The 7-Year-Old Tantrum

I’ve said before that parenting gets both easier and harder as our children get older.

Things get physically easier. Just think how much time you get back when your children become capable of wiping their own behinds!

My 7-year-olds can shampoo their own hair and M is starting to want to dry herself after her bath! If they hate the meal I’ve prepared, they can fix themselves something to eat. I can even stay in bed when they’re awake because they’re fully capable of pouring a bowl of cereal. I spent 4 hours (4 hours!!!) in a rehearsal this afternoon, focused on music while my girls sat quietly-ish on the other side of the room, reading, playing on their tablets, drawing and making new friends.

Things get emotionally harder. We have to teach our kids to be okay without us there to protect them. We have to help our children learn to tackle peer pressure, perhaps even bullying. We have to advocate for them at school with their teachers and administrators. Our kids learn about injustice and hate and we must teach them to live and fight for acceptance and love. Today, J said to me, “You and Sissy have perfect eyes and I have little lines.” She’s only 7. Age 7 appears to be when girls, at least, begin to criticize their own appearance, and my heart hurts. J happens to currently have eczema under her bottom eyelids.

The constant thread through parenting, the one that doesn’t let up until many years from where I am in my parenting journey, is the quest for self-control.

A Bit of Context

M and J were given Samsung Galaxy tablets for Christmas when they were 5 years old. They’re the only grandkids on the paternal side. My ex-in-laws are actually very good about respecting our rules and expectations for the kids, but they channel all their grandparental spoiling powers into over-the-top gifts.

We don’t really watch TV at our house. We’ll watch a movie together every month or two; I’d actually been living in our new house for about 3 months when I unpacked the TV remote and realized we hadn’t noticed that it was missing. Screen time is, instead, time spent on the girls’ Galaxies or my iPad.

We have a loose policy of no screen time during the week, although I will occasionally allow J and M to use their Galaxies for research or as Spanish-English dictionaries in support of homework. On weekends, I may give them an hour or two to play games, watch movies on Netflix, or research various topics. The most recent Google search was “Is magic real?” which led them to a Youtube video of a stage performance by a magician that they thought was, “Awesome!”

Before they can have Galaxy time, I usually require that the M and J have dressed for the day, brushed their teeth and hair and eaten breakfast. I’ll also ask them to pick up around their room, help me with chores, and take care of any other responsibilities that are relevant. They are not allowed to download anything new without my permission and they need to be in a room where I am within earshot. Any inappropriate behaviour results in the immediate loss of screen privileges.

What Happened Yesterday

J and M requested Galaxy time yesterday morning after we got home from the gym. They had taken care of the basics already. I reminded them that I would be going to choir practice in the afternoon and asked if they would rather save their screen time for then, and they both elected to cash it in in the morning at home instead. I agreed.

J went over to the charger and grabbed the tablet off it. M screamed at her. “Why did you do that? Get your own Galaxy!”

J tried to explain that she’d failed to read the name on the tablet and had thought it was hers, but M was too shrill to hear her. She snatched her tablet away from J and stomped off. I considered intervening, but J seemed to have things under control.

While I was taking my post-workout shower, M came into the bathroom to ask what J’s name was in some game they both play. I told her I didn’t know. As I was drying myself off, I heard her growl something at her sister. I quickly dressed and asked M into her room for a private conversation.

Me: M, I’ve observed you talking rudely to your sister twice today, both times over your Galaxy. What’s going on?
M: I asked J what her name was! And she didn’t know! And I asked her was it XXX. And she said no! And then I asked you and you didn’t know. And then J said it was XXX. I asked her that. It was so frustrating!
Me: I understand that you were frustrated, but your tone of voice was completely inappropriate. You also got upset when she mistakenly picked up your Galaxy this morning, and weren’t very gracious about accepting her apology. She just made a mistake and thought it was hers.
M: I didn’t know that.
Me: You didn’t know that because you didn’t listen to J’s explanation.

At this point, M began to cry.

M: This is not fair! J’s getting more Galaxy time than me.
Me: I understand that you feel that this time is unfair, but we have to have this conversation because of choices you made. I need you to speak more politely. It would also help if you listened to me and sis the way you would like us to listen to you.
M: This is not fair!
Me: I agree. It’s not fair that J is getting Galaxy time right now and you’re not. You can go back to your Galaxy after we’ve discussed what’s causing you to be rude to your sister. Is something bothering you?
M: I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. She sobbed and fell into my arms.
Me: Oh, sweetie. I can help you try to figure it out. It’s a big step for you to acknowledge that something is wrong. That’s the first step.
M: Gritting her teeth. This. Is. Not. Fair. Getting louder. I. WANT. MY. GALAXY. TIME!
Me: When you calm down, you can have Galaxy time. Screen time is a privilege and tantrum-throwing is how to lose privileges.

At this point, M went into a full 3-year-old style fit. She threw herself out of my arms onto the ground, arched her back, drummed her heels and screamed, “Not fair! Not fair!” I knew full well she wouldn’t hear anything I said, but I still told her what was going to happen so I knew I’d done my part.

Me: You can stay in your room without your Galaxy. I’m going to go to the living room with Sissy and rest my ears. If you can get control of your body while it’s still screen time, you can get it back.
M: LEAVE ME ALONE.

I picked up the tablet and took it with me as I left the room. M ran out of the room and screamed.

M: DON’T THROW MY GALAXY IN THE TRASH.

She repeated herself I don’t know how many times, while J and I ignored her. She retreated into her room. After about 5 minutes, I felt calm enough myself to dare enter the Cave of the Out-of-Control 7-Year-Old.

M: STAY OUT OF MY ROOM. YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE.
Me: Okey-doke. I love you. See you when you’re calm.

About 15 minutes later, I went into the girls’ room for a hairbrush. M had shoved her toy box against the door in an attempt to keep it shut, but I walked in anyway.

M: I told you to stay out!

I ignored her, grabbed the hairbrush, and left the room. It was another 30 minutes before she ventured out, sniffing.

M: Did you throw my Galaxy away?
Me: Of course I didn’t. I just brought it out of your room because you need to be calm to have that privilege.
M: I’m ready to calm down.
Me: Okay. Can I help you do that?
M: I need snuggles. Can I snuggle?

I held her for a while and then pointed out where her tablet was. There was only about 10 minutes of screen time left, and both girls meekly put their tablets away when I asked.

Me: M, you are within your rights to feel frustration, but the way your approached your sister was not okay. You were venting anger instead of solving a problem. And your tantrum? Completely unacceptable.
M: Everyone throws fits sometimes.
Me: I disagree.
M: Yuh-huh.

I didn’t have an immediate reaction to that, so I let it go and picked the discussion back up in the evening.

Me: I’ve been thinking about what you said about everyone throwing fits. I think everyone feels frustration and anger, but there are lots of better ways of expressing it and dealing with it.
J: Like reading a book or taking a cozy bath with good smells. She meant essential oils.
Me: Well, those are ways to calm down, but that doesn’t actually give you chance to fix the problem that’s causing anger. I think those are great ideas, but often you need to go back and deal with the problem. Do you understand? Another great way to get frustration in your body out so your brain can think well is to exercise. Run around the backyard or do some jumping jacks!
M: J shouldn’t have taken my Galaxy.
Me: How about you ask her what she was thinking?
M: What were you thinking, J?
J: I forgot to check the name. I’m sorry. I thought it was mine.
M: I’m so embarrassed. She began to cry again.
Me: I’m sorry, sweetie. I know that doesn’t feel good. Please use today as a lesson that you need to use the Golden Rule instead of assuming that people are hurting you on purpose.
M: My less time of Galaxy was fair, Mommy. I behaved terribly.
Me: I bet that was really hard to admit. I’m proud of you for recognizing what you did wrong. Next time, talk to your sister and come to me for help, okay? We’ll figure out our problems together.

What Happens Next

M obviously learned her lesson, but will that learning stick? Will J think twice the next time she feels like giving into rage? I have no idea, but I continue to hope that these discussions will trigger something in my girls to cause them to take ownership of working on self-control.

You know where I learned my self-control? It came from a deep desire to model for my children how I want them to behave. Perhaps the self-control I want for them will be out of reach until they have a reason as good as mine to learn it.

I hope I don’t just scare those of you with younger kids, but this is pretty par for the course for age 7 so far. I have no idea whether my approach will bear fruit, but I can’t really come up with any other ideas.

Is teaching self-control part of your parenting strategy? What techniques have worked for you?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

School-Age Consequences

Earlier this week, a summer camp counselor, Ms H, let me know that she’d had to ask my 7-year-old daughters repeatedly to put away the yarn they were crafting with. There had had been an incident related to yarn in which a child had suffered a minor injury, so everyone was required to forfeit the activity. My kids hadn’t been involved in the injury incident, but this was the first time the counselor had seen disobedience from either one of them. She thought I might want to know about it so I could have a discussion with J and M to get to the bottom of what was causing their uncharacteristic discipline slip-up.

At first, M and J protested their innocence. Mr. K had told them they were allowed to bead, so they didn’t understand what they’d done wrong. I asked them both to walk me through the events of the afternoon, but all I got was a muddled mishmash of contradictory statements. I had been able to tell that Ms H had really tried to give them the benefit of the doubt, so I wasn’t too quick to dismiss her concerns.

I told the girls that instead of playing with the kitten after dinner, they would write letters to Ms H explaining their side of the story. If they had been wronged, this would be their opportunity to set the record straight. If they were in the wrong, I figured, identifying the sequence of events might help them realize it and would form the base of an apology.

M began to wail. This consequence was just. too. hard. Couldn’t she go to timeout instead? She could forfeit her week’s allowance. It wasn’t faaaaaaair. There’s little point trying to be heard when she’s in that state, and I was driving. When she stopped to breathe, I told her that my decision was final. She would write a letter.

J didn’t bother trying to wriggle out of her punishment. Fortunately for me, my kids rarely act out with me at the same time. I don’t know whether seeing the silliness of Sissy’s whining is a wakeup call or whether they want to fill the roles of the “difficult and cooperative twins.” Either way, it does simplify my life.

J began to list out what had happened, planning out her letter. By the time we pulled into the garage, I’d heard the whole story.

  1. She had observed her friend Caroline finger knitting. (Yes, this is the same Caroline from yesterday.)
  2. She asked Caroline to teach her.
  3. Caroline taught her.
  4. J decided that M would enjoy the activity and called her over.
  5. M learned to finger knit.
  6. M messed up her knitting and Caroline helped her rescue it.
  7. A little boy got hurt.
  8. Ms H asked them to put their yarn away. They tried to finish up some stitches.
  9. Ms H asked them again to put their yarn away. They started to think about doing it.
  10. Ms H asked them to put the yarn up. This time, they did.
  11. Later in the afternoon, they asked Mr. K if they could make beaded jewelry. Mr. K said yes.
  12. M and J took the beads out.
  13. Ms H asked who had given then permission to take the beads out. They told her it was Mr. K.

I told J that it sounded to me that she’d had a listening problem. She agreed. I told her that, since she understood what had happened, she needn’t write it all out. An apology letter, including a description of what she’d done wrong, what she should have done instead, and an “I’m sorry,” would suffice. M would need to write everything out, since she still needed to get a grip on the whole thing.

M sniffled and confessed that she had, in fact, been wrong and owed Ms H an apology.

J elected to write out the whole step by step list, while M limited herself to short version of the apology for her letter. J’s letter ended up being a two-page treatise, and the poor girl had a cramped hand by the time she was done. M went a little overboard on the artistic embellishments on the first few lines of text, but then decided that plain old print would work fine.

It’s been a challenge to find logical consequences to use to discipline my daughters since The Time of the Timeout. This one seemed to work pretty well. Ms H was surprised and grateful to receive the letters, and told me she’d taken them home to show her fiancé. His reaction has been, “I didn’t think kids these days did that any more!”

Maybe my discipline techniques are old-fashioned. Regardless, they work for me.

How do you get to the bottom of the things your kids tell you about their day? How do you tackle discipline issues that come up when you children are in someone else’s care?

Goodbye, Timeout for Two

seated kid

Photo Credit: Frodrig

After over 6 years of effective use, I am retiring timeout as a discipline tool. At age 7, it’s more humiliating for my oh-so-grownup children than it’s worth, and it’s hardly effective. Thanks to my daughters’ relatively mature ability to understand causes and effect and long term consequences, I have many more nuanced discipline approaches at my disposal. I need punishments and rewards to fit the crime rather than the one size fits all gem that was timeout. My 7-year-olds are old enough to understand delayed consequences, something a much younger child just isn’t capable of.

I suspect that every reader of How Do You Do It? is familiar with how to use timeout to discipline young children, but I’ll spell it out just in case. Timeout is, essentially, using a brief withdrawal of parental or child-giver attention as a consequence of undesired behaviour. Most parents I know have a specific location designated for timeout, and the child has to remain there for the duration of the punishment, essentially ignored by everyone. Some parents have their child sit on the bottom step of a staircase or have a timeout seat. I went for the convenience of a washcloth placed on the floor next to a wall. It was portable, and my daughters knew that they were expected to sit on the washcloth. Best of all, on the rare occasion that they both needed to go to timeout, I could just put washcloths next to opposite walls, and I instantly had 2 timeout locations that lacked the distraction of Sissy.

Hit your twin? Mommy won’t hit back; that would just teach that violence is acceptable in the home. Instead, for a few minutes (1 minute per year of age, starting around age 1), Mommy won’t make eye contact with the child or speak to him. That’s the real punishment. Children crave and need attention. It’s pretty counterintuitive to ignore them when they’re kicking, screaming and being all around obnoxious. It takes a thick skin to do that in public, knowing that you’re being judged by people who don’t know what children are really like. The long term payoff of rewarding good constructive behaviour with attention and withdrawing it for bad is worth it, though.

It’s ideal, of course, if the child stays in the timeout location of her own accord. That idea didn’t stick until my kids were convinced, around age 2, that no amount of screaming or running out of timeout was going to get me to back down and give them my attention.

I recently had the opportunity to care for my then-2-year-old nephew. I was only there for a week and timeouts had not been a consistent part of his life. It didn’t take long for him to get it, though. The first three days, I’d sit him in his timeout seat and wait for him to start to climb out of it. Silently, and without eye contact, I’d lift him up and sit him back in the chair. Over his 120 seconds of punishment, I’ve had to reseat him up to 35 times. From day 4, on, though, he got it. He stopped trying to fight it. At the end of his 2 minutes, I’d pick him up, kiss him, tell him I love him, and remind him of the behaviour that had earned him a timeout and ask him to do the opposite in the future.

The popular book 1-2-3 Magic offers an effective and simple methodology that hinges on timeout. I didn’t read the book until I needed to help a friend struggling with managing her young kids. Consistency didn’t come naturally to her, and the book gave her encouragement when she needed it. My then-husband and I didn’t get much from the book, primarily because we were unknowingly already practicing its teachings: Use timeout consistently.

Some parents vary the length of time spent in timeout in accordance with the gravity of the offense. A second or third offense may also get a longer punishment. We didn’t take that approach. The beauty of timeout is that it’s super-flexible, which helps explain its ubiquity.

The other day, I found myself in the odd position of needing to distil my parenting approach into a bulleted list. It came down to this: be consistent, reward good choices, and maintain a focus on the adults your children will become. For me, timeout was a big part of consistency and the other side of rewarding good behaviour. I hope that the core understanding that actions have consequences has set my kids up for success throughout their lives. It’s certainly been working well for them so far.

Do you use timeout as a discipline approach? What variations work for you? How do you handle your kids’ escape plots?

 

Saving the Bad Behaviour … For You

Last week, my daughters’ school held its book fair, so we stopped by the library on the way home to shop. While we were browsing, the school librarian approached me. She gestured at my daughters and asked, “Are you responsible for these young ladies? They are just so sweet. They have the best manners I’ve ever seen.”

I smiled and nodded and thanked her. We finished up shopping, stopped on the way home for a small birthday cake, and ate dinner.

While J went to the bathroom, M and I set the table for dessert. J walked up to the dining table and started pushing at M, claiming that M was in her chair. I asked J to choose another chair, and the surround sound whining got underway. I tried to reason with the children through the drone of their complaining voices, but no one was listening to anyone.

I stood up and lifted M out of her chair.

“No one will sit. We will eat my cake standing,” I told the girls.

“I hate you!” my sweet J told me, her chin jutting out. “You’re a horrible meany mommy.”

“You’re not fair,” the oh-so-well-mannered M added. “You don’t love me.”

I put the cake away, untasted. I tried to tell the girls exactly why no one would be eating any cake, but I doubt they heard me over their screams and drumming feet. I tried to tell them that they needed to get ready for bed, but they couldn’t hear that either.

Fortunately, at age 7, my children can be trusted, even in a ridiculous tantrum state, not to to anything particularly dangerous. I retired to bed myself, leaving them to scream. I knew that I was close to yelling myself, and that would serve no purpose except to validate the girls’ own behaviour as acceptable.

In M's writing: Dear Mom, We are very sorry. We made this your worst birthday.

M wrote me this heartfelt apology. (What does it mean that my 7-year-old has better handwriting than I have ever had?)

At 9:00 pm, the volume in the girls’ room had fallen, so I put away their toys, kissed them goodnight, and turned out the lights. My head hurt. The next morning, I took some favourite toys away for a day as a consequence of the girls’ poor choices. They were genuinely sorry, apologized wholeheartedly, and gracefully accepted the loss of their toys.

I was thankful, once again, for the parenting wisdom of LauraC. Years ago, she pointed out to me that kids will often act out with their parents, even while exhibiting exemplary behaviour with others. Especially after spending long hours away from their parents at daycare or school, kids are able to let loose with their parents. They know that our love for them is unconditional. They can take us for granted. I’ve seen this with friends’ kids too; after a weekend of good behaviour as a house guest, I’ve seen 4- and 6-year-olds turn into whiny messes at the sight of their mom, even before leaving our house.

Much as J and M’s bickering and overreaction frustrates me, they feel safe with me. This safety permits them let out the emotions they’ve held pent up all day while being well-mannered and sweet. That idea gives me the boost to hold in my own emotions after a long day at work. It’s my job to let the girlies know that they’re safe with me. I won’t accept bad behaviour, but I will always accept my daughters.

Is there some word of wisdom that carries you through the challenging times?

Sadia is raising her 7 year-old identical twin daughters, M and J, in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.

Letting Go

My in-laws took Toddler to her Mommy and Me class for the first time a couple weeks ago. Originally I planned on taking her with twins in tow two mornings a week because I really enjoy being there with her. But there were two problems with that: 1. I was sleep training babies and taking them out for two hours every other day was not conducive to creating a schedule. 2. When I did take them, I was constantly hovering around their stroller to make sure no unwanted intruders tried to sneak a peek or worse yet, poke my attempting-to-sleep children… so I’d miss a lot of the class anyway. Good thing is, Toddler is very independent and can function in class without me. But still, I’ve made friends with some of the other mommies there, and hearing about the class second hand is just not the same.

So it was with some reservation that I decided to let the grandparents take her. Toddler has never been with my in-laws in any setting other than their home without me. I thought I thoroughly prepared her, and myself, by starting over a week in advance, reminding her of what she can do by herself in class, where to eat her after-class snack, and that she would come home after snack for her nap, like we’ve always done. I had also given the same instructions in a detailed email to the in-laws. I even recruited some mommy friends to keep an eye out and help if necessary. I thought we were ready.

The hand-off went without a hitch on the morning of their first class. I went out to help put Toddler in the newly installed carseat on their car. She’s pretty good about clipping herself in, but I wanted to make sure they would know exactly how to do it too. After a couple last minute reminders and a few “love you”s, off they went.

The coming home did not go nearly as well. From what I could piece together, Toddler did not want to leave after snacks, and I guess she started t0 get whiny. She asked to go play at their house instead of coming home to sleep. I’m sure this is due to a combination of her being tired (I was in the process of moving her nap to match the babies’) and testing the grandparents. To get her in the car, Grandpa told her they needed to pick something up from mommy first, and then they would take her back to their house. So of course when they did get back, Toddler refused to get out of the car. I guess they hadn’t anticipated the one-track mind of a toddler and figured she’d forget. While they stood around chuckling at her brilliance, I got to be physically attacked by my daughter while I wrangled her out of the carseat to bring her inside. Needless to say, not ideal.

I spent the next couple of days ironing out the kinks. More reminders to Toddler, a couple of serious conversations with Husband and the in-laws. Everyone is on the same page now. Naps are not negotiable, and we do not lie to our children. I allowed the grandparents to continue to take her.

Here is the interesting thing that began to evolve: Toddler took on a new personality! Without me around, my “spies” have reported that she is much more outgoing (and she was already outgoing before) and seemed to enjoy the class more. She started dancing and singing along with all the songs, running like a hooligan with some of the other kids, and exhibiting rowdy behavior. We often see this more gregarious side of her at home, but she’s usually more reserved when I take her out. Strange…

I’m still not sure how to feel about this. Like maybe sad that she feels she can’t let loose when I’m there, or maybe relieved that she likes going to class with Grandma (although she does still says she prefers to go with me), or scared because it might mean my in-laws have no control over her behavior?

I do know one thing though: My little girl is growing up, and I will have to come to terms with the fact that I will no longer watch over every aspect of her life. I’m terrified and so proud of her at the same time. Maybe this is all for the best.

lunchldyd is mom to a 3yo daughter and her 5mo brother and sister. Letting go is super hard for her.

Hard Days

I read some of the other quad momma bloggers out there, and they are truly super moms.

Or they lie.

Or they don’t blog about the hard stuff.

OK, that’s not entirely true either, over at Littlest Lesnaus, Krista had a blog not to long ago about struggling and finding life difficult.

This past week we had two doctor’s appointments, a PT appointment for Alyssa, and Infant Development twice. School break was coming up for our 4 year old. I haven’t been sleeping well at all.  Not because of babies. I just can’t sleep. Greg had a rough day, then I had a major meltdown.

Twice.

No, maybe three times.

OK, if we’re being honest, perhaps it was a lot of times.

Yup.  It has finally hit us.

We have many visitors in our home… yet life is lonely.

If I hear “oh I don’t know how you do it”, “I couldn’t do it”, “wow you’re organized”, “your babies are always sleeping”, “everything is under control”, I think I might just lose it.

Maybe I have lost it already.

This week maybe I’ll trash the house and screw the schedule.

Friday was a terrible terrible day.  So I checked out of my life Saturday afternoon. I really did.  I left home, and said someone else can deal with it.

And you know, sometimes I wonder if Gods sense of humor is messed up.

Really messed up. No joke this truly happened:

Friday afternoon my sister-in-law said that I could go to their place in Newmarket as they were coming to visit anyways so I’d have the place to myself. Awesome. Friday night, all four babies got sick. No big deal, lots of people around to help.

Saturday morning I got sick.

No big deal, right?

Saturday afternoon, I drove to Newmarket, spenr lots of time in tears, hating the world, not understanding life, but I told myself to buck up and get it together. Sunday morning I thought I’d go out for breakfast.  Car wouldn’t start.

No big deal, I’ll use sister in laws car and deal with mine later.

Drive to Timmie’s, and roll down window. I get my breakfast. Window won’t go back up.  Awesome.

No big deal.  After about a half hour the stupid thing went back up.

Go back to parking lot, then decide, “You know, maybe church is where I should be.”

Drive to church. The pastor speaks, and his first point was how God is the perfect parent.  Are you kidding me?!  Go back to house, call CAA, dude #1 couldn’t get it to start, he calls dude #2 who gets it to start and says, “You better drive straight home. Who knows if it will start again before you get there?” How relaxing is that?

The stupid thing is, the whole time I was away I didn’t read, I didn’t catch up on anything, I didn’t shop.

I laid around and worried about home.  About life.  About my oldest daughter.  About not spending time with each kid.  About the friends that used to call. About the family who doesn’t come. About the people who say “call me anytime” but never answer. About a church that I no longer feel a part of.  About the people I thought were friends that have ignored us completely. About the friends that I’ve helped when they’ve needed it. About the big things. About the stupid little things.

Worked myself into quite the downward spiral.

The more I thought about it the worse it became.

I know there people who care. I do.

I am SO thankful for our parents.

I am beyond grateful for our regular helpers. For the 13 members of the community. For the 6 people from our church.  I am thankful for the occasional helpers who come when they can. For my faithful meal makers. For my fellow mommas who do find time to check in. For our nanny who has been incredibly flexible and loves our kids like her own.

It’s just so flippin’ hard.
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Since writing this post back in March, some things have changed:

  • I have stopped pumping every 3 hours, and have gone to just 5 times a day.
  • I have scheduled life so that at least once a week I have some time to myself.
  • I have admitted that perhaps I cannot handle everything on my own.  In March, I quietly began taking the prescription Zoloft. As much as I hate to admit it, it has helped. While I don’t think I was depressed, I definitely could not find the “off” switch. I would lay awake worrying about things and stressing over daily unimportant things. I would put on a face and say that everything was OK, even though it wasn’t.  I had begun to read more into things people said, and that really wasn’t like me.

So all that to say, “Life is hard, but sometimes we make things harder on ourselves.”

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MrsLubby is a mommy of four cute 6 month old fraternal quadruplets and a 4 1/2 year old, trying desperately to find a balance.

One Womb, One Space Bubble

People always ask if my 7-month-old boys are aware of each other. I think they are imagining cute conversations, sharing toys, or indications that they miss each other when apart. (None of that happens.) In reality, I’m struck by how UNaware they are of each other – they occupy the same space without appearing to know it’s another person there beside them.

Granted, seven-month-old folks don’t have much of a sense of personal space to begin with, but my boys seem to have no barrier between themselves whatsoever. Like little magnets, they tend to gravitate into the same 6 inches of space. They’ll snatch toys, gnaw on the same thing at the same time, climb over each other, and chew on each other’s hands and feet. They are really interested in faces, and will grab ears, eyes, and noses.

Sometimes it’s really sweet. M is getting some fuzzy hair on top, which R loves to stroke. Other times I cringe at the force they use, but the recipient doesn’t seem to mind or even notice. And then there are the times when R grabs M’s face in order to pull up to standing, or M kicks R in the head while I’m trying to give them both a bottle. The resulting cry is indignant, hurt, or angry. I’m just starting to see a bit of jealousy when one is closer to me – the other starts to fuss and scramble up Mount Mom and before you know it, I’m on the bottom of the sobbing dog pile.

When I see these interactions, I feel like I’m looking into the future. Siblings generally have very physical relationships; I do with my brother and sister. Two active boys, equally matched in size and energy, are sure to even more so. How do I want to respond to their physical interactions when they are toddlers, young children, teens? How can I encourage them to be gentle and respectful when they play?

Like all things twinny, it’s an added dimension to navigate. I’ve got to attend to the sibling relationship at the same time as I figure out how to be a mom. How much should I intervene vs let them work it out for themselves? Will they be just like any brothers, who happen to be on par developmentally? Or is there something to growing in the same womb that makes them comfortable sharing space in a way that I just can’t understand?

I’d like to implement a policy of “if it doesn’t bother them, it shouldn’t bother me” (unless it’s clearly dangerous, of course). If they are content to suck on each other’s fingers (ew. ew ew ew), then I let them. And honestly, most of their interactions fall into this category. But when it does hurt, I redirect the offender to another location or a toy and comfort the hurt one. Later on, redirection will be replaced by warnings, time outs, and apologies – and lots of practice communicating their own boundaries. Of course, making sure they do have space (even when they don’t know how to ask for it) is an important part of getting along for all siblings.

There are all my “best-laid plans!” I’m sure I’ll get a few curveballs from my guys anyway. :) How do you involve yourself in your twins’ interactions?

Celebrating Small Victories

Day 10 of sleep training twins. As babies are simultaneously napping after being bathed and fed (and myself showered), I am typing this post. It helps greatly that the grandparents came to take Toddler for the afternoon, but things are looking up.

My journey began last Sunday night, when I finally decided to separate my babies for sleeping, after having enough of the craziness. Since then, things have slowly been improving. Baby Boy had been suffering the most. Because his sister kept waking him up by kicking and screeching during nights he was capable of and wanted to sleep through, putting him in his own room finally allowed him to get some unbroken sleep and has improved his mood/naps dramatically during the day. Baby Girl sleeps in the co-sleeper with me, because she still has not been able to go through the night without a peep as her brother has.

But… baby steps. Though I feel bad that I haven’t been able to fully figure out how to make her happy, things are starting to turn around for her. Instead of waking multiple times a night, she is down to just once. I still don’t really know for sure why she’s waking up, because I’m both weaning her from the pacifier as well as that 4am feed.

My new theory is that Baby Girl actually needs more sleep than she’s getting, even though she never acts sleepy until it’s too late and she’s already hit her second wind. She probably needs even MORE sleep than her brother, not less– which is confusing because he’s getting about 17 hours a day, already on the high end for a 4mo. We’ve always been working under the assumption that she not only needs less sleep but she’s also a night owl. Whereas her sister is in bed by 7:30 and her brother is asleep by 8/8:30, she was often very happy to stay up with us kicking, cackling, and playing until 10. And then she would crash and there would be up to an hour of screaming before she would finally fall asleep. Then, she’d sleep in for the morning after waking up a couple of times to cry and possibly eat during the night. Trying to coordinate both babies under that assumption was just plain not working. Their schedules did not match any time of the day, so it was extremely hard to keep track of who needed to sleep or eat, resulting in both babies suffering from the a-little-bit-here-and-there sleeps and feeds.

The problem is, and has been, that she just loves to play. Even when she is visibly tired, if we make eye contact with her and smile, she will smile back and sleep is put off for a while. If Toddler accidentally opens her door while she is napping, she will awake and not be able to put herself back to sleep. If there is something going on (and when is there not with a 3yo around?) while she is eating, she will stop and crane her neck to see. I can no longer pump in my bedroom because she was waking up every time I did. I have even moved to the other side of the bed at night, because I have a feeling she can sense me nearby, or at least, my movements throughout the night were waking her up.

I seem to be describing a fussy child, but really she’s not. When she gets a good nap, she wakes up happy. Doesn’t cry, is very interactive, full of smiles for everyone. She’s ahead of her brother with gross motor and fine motor skills. Her sense of humor is already emerging as she will laugh if someone else is laughing, and her sister’s antics always make her giggle. She is definitely not like the other two. Baby Boy is a carbon copy of his older sister, from looks, to sleeping/eating habits, to temperament. He and Toddler are textbook babies. I never had to consult a baby book for either one. This Baby Girl is opposite in almost every way, and she’s really testing my problem solving abilities.

Two days ago I was ecstatic to the point of almost jumping up and down when she went down for naps and bedtime without crying for her paci. Then, last night, crying and crying and crying. Most days, though, naps have been coordinated to within a half hour. I’ve worked especially hard at synchronizing a midday nap for all three kids so I can get a break usually 12-2pm. Feeds are starting to regulate. I noticed just today that every 4 hours can work for both babies. If I don’t feed them at their every cry (to rule out hunger), I can make sure they are hungry when I really want to feed them.

Definitely still a work in progress, and I am well aware that just as I figure it out, everything will change (!!!).

lunchldyd is mom to an almost 3yo, a 4mo boy twin, and a 4mo non-sleeping girl twin. She hopes that all her children will be good sleepers soon. In the meantime, she is celebrating the small victories.

Security Objects

Toddler has her blanket, or “budget” as she used to call it. It all started with a traumatic plane ride. Funny story about the time she actually heard the word “budget” on a home buying HGTV show. Another funny thing is that I never intended on her attaching to that blanket. Before she was born, I had prepared several of the same cute loveys to become her security object. I tried to keep them with her every time she slept, but I guess I didn’t try hard enough.

Now we have another two babies. I get another chance at helping to choose security objects. This time, a friend gave them super cute Wubbanubs when they were born, and I bought an extra set for safekeeping in case. I’ve been pretty diligent about making sure to have them on the babies when they sleep, but so far neither has really been that interested– except Baby Girl who has needed the paci part to sleep. They also have some muslin blankets as well as a heavier downy blanket.


I hope they will take to their Wubbas instead of one of the blankets, as these things are just so darned cute and compact for travel etc. Not that Toddler’s baby blanket isn’t small, but it’s become more or less a do-all as her most treasured possession. Watching her drag that thing all around the house, to wrap around herself while watching TV on the couch, to drape over her shoulders to play Superman, to cover over her toys for peekaboo, to lay on the floor to play “pick-mic”, I can’t help but feel like it’s not the cleanest. And she touches it to her lips for comfort and to go to sleep, so I try to get her to let me wash it whenever I’m doing a load of laundry.

I find the whole idea of having a security object adorable. I love that my babies can hold on to something that will take my place when I’m not around. It will be interesting to see whether my twins will heed my gentle encouragement, or go their own way to find something else as Toddler has. Will they end up with two completely different security objects?

I always like hearing my mom, MIL, and aunts talk about the different types of objects that we all had as children, what we did with them, and how long we had them. These stories are the best and often pretty funny. So, dear readers, share your stories. What unusual/unintended security objects do your children have?

lunchldyd is mom to 3 under 3, looking for the amusing little things to keep her going. 

I'm a Home Run Hitter

I’m a homerun hitter in this game called Parenting. That’s right! Some days I practically “hit the ball out of the park” with my parenting skills…but (of course there’s a but) then there are other days…those bleak days…where it’s three strikes and I’m out and I haven’t even finished my morning cup of cold coffee yet.

Last week I took part in a workshop, put on by a local social service agency in partnership with the Parents of Multiples Births Association I am part of. The workshop was on Positive Parenting and Raising Responsible Children (us multiples moms and dads need all the advice we can get, right?!) The facilitator used a baseball analogy in her explanation of positive parenting, which I will explain shortly.

We all want to raise awesome children and give them all we can to achieve success…but we learned maybe that is not exactly the right approach. We need to let children make mistakes, as painful as it may be to watch happen. We need to let them learn from their experiences, not clear the path or fight their battles for them, while thinking we are doing them a favour. We talked about the importance of give and take when it comes to the parent and child relationship. We heard about the reasons why children may seem to be “misbehaving,” when perhaps in fact they are having a hard time verbalizing or expressing what it is that’s actually making them react in ways we consider “bad.” We also learned from other parents’ reactions we are not alone when we wonder where the heck The Parenting Manual is and why didn’t we get training before we had multiples running around the neighbourhood when the lights are out and all the other kids are home in their beds?? Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

The facilitator of this workshop discussed the importance of understanding the difference between praise and encouragement. Another key thought was to consider the difference between punishment and discipline.  At first glance I am sure many parents, including myself might think these words are one in the same, just a different way to state them…but with further explanation many of us had our “a-ha moments” going off one by one through the session.

For starters the facilitator explained a concept called STEP – Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. The main point that drove it home (like a homerun) for me was praise is used to reward only for well-done, completed tasks. From this the child begins to develop the ideal that “to be worthwhile I must meet your standards,” allowing the child to develop unrealistic standards and measure worth by how closely the child reaches the parents’ perceived level of perfection. From here children learn to dread failure. On the flip side, in comparison, encouragement is when a child is recognized for effort and improvement. The child internalizes the idea that he or she does not have to be perfect and that efforts and improvements are valued and important. Based on this type of repetitive experience the child learns to accept his/her and others’ efforts. It also enables a child to learn discipline and persistence to stay on task.

Bringing up the rear were the concepts of punishment versus discipline. I thought, Aren’t they the same?…one just seems to have a meaner tone? I looked it up, because that’s what I do, and yes, they do have similar meanings…but “discipline” is also defined as activities, exercises or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.

During the workshop, “punishment” was outlined as our belief that we must teach a life lesson and that a punishment, such as taking something away will make the child think before acting next time or “suffer the consequences.” You may randomly take something away, that has nothing to do with the problem or situation and will make no sense to the upset child. That sounds scary and frustrating…Then on the other hand is the concept of discipline, which is to train the child by working with him/her to develop effective strategies for expressing their emotions and managing behaviour to avoid grocery store mid-aisle meltdowns for all to see (and judge.) To discipline, you have to work at achieving your own skill of understanding a child’s reasons for behaviour and misbehaviour, use firmness and kindness in your approach, look for solutions and alternatives and the ultimate goal is to teach the child self-discipline. In other words don’t start screaming and yelling, thinking you’re going to help the already frustrating situation. In this sense you’re really reverting to child-like mannerisms because you can’t get your point across. I get it…but it’s going to take a lot of practice to make it right…and ultimately this whole concept of parenting indicates we should not strive for “perfection,” but rather a balance of confidence in our abilities and a willingness to persevere and try again next time.

To close, the way the facilitator of the workshop summed up these ideas is that when you start to learn to play baseball, you don’t immediately know how to swing and hit a ball, or pitch and throw a strike. This was my a-ha moment, after playing many, many summer baseball seasons over the years, I knew what she meant. I realized this idea of baseball is similar to learning to parent; these are all things that take time, dedication and potentially many mistakes along the way to become as good a parent as you can be. Rarely does a pitcher ever throw a perfect game and so it’s reasonable to think parents will make mistakes, feel like they should be thrown out of the Parenting game and maybe even take themselves out of the game for a few minutes to collect themselves and then start again with a fresh approach.

Our friends at GoNannies.com asked us to share some of their similar thoughts shared on their recent blog post, How to Gain Your Child’s Cooperation Without Yelling, so please feel free to check them out for more advice on discipline and gaining your child’s cooperation.