Celebrate the Similarity

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Categories Behavior, Development, IdenticalTags , , , 4 Comments

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, I was determined to raise them as independent little people. I never referred to them as “the twins” and preferred that other people avoid that as well. When they were born, I tried my hardest to avoid dressing them in matching outfits (which was hard because people REALLY like to give them as gifts…and see them worn!) in an effort to emphasize that they are, in fact, two seperate beings.

As they grow – and appear to be very, very much alike physically – I find myself trying hard to point out their behaviorial differences. Sometimes they are true observations, such as “Aaron is a much faster crawler and Brady goes more slowly, trying to work on technique”. But lately I’ve also found myself guilty of saying things like “Aaron is great at self-soothing, Brady is not as good”. I didn’t think too much of it at first, until I was awake and rocking Brady at 4:30 am in the morning. And I had to wonder: Did I do this to them?

For all my talk about Aaron being better at self-soothing, is it because I have a tendency to pick up Brady first? Have I forced Aaron to be more independent (and wait it out) while encouraging Brady to be more dependent on the cuddle, the rock, the touch of a parent while falling asleep?

I have also heard myself proclaiming “Brady will eat anything, Aaron is more picky.” Is that true? Or, do I subconsciously give up on new foods faster with Aaron because I have labeled him in my mind as the finicky one?

I’m not sure. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation I guess. But I am starting to worry about the danger of labeling my children in a desperate attempt to find the differences between them. All this labeling seems to be actually driving and encouraging those behaviours that were perhaps not really there before.

One thing I will have to start working on is accepting that they are, in fact, identical twins. They will look alike. They will behave in a similar fashion. Their personalities will come alive on their own and their differences will shine through.   In the meantime, perhaps, I should start celebrating some of these special similarities instead of trying SO HARD to force them to be different people.

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Baby Space

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Categories Behavior, Development, Products6 Comments

I went through the whole “nesting” thing when I was about 6 months preggo. You know, dreaming of the perfect nursery, making plans, pouring over paint samples, folding blankets, etc. I only thought in “newborn” terms, and rightly so. My husband spent a long time, god bless him, painting their nursery, installing shelves (all at adult height!), hanging curtains and meticulously hanging each picture on the walls. When I think back on it, it was all really lovely. We would stand in their completed room, hands on belly, and imagine what it would be like to see our boys in this space that mom and dad put so much love into. But when our boys approached eight months and became mobile, we knew we needed some major overhauling of our environment. Their room just didn’t work! It was fine for sleeping, but they literally hated being in there to play. And I was also just plain tired of how chaotic and haphazard the main “play area” was that we had designated on the rug in front of our couch. Throw down a blanket and a few baskets of cram-packed toys and “wallah,” a play room!

I think with multiples, you have to be even more dedicated to organizing your space effectively. So we decided to recruit the help of our friend who was a former Montessori teacher and now has her PhD in perinatal psychology (whoa!). She did an evaluation of our house and made some interesting suggestions for how we could make it safer and friendlier for the boys. So we jumped in head first and after a few days of planning, a massive IKEA shopping list, and a weekend full of power drilling and furniture lifting, we made a brilliant shift. Here’s what we did:

1) We swapped the boys’ nursery and the guest room, which gave us a whole three feet of extra usable space . While we were reluctant to do this at first (after all those months of planning, painting and decorating the “perfect” nursery!), we realized that now with the boys being so mobile, they needed as much “room” in their room. This space also boasts three huge floor to ceiling windows where they can stand and point to the giant tree in our front yard (over and over and over again), and also, with mouths agape, watch the garbage trucks make their rounds every Tuesday morning. The colorful curtains have become the boy’ favorite attraction where they hide and play peek-a-boo with each other for longer than it takes me to change both their crib linens (and I know you all know how long that takes). We also created a cool “play station” in their room out of box shelves from IKEA (cheap, all wood, and perfectly functional for many years and growth spurts). We only put out a few toys at a time and swap ’em out every few days for a nice surprise. As a result, their bedroom has become so much more for them. It’s a place to play, explore, and hone their skills, but also a place to rest. It’s also made diaper changes and getting ready for naps effective, fun and (best yet) relatively fuss-free.boys and curtainsboys room

2) We spend most of our time during the day in the living room, so we created “nodes” in different areas of the room for different activities. More IKEA box shelves in an underused area of the room became an organized toy area. Again, we keep a handful of toys out at a time and swap them out ever week or so. This also cuts down on the craziness of toys everywhere to clean up, which I do at least ten times a day. Shelves below our media center hold books and function as a reading nook. And the bottom few shelves of our book case became bead-maze and chunky puzzle central. The boys took to the changes in the most remarkable way. When i put them down, they immediately crawled to their play “stations,” pulled up on them and went to town. And I noticed that instead of going from toy to toy in some sort of manic fashion, because of there being a few choice toys to choose from, they interact with them in a longer and more meaningful way. Now that they are walking maniacs, they run from station to station with glee. But the best development of late is “helping” mom put toys away, which Abel loves to do. He meticulously puts books back on the shelf. Gotta love that!play spot

3) This one was a no-brainer, but we designated a cabinet in the kitchen for them. It holds tupperware, their old bottles and formula cans (huge hit!), and various other kitchen objects they can play with. This is so simple and is such a great way for them to be occupied while I make dinner, clean up and load/unload the dishwasher (another hugely popular “play station”).

4) We baby-proofed the heck out of any area the boys would be hanging out. This was a big deal for us, because we have more of a laid-back philosophy when it comes to baby-proofing. We definitely wanted our home to be safe, but we also wanted to teach the boys that there were areas they shouldn’t explore and objects that they should not touch (i.e. stereo, fireplace, etc). I don’t want to say we went overboard by any stretch, but we learned that the safer things were, as well as the less things for us to say “no” to (because they ARE going to touch those stereo buttons, even if they know they are not supposed to and look at you three times before they go for it), the better our time together would be. That being said, we did not baby proof our fireplace/hearth area and we have yet to have an issue with it. Of course now that I wrote that, the boys will probably be relentless about trying to climb into it tomorrow.

We have been thrilled with all the changes to our home and these spaces continue to be relevant, if not more now that the boys are 14 months. And the shelves have served as interesting measuring sticks as we take note of how much the boys have grown. On the horizon are plans to hang pint-sized hooks for their jackets in the foyer and hooks for their towels in the bathroom. We continue to take stock of our house and how we can design our environment to be as friendly and accessible to the boys as possible. We thank god that IKEA opened up 20 minutes away last year!

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Where's Mommy!?!

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Categories Behavior, Development, Mommy Issues, Toddlers7 Comments

I think she’s out to lunch, guys. Or maybe she went to check out that new swanky bar downtown for an afternoon cocktail (okay, it was 10am, but close enough)? No? Well, then she went to the mall to update her lame-ass wardrobe of lounge pants, jeans, ratty t-shirts and crocs? Or how about she went for a day at the spa filled with a massage, mani-pedi, facial AND haircut?

Oh, wait…there she is! She’s coming around the corner right now. See! See! She just went to the bathroom for the Guinness Book of World Record’s shortest pee. That’s all, no need to cry.

You’d think I was some crazy, selfish, negligent mother the way my boys act when I leave the room, or god forbid, step foot out of the house without them. Actually, it’s just abie clingingone of them. The other one could care less, but when he sees his brother putting on such an act, he can’t resist joining in. I used to have such content little guys, but ever since they hit one year, the cling factor has ratcheted up to unimaginable proportions. It’s one of the less-than-attractive realities of having twins, really. Two whining, crying babies clamoring to get into your arms, clawing at your pants trying to climb up your legs, digging into your shoulders with their sharp little nails for fear that you’ll, god forbid, put them down ON THE FLOOR!

Don’t they know that it’s physically very difficult for me to carry them around at the same time? That they have mastered walking (and crawling, for cripes sake!) for a reason? Yah, guys, god put those two legs on you so you can get to your highchair on your own. Come on guys! If you’re so upset that I am going into the kitchen to get your milk, just walk on in there with me. I’ll even let you play in the open refrigerator. It doesn’t get much better than that! Oh, you say that you’re so upset that you can’t move? As soon as you see me stand up you have to turn into a limp fish and sob face down on the hardwood floor? …And so it goes…

It’s times like these that I get really frustrated. Frustrated that I have two babies – and not one – to soothe and comfort and distract and pick up and hold and cuddle. Because I realize at one year these guys are still new to this world and that separation anxiety is a very real developmental issue. And I want to be there for them and help them through this time. But it’s hard! Not as hard as when they are both sick as dogs, but still nonetheless hard. I’ve felt myself start to lose it and really get angry in these situations. I’ve even found myself just shutting down and not saying anything to them for fear of what would come out.

So over the past few weeks I decided to make a change…in me. Because that’s the only thing I really can change at this point. And you know what? It actually works! When the boys start to cling, I hug them and kiss them and hold them all the more. And I stay calm and happy and try a quick scenery change – we go outside on the patio or for a walk or into their room or even our bathroom with all the mirrors. Nine times out of ten it does the trick. If it gets really bad and I don’t have the energy, I calmly carry them into their room and put them in one crib with a few books, their blankets and binkies and tell them I need to take a few minutes for myself. Oh, and I’ve resigned myself to just hanging with them for the time being. I used to have the luxury of being on the computer, reading a book, cooking, cleaning, etc. while they happily played. So I’ve decided to really enjoy the time I have to play with them instead of feeling resentment that I can’t cross off the things “on my list,” or do free-time type activities. Because really, what is better than playing, reading and totally romping around with two of your most favorite people in the universe?!

The funny thing is, things have gotten significantly better with my attitude adjustment. They just don’t seem as clingy. And we’re working on, in a very positive, encouraging way, getting them to follow me from room to room (and I’ve resigned myself to allowing them play in the bathroom while I, um, do my business. They love it. Hopefully this pays off in the potty training department). Better yet, this whole situation has made me realize that I need to make me a priority in this relationship. I joined a gym over five months ago that has a fantastic child care center and decided it was time, amidst the cling-factor, for us all to get a little exercise. So last week I brought them there just to hang out and play, with me present, for 15-20 minutes. They dug it in a serious way. So many cool new toys! This week it was time for me to leave them there on their own. Monday I left for 10 minutes. Oz was totally cool with it, of course. Abie not so much. Tuesday I left for 30 minutes. The boys actually did great most of the time, but a staff change at the 25 minute mark was too much for Abie. Yesterday I left them for 45 minutes. Let me say that again. 45 minutes of pure me time! I felt like I was really pushing it, but when I went to get them they were happy as clams. So happy, in fact, that Abie had no interest in leaving. He took one look at me, smiled, waved, and turned away to play with his new friends. Love it!

I was reluctant to even try the child care thing because I thought it would be too traumatic for the guys given the phase that they’re in. But I’m so glad I did. And I’m so glad I eased them (and continue to ease them) in to it. Because it’s a big deal to these little people. I’ve been so fortunate that I can be with them all day, every day. But that also means that being away from me, even when I leave the room, is huge. I can respect that. And they can also learn to respect that in order for mom to be at her best, she needs some time herself.

And so I continue to walk this road one step, one room, and one day at a time. And the great thing about it is that I can, for the time being, always count on there being four little feet treading really, really close by.

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I'm Still Here, You Know

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Categories Behavior, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, Singletons, ToddlersTags , , , 3 Comments

After recovering from the initial shock of hearing I was having two babies instead of one, my next thoughts were of my older child. She was our princess, our angel. For 22 months we had essentially been at her beck and call. Spoiled? No. But definitely used to a certain amount of attention. How would she cope with the colossal change in her little world?

Things started to change for her when I was put on bed rest. It is hard for a 2-year old to comprehend why suddenly Mommy won’t get up anymore. But, she was a trooper during most of that time. And a little really went a long way towards reassuring her. The best investment we ever made was in two breakfast trays from Bed Bath & Beyond. We would enjoy meals together (albeit in the living room or in my bedroom),  color or play with play-do. We also did a lot of reading together, although now she had to sit next to me as my lap had all but vanished!

Finally the babies were born and we were all home together as a family. Unfortunately, most of the time Mommy’s two hands were occupied by … two babies. And, even though the babies ate at the same time, their nap schedules didn’t always jive. So, usually there was one baby awake needing … something. That didn’t leave a lot of time for one-on-one time with the Big Sister.

So, what’s a MoM to do? Obviously I’m meeting all of their physical needs, but am I doing enough emotionally for each? How do I make sure everyone is getting enough “Mommy Time”? And how do I keep myself from being consumed with guilt when my Big Kid seems to feel left out? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

First, accept that you can’t be everywhere at once. It is physically impossible to meet the demands of three (or more) crying or whining children at the same time. The sooner you accept this, the better. In our house we take a triage approach. It’s not necessarily who is crying the loudest that we tend to first, it’s who has a greater need. For example, a poopy diaper wins over “I need a snack NOW”. And getting a potty-training toddler onto the toilet wins out over a baby who just happens to be done in the exersaucer NOW.

Second, stick to routine. We kept our daughter in daycare throughout my bed rest and for the first six weeks after the boys were born. That way, she knew what a good portion of her days would entail. Now routines help us to manage her expectations of we can do for/with her in the course of the day. For example, the boys’ bedtime routine ends about an hour before her bedtime. So, while she may lack the attention she desires in the evening while we bathe/dress/feed them, she knows the end result is undivided attention from Mommy and Daddy before she goes to bed.

Third, recognize the cries for attention and try to make up for it where you can at a later time. A toddler or preschooler may not have the words to say “I really need you to pay attention to me because I miss you.” But even the best-behaved children will try to relay this information through their actions. Here are some things we’ve seen in our house:

  • Potty regression (if I have an accident, they’ll have to stop what they’re doing and deal with me)
  • Refusal to eat meals when served (Dinner is important to Mommy. If I say I don’t want it, she’ll put her attention into getting me to eat)
  • Tantrums (self-explanatory!)
  • Bedtime troubles (they want me to sleep and will do all in their power to get me to do so)

While we try our hardest not to give in while a tantrum is taking place, we do try to give her a little extra one-on-one time in the following days because we know the behavior was her way of trying to tell us something.

Fourth, invest in a baby carrier. As previously stated here, a carrier is a must for any MoM. So, get one baby down for a nap, strap the other one on and then use your TWO free hands to play with your big kid(s). It is amazing how much more you can do if you have one of these!

Fifth, communicate with your child. Saying things like “I can’t right now” may actually sound like “I don’t want to” to a 2 or 3 year old. Try being more specific, like “I’d love to read that book to you. Let me just finish changing this dirty diaper and settle your brother down. We’ll both enjoy the book more if he’s quiet.”

Sure, there are days when you’re going to feel pulled in a million different directions trying to be there for all of your children (oh yeah, and your husband may want some attention too!) But if you really try to accept that you’re doing the best you can with the time you have, you’ll feel a lot better.

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