a certain situation.

My most recent ‘complicated’ experience started a few weeks ago. Video games entered our home. I was so not prepared for that. One night when I was working my husband had introduced Mario Karts to our oldest. Couple weeks later, when they had opened every possible new track, a package arrived in our house that contained Sky Captain. Now it’s on to the Monster Trucks.

Clearly the boy enjoys playing them. And I’m not completely against them in the lives of children. There just seemed to be ‘too much’ of it. From the beginning my husband and I talked to him how playing games is a privilege and not something he should take for granted. And there have been days when he’s lost that privilege and have had to go without playing all day, sometimes two or three in a row.

Here’s where it became ‘complicated’. I was feeling guilty for letting him play that much (what ever that much is) and at the same time I was thrilled he had found something to do that didn’t require my attention. Better yet, Beth and Joshua loved watching him race so they left me be also. WELCOME FREE TIME! But the quilt was growing as was his addiction. I had to intervene, for both of us. I was tempted to throw the games away but realized that would not address the problem. Something else would take the place of videogames and we’d be in this situation again. (And I also imagined him to grow up to be holed up in a room playing videogames all day long, not being able to hold onto a job or a wife and blaming me for ruining his life by not letting him play when he was a kid .. kinda like the relationship I have with Finnish chocolate because my parents deprived me of that when I was growing up. Yeah, totally blaming my lack of self disciple on them!). So what I needed were guidelines. I had mentioned this to a mom friend and she told me about an other mom who has her children ‘earn’ their TV time. Sounded like a good idea. After struggling to decide how much one workbook page meant in video time I settled for 10 pages (about 45min) = 30 minutes playing, usually separated in two sessions (Nathan’s choice).

Transition was much easier than I thought it would be. Nathan seems to be proud that he can ‘earn’ his game time. After breakfast he asks for his book and does the required pages. So far he has been satisfied with 30 min /day. My quilt has disappeared. A win win in my book!

(I should add that when my husband is home and he wants to play with Nathan that time does not need to be earned. That is counted as ‘quality time’ between Dad and a son. Because clearly, it is.)

How are you handling tv and video games in your home?

Hanna is a mom of ‘one and twins’ who’s trying to strike a balance between theory and real life. And to not ruin her kids while figuring it all out.

 

Parenting Challenges

As I’ve written before I was born to be a Mom. I enjoy my children. I take parenting seriously. I invest time and effort to it. And up until couple months ago everything was going pretty well.

I’ve had a challenging fall. I’ve felt inadequate as a parent. I’ve had unloving, impatient and even angry feelings towards my children (like that night when Beth was screaming uncontrollably for what seemed like ‘forever’ for no apparent reason and I so wanted to throw her down the stairs). I want to assure you that I haven’t acted on most of these feelings that have been racing through my head but just the realization that I am not always (this fall very seldom) that kind of mom I aspire to be has been a humbling (and maybe even a good) experience. Humbling because I don’t like to ‘fail’ and good because no growth or chance can happen if there’s no need perceived.

I’m not entirely sure why it’s suddenly been so difficult but my guess is that it has to do something with having 2 three year olds in the house. (I don’t understand the talk about ‘terrible 2’s’ .. it’s the ‘almost unbearable 3’s’ that get you) .. but whatever the reason I pretty quickly realized I had to make some changes so that I wouldn’t dread every day when I stayed home with them.

The first change was to make sure I get a ‘quiet time’ in the morning to read the Bible and pray. In those times my heart and mind was gently conformed from angry-to-neutral-to-kind-to-loving towards my children.

Secondly, I decided to push back starting some online courses as well as continuing my sign language classes so that I would be mentally more available to my kids. (I’m excited to be starting this month!)

The third change was not to care so much about the appearance of our home but rather spend time on the floor playing with the kids like I had for the first three years of Nathan’s life ..( and had really looked forward to the time when they would ‘self play’ and I could get ‘stuff’ done.) So play I did, and with the decision not to stress about much else, I found that I quite enjoyed it. And the kids loved it!

In few weeks it seemed we had found the harmony that I had gotten accustomed before. Not to say that our days are not interrupted with fights over toys or space on Mom’s lap, intentional instigation and bugging of each other or full blown tantrums over ‘NO’s. But most of the time we enjoy the days we have with each other and when the children get out of control I take time to listen and be involved .. you know, like a good mom would.

I for one am much more content and happy. So I think I’m going to continue like this until we hit an other challenging phase .. which I’m sure there will be in the future.

(And in case you were wondering how I handled that desire to throw her down the stairs … I carried her downstairs, asked softly what she would like (at 3am!) and then watched her eat her yogurt. She said she’d like to go watch a show and I said that would be fine but I was going to go back to bed. She chose to go back to her bed also. I tugged her in and she told me she loved me).

What are some challenges that you have dealt with or are in the middle of now? How did you pull through? 

Hanna is a mother of three, Nathan 4, Beth and Joshua 3 and is learning to cherish and enjoy every moment with her children. Her awesome husband doesn’t have the struggles she has but that’s because he doesn’t get enough time with the kids .. or that’s what she tells herself anyway ;) 

Night Duty, Again!

After having our first son potty trained in just 3 days (at 25 months) and never having an accident I was boasting my chest ruffles pretty loudly whenever potty training came up with family and friends. Call it denial or positive thinking I was convinced that there would be no problems with the twins either. They turned 25 months and then 30mo and still had absolutely no interest in letting go of their comfy and warm diapers that I dragged from the store every month on my back bent over doubly (why I never heard of ‘Amazon Mom’ is beyond my understanding. That thing there saved us so many $ and so much time&trouble I wish I had heard of it when the twins were first born). I started potty training with them several times just to realize that it was of no use when they’d pee in the toilet and then 15 minutes later finish emptying their bladder on the carpet in the basement. Too much stress, too much work and who really cares if they don’t get potty trained at all until they’re 12?

Throughout the past spring Joshua had been watching his big brother use the toilet with some interest.  He then started to tell us that he needed to ‘potty’ at diaper change. We’d take him to the bathroom and he’d often pee and we’d do the clapping and cart wheeling and confetti and he would beam of pride. Then he’d start telling us he needs to ‘potty’ before he wet his diaper. This went on for about 2 months before I realized that the boy is ready to say good buy to diapers .. or so I thought.

Joshua does not like change. Last winter his shoes were 2 sizes too small before I got him to wear the bigger pair without a full blast tantrum. I was never able to introduce his new winter hat, that’ll have to wait ‘till this winter.  I don’t know why I thought he’d let go of his diapers without a fight. We did the whole ‘big boys wear underwear’, ‘look at Daddy, he’s got underwear’ speech. We bought underwear with his favorite colors and animals and trucks and you name it. We promised candy and toys and moon from the sky and yet he was not seeing the light.

Until one day when he wanted to be ‘like Nathan’. I’m not entirely sure what happened but he’s been fine since. As long as we call his underwear pull ups.

His sister on the other hand was a tougher one to train and according to my husband that shouldn’t come as a surprise considering who her mother is. She took her sweet time and had accidents, refused to go until it was too late and then she’d cry hysterically that she didn’t mean to pee on the floor but had to go so bad …

But that’s not what I wanted to write about, really. I wanted to tell you that I am living a phase of regret. I am no longer able to sleep through the night as I was used to for sometime. I now have three children unable to pee in their pull-ups but yet too young to hold the pee in all night … so that leaves me to get up at least once per kid per night, on a good night. There are nights when I am up more than when they were infants. And I’m not liking this. I know that ‘this too shall pass’ and pretty soon they are big enough to use the bathroom alone in the middle of the night. Until then I’ll be in night duty. Once again.

Did you feel like your workload increased when your kids potty trained? How did you help them figure out bathroom at night?

 

Not Twin Enough

We have never tried making it a big deal that we have twins in our family. It came to us as a complete surprise when I went to see a doctor on my 16th week. I went because ‘my fundus was too high’ and I thought something was wrong. I’d google ‘high fundus’ at least once a day and skip right past the first reason: multiples pregnancy. In my wildest dreams never did I think I’d have to deal with that outcome (the night before my ultrasound, as I was up all night with a teething 10mo old I told my husband that if indeed there were more than one occupying the space I wouldn’t be coming home after the delivery). But there they were in the ultrasound, two adorable beating hearts.

When they were born we called them by their names. I was put off when someone referred to them as ‘the twins’, like they were a unit and not two individuals with their own personalities. I used to place them in our singleton bassinet-stroller so that people in the park or mall wouldn’t bother us with comments or questions. I often wondered about the ‘twin bond’ and if that was something that really existed or something that would develop between any same aged children that spent all of their time together from birth. Whatever it is, I love watching them interact with each other. There is something in there that makes me feel like they are in a world of their own at times.

A week ago I was talking with an acquaintance. Beth was telling her how she and Joshua are both 3 years old and I mentioned how we don’t refer to them as twins. She said ‘why would you? They only share a birthday. It’s not like they’re real twins’.

 

Now what?

 

I was too puzzled to say anything that made sense so I ended the conversation pretty quickly. As I walked away and thought about it I was offended and angry by this notion that just because our twins are a boy and a girl they somehow are ‘lesser’ twins than identicals (or twins that are not identical but look alike to a strangers’ eye). Sure I’m aware of the hierarchy that exists in the twin world but to not call them twins at all was utter craziness (specially by someone who doesn’t have any twins to ‘brag’ about).

As I’ve been thinking about the comment and how it made me feel I realized that while I certainly don’t promote their twin-ness I am not willing to have someone take it away from them either. Being twins doesn’t make them any more special than the singleton child next to them but it is part of who they are. They are blessed and cursed for a lifetime for having to share their most magnificent moment, being born. And by definition that is what being a twin is. The rest is just the icing on the cake.

 

What are your thoughts on this?

Yet An Other 'Secret' Language

When I was expecting our first child I didn’t really read that many books about expecting and giving birth but one thing I was interested in was language development in children, especially when they were raised in a multilingual home. You see, I was born and raised in Finland, the winner of Newsweek’s 2010 best country to live in. I was going to be speaking Finnish to our children and my wonderfully totally American husband, who after 6 years of marriage knows about 10 words in Finnish, was going to use English.

I was not surprised to read that multilingual boys were the slowest to develop speech. Nor was I surprised when I read that the major cause of baby/toddler frustration, manifested in tantrums that are now way too familiar to me, is the inability to make their thoughts and desires known. I was hoping that somehow there was a way to bypass all this.

I had heard of ‘baby signs’ and properly ordered a book before our first was born. I read it but wasn’t that thrilled. The book was full of signs but it was dry to read and I had no time to study the signs well enough so pretty soon it found its permanent place in a box ‘somewhere out of sight’. Then my SIL let me borrow couple of their Signing Time DVD’s. What a great concept! (You should totally check them out, if you haven’t already.) Suddenly I was exposed to this wonderful new language in a way that was so much fun to learn, both for me and the kids.

Nathan was 10 months when we started watching the DVD’s. It was fascinating to watch him pick up signs so excitedly and effortlessly and then to see him use those signs. I’d offer him a banana and instead of throwing a fit he’d sign ‘grapes’, at the end of the meal, instead of sending his plate and cup flying through the room and adding several minutes to my clean up job, he’d sign ‘all done’. Beth and Joshua got an early start at the precious age of 2 months. When making dinner I’d place them in their bouncy seats in front of TV and all kids happily watched while I cooked.

Out of everyone in the family I believe that Joshua has benefited most from learning American Sign Language (ASL). Ever since being the reason why I ended up with unexpectedly early c-section he’s been our ‘special’ child. He would throw tantrums over anything and everything. He couldn’t figure out sequences (like, first you need to get dressed then you can go outside), he wanted to be held at all times, loud noise would send him over the edge and he didn’t seem to register what we said unless it was signed as well. So sign we did. I borrowed all available ST DVD’s from library, requested them to order the ones they didn’t have, kept them over due and paid enough in fees that it would’ve been cheaper to buy them to our selves from the beginning. But as we all learned more signs, there were fewer tantrums from Joshua and the flow of our days changed from ‘very challenging’ to ‘almost normal’. Quickly signing became his first line of understandable communication and he was rather proficient in it. (He has since learned how to speak clearly and is more than able to make his needs and opinions and desires know .. all too well!)

I noticed that the children started to sign when playing together. First very simple signs but then adding them together to form sentences ‘like pink shoes’, ‘train goes fast’, ‘let’s pretend we’re animals’. They were very good at identifying their feelings and communicating them with us early on, I believe because they associated the signs with (otherwise rather abstract concept of) emotions.

Beth and Joshua turned 3 end of last month. We still sign. I realized at one point that it would be a disservice not to continue with ASL since they already know so many signs. I signed them up for deaf/hearing children’s playgroup and I am taking classes as well. I hope that as they grow and realize that not everyone in the playground uses their hands to communicate they continue to use ASL, because you never know where life leads you and how many opportunities for friendships they might find in the deaf community in years to come. And one day, it could be their other ‘secret’ language. That is if they ever start speaking Finnish. Right now they seem content with understanding Finnish, speaking English and signing back to me. But I won’t loose hope. They just might prove to be more gifted in the area of language than their otherwise pretty awesome Daddy.

So dear HDYDI readers, are you raising your brood in a multilingual home? What challenges have you faced? What benefits are you seeing?  Have you thought about signing?  How are you dealing with potential speech delays/behavior issues with your children?