One Womb, One Space Bubble

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Categories Behavior, Infants, Parenting Twins4 Comments

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?

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Celebrating Small Victories

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Categories Behavior, Feeding, Infants, Routines, Sleep4 Comments

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.

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Security Objects

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Categories Behavior, Infants, Sleep6 Comments

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. 

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I'm a Home Run Hitter

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Categories Behavior, Development, Discipline, Education, Parenting Twins, Perspective, RelationshipsTags , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

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.

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Breaking Bad Habits

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Categories Balance, Behavior, Household and Family Management, Lists, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Routines1 Comment

Husband went back to work last Tuesday. After an extended paternity leave of 3.5 months, during which we decided he would reevaluate his career for better work/life balance, he has now rejoined the working world. I no longer have my comrade in arms, battling the daily fight. It is now solely up to me to keep things running at home– a good chance to break some bad habits that we have negligently allowed to form in these hectic months.

Toddler

1. Running around like a hooligan.

Nearly 3 means plenty of energy. When she’s gotten her full 11 hrs sleep at night or 2 hr nap, she’s ready to go. In our sleep-deprived haze, we got lazy and started letting her run and shout around the house to expend her energy. No time to take her outside, to the park, or even direct her attention to other activities, she’s gotten a little too used to the house being her playground. The babies didn’t mind when they were infants, but they are getting to be more aware of their surroundings now, so it’s becoming a problem. That, and the hooligan part.

2. Yelling when demands aren’t met.

Somehow, she’s also learned that yelling gets her attention. There are times when her demands for a cup of water, for another sticker, for us to change the channel just can’t be met right away. We are feeding babies or otherwise occupied doing something else. We answer her with “wait” or “no” but lately that’s only gotten us the same request, louder and louder, until we give in or she cries.

3. Watching cartoons while eating.

It was just easier to let her watch Nick Jr while she ate. Kept her from peppering us with random questions or worse to demand our attention. Now, she can’t eat without a cartoon on TV? Bad, bad, bad.

Twins

4. Not on a schedule.

Sleeping and eating willy nilly is kind of expected in newborns just home from the hospital, but they’re 3.5 months old now. Time to get on a schedule. Bad habits inhibiting this include: Randomly screaming in the middle of a nap and going back to sleep, Pretending to be hungry and then not eating, or my favorite, I spit my paci out but now want it again. This is priority number one, and I think I’m making a little progress from this previous post about E.A.S.Y.

Myself

5. Being anal.

I’m pretty regimented, controlling even. Goal-oriented is what I call it. I tend to see my role at home as the commander of the health and happiness of my children, and I like military precision. Routines are a big deal when you’re a child (I know this from my 9 years of teaching), and they’re a big part of Toddler’s life. In fact, my in-laws have joked that I’m the “sleep Nazi”. These last few days, trying to get all three kids in sync has been driving me crazy. Any two would be a breeze, but throw in the third one and the gears fall off. It’s like they know.

Actually, the daytimes are pretty good. The twins’ schedules are aligned, Toddler is behaving, we’re all enjoying our time together, and then the “witching” hour (or two) hits and all hell breaks loose. Babies want to be fed when it’s time for Toddler’s bath (even if they’ve just been fed and are peacefully sleeping), or they get overtired while I’m still working on putting Toddler to bed (when she is at her worst with the stalling and whining). Add to that the fact that I also need to squeeze in some pump time, during which I cannot tend to anybody, and the great day we might have had becomes a distant memory. I get frazzled and frustrated– the only thought that runs through my head is that it is just plain unmanageable.

And I stress myself out. I have chronic neck and shoulder pain because that’s how my body manifests stress, and lately there have been a few tension headaches too. I’ve always looked with disdain at parents who disregard their kids’ nap and bedtimes, but in a way I really envy them. When it gets bad, all I’m thinking about is when is the next feeding, how long have they slept, have the diapers been changed– so that the day just becomes a series of countdowns. I have to remind myself to stop and enjoy the moments.

My daughter has probably inherited/learned some of this from me (see my post on Toddler Rituals), and I don’t want her to have a life of anxiety and stress, so I’ve just got to quit it.

ALL really much more easily said than done. Toddler’s bad habits are behavior issues. I’m in the process of changing those already. She’s young and malleable so we’re good there. Babies’ bad habits have to do with their maturity. I’m sure as they get older they’ll get better, and I’ll get more experienced with their signs too. HOWEVER, the last one has plagued me my entire life. I am a perfectionist as well as an over-achiever, and throw in some major control issues too. I don’t know how to fix myself.

lunchldyd is mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and 3 month old b/g twins in Los Angeles, trying very hard to do the scariest thing: lose control.

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Do What I Say, Not What I Do

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Categories Ask the Readers, Balance, Behavior, Discipline, Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Organization, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

I’m a big believer in teaching by example.

If I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk. If I want my children to make healthy food choices, I need to make healthy food choices myself. If I want them to treat others with compassion, I need to do that in my own life. If I want them to be honest and open with me, I need to be honest and open with them. Whether or not my children are watching me, I try to model the things I want them to learn.

The problem is that I am messy. Really, really messy. I am good at many things, but tidying is not one of them. I am so bad at putting things away that two of my friends came over to help me move in and save me from myself. While the husband took all our kids to the nearest park to play, the wife walked me through my home, telling me where to put my things.

I’m great at cleaning, but lousy at tidying. In an hour, I can leave a bathroom sparkling and germ-free. My dirty laundry doesn’t pile up. Dirty dishes in the sink? Forget it! However, my bathroom counter is cluttered. When it comes to folding clean clothes and putting them away, I’m an abject failure. My kitchen counters are covered with mail, kitchen appliances, and spice containers. My dining table has a pile of books on it. My buffet is covered with paper. I moved into my house in August, and half unpacked boxes take up half my garage. The last time my daughters had a friend sleep over, she told me that I should really clean my room.

How can I realistically expect my children to clean their room when I leave the rest of the house, inlcuding my own room, a mess?

The one area of tidiness where I am consistently successful is the containment of dirty laundry. My dirty clothes always make it into the hamper. Therefore, I feel that this is an area in which I can insist the children follow suit. They don’t, though. Their bedroom floor is littered with worn clothes.

A month ago, I laid down the law. My daughters are 6 years old and dress themselves. I think this means that they can take ownership of discarding worn clothes appropriately. I would no longer wash clothes that didn’t make it into the girls’ laundry basket. Over the last several weeks, I have pushed their dirty clothes scattered on the carpet to the side of the room instead of helping them into the basket. I’ve only washed what the girls toss in their basket.

The first thing they ran out of was pajamas. These girls LOVE their pajamas, so imagine their dismay at having to sleep in daytime clothes. (I used to make them sleep in school clothes. I’ll tell you about that another day.) Next, they ran out of sweatpants and tights. They live in sweater dresses and tights or sweatpants and T-shirts during Texas winters, so this was The End of the World.

It worked. Last Thursday, M told me that she had picked up part of the growing pile of worn clothes and moved it to the laundry basket. By the time she woke on Friday, I’d washed and folded every last item she’d taken ownership of. I placed them in the bin from which they are supposed to put their clothes away, and she dressed herself in sweatpants in deep gratitude.

My girls aren’t going to do what I say, unless I do it myself.

Now tell me: How do I teach myself to be neat so I can teach my kids?

Sadia fails to keep house in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is a single mom of 6-year-old twin girls, and works in higher education IT. Her desk at work is disarmingly clutter-free, and her electronic folders well-organized. Her desk at home is another story.

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Toddler Rituals

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Categories Behavior, Development, Discipline, Toddlers3 Comments

Some days (ok, most days) Toddler really tries my patience.

From what I can remember, the rituals really began right around the time she turned two. That was the time we started telling her Mommy has babies in her belly. And then we took a two-week trip to Asia. That was the clincher. Starting with the plane ride, which we thought we prepared her for ahead of time. She was very excited to fly, even jumping up and down watching the planes land and take off through the big window in the airport boarding waiting area. Still excited when we got in the plane and she saw all the people sitting around us. Great while we taxi’d. Then, liftoff. Her face scrunched up in a look of sheer terror and the screaming commenced. And didn’t stop for 14 hours. Made me hope for a terrorist threat so we could abort this journey. It didn’t get much better after we landed either. With the upside down time difference (15 hrs or something like that), none of us were feeling great, but also dealing with a toddler whose routine was set in stone at home was just torture. What were we thinking? Our child DOES NOT travel well. Lesson learned.

Sometime during that trip, she formed a deep attachment to her blanket (“budget” to her). Before, she liked her blanket, and we would give it to her to sleep, but it wasn’t a necessity. In those two weeks, it had to be taken EVERYWHERE we went. And there was no sleeping without it. Funny enough, the IDENTICAL blanket Mommy brilliantly bought in anticipation of JUST THIS was immediately rejected no matter how many times we offered it. (Even to this day– that blanket is now baby brother’s.) So, fine. OK. Gotta remember the blanket now. I guess it’s better than picking up dropped pacifiers all day long or sucking on thumbs till age 6.

Lately, her obsession has been to close doors a certain way. “Like this” every night and naptime, a negotiation of how much the door to her room gets closed. But it’s a moving target. You think you got it at just the right angle, walk away, and hysterical yelling/crying incoherently about a “like this, not like this” will continue until you go back and the ritual starts all over. Finally last night I let her scream for 10 minutes. Then I went in and we calmly had a discussion about how the door needs to be and there will be no more screaming.

It may possibly have worked because there was no complaint about the door at nap time. However, there was something else. The pillow on her chair had fallen over. It needed to be righted, and placed to the side. All her dresser drawers must be completely closed, her stuffed animals and books aligned in just the right way, stickers stuck to the right places. I swear she makes things up sometimes just to stall, but then they become part of her ritual too. It’s maddening to the point you can’t do anything but throw up your hands. C’mon kid, just go to sleep!

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of times when she’s super sweet. “I lub you, mommy.” She caresses her siblings and kisses them on their feet. “Mmmmuah!” But… gosh these rituals can be annoying when all I want to do is get a few minutes of quiet before the twins demand my attention. Please?

I know this is just a phase, and I definitely feel for parents of kids who have crazier rituals. But when does it end, and will the twins be just as bad times two?!?

lunchldyd is a mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and her 3 month old twin brother and sister. She is also a high school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 children under 3, and two neglected dogs.

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Boys Can Wear Dresses Too

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Categories Behavior, Parenting Twins, PreschoolersLeave a comment

“Look, the woman is free now,” Leila describes an American Indian man in the animated film.

“That’s a man, Leila,” I say, knowing full well where this would go.

“But, but he has long hair, and…”

“Men can have long hair,” I was a little too stern with her about this, fed-up with all the stereotyping.

“But look at the hair bands in her hair.”

“Leila, men can wear hair bands.”

I would get nowhere with my attitude, and of course my two-year-old’s are only trying to make sense of the world and figure out how they fit in it. Their gender differences are a part of that. I relax, try something different. “OK, you remember our friend in Koh Samui? He has very long hair. Sometimes he used hair bands to tie it up. Remember?”

She laughed and agreed.

My daughter is going through a phase where she needs to define herself as a girl. Quite normal I suppose. It was after she repeatedly heard an older girl telling Rahul, “but that’s for girls,” as the doll and hair clips that he was playing with were snatched out of his hands, that it became as issue.

Since then, L often says similar things to her brother. I have a feeling that other than it being a gender identity thing, the issue is magnified because they are boy / girl twins who are almost always together. I am not yet sure how or if I even need to do something to help Leila with this question.

On a walk around the mall one day, Leila saw a shop full of pink things, she half stated, half asked if it’s only for girls. I disagreed. Rahul has often asked me the same question, “This is only for girls, mum?” He used to like pink. I doubt that it was a natural instinct; it was probably because his sister liked it. And then I’m not so sure that her obsession tendency for pink is natural either. More recently Rahul has constructed that “yellow” and “green” are his favorites. I see him consciously choosing those colors because he is a “boy”, and then also maybe a bit because it sets him apart from his twin sister.

“But I only want yellow nail polish,” he begged in their fight discussion this afternoon. He looks at me, almost in tears.
“NO, it’s only for girls,” she barks at him. A moment later she turns to me, “It’s only for girls mum?”
“Boys can also use nail polish guys, but neither of you can until you are older.”

A few days ago it was about toy make-up. “I want to play with this,” Rahul said as they were tugging and pulling on the toy eye-shadow. A man in the room, probably just trying to ease the tension, said, “Make-up is for girls Rahul.”

“Hey come on guys,” I couldn’t help myself, “some men use make-up.” I got some questioning looks from the men in that room. “Men who dance, act on stage or in movies use make-up.” I didn’t even touch those who might use it just because they enjoy it. Our home is a rather gender neutral space, the children have a range of toys, but we are immersed in a host of cultures all of which segregate gender roles and behaviour in the obvious, traditional sense.

An openly gay friend of mine in Lebanon, oriental-dance performing artist and teacher posted this little story on Facebook about a man who wears dresses in solidarity with his little boy. http://www.advocate.com/society/modern-families/2012/08/28/dad-wears-dress-solidarity-dress-loving-son
It reminded me of a conversation I overheard between my children and a couple of close Swedish friend. “Boys can wear dresses too,” my friend’s husband explained to them.

My children will have many influences in their lives and they’ll make their own choices. I still try to play my bit in keeping them open. I’ve always been grateful to the exposure I had growing up, to people of different cultures and way of thinking. My own parenting decisions and choices come from imitating those I respect and trust, as well as trying to realise my own mistakes.

A few weeks ago I saw a couple of sticker books that I thought my children would love. One was of an Indian girl, the other was an African girl. The idea is that the child plays designer. She can stick bags, and necklaces on the girl, colour in the clothes the way she wants. I bought both. For Leila. How was I to choose between an Indian and an African princess? And I had an inkling that Rahul might want to play with one at the same time. To be fair though, I bought Rahul a couple of finger puppets.

Rahul enjoyed his puppets, but luckily Leila agreed to share one of her princess design books with him. They both enjoyed sticking the bangles, bindhis, and chitenge prints on their models. In the sense of learning alone, he was doing well with focusing, sticking the handbags on the girl’s arm, and the flowers in her hair. So just because it’s a girl in the picture why can’t he play with the book? Maybe he’ll become a clothes designer one day. Why didn’t I just buy one princess book for each one of my children?

Over the weekend we went to a toy shop. Rahul chose a baby doll. He likes to change dolls’ clothes, rock and kiss them goodnight. Of course, he was shown the transformer cars and the Lego, but he was adamant about the baby doll. Only at the very last minute did a laser sword change his mind. Regardless of the outcome, I was glad that I would have proudly walked out of that shop having bought both my children dolls.

Related links:
From TV to toys: What shapes boys into boys and girls into girls
http://www.babycenter.com/0_from-tv-to-toys-what-shapes-boys-into-boys-and-girls-into-gi_10310676.bc?page=1
Parenting the Enemy – blog post by Janice Lindegard of Snide Reply
http://multiculturalmothering.com/2012/04/02/parenting-the-enemy/

I live in Chengdu with my husband Maher and our two-year-old twins Leila and Rahul. I was an Ashtanga Yoga teacher until Our Little Yogis became the teachers. http://natashadevalia.com

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Mommy Break

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Categories Behavior, Discipline, Mommy Issues, School-AgeTags , 4 Comments

When it comes to children and pets, I can be extremely patient, and I confess to being rather proud of this trait. A lot of people tire of my daughter M’s 5+ minute monologues, but I can stay tuned in. J and M’s father has declared the car a quiet zone when he’s driving, but I relished our 45-minute commute discussions when the girls were 3 and 4 years old. I’m glad that my friends consider me to be someone who can step in with their kids when they’re feeling overwhelmed by poor behaviour or neediness.

Still, I have my limits. Yesterday afternoon, after returning from school, M was in rare form. She was frustrated, it seemed, with everything. She whined about having to put her school bag away, about my choice of snack, about the heat of the day, and about our cats choosing to play with a toy other than the one she had selected. She forgot all her basic responsibilities: washing her hands; picking up her dishes after snack; putting her dirty clothes in the laundry hamper; clearing her desk after homework. Every time I reminded her, she had some excuse for not having done what she was supposed, and I was a “meanie mama” for asking her to do it.

She may very well have been mirroring my own general sense of annoyance; the previous evening had brought an extremely unpleasant obligation I had hoped to put off until the weekend. I tried to shield the kids from my mood, but they’re observant souls.

J loves to dance, so it’s not unusual to find her twirling around the living room. Today, though, M decided that J was no longer allowed to dance, simply because she found it irritating. When I reminded M of our mantra, “Not your body, not your business,” she turned on me, screaming that she just didn’t want J to dance. That earned M a time out, which she spent kicking the door to my bedroom. Once she was done with time out, I told M to take a rag and clean her shoe marks off the door.

It was when M insisted that she had not kicked the door and that the very visible shoe marks didn’t exist that I felt my face get hot and heart beat harder. I knew that anger was seconds away, so I placed the girls’ dinner on the dining table and told them I was taking a time out “to calm my body down.”

It’s been so long since I took a mommy time out that J and M were thoroughly confused. Why did they need to go to time out? I explained, quickly, that I was feeling very angry, so I was going to take some quiet time to calm down. I was going to lie down, drink some water, and take deep breaths, just as I’d taught them to do.

Fortunately, my daughters, at 6, are old enough to be left alone in the dining room at dinner time. When they were little, when the screaming and whining got to be too much, I would place them in their cribs and make myself a cup of peppermint tea, telling them that mommy needed a time out. When they were 4, I once asked a neighbour to sit with the girls while I went for a walk, because I knew I had reached the end of my rope, and my husband wasn’t expected back from Afghanistan for several months more.

I love my kids. We generally have a fantastic time together, and are usually excellent at negotiating solutions to high-stress problems. Still, there are moments where I need to be human for a moment before I return to being mommy. I’d much rather step away from the situation than give in to the urge to yell. I yelled at M once earlier in the week after she ignored repeated requests to pick her dirty panties off the floor, and I’ve felt horrible ever since. It was just one sentence: “I said, put your panties in the laundry!” There are, however, better ways to engage the children’s attention.

What do you do to keep your cool when your kids are acting up? Are you a yeller?

Sadia’s identical twin daughters, M and J, turned 6 years old just last week.

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Discipline and Love

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Categories Behavior, Difference, Discipline, Parenting Twins, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , , , 6 Comments

“Why are you acting like you love J and not me?” my 5-year-old M asked me this morning, her voice full of tears.

That was quite the knife through the heart. Within minutes of learning that there were two little people growing in my womb, I had promised myself two things: I would never play favourites, and I would treat our children as individuals.

I wasn’t playing favourites today, of course. M would be allowed to snuggle up against me with her blankie too, once she’d served her well-earned 5 minutes in time out.

Here’s what led up to this moment:

We had a small quantity of chocolate milk in the fridge, a spring break treat. I had split it evenly between two cups, and offered them to the girls to tide them over while I prepared breakfast. J took a cup from me and downed the milk in one swallow, while M tensed every muscle in her body before wailing, “But I wanted that cup!”

I offered her the other cup. I offered to pour her milk into the cup J had just emptied. She didn’t want milk at all, she informed me, because J had the cup she wanted. This sort of interaction was par for the course at age 3, but not now. Instead of having the milk go to waste, I offered it to J. That was when M started pummeling me with her fists. Instant orders to time out prompted her accusation of my not seeming to love her.

M has been having some major self control issues all week. It’s been a stressful time for the whole family. J is more in touch with her emotions than the majority of adults I know, including me, so she’s been weathering this period unbelievably well. M, on the other hand, is either unaware of what’s really bothering her or unwilling to talk about it. I sat her down with crayons and paper yesterday, and drawing seemed to help some, but she has a way to go.

While she has a legitimate reason to be generally upset, this doesn’t excuse rudeness or hitting. She’s a month shy of turning 6, and we’ve been working with both girls on a variety of tools to help them maintain their composure and handle their emotions since they were 2. Deep breathing, playing with water in the sink, and taking some alone time with a book or toy are standard ways that both J and M deal with overflowing anger to make their way to a productive solution.

She finally calmed down. I explained to M that it was because I loved her that I took the time to help her behave like a grownup. If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t care how she behaved. Surprisingly enough, she accepted that response.

A little later, M asked to play a game on my iPad. I told her that I wanted to let her play, but the fact that she wasn’t controlling her body well made me worry that she would break the thing. That cued another tantrum and time out. Once she returned, I told her that if she went 3 hours without a tantrum, I would have enough confidence in her self-control to let her play a game. Classic bribery, I know, but we work with what we have.

She made it 45 minutes until the next tantrum hit. She begged me to lower the bar. A tantrum-free hour should be enough, she thought. I do not negotiate with tantrum-throwers, so I held my ground.

It was afternoon before she asked if it had been 3 hours; I’d been head down in work and hadn’t thought about her request for the iPad game. I realized that she’d been playing nicely with J for 5 hours, blowing bubbles in the yard and inhabiting up an elaborate make-believe world that involved pirates and restaurant owners.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I noticed how M had worded her pain to me. (I jotted the sentence down immediately for use in this post.) She had asked me why I was acting like I loved J more. She didn’t actually accuse me of not loving them equally. Even in her deepest frustration with me, she was confident in the content and equal partition of my love, even if she didn’t like how I expressed it.

I think M’s going to be all right. We’ll get through this. I just need to take my deep breaths, play in the water, and take some alone time every now and then.

What’s your approach to fairness in parenting? How do you balance the needs of multiple children?

Sadia telecommutes from El Paso, TX to her job in Austin and is thankful that her 5-year-old identical twins can entertain one another 8 hours a day.

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