Two of Me

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Categories Attitude, Difference, From the Mouths of Multiples, Mommy Issues, Perspective, RelationshipsTags , , , , , 4 Comments

I needed to assemble some new furniture recently. I put the first bookshelf together while my 6-year-old daughters were sleeping and presented it to them proudly when they awoke. J was unimpressed.

J: You did that by yourself.
Me: Yes, honey. Do you like it?
J: How did you do it by yourself?
Me: The same way I did the dining table. I just followed the instructions.
J: It’s supposed to take two people.
Me: I could see it being easier with two, but I was fine by myself.
J: Last time you had someone else.
Me: I don’t think so. Do you want to help me with the others? I’d love some help putting your book bag cubbies together!
J: You need two people. Two of me is one you. M is another me because we’re sisters and twins. Sometimes she has some different thoughts, but really, she’s another me. So me and M together is one you and we’ll help.

They did end up helping me assemble the cubbies we’re now using to house their schoolbags, dance bags, and piano books. M’s contribution was minimal, since she spent so long washing her hands that we were nearly done by the time she showed up.

When the girls were first born, I would have bristled at anyone saying that M was “another” J. Over the years, though, I’ve learned to embrace the similarities and closeness between my girls, while also celebrating their individuality and differences. Both my girls are well-adjusted, independent, and happy. Most of the time, they love being together, but sometimes they need time apart and they argue often.

I don’t think J’s conception of M as her other self was imposed on her from outside. It’s just one more aspect of the relationship that M and J share, one that might have existed even if they weren’t identical, even if they weren’t twins, perhaps even if they weren’t sisters. I kind of like the idea of my daughters adding up to “another me” when it comes to physical labour, too.

How do your multiples perceive their siblings in relation to themselves?

Sadia is a divorced mother of 6-year-old twin girls, living in the Austin, TX area.

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How I Do It

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Categories Ask the Moms, Attitude, Balance, Co-parenting, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Lists, Mommy Issues, Organization, Other people, Parenting Twins, Perspective, Relationships, Unique needs25 Comments

A couple of days ago, Mercedes asked us, “Seriously, how do you do it?” This is my answer.

(This is a revised version of a post I originally wrote when my now 6-year-olds were toddlers.)

I don’t think parents of multiples or military families or single parents or working moms are unique in needing to answer this question repeatedly. I suspect all parents get it, because seriously, parenting is a hard hard job. It’s physically, emotionally and creatively demanding, and, although its rewards are incomparable, there are days it’s a thankless slog.

So, how do I do it?

My 2-second answer to the question is, “I do the best I can.”

My 20-second answer is, “I prioritize, and I lower my standards. I figure out what really matters and what’s necessary. Then, I let everything else slide. The kids and my job need a level of attention that cannot be compromised. I have to care for myself enough so that I am mentally and physically healthy enough to manage those things. Everything else has to fit in around those top priorities.”

Here’s the long answer:

My priorities are clear. In order, they are:

  1. The kids’ immediate well-being
  2. The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
  3. My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
  4. The kids’ relationships with their family members who don’t live with us, including their father, stepmother and stepsisters
  5. A healthy diet for the family
  6. My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
  7. Friends and remaining family
  8. Community participation
  9. Housekeeping and home maintenance

I look at the balance of my life in two-week chunks. I might not get to cleaning, talking to relatives, exercise, or even reading with the girls, every single day. I may go a week without making a meaningful contribution to my community. Within each 14 day period, though, each of the areas I value should have had some attention, in proportion to their place on the priority list.

How do I fit this blog into my life? Well, blogging helps me work through the most challenging questions of the day, reminds me that the kids are the primary reason I even try to achieve balance, and keeps me connected with the amazingly supportive and smart community of parent bloggers. Priorities 1, 2, 6 and 8 addressed in one fell swoop. Again, the 14-day balance helps me stay on top of things. I don’t write nearly as regularly as I publish. Some days, I’ll have three things to talk about, and I’ll publish the extra drafts on days when there’s a gap and I don’t have the time, energy or creativity to come up with a timely post.

Here’s the big secret. I don’t do it all. On a given day, I either don’t sleep enough, don’t clean enough, feed the kids junk like mac and cheese and hot dogs, don’t shower, or don’t take any time to sit and breathe.

So, how do I do it? I don’t.

Sadia is a recently divorced mother of 6-year-old twin girls, M and J, having spent 8 years as an army wife. They live with three cats in the Austin, TX area, where J and M attend Spanish-English dual language public school and Sadia works at a large university in information technology.

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Seriously…How Do You Do It?

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Categories Attitude, Co-parenting, Family, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Parenting Twins, Pregnancy, SAHM, Sleep6 Comments

The name of this blog is just so appropriate.  I meet people all the time who say “I don’t know how you do it!”  My own mother can encourage me (or commiserate!) when she says “I don’t know how you do it!”  But it was under a year ago that I found out I was having twins, and after the initial shock and happiness wore off, I was left with the question “How will I do it?”

I think lots of MoMs to be, particularly if this is their first pregnancy, must ask themselves this question on a daily basis.  From carrying and birthing two babies, to breastfeeding, to soothing in the middle of the night, we just don’t know how we’ll cope.

And it’s not just the newborn phase or even the babies themselves—it’s the stroller, the high chairs, the clothes, the stuff—everywhere we turn we are confronted by another overwhelming child-rearing dilemma.

Project Procrastinot newborn twins
We had no idea what we were in for!

Nearly six months in, my “how will I do it” moments are quite different than they were when my twins were born.  Currently, I am wondering if I will ever sleep again and what introducing solid foods will be like.  For every transition we face, there is a brief moment of panic when I try to figure things out (okay, sometimes it’s not so brief).

When I was pregnant and asked every mother of twins that I could find “How do you do it?!” The vague and ubiquitous answer was “you just do” or “whatever it takes.”  And now that my twins are almost HALF A YEAR OLD (how did that happen!?), I can say that this is the same wisdom I wlll pass down to other MoMs to be.

But what does that mean?  For our family, it means not overthinking things.  I get more stressed out when I try to analyze every detail or plan every nuance.  The babies have a way of teaching you what works best.  So go with the flow, specifically, their flow.  You will find a way that works for you.  And don’t panic if it’s not the same way that Suzy Q does it, or if the first way you try doesn’t work out.  At this moment I have two cribs next to each other IN MY BEDROOM.  Certainly not something I planned, and not the arrangement I hope to live with forever.  But for right now? It’s what we gotta do and it works.

Mercedes and her husband live in Aberdeen, Scotland, where they spend restless nights with their b/g twins born in September 2012. 

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Switcheroo

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Difference, Divorce, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-Age, Single Parenting, SleepTags , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

My daughter J cried herself to sleep last night, as she had the night before.

The first night, it was because I made her go to bed without a bath after she earned a timeout. She earned the timeout for backtalk and kicking at me for asking her to take a bath. Yes, that’s exactly as circular as it sounds. Last night, the tears were because I didn’t let her finish her science homework because she remembered it (after I’d asked 2 hours earlier and she’d told me she was done) 1 minute before bedtime.

Over dinner tonight, I had to lay out our ground rules again. I’m willing to hear the girls’ opinions, but they are to listen/obey first, then talk.

We’d talked specifically about what had gone wrong last night earlier in the day, after we’d all had a chance to sleep on it. I reminded J that I’d made it very clear that both my 6-year-olds were to be in bed at 8:30, no matter what.

“You didn’t explain that properly,” she retorted. “‘No matter what’ isn’t even words!”

“I know what ‘no matter what’ means,” her twin, M, piped up helpfully from the other bed. “It means, ‘no exceptions!'”

My girls have a tendency to react to bad behaviour from Sissy by being extra-helpful and extra-cheerful. It’s actually a great arrangement from my perspective, since it means that I have only rarely had to deal with both girls crying or acting out at once. Most of the time, they’re both very good-natured and bouncy, so I’m glad they don’t get down in the dumps together.

When I go to the bottom of what was bugging J, it was concern about the next week. Spring break starts tomorrow, and the girls will be driving off with Daddy to spend the week with him in El Paso. They live with me, and this will be the longest they’ve spent with Daddy since he and I separated last April.

Tonight, it was M who cried at bedtime.

“When the overwhelmness fills my whole body,” M explained through her tears, “it makes tears come from my eyes. I’m going to miss you too much. I hate this divorce. Divorce is a ugly stupid word. I wish no parents ever fought ever and there was no word of ‘divorce.'”

J was the one to try to lighten the mood, reminding her sister of a movie they’d watched with their school counselor at ‘divorce club,’ the monthly meeting for 1st graders with divorced parents.

The nutty thing is that, until the last month or so, J has been the one completely in touch with her emotions. She’s been the one who explains to me clearly exactly how she feels about all the recent changes in her life, while M has acted out and needed a lot of help to get to the root of her worries.

This sort of role switcheroo happens all the time with my girls. One will be extremely mature and in touch with her feelings, while the other is a mess with no idea what’s bothering her. After a few days, or weeks, or months, they’ll suddenly switch roles. One will bury her nose in a book 24/7, while the other wants to play, and one day, the arguments will remain exactly the same, but with J and M reversing positions. When they were babies, M was the one who loved to be held and rocked and snuggled, while J would cry to be put down. Today, J’s the one who lists “snuggles” in the “need” column on school assignments on needs versus wants, while M tells me that my goodnight hug was “too much squishing.”

Of course, there are a lot of ways in which M and J are consistently distinct from each other. M can talk the hind leg off a donkey and just be getting started. J takes earnestness to a fine art. M is a picky, picky eater, while J is usually open to liking new things if I can convince her to try them. J has the ability to warm a stranger’s heart with one word or look, while M can leave people writhing with laughter with her wry humour.

I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing conscious about the way that J and M go about reversing roles and maintaining balance, but I can’t help thinking that the sensitivity that they’ve learned from adjusting to each others’ moods and needs will serve them well in personal and professional relationships throughout their lives.

Do your multiples switch roles?

Sadia lives and overthinks matters of parenting in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is newly divorced and works in higher education IT. She will be at work, not at SXSW, this week. Her daughters, M and J, are identical 6-year-olds in 1st grade.

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Public Versus Private

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Categories Attitude, Other people, Perspective, Pregnancy6 Comments

This is more of a reflection on being pregnant for the first time, than it is related to multiples, so take from it what you will. I am 16 weeks pregnant with twins, now, and there have been plenty of things that have been surprising thus far. (Who knew that a pregnancy symptom was getting bloody noses? Or your gums bleeding like crazy when you floss?) There have been plenty of things that haven’t been so surprising, too. (It taking a while to set in that there are babies growing in there, not just unexplained weight gain, etc.)

Of course, I knew that people would walk up to you and touch your stomach without hesitating or comment on how big or small you are. But, I didn’t know how uncomfortable I’d feel in that spotlight. It could be that I’ve been a therapist in the realm of eating disorder treatment for 7 years and have it quite engrained in my head that you just don’t comment on the size of other women’s bodies, positively or negatively. It could be that I’m a feminist and believe that women’s bodies are private property. Sometimes there isn’t even a touching of the stomach. But, I’ll run into one of my parents friends who I know knows that I’m pregnant with twins, but I haven’t seen since. And their eyes immediately go to my stomach. I’m sure I’ve done this a gazillion times to other pregnant women, too. It’s natural. You hear they’re pregnant, and the first thing you do is look to see if they’re showing. And if you hear they’re having twins-all the more reason to see if they look bigger than you’d expect. But there’s something in that gaze that feels invasive to me. It feels like implied judgment-are you eating enough for three of you? You don’t look as big/little as so-and-so did when she was pregnant with twins… I know, I’ll need to get used to this.

Another thing. Thanks to you all, I was prepared for many of the intrusive questions: “Do twins run in your family?” “Did you do fertility treatments?” And for the unwarranted commentary: “Better you than me.” “Double trouble,” and the like. I don’t think I was prepared for how many people, most of whom don’t even have multiples, would “warn” me about how hard it will be. I want to make a t-shirt, or a stamp for my forehead that reads, “Yes, I know it will be hard. Please be excited for us anyways.” I’ve already got the list in my head of things never to say to infertile women. (“Don’t worry, you’re young.” “If you just relax, it’ll happen.” “At least you don’t have cancer.”) And now I’m starting to compile a list in my head of things I’ll try never to say to a pregnant woman. My number one: “You’re tired now, just wait!”

The upside to all of this is that I’m probably developing a thicker skin. And I suppose a positive way to look at the very private experience of being pregnant becoming public is that many of these people are simply trying to help take care of me and my growing babies.

What would you put on the list of things you’ll never say to a pregnant woman?

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I Know I Can't Be Objective

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Categories Attitude, Bureaucracy, Co-parenting, Development, Difference, Divorce, Education, Mommy Issues, Parenting Twins, School, School-Age, Unique needsTags , , , , , 3 Comments

My 6-year-old daughters are being evaluated for the Talented and Gifted program at their elementary school. If they qualify, they’ll get to participate in more in-depth study of certain subjects than their peers. The dual language program at their school, in which they participate, already incorporates components of the Talented and Gifted curriculum, and their teachers do a great job of giving them assignments that keep them challenged and engaged. Still, I really do think that they’d benefit from the additional small group environment of TAG.

Every parent knows that their child is special. I think there are very few parents out there who’d describe their children as average, even though the average child is, well, average. I’m not even going to pretend to be objective. In my eyes, J is the sweetest, most thoughtful child to ever grace the earth. M is the funniest, and it takes every iota of self control not to spend every second of every day kissing her most kissable nose. They are both brilliant. It’s a good thing that the people evaluating them for Talented and Gifted services aren’t their parents.

But, wait.

J and M both brought forms home from school yesterday. I’m supposed to fill out these “Scales for Identifying Gifted Students” comparing them each to their age peers. Under Language Arts, one criterion is, “Reads or speaks with expression to create meaning.” Under Creativity: “Is an excellent improviser.” Leadership: “Is sought out for peers for advice, companionship, and ideas,” and “Is viewed as fair or caring.”

I cannot be objective. I just hope that the teachers reviewing these forms know that no parent can be, and are looking more at the examples I provide than the rankings.

I also struggle not to compare my girls to one another. They’re incredibly evenly matched, but J is just a little more interested in current events than M. J was the one who cried every day of the Arab Spring uprising in Libya, while M merely listened to the news and commented. M is just a bit stronger in math. While J is content to work on multiplication and calculations of area, M has leapt ahead into volumes and higher exponents. I imagine that if I were the mother of just one of them, I wouldn’t pause to mark their abilities in those areas as “Exhibits the behavior much more in comparison to his or her age peers.” I’m not the mother of just one. I’m a mother of twins, and I can’t help but compare them to each other. I know I’m not alone in this; my friends who have several singletons frequently talk about how a younger child compares to how the older one was doing at the same age.

The girls’ dad gave me the pep talk I needed soon after I photographed each page of the forms and emailed them to him. “It is important,” he wrote to me, “not to compare our daughters with each other because is it not an accurate measuring stick. For this, I think we need to try to compare them to the other children we see and are familiar with.” He talked through with me some of the areas I was waffling on, and some of the areas that he was uncertain of, not having been around the girls very often this year. He was pleased to learn that J has developed an interest in World War II, and that M is started to want to read more about Native American life before European contact.

I was pleased to have his thoughts, his perspective, and his partnership in co-parenting our children.

Of course, my ex thinks our girls are even more brilliant than I think they are.

Do you aim for objectivity in parenting? How do you achieve it?

Sadia tries to stay half a step ahead of her genius 6-year-old identical twins in Austin, TX. She is assisted in her efforts not to spend all day kissing her daughters by escaping to her full time job in higher education technology in Austin, TX. Her ex-husband is currently stationed 900 miles away with the US Army in El Paso, TX.

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The Rotten Ringworm Runaround

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Infants, Perspective, Pets, Routines, School-AgeTags , , , , 4 Comments

M snuggling her new kitten.We adopted this sweet little boy into our family in November. We also unwittingly adopted the ringworm he brought with him from the animal shelter. While our new kitten, Scout, has brought us much joy and laughter, his ringworm has brought with it a reign of tears and terror.

I’ve learned several things about ringworm:

  • Ringworm isn’t a worm. It’s a fungus. Either way, it’s nasty and gross and, like lice, something that can’t be completely avoided just by keeping a clean home and maintaining good hand-washing habits. If your child interacts with others, she runs the risk of bringing home lice; if your pet has ever been outdoors, he runs the risk of ringworm.
  • Some strains of ringworm defy all attempts at identification. Our little boy’s failed to glow under UV light and didn’t initially make his fur fall out, so the vet misinterpreted the lesion I pointed out at our first visit as a bite from another kitten at the shelter and gave the all-clear for him to interact with my kids. I should trust my gut.
  • This stuff is contagious. All three of the humans in our house had a red itchy patch or two within 3 days of the new kitten’s cuddles.
  • Washing bedsheets every night, plus vacuuming and disinfecting even a single room every day is overwhelming and all-consuming.
  • A ringworm infection to the scalp can’t be treated with topical ointments alone. My poor little J had a bald spot on her head, which I’m thankful can be hidden inside pigtails as it grows out. Our pediatrician referred us to a dermatologist, and J now has a nightly bowl of ice cream to mask the taste of the pulverized pill (griseofulvin) she has to take every day for a month.

We’ve literally been fighting this thing since November. The kitten received weekly lyme sulfur dips as well as a liquid suspension of the same meds J is now on. He’s currently completely free of ringworm, but has to stay in isolation in my bathroom. He was clear in January, too, but I made the mistake of letting him interact with the girls, and he contracted a fresh round of ringworm from them. Thankfully, our adult cats have thus far made it without become hosts for this nasty parasite.

M has developed eczema on the spots where ringworm used to reside, and J is beginning to do so too. We’re all using antifungal shampoo, just in case. I’m exhausted, and I hardly have the energy to give the kitten the attention he needs once my human children are in bed.

A pharmacy worth of medications is accompanied by a typed schedule with a column for each of 6 people and cats.I’ve trotted out a technique I used with newborn infants. I’ve written up our medication schedule and posted it by the meds.

I keep reminding myself that all this is nothing compared to what we went through after bringing our 33-week preemies home 6 years ago. The need to keep on top of a schedule and maintain a sanitary environment was much more critical then. I was getting way less sleep. I had far less experience. This ringworm stuff is child’s play in comparison.

When the girls were babies, I had a notebook in which I wrote down every diaper change and every feeding, since in my sleep-deprived state, I feared double feeding one baby and forgetting to feed the other. It also helped coordinate things between me and my husband. I’d take my notebook with me to visits with the pediatrician.

This ringworm thing? I don’t need a notebook to keep track.

This, too, shall pass.

What techniques have you developed to manage parenting multiples? How do they translate to the rest of your life?

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