A Little Bittersweet

My twins turned two years old two weeks ago. With the hustle and bustle of Halloween then Thanksgiving, I hadn’t realized until the other day when I turned their carseats to forward-facing that my babies are really growing up.

Years ago, right before Big Sis turned one, my husband came home one day to find me looking through her photographs and bawling. I couldn’t believe my baby was becoming a toddler. But now my days are so consumed with the constant exhaustion of 3 kids that I rarely have time to reminisce. And if I do get the chance to think about anything, it’s how nice it would be when they’re all older and we wouldn’t have to deal with tantrums or nap schedules anymore. How great would it be to have a family vacation somewhere far-ish?

But once in a while, like when the twins’ rear-facing carseats flanking Big Sis’s center forward-facing seat became just like hers, it dawns on me that we’ve passed yet another stage of their babyhood. Never again will I see those little faces looking at me through the mirrors hanging from the headrests. Never again will my babies happily throw their chubby little feet towards their sister to be tickled. Thinking about that is kind of worth bawling over.

That’s not to say, however, that forward-facing seats are bad. There is more space between the front seats and second row for the also-growing-bigger Big Sis to get to her seat without having to crouch and squeeze. There are fewer crevices in which crumbs and other nasty stuff can get trapped between the carseats and the car. I actually have access to the front seatback pockets without obstruction. The twins can (and sometimes do) climb into their seats by themselves. And they are really enjoying their increased visibility (how exciting it’s been to drive after dark and hear all 3 of them marvel at the Christmas lights passing by)! I’m glad we’ve graduated to forward-facing seats.

And yet… it’s bittersweet. Every milestone is a triumph tinged with sadness.

Toddler Thursday: Biting

When the twins were about 15 or 16 months old, I started noticing what looked like bite marks on Baby Boy’s hands. It was an anomaly, as no one had observed him biting himself or being bitten. For a bit I actually thought they were self-inflicted in a temper tantrum, or maybe it was an experiment to leave marks on himself. It wasn’t until I saw a mark at the wrong angle to be self-inflicted that I began to suspect Baby Girl of biting her brother.

Strangely, it wasn’t for another while before we actually caught them in the act. And then Baby Girl began to get these markings too. They were really good about doing it quickly when no one was watching though.

But by now, 5 or 6 months later, we’ve had the chance to see them at it many times. They’re still pretty stealthy about it, but we now know what to watch for: a certain prolonged guttural screech, usually coming from both parties in a fight over something, and then a quick lean-over by one, a pause of silence while the pain registers, and finally the extended agonizing cry of the other.

The problem is when they play in close proximity. And of course that’s how they almost always play. If they are confined in the same room for a while, that’s when the conflicts arise. They get cranky and will start fighting over toys and space. Big Sis actually got caught up in it for the first time this past weekend. We can’t really be sure what happened, but according to her she was trying to play with her brother when sister came and bit her, hard enough to leave a bruise. We think Baby Girl was trying to play with brother. There wasn’t much warning, and they did all this while both myself and their dad were in the same room!

Now I really don’t think my kids are malicious. I’ve watched them bite and get bitten and then go back to playing alongside each other like nothing happened. In fact, after Baby Girl noticed her sister crying after being bitten, she went to comfort her by rubbing her arm and giving her a hug and kiss. (Big Sis was just as loving, forgiving immediately and defending her little sister from our scoldings.) They just get caught in the moment and that is their only form of communication when screaming doesn’t work.

However, the bites are getting more vicious, and they’re no longer on the hands but on the upper arms. And now they’ve bitten someone other than themselves.

Should I be concerned? Is this something that they will grow out of? Is this a twin thing? I certainly wouldn’t want them to be that kid in preschool, the one who bites. We’re at a loss as to what to do, but they seem to be getting over the bites very easily. It doesn’t even faze them that their arms are all bruised up for days, but we are really just baffled at and bothered by this behavior.

Any MoM’s out there who can help us out?

lunchldyd is mom to 21mo biting b/g twins, and their 4yo sister who never bit.

Twins vs Singletons

Having a set of b/g twins 2.5 years after their sister puts me in a position to be able to compare and contrast the experiences of having twins and having a singleton– really having twins vs having two singletons. Now that the twins are 19 months old and Big Sis is 4, I feel I’ve gotten enough under my belt to do a little analysis. (Of course, everyone’s situation will vary, and all experiences depend highly on the temperament of each child as well as the character of each household, but I do find that there are some definite differences).

The GOOD…

Developmentally, I’ve got two kids doing the same thing. They generally play the same way, eat the same things, like the same places. They are in the same age group in any classes for which I’d sign them up, and very soon they would be able to play with each other. It’s one drop off and one pick up for both kids to grandma’s, and to preschool/school later on. At least until they’re old enough to pick their own separate activities, they’d be doing most things together. Big Sis will always be 2.5 years older, which means they would rarely be doing or liking the same things.

Two kids at the same age also means they’re more or less on the same schedule. There may be days when their naps are off, or even weeks during transitions when one does something that the other doesn’t yet. But even accounting for those differences, I consider them a unit for eating and sleeping. Big Sis has a different naptime and bedtime from her siblings; and actually she doesn’t even get to nap anymore because of the scheduling difficulties, even though she really could.

It’s a given that children cost a lot, but I think twins come with some economies of scale (assuming the comparison is between twins and two singletons). I get to buy many things in bulk, and sometimes I can even get a twin discount on stuff. But having twins over singletons is more of a time saver than anything else. Making two bottles at once only takes slightly more time than making one bottle, when I change one child I usually just change the other– almost everything we do takes less time than doing them with two children of different ages.

They have each other. They get to grow up together, learn together, support each other, and never be lacking a sidekick because their twin will always be there. Older/younger siblings do a lot of things together too, but it’s just not the same, at least not until they’re adults.

And the BAD…

Double Trouble” is true! It was actually easier when they were infants, when as long as I figured out how to feed them simultaneously, they were happy. There was a rough patch getting them on the same sleep schedule, but after that it was pretty good going until they became toddlers. Now, sometimes there are just not enough hands (or eyes). Example: toddlers on the move in the park. One was making a beeline for some stairs, while the other was attempting to topple a large trash can. Big Sis required minimal supervision, as she had found some little friends to play with.

The twins are also much more aggressive than their sister ever was. They are much more vocal in what they want, and will fight, even bite each other! They egg each other on when they’re misbehaving. “Group mentality” perhaps. One climbs on top of the play kitchen, and the other will climb it too. One screams and throws food, other other ups that by tossing a sippy cup too. Alone, perhaps they would not dare. Singletons just don’t get away with as much.

Activities for twins are difficult when there is only one adult. At least at my twins’ age, everything is much easier when the ratio is 1:1, or even 2:3 when including Big Sis. One adult to a set of twin toddlers is sometimes impossible (as in the case of Parent and Me swim class), but even when possible, it can get very stressful and overwhelming (Mommy and Me classes). Even if different-aged children are in an activity together, they would not need the same kind of attention at exactly the same time.

lunchldyd is a high school teacher on summer break in the Los Angeles area. She wonders how this comparison will change as her kids get older.

Bye Bye Blankie

Blankie
My daughter J is the snugglier of my twins. She’s sought tactile comfort more than M starting at a few months old. She’s always had two lovies, a simple flannel blanket with a satiny border named Purple Blankie and a little bear blanket named Green Bee. Never mind that Purple Blankie has no more purple in than green, yellow or blue.

On our move to El Paso 3 years ago, Green Bee got lost. I waited it out for a while, hoping that J would realize she didn’t need her lovey any more, but she begged for a replacement every day. After several months, when Daddy announced our divorce, I decided that this was not the time to break my child of her comfort objects. Enter Fuzzy.

The green one is Fuzzy.

The green one is Fuzzy.

About a month ago, I noticed that Purple Blankie and Fuzzy haven’t been appearing in bed. In fact, I’m not quite sure where Fuzzy is, and Purple Blankie is hanging out in J’s stuffed toy box.

It may have taken nearly 8 years, but J seems to be growing out of the need for comfort objects. Maybe this explains her anger of late. She may be working on new ways to channel her stress.

Do your little ones have comfort objects or loveys?

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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Big Kid Steps: Self-Care Milestones

My daughters turn 8 next month. There is no question that they are big kids.

When they were infants and toddlers, I looked out for the milestones that would indicate their growing: rolling over, sitting, pulling up, walking, talking. I knew that they would do these things on their own schedule. I rejoiced for each one, even as it brought me closer to the day that my girls would leave to me embark on their own independent lives.

Now they are schoolchildren, it feels like the milestones M and J are reaching are externally scheduled. Sure, they’ve lost teeth at their bodies’ whim, but progressing from one grade to another, their increasingly complex dance recital performances, academic accomplishments… all these markers are scheduled on the calendar.

Now, when I discover something that shows me that one child or another is growing up, it’s unexpected and still as bittersweet as those early milestones.

Take bath time, for example. My daughters have been washing their own hair and bodies for a while now. They still need me to squeeze out the shampoo and bath soap, but they can take it from there. They like me out of the bathroom while they’re bathing so they can play a game titled Ocean Water Girls with their Barbies.

Earlier this week, I went into the bathroom to get my daughters out of the bath and discovered that M had gotten out by herself, dried herself off and put on her bathrobe. I didn’t make a big deal of it, just saying, “Nice job drying your [waist-length] hair.” She responded with, “I think I prefer this. Sometimes you dry me too rough and sometimes you dry me too gentle and leave me soggy.” There’s something about the idea of a soggy M, that most precise and perfectionist of children, that warms my soul.

Last night, I found her trying to cut her own fingernails. She hadn’t quite mastered it, so I took over with her blessing, but I thanked her for trying. “It feels more private,” she told me, “to do this stuff.” I told her I completely understood and that she should feel free to whatever self-care tasks she felt like handling.

J still wants me to dry her off after bath and cut her nails. She’s my physical touch love language speaker, after all. However, she does little things to show me that she’s growing up too. For example, she mentioned in passing that two friends had their birthday parties at the same time last weekend. She and M decided which one they wanted to go to and didn’t even bother me telling me about the one they’d miss. I let J know that she still needed to give me such invitations, since a “No” RSVP was at least as important as a “Yes.” She understood, but it struck me that not long ago, my daughters would have come to me for help in deciding between the parties or just handed the invitations over without recognizing the conflict.

J is no terrible hurry to grow up and is farther behind on her self-care milestones. As she told me last night before nodding off, “I’m glad I have a lot of years until I’m 17. I don’t know where I want to go to college yet.”

You have plenty of time, little one.

Big kids increasingly take care of their own needs and need mommy less.

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Toddler Thursday: Mispronunciations

What could be cuter than the mispronunciations of toddlers?

My firstborn has always been a very verbal child. I’d consider her speech now at almost 4 to be distinct and clear, but it was so even when she first began to talk. Rarely did we not understand what she was saying, but that doesn’t mean some of her pronunciation wasn’t adorably incorrect.

Some of her first mispronunciations were not so much mispronunciations but made up words. She consistently used her own word for the purple yams my mom would bake for her that she loved so much. I don’t remember the word anymore, but it was a completely non-sensical word that sounded nothing like “yams” in Mandarin. I think she did the same for the word “hair.”

Another one of her first words was “budget.” No, not the one involving money, but this is what she called her beloved blanket for the longest time. She actually hung on to this pronunciation way after she knew how to correctly say it, I think probably because she sensed we enjoyed it so much! To this day, we still bring it up and laugh about it.

Many of these mispronunciations were so short-lived, though, that by the time I wanted to write them down, she was already pronouncing them correctly. I wish I had been able to get all of them, but we only have a few of the most memorable ones in English: some-ting (something), lolly-pot (lollipop), poof-rints (footprints), hostiple (hospital), weally/wite (really/right), lub (love), fay-bwet (favorite), sawsee (sorry), pick-mick (picnic), catta-pitta (caterpillar), gir-lull (girl), squir-lull nuts (acorns).

And her numbers were particularly charming, especially when they were out of order: “One, two, dwee, five, se-ben.” I fondly remember her favorite game at age 2: hide-and-seek with Daddy. She would count to 10 in her out-of-order way, then say, “Ready not, here come!” (And she would promptly forget whether she was the hider or seeker, so they would often both be running around looking for the other, or both be quietly hiding. Hilarious!)

To all you new parents out there, record record record! Get as much video of your cute kiddos jabbering on, because there will come a day (when your preschooler is arguing with you in fully formed sentences) you will look back on them as your most treasured memories.

lunchldyd is mom to 3 3/4 yo daughter and 15 mo b/g twins. As a busy high school teacher and mom of 3, she is constantly reminding herself to take her own advice.

Spiral Learning: Permutations for Elementary Students

Permutations for Elementary Students

When I was browsing the lovely photos on MathiasQuads.org yesterday for this morning’s post, my daughter M took great care to read the names in each photo caption. She wanted to be sure to match each face to the right name. As an identical multiple herself, she understood how important it was to see Mary Claire, Anna, Grace and Emily as individuals.

M, aged 7, observed that they were rarely in the same order between photos.

M: There’s 16 ways for them to be lined up.
Me: How did you figure that out?
M: Because there’s 4 sisters and 4 spots and 4 times 4 is 16.
Me: That’s a very good deduction, my mathematician girl, but it’s actually 24. Can I show you how?

Is 7 a little young for combinatorics? Sure, but M showed an interest in it, so I dug back into my 8th grade math memories. I drew her a picture to show her how to think of permutations. She picked the colours for each sister.

Explaining permutations for elementary students. Showing them the first quarter of the pattern allows them to derive the pattern themselves. From hdydi.com

Me: There are 4 sisters who can go in the first spot. I’m just going to draw one of them. Once she’s in her place, there are only 3 sisters left to go second.
M: Then 2, then 1!
Me: Exactly. So there are 6 orders available for each sister who goes in the first spot.
M: And 6 times 4 is 12 and 12 is 24.
Me: Which is also 4 times 3 times 2 times 1.
M: Well, that was easy.

We’ll probably chat about combinations tonight during bath time.

Spiral Learning

I’ve always taken this approach to educating my daughters. If one or both of them is interested in something that illustrates a larger pattern or important skill, I explain it to them at a level that is pertinent, interesting, and within their abilities. Later on, when they’re more intellectually mature, I’ll come back to it. In a couple of years, I’ll show M how to use factorial notation.

My teacher friend Kaylan tells me that the eduspeak term for this is “spiral learning.”

Spiral learning is the practice of returning to a topic over time to build an increasingly sophisticated understanding

What sparks your child’s interest? What’s your approach to teaching?

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 and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

What to Expect the First Year – A Book Review

Mom of twins Sadia reviews this bookWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting is a classic that most moms have heard of even if they haven’t read it. It lays out all aspects of pregnancy (singleton pregnancy, mostly), from what’s happening within your body to possible complications to what will happen at your medical appointments and your childbirth options.

What to Expect the First Year is another book in the same series. It is laid out similarly to its predecessor, but focuses on your child’s first year of life. It’s not the kind of book your read cover to cover. I certainly didn’t! Not with two infants showing up 2 months ahead of schedule, a full-time job, and a husband in Iraq! What it is, in my opinion, is the perfect reference book for that first nail-biting year of motherhood. It was my crutch as I discovered my maternal confidence and faith in my instincts. It was my touchstone, letting me know it was all going to be okay.

A review of What to Expect the First Year

During the period in which I leaned on this book, I hadn’t yet discovered the blogosphere and the kinship of other MoMs. My grandmother, the only member of my family I would have trusted with childrearing advice, had died when I was 19. My in-laws were supportive and loving, but they lived 2000 miles away. My neighbours were wonderful, but their babies were 2 and 6 months younger than mine. I was supposed to be the local expert on babies. Ha! I was cheating, passing off nuggets of wisdom from What to Expect the First Year as my own.

The book isn’t perfect. Its content pertaining to twins was limited, generic, and generally unhelpful. I was completely unprepared for the realities of prematurity and the NICU. What to Expect had failed to warn me about what it was going to mean to have a child with a birth defect or the challenges of getting it diagnosed.

However, What to Expect the First Year covers 90% of parenting. For pregnancies and infants without major complications, it might get close to 99%. I started acting upon the advice in the early chapters of the book while I was still pregnant. Of course, while pregnant, I actually had time to sit down and read the first few chapters.

It hadn’t occurred to me to select a doctor for my babies ahead of time, but when I read that recommendation in What to Expect, it made perfect sense. I lucked out in my search, the first practice I interviewed being The One. I had confidence bringing my 4-pounders home from the NICU knowing that I had a doctor I trusted with their care.

I read through the section on preparing pets for a new baby voraciously, and was more interested than alarmed at our cats’ reactions to their arrival. I was an expert on matters of car seat choices, much to the pride of my husband. When we were registering for a travel system, I was able to show off my knowledge of what LATCH stood for. Yep, I’d read it in the book.

When I heard J’s Apgar score, M was being pulled out of my body. I was grateful to have read that far in the book. I knew that her score of 9 was really, really good, especially for a 33-weeker. I hadn’t, however, prepared myself to have my wrists strapped down or for the doctor to tell me he was going to have to cut, whether or not my epidural had kicked in.

Once the babies were actually in my care, What to Expect turned into the reference document it would serve as for the next year. I quit looking at the table of contents altogether and began relying on the index. (It turns out that after the initial chapters about baby care and preparation, the book describes a baby’s development month by month.)

M has a fever. Do I call the doctor? I check for “fever” in the index and learn that anything over 100.4 °F for my newborn meant a call to the doctor was in order.

J is refusing the breast. What do I do? I read through the entire section on breastfeeding and am inspired again to try contacting La Leche League only to, once again, get no response.

I had crazy food allergies as a kid. What can I do to minimize the chances of my kids suffering as I did? I read through the “thinking about solids” section and come away with an understanding of the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ recommendations. I also google the Great Ormond Street recommendations in a nod to my British heritage.

Review of What to Expect the First YearI looked to the staff at the pediatrician’s office as my real partners in figuring out what to worry about and what to let go. They were very knowledgeable about what to schedule based on my daughters’ age adjusted for prematurity: introducing solid foods, immunizations, watching for developmental milestones. They were the ones who let me know that it was okay to have babies in the first percentile for length and weight as long as their growth curve mirrored the shape of the standard curve. For the everyday questions, though, that didn’t rise to needing to call the doctor, this book was my source of knowledge.

More than once, my friend Sara, her son 14 days younger than my girls, her husband deployed with mine, called me up not to talk to me, but to ask me what “The Book” said about her latest question about infant development, diapers, or puke.

This was nearly 8 years ago. A lot has changed in that time. If I were to have newborns now, I’d be much more likely to turn to the internet. I’d have other mothers to turn to. I’d be more confident in knowing what advice to adopt and what to reject. For a first-time mom with a limited support network, though, What to Expect the First Year was indispensable.

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 and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

What I Learned from Parenting My First Child

Having already parented one child 2.5 years older than my b/g 13.5mo twins, I feel I’m at an advantage knowing somewhat about what to expect with the twins. I’m sure I have much more to learn on this parenting journey, but here are some lessons I’ve learned so far:

During Times of Sickness

Parenting 1st child(1)Never over-coddle a child when he is sick. Even the youngest of children have absurdly brilliant minds and will expect the same exact treatment permanently after recovery. So resist the urge to feel sorry for your poor sniffly baby and snuggle with her in a rocking chair all night because she’s congested… unless doing the exact same thing every night forever sounds good to you. I’ve spent too many nights “re-training” my firstborn to sleep to ever want to experience that again. Now, I give just the right amount of cuddles during daytime only, and consider minor stuffy noses something babies need to learn to deal with on their own.

At Bathtime

Be liberal about pouring water over babies in the bath. Even deliberately splash a little into their eyes. At such a young age, babies have absolutely no fear of the water. In fact, my twins LOVE getting their baths. The water in their faces does not faze them one bit. They kick and splash it into their own faces, while cackling and having a great time. But never, NEVER, allow babies to come into contact with adult soap/shampoo. We had traumatizing moment while traveling in Asia without a baby tub when my eldest had just turned two. In the shower with me, she got a hold of a bar of soap, and before I could get her to wash it off her hands, she wiped her eyes. If you don’t want future swim lessons to break down into hysterical tears, constant requests of face wiping during bathtimes, intense fear of the showerhead spray, beware of over protecting babies’ faces from water in the tub and be extra careful about using only tearless soap/shampoo.

Reading to Kids

Works! Firstborn was a calm baby, so reading a cloth book as part of her bedtime routine started very early on. She’s always loved stories with Mommy, and I believe this is the reason she is such a verbal kid, excels in school, and learned to recognize all her letters and write her name before most other kids. She is also fully bilingual, can seamlessly transition between English and Mandarin, and even translates for those in the family who are monolingual. Her love of stories has also improved her focus, attention span, and ability to analogize. The twins have not yet given up their chewing on whatever they get their hands on, and the two of them makes it logistically difficult to read to both at once, but just as soon as they’re ready, we will be reading together too. These days, a trip to the library occurs regularly, and I hope that the twins will be a part of this routine soon as well. (Just as soon as they stop eating their books.)

On Having Toys

Having the first child it was easy to always put her first and think of her every waking moment. Having two more puts things more into perspective. I used to pick up a little something for her everywhere I went. Grocery shopping? Oh, here’s a little treat for her too. At the dollar store? Buy her a little toy. Little by little added up to quite a lot, and we accumulated an entire playroomful of this and that. We honestly have so many that the kids are not even playing with them. Too many. We now do not buy any toys. Since the twins were born, the only toys they have gotten have not been from me. Actually, on birthdays and Christmas, I try to steer family and friends away from a massive number of toys. We have plenty of toys from our first child to last through our other two children, and then some.

Fostering Independence

This is a parenting philosophy I’ve always embraced because it worked so well when my mom used it to raise me and my brother. And it’s paid off with my firstborn too. At 3.5 now, she openly starts conversations with random strangers, needs no supervision when using the bathroom/washing hands, can dress and undress herself as well as put on/take off shoes. I believe myself to have a controlling personality, so sometimes letting her figure things out on her own takes some willpower. But I do also believe that it’s ok for kids to fall, get dirty, get frustrated, and work out how to share on their own. With twins, they are not only learning from every decision I make with them, but I see them also watching and studying my interactions with the other twin. I think they will learn to rely on themselves even faster than my first, just based on the nature of the fact that Mommy cannot be in two places at once. I’ve already started to notice that they help themselves more to the things that they want: taking from each other, grabbing assertively for food, etc.

Can’t wait to see how my own parenting will evolve as these kids grow older. It’s been a real blast this last year to experience the differences and similarities between all three children.

Another Divorce

Silly me. I thought that if I made my life as stable as humanly possible, I would be able to maintain my daughters’ sense of security despite my abrupt divorce nearly a year and a half ago. I thought I had parenting through divorce figured out.

I don’t control my daughters’ world, though. My job as a mother is to give them the tools they need to navigate life’s challenges, not to keep them from experiencing them. It’s so tempting, though, to want to keep them away from heartache, that it’s a good thing that hiding my babies away isn’t a real option.

On the night before Thanksgiving, J and M learned that their father was getting divorced again, this time from the stepmother they’d come to love in the year and a half since she entered their lives. He told M and J that their stepsisters were no longer their sisters. When J countered that we’d already bought their Christmas presents, he told her to tell me to return them. I quickly told her that she and her former stepsisters could continue their relationship regardless of their parents’ marital status. My ex-husband texted me his ex-wife’s address as soon as he got off the phone and we’ll be dropping their gifts in the mail.

As J told me once she was done sobbing, “I feel like Melissa [her stepmother] has one arm and Daddy has one arm and you have one leg and Dustin [a friend of mine J is very close to] has one leg and I’m being pulled apart.”

M had an open conversation with her grandmother. “I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t Melissa want a long-distance relationship? Daddy’s in the army. I have a long-distance relationship with him too. I have a long-distance relationship with you! Mommy and Daddy had a relationship for lots of years!”

I can’t say I agree with my ex’s choice to explain the entirety of his second divorce as being his ex-wife’s choice. While he was the one to leave me, I felt that it was important that my daughters see me take responsibility for my own shortcomings. To each their own, though. Our daughters are smart and observant, and I imagine that it was very hard for him to answer their questions. I’m used to talking to them openly and honestly and it still took a year before J did finally got me to admit that I had agreed to our divorce, but not wanted it.

The girls had practical questions. What had happened to the bunk bed with their names on it at their stepmom’s house? Were stepmom and stepsisters still living in the apartment they’d visited? Would they ever see them again? Why had this happened?

Children always want to know why, and they always think it’s their fault. I reminded my daughters of the book Was It the Chocolate Pudding? and that divorce is never a child’s fault. I didn’t hear them blaming themselves, but I wanted to be sure.

Both girls told me that they didn’t want to tell anyone about Daddy’s second divorce because they were embarrassed. They were both especially concerned about Divorce Club, the school support group for kids of divorce. They wanted to be honest but didn’t want to talk about it and felt torn.

I asked J whether she’d be willing to tell her teacher and she said yes. I called Mrs. H right away, as she celebrated Thanksgiving Eve at her parents’ house. J came away from that conversation feeling much more safe and closer to being ready to talk about the divorce with others. We were all reminded that people don’t have to officially or legally be our mothers to love us as if we were their daughters.

My little girls are 7 and they have been through things that would have broken adults. Their resilience puts me to shame. The day after they had their hearts broken yet again, they threw themselves into a joyous Thanksgiving. We had a genuinely happy day, although Daddy’s most recent divorce did come up in conversation a couple of times.

At bedtime, I reminded the girls to say their prayers.

“Thank you, Lord,” J said, her hands pressed together and her eyes closed, “for my family who loves me. Thank you for all my nice things and for all my yummy food and making the world and everything. I am very grateful.”

“Hey, J,” I prompted, “don’t you want to ask for help during a rough time? Like maybe for understanding or peace or feeling better?”

“Nope,” she responded. “I get that stuff from you.”

I know there will be a day when my child no longer needs me, and the teen years before that when she no longer wants me. For now, though, I’ll fill my role as her stability, strength and guide to the best of my ability. My sweet M doesn’t quite have her sister’s emotional awareness or talent for heart-melting one-liners, but I know she shares J’s strength and sunny outlook. I hope that she also feels that I give her strength and understanding. I do my best, as every mother does.

Have you ever had to discuss someone else’s divorce with your children? How did you approach it?

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 and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.