Car Twins

Posted on
Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, IdenticalLeave a comment

There’s a car, parked in a driveway on our way to school, that looks exactly like mine. It’s the same make, model and colour. Its absence is rare enough that it’s a point of discussion for me and my 7-year-old identical twin daughters, J and M.

Original image by @Doug88888
Original image by @Doug88888

Me: Our matching car is missing.
M: Yup.
J: It’s the same car on the outside just like me and M are the same kid on the outside, but with different names. It has everything the same except the license plate.
M: It’s like the license plate is a name tag.
J: We have different hair but we used to have the same hair. The cars are the same on the outside but I bet they’re completely different on the inside like me and M is different on the inside.

What metaphors do you children find to describe their multiple reality?

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

I Almost Missed My Child’s Call for Help

Posted on
Categories Discipline, Divorce, Feeling Overwhelmed, From the Mouths of Multiples, Parenting, Relationships7 Comments

I predicted that M would explode into emotion at some point after her therapist’s death. When it actually happened after she heard about her Dad’s impending second divorce, I nearly missed the opportunity to talk to her about how she was feeling.

help

My 7-year-olds share a room and each has her own lofted bed. Still, they sleep in the same bed most nights. Last night, after prayers, when they should have been settling in to sleep, they were still bickering.

“M kicked me!” J informed me.
“Only ’cause J punched me first.”
“There is no hitting or kicking in the family,” I reminded them.
“Sorry,” J apologized, almost convincingly.
“She punched me first!” countered M.
I stood firm. “You owe her an apology.”
“But…”
“No ‘but’. No hitting”
“But it was because…,” M kept trying to defend herself.
“No because. No hitting. No excuses.”
“But Mom!”
“No ‘but’,” I  insisted. “No excuses. We do not hit in this family for any reason. Use words or get help.”
“I hate this family!” M yelled.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I told her. “I love you.”
She’d escalated to a full-throated scream by this point. She turned on her sister. “Get. Out. Of. My. Bed.”
“But I’m already settled,” J tried to argue.
“GET OUT!”
I tried to restore peace. “J, go ahead and go to your own bed. I can sleep with you.”
M was horrified. “Who’s going to sleep with me?”
“No one. You asked J to leave.”
“That’s not fair!” M took the default child position. “I want you to snuggle with me!”
“J may have been inappropriate at the start, but you’re the one making poor choices right now,” I explained. “This is a consequence.”
“I don’t feel loved,” M cried. “I don’t feel part of this family. I want to find another family.”
“Good luck finding a family that allows hitting and kicking and is still loving and safe,” I retorted. “I have these rules because I love you.”

I kissed both children good night and sat down on the couch to clear out the spam comments on this site before I tackled the Neverending Laundry Story. M’s words were echoing in my ears.

I don’t feel part of this family.
Family…
Family…

Realization hit all at once. She was upset about family. She was upset about Daddy’s divorce and confused about her standing with her stepmother and stepsisters. Her anger wasn’t directed at her sister, or even me, at all. We were the safe people in her life; she could act out with us. The family she didn’t feel part of was the bigger family, outside the safety of Mommy and Sissy.

I know that this is how M processes big emotions, with a massive explosion that makes way for her readiness to process things. Even knowing this, I almost missed it in the rush to bedtime, in my focus on M’s lack of self-discipline, in my quest for just treatment of my daughters.

I quite literally ran across the living room, down the hall, and into the girls’ room. They were both still awake.

“What?” J asked.
“I have to talk to M,” I told her. “I just realized something. Go to sleep, J Bear.”
I climbed into M’s bed and lowered my voice to speak to her.
“I’m so sorry, M. You’re upset about Daddy and Melissa’s divorce. Am I right?”
She nodded.

We talked and talked and talked. She told me about her confusion, her sadness, her anger. She told me that she was disappointed in her daddy. She told me she was embarrassed to tell her friends that she had two divorces. She told me that she didn’t think they gave their marriage enough time. She wondered why her stepmother hadn’t realized what Daddy’s being a soldier would mean before they got married. She wondered if her stepsisters would still love her. She wished her relatives weren’t all so far away. She wished people she loved who weren’t her relatives weren’t all so far away.

Maybe if people were allowed to marry 3 wives, she pondered, there wouldn’t need to be divorce. That way, Daddy could be married to me and Melissa and another person and would never have to be divorced. That way, she could still have a mom and stepmom and never have to know the word “divorce.”

She has more insight than she realizes.

Our discussion on her feelings of divorce slipped seamlessly into the other subject that’s been bothering her.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “This is all too much sadness for a little 7-year-old to deal with.”
“I’m not little!” she told me, offended.
“Giant 7-year-old?”
“No, Mommy! I’m a normal 7-year-old girl, despite my looks.” (What? Your 7-year-old doesn’t use the word “despite” in regular conversation? Mine does.)
“What do you mean, ‘despite your looks’?” I asked, knowing full well what she meant.
My kissy nose.”
“Are people still making rude comments?”
“Yes, but Mrs. H is reading Wonder to our class. It’s only for 5th graders and 4th graders and 3rd graders but Mrs. C [the principal] said Mrs. H could read it to our class.”
“I’ve heard great things about it.”
“It’s so good! The character has a funny face like me…”

We talked more. Auggie, M thought, would understand her if only her weren’t fictional. I suggested that perhaps the author understood her, but M wasn’t interested in pursuing that train of thought. Auggie had a big sister who beat people up when they teased him, “kind of like J! Daddy told me she beat someone up at Chick-Fil-A for laughing at me.” (They were 2 years old. A big kid pushed M off the slide in the playscape and J let him have it with all of her 18 lbs.)

“I’m not exactly like him, though,” M mused.
“No?”
“He wishes he looked ordinary. I don’t want a different nose. I just want people not to tease me.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Some people scream when they see the character,” M told me.
“No one would do that to you.” I was relieved to have something positive to offer.
“But they scream with laughter.”
“That’s terrible. What should they do instead?”
“That should ask me! And I’ll tell them I was born this way! That’s all. That’s it. I’ll tell them it’s my kissy nose.”

M is adorable.

I almost missed M’s call for help in the midst of the daily grind.

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

“You’re a Bad Mommy”

Posted on
Categories Discipline, From the Mouths of Multiples, PerspectiveTags Leave a comment

Can you think of anything worse coming out of your child’s mouth than the words, “You’re a bad mommy?”

Okay, if I worked on it, I could probably imagine worse, mostly things that would land my kid in jail or the grave, but “bad mommy” is pretty bad.

Last night, we got home from Girl Scouts around 8:00 pm. It had been a long day for all of us, a demanding day at work and painful commute for me and a full day of school and afterschool care for the girls. It had been an especially rough week for me personally. There was no downtime for any of us. In fact, I booked it down the school hallway at 6:30 pm from the afterschool care location to our Girl Scout meeting to let the other moms into our meeting space. I didn’t run, though. Running in the halls is against school rules. I’m just so grateful that the YMCA program and Girl Scouts are in the same building.

Once we got home, M and J had to finish their homework, even though I’d reminded them to finish up on Wednesday since Thursday was a Girl Scouts night and homework was due Friday. I didn’t master the art of procrastination until college! So precocious, these angels of mine.

They finished their homework around 8:15. I checked it and signed it and asked them to pack it away. Once the schoolbags were in their respective cubbies, I asked M to brush her hair and J to brush her teeth. While they did so, I figured I could scoop out the cat litter. I live a glamourous life, don’t I?

I walked past the living room to dispose of the litter and found M reading on the couch, hair and teeth unbrushed.

I raised my voice. I admit it. “M! I told you to brush you hair! Now!”

She jumped to attention and ran off sniffling. I crumpled into the couch and rubbed my suddenly sore temples.

J sat down on the couch next to me.

“You’re a bad mommy,” she said. “You yell. Yelling doesn’t teach us anything.”

I was hurt.

“Am I always a bad mommy?” I asked.
“Yes. You yell,” J said.
“All the time? Did I yell yesterday? Or the day before?”
“No,” she admitted.
“Do I do other bad mommy things?”
“No.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled,” I confessed. “That was wrong of me. It wasn’t a good mommy thing to do and I’m sorry. I’m going to apologize to M too. But I hope that you can recognize that this was a mistake. I really do try to be a good mommy.”
“You are a good mommy,” J said, sounding unconvinced, “but you shouldn’t yell.”
“I’m sorry.”

I got over my hurt feelings. The fact that my raising my voice once counts as being a bad mommy in J’s book probably means I usually do a decent job of holding my temper and modulating my voice. The fact that J expects my responses to her poor behaviour or her sister’s to contain a lesson probably means I usually effectively convey larger lessons when I’m disciplining my daughters. The fact that J feels like she can criticize my parenting and help me do better means that I’m on the way to achieving my goal of raising confident, productively critical kids.

So J, go ahead and let me know when I’m being a bad mommy. I can take 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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Conflict Resolution

Posted on
Categories Anger, Behavior, Discipline, From the Mouths of Multiples, Frustration, Parenting Twins, Talking to Kids1 Comment

When I arrived at after-school care yesterday to retrieve my children, M was in the bathroom. J seemed happy enough to see me and gave me a great hug before biting her lip.

J: Mumble mumble trouble mumble mumble kick M mumble mumble jacket mumble mumble meatball.
Sadia: You got in trouble because you kicked M for calling your jacket a meatball?!
J: Of course not!
Sadia: I thought I must have misunderstood that.
J: Look at this bruise! M kicked me!
Sadia: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Start at the beginning. What happened?
J: I told M yesterday not to call my jacket a meatball. Today she called it a meatball again! So I pretended to kick her. Except I really kicked her by mistake. But I didn’t mean to! And then she kicked me.
Sadia: Did you get in trouble?
J: Yeah, we had to sit out and not participate.
Sadia: J, this is completely unacceptable.
J: I didn’t mean to.
Sadia: I understand that. The fact is, though, that in just pretending to hurt your sister, you actually hurt your sister. I’ve told you before to use your words. Do not use your body to solve arguments, even if you’re just pretending. What’s going on with you guys? Have you apologized?
J: No.

At this point, M returned from the bathroom.

Sadia: Hey Buggy! How’s it going?
M: Good!
Sadia: I love you.
M: Me too.
Sadia: Is there something we need to talk about?
M: J calls her jacket a fuzzy purple meatball so I called it a fuzzy purple meatball too but she told me not to do that so I called it a meatball because I thought she meant, “Don’t call it a fuzzy purple meatball,” so I called it just a meatball and she kicked me.
Sadia: And then?
M: I kicked her back. We got in trouble.
Sadia: I think you owe each other apologies.
J: I’m sorry, M
M: I already apologized.
J: Yeah.
Sadia: This is so unlike you guys. We do not hit, throw or kick in this family. We do not pretend to hit, throw or kick in this family. If you’re feeling frustrated, take a break! Find an adult! Is this because you’re together all day?
M: We don’t do this in class.
Sadia: I’m glad to hear that, but you need to figure out better ways to solve your problems, right now. Are you in the same group at the Y?
J: Yes. Mommy, please don’t change our groups.
M: I’m okay with that. There are two 2nd grade groups.
J: No! I get scared without my sister!
Sadia: Hold on just a second. You’re okay with being apart at night.
J: That’s different. I know everyone in our house.
Sadia: But M gets scared by herself at night and that didn’t seem to bother you when you moved into the other room.

J only moved back for one night, then returned to the guest room last night.

J: But you were with her.
Sadia: Only because she needed me because you decided to sleep elsewhere.

At this point, we had arrived home. The girls ran off to put their schoolbags away while I unloaded my laptop and purse.

Sadia: Girls! Want some water?
J: Mom, can M and I work things out privately?
Sadia: Sure. Of course.

The children went into their, I mean M’s, room and closed the door. I got busy with laundry. They emerged 30 minutes later.

M: We’ve decided to stay in the same group at the Y and J is going to sleep in our room again.
Sadia: Okay. What about the hitting and kicking?
J: We can use our words. We worked it out.

I think that the lesson here is that if you’re a really terrible negotiator it forces your children to learn effective conflict resolution skills.

What’s the most ridiculous thing your children have argued about?

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

In Which My Daughter Does a 180 on Having Her Own Room

Posted on
Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Individuality, Loneliness, Overnight, Parenting Twins, School-Age, Sleep, Talking to KidsTags , , , Leave a comment

My daughters are at a turning point. Being together 24/7 at age 7 as they more deeply explore their distinct interests is grating on each other. M loves to sing and J sometimes just wants her to stop humming. J likes to see the bright side or educational opportunity in every challenge, while M just wants to have the freedom to feel and express her frustrations.

I’d sent the girls off to get ready for bed Sunday when J flounced out of the bathroom and threw herself into my lap.

J: M’s annoying me.
Sadia: Have you talked to her about it?
J: Yes! And she won’t stop!
Sadia: Just find somewhere else to be.
J: silence
Sadia: There are moments when I get frustrated. Sometimes the thing I do is go to a different room and do something distracting.
J: I can’t do that. We’re sisters. We’re in the same place. You don’t get it. Being an adult is so easy.
Sadia: hiding a smile Adulthood has its own challenges. You know, we do have an extra room. Do you want your own room?
J: How would you fix the bed back together?
Sadia: I was thinking you could sleep in the bed that’s already in the guest room.
J: Yeah! I’ll do that tonight.
Sadia: Oh! You need to let your sister know what’s going on so she’s not surprised.

I hadn’t anticipated J’s response. I thought that the idea of sleeping alone would horrify her, as it has done every time Daddy has brought up getting separate rooms. He and his sister were 13 months apart and in the same grade. He cherished the sanctity of his own space.

Five minutes later…

M: getting louder and louder But I don’t like sleeping by myself!
J: M! It’s just for a month.
M: Mommy, J says I’m annoying and she won’t sleep with me.
Sadia: I know, honey. It’s like when you told her last night that she couldn’t sleep in your bed because she was annoying you.
M: It’s not the same. I don’t like sleeping by myself. I only sent her to a bed in the same room. Who’ll sleep with me?
Sadia: What if I sleep in your room?
M: I guess. My bed. I need snuggles because I’m without my sister.
J: It’s for a month, M. In one month I’ll try sleeping in your room if you’re not annoying. If you are annoying I’ll go back to my room for one more month.

With little fanfare, J went to bed in the guest room. We read a chapter of Little House on the Prairie together in J’s new bed. The girls said their prayers.

J: … Thank you, God, for giving me a mom who understands my needs…

The new arrangement lasted one night. In the car yesterday evening, J brought up having come to snuggle with us around 2:00 am when she was suffering a snuggle deficit. She reports our having had a conversation. I didn’t remember it at all. I didn’t think of my lack of memory as a big deal, but J interpreted it as “sleep talking”. She has an inexplicable terror of sleep walking. After many tears and endless attempts on her part to get me to remember the discussion and on my part to show that there was nothing wrong, she elected to sleep in M’s bed for comfort.

I wonder where she’ll decide to sleep tonight. At least she’s convinced that I understand her needs. From my perspective, it’s all a big fat mystery.

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

How the Twin Relationship is Like a Marriage

Posted on
Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, PerspectiveTags 2 Comments

My daughter, J, was sitting in the bathtub this morning when she said to me, “Sometimes, I think M knows more about me than I do.” (We have the best bathtime conversations. Seriously.)

“I used to feel that way about Daddy,” I responded. (While I’m not one to seek pity for my divorce, I do want my kids to remember good things or at least have a positive attitude towards the marriage.)

“But not any more,” she retorted, “because now you’re dee-vorced.”

“This is true, pumpkin. My point is that you’re probably right. There are probably some things about yourself that M genuinely understands better than you do.”

This wasn’t the first time J and I have been struck by the parallels between her relationship with her twin and my former relationship with their dad. When she was 3, she asked me whether M was her wife. When she was 2.5, she proposed that I was Daddy’s sister.

From MyHealth.Alber​ta.ca
From MyHealth.Alber​ta.ca
Photo Credit: 96dpi
Photo Credit: 96dpi

My daughters fall on the twinnier end of the twinniness continuum. (Yes, I just made up the term “twinniness continuum”.)

twinniness

At this end of the continuum, the twin relationship can look a lot like a marriage. To start, husbands and wives share a room, as do many twins; this was the source of my daughters’ youthful confusion. They make decisions together and must constantly compromise. They share resources. They may pursue other deeply meaningful relationships, but the husband/wife or twin/twin one comes first.

I once had a stranger tell me that the secret to saving her marriage was to stop expecting her husband to be her twin. The relationships and expectations are similar, but not identical.

Have you observed any similarities between your marriage and your twins’ relationship?

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twins on Being in the Same Classroom

Posted on
Categories Classroom Placement, From the Mouths of Multiples4 Comments

We’re a few weeks into 2nd grade. My daughters, M and J, are in the same classroom this year. They were together throughout their daycare careers, apart for the beginning of kindergarten, together for the second half of that year, and in co-taught but separate classrooms in 1st grade. I thought it was time to get their perspective on being in the same class at school.

Me: Remember the other day, we were talking about how you felt about being in Mrs. H’s class together this year?
M: Uh huh.
Me: J, do you remember that?
J: Mm hmm.
Me: One of things I mentioned is that for some twins, being together in class is a want, for others being apart is a need, and for some being together is a need. What is it for you?
J: It’s a need for me to be with M because I get really scared if I don’t know what M is doing and I cried on the first 3 days of school in first grade. Write that.
Me: Oh, honey! What about for you, M?
M: For me, it’s a want, but … It’s a want for me, but a need for J. And I don’t like J crying, so… and it’s a need for me for her to not cry so much, so it’s a half want, half need.
Me: So, J, what’s easier now that you’re in the same class?
J: What do you mean?
M: It’s good to know what prizes you’ll get so we can make sure none of the prizes are too dangerous and tell whoever’s the sister not to get that certain prize.
J: Making sure that the other sister is behaving in person and if they do they can report to Mom.
M: Making sure that someone doesn’t bully the sister, so we can report to our teacher.
Me: But don’t you do those things for your friends already?
M: Yes.
J: ♫ Gecko, gecko gecko gecko, gecko gecko gecko… ♫ (to the melody of the Can Can.)
Me: Back to what we were talking about. So, J, has the crying stopped now that you’re in the same class?
J: I only cry now if I’m in pain or if my feelings get hurt.
M: And then M comes to the rescue!
Me: But isn’t it distracting to be worrying about your sister when you’re supposed to be learning?
M: Well, first I get permission to get out of my seat to help her or go to the nurse’s office with her.
3setsoftwinsMe: What about for D and R (the other set of identical girls, who are together in the other dual language classroom), do you think it’s a need for them?
J: I don’t know. I’m not them.
M: I think D and R fight less when they are in the same class.
Me: And what about J1 and J2 (the identical boys split between the 2 dual language 2nd grade classrooms)?
M: Well, for J1 and J2, they don’t need to be in the same class and they don’t want to be in the same class. I think that being with their brother is a distraction because they love playing with their brother and like to be good students and they don’t want to get in trouble so they like being in different classes.
J: But J1 is still one of the jokesters of the class.
M: Yes, but when Mrs. H gives him permission to be a jokester and cheer someone up.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

J: ♫ Gecko, gecko gecko gecko, gecko gecko gecko… ♫ Geckos lick their eyeballs to blink because they don’t have any eyelids. Isn’t that a fascinating fact?
M: Actually, it’s more disgusting.
J: Uh uh. It’s fascinating.
Me: So do you think schools should have a rule about whether twins can or should be together?
M: No, because for some twins it’s a need and some it’s a want and for some it’s not a need and for some it’s not a want.

In case you find it relevant, all three sets of twins were evenly split between the two first grade dual language classrooms last year. Both sets of girls specifically asked their parents if they could be placed together this year.

Are your kids together or apart at school? What’s their preference?

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Kids Talking: Boss of Me

Posted on
Categories From the Mouths of MultiplesTags , Leave a comment

I came across this gem of a conversation from when my daughters were 5. It makes me laugh every time, so I thought I’d share it with you.

from hdydi.comPlanning out a game of Pretend set in Neverland

J: … and then you can put your hair in two braids and be Tigerlily.
M: You’re not the boss of me. I don’t have to be Tigerlily.
J: She has black hair and long hair and you have black hair and long hair.
M: You are not the boss of me. Mommy is the boss of me.
J: And the teacher.
M: Yes. Mommy is the boss of me and the teacher is the boss of me and Daddy is the boss of me, but you are not the boss of me.
J: I’m just saying you can be Tigerlily.
M: Mommy, can you make me two braids to be Tigerlily?

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

I Have a Mature Discussion with My 7-Year-Olds About the Value of Challenges

Posted on
Categories Difference, Discipline, From the Mouths of Multiples, Household and Family Management, Parenting Twins, Talking to KidsTags , , , 3 Comments

For months, my 7-year-old twin daughters’ room looked like a department store after a tornado. There was so much stuff–toys, books, clothes, art supplies–strewn across the floor that I could rarely get the vacuum cleaner through the door, much less vacuum. I attempted to pick up, only to have two chipper children distribute junk across the carpet in my wake. I nagged and cajoled to no effect.

Part of the problem is that I’m a lousy housekeeper myself. How could I ask my children to clean their room when there were papers strewn across the dining table and my kitchen was forever in the midst of reorganization? My requests that they clean were half-hearted, at best.

Over the course of two weeks, I did a major decluttering, tidying and deep clean of every corner of the house, except the girls’ room. I hired a new lawn care service. I still need to apply fresh contact paper to my kitchen shelves, but everything else feels livable. I’ve even shampooed my carpet. (Why, oh why, did I wait so long to buy a steam cleaner? I used to rent them from our local grocery store, but found that my Hoover brand one paid for itself in no time.)

I now had the moral high ground to demand that my daughters clean their room. There would be no screen time (TV, computer, tablets), I told them on Wednesday, until their room was clean enough that I could vacuum and steam clean the entirety of the carpet. We average 2 hours or less of screen time a week, but my kids consider it a premium treat.

I didn’t bring the cleaning thing up again. I figured that the next time they asked to watch a movie or look something up on their Samsung Galaxies, I’d remind them that they needed to clean their room first.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke this morning to find J diligently cleaning. I tried to stop feeling guilty about bribing my children to do their duty. After all, it was working, although I’d prefer that my kids do what I ask just because I ask.

It wasn’t long, of course, before there was conflict between the children. J complained that she’d asked M to help out with the cleaning, but that M had told her that she’d rather read. I need to find an approach that was fair to J but still stuck to the expectations I had already communicated. I told J that she could have screen time back as long as I could vacuum the entirety of her room with the exception of the area directly below her sister’s desk. Similarly, M would only get screen time once the entirety of the floor, except for the expanse under J’s desk, was available to the vacuum cleaner.

I asked J if she would like to communicate the adjusted expectations to her sister. She said she would, so I worked in the kitchen. Before too long, J came in to get me. “M needs you.”

I walked into the girls’ room, and M was up in her lofted bed, sobbing. “When I look under my desk, I feel too overwhelmed. I can’t do this, Mommy. I can’t do this.”

I told her to pick up and deal with the first 10 things she could reach. She cried and asked to be held. She was obviously completely defeated by the idea of cleaning up. We talked about how good she was at cleaning up at school. She said there wasn’t as much stuff. I said there wasn’t as much stuff because she took care of it daily. She cried some more, finally agreeing to climb down from her bed and picking up a sheet of paper.

J couldn’t understand it. “This is easy!” she told her sister, picking up more beads off the floor. “Look! Easy!” This just made M cry harder. I left her to pick up 9 more things and invited J to the dining room for a conversation.

Me: M’s having a hard time with this whole cleaning thing. Let’s be supportive.
J: It’s so easy, though. Why is it such a big deal?
Me: It’s a challenge for her. She feels overwhelmed.
J: It’s a challenge for me too! I like challenges!
Me: You have an easier time with challenges than M. She gets worried easily, so I need to help her contain her worries.
J: Challenges are good. Challenges are how I grow up. If I had no challenges in my life, I would still be a little baby.
Me: I agree. Facing challenges helps us learn. This is one way that you and your sister are different. Challenges frighten her, so it’s harder for her to learn from them. Let’s not make her feel worse than she already does.

For those of you with younger kids, you should know that J’s self-awareness is atypical for 7-year-olds. You can certainly have discussions of this sort with the average 7-year-old, but most of them will not look at cleaning their rooms as learning experience without some serious guidance.

I returned to M’s room, where she was back in her bed, crying.

M: I picked up 10 things, but I just can’t handle it. There’s no way I can finish.
Me: We’re similar in that we can both think too much. When I had to clean the dining room, I overwhelmed myself by trying too hard to plan. When I just started, without worrying about the end, it got all cleaned up. Does that sound familiar?
M: But I can’t just stop thinking.
Me: I know. Just think and do. Don’t just think. Go pick up 10 more things.
M: I can’t. I just can’t.
Me: You can.
M: This is a too big challenge.

Whoa. How’d she know what J and I had been talking about?

M: I’m not J. She’s better at challenges because she’s more used to challenges. She has more challenges than me.
Me: Like what?
M: This is too hard.
Me: What challenges does J face that you don’t?
M: Um. Uh. I don’t know. None.
Me: I know it feels overwhelming, but facing challenges now will make it easier to face challenges that come later on. Tell you what. Read a book chapter to calm yourself down. Then put away 10 things. Then read again. You can do this.
M: Okay.

Thirty minutes later, she asked for my help again, but she’d made discernible progress. I helped her finish up. I praised her plenty, but refused to agree that her space was cleaner than J’s. I reminded her that J had cleaned the entire common area without help and deserved her thanks.

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.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Twins Explaining Twins, Revisited

Posted on
Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Interview, School-Age, Talking to KidsTags , , , , , , , 4 Comments

We got some funny and insightful thoughts last time I interviewed my daughters, 7-year-old M and J, about being twins. I figured I’d introduce a different related topic and see where the conversation went.

Me: So, I get a lot of the same question over and over when people realize that you’re twins. Does that happen to you too?
J: Yes.
Me: What kinds of questions?
J: Like really unimportant questions. Like, “Why aren’t you wearing the same clothes?” “Why is you hair so short and hers so long?”
Me: Mmm hmm.
J: And some reasonable questions, like my friend Amy’s*.
Me: What did she ask?
J: “What’s it like to be like a twin?” And I told her, “Sometimes it can be frustrating and sometimes it can be nice.” You know how it can be frustrating?
Me: How?
M: When we get into arguments.
J: When people can’t tell us apart.
M: Actually I like that.
Me: Oh?
M: I like pranking people like Mr. M and Mr. Michael and people whose names start with M. And today Mr. Michael said…okay, let me try to tell this one… he said, “J.” And I slapped my head because it was M, who is me. And he gave up and said, “Okay! Twins! Go to the line!”
Me: And there were some other reasonable questions, right?
J: Mmm hmm. And Mr. Joel asked, “What if you were fraternal?” And I said, “We would look more different and less alike.” And Mr. Joel said, “You look fraternal to me, but I know you were born identical.”
M: A wombat…
Me: A wombat**?
M: Mmm hmm. A Wombat asked us if twins, identical twins, always looked alike and were always wearing the same clothes. No! If one of the twins are a tomboy and the other is a girly girl, then the one that’s a girly girl might wear a princess shirt and the tomboy might wear…
J: A Spiderman shirt?
M: An Angry Birds shirt.
J: You know, some girls who aren’t tomboys wear Angry Birds shirts.
M: I know, that’s just because they, those shirts have at least one girl Angry Bird.
J: No, some don’t have any. Like, Amy isn’t a tomboy and she has an Angry Birds shirt that says, “I’m the bomb!” and it has the black bird on it. No girls.
Me: Do Caroline and Vanessa…(I began to type in parentheses “older fraternal girl twins” for your benefit. J stopped me.)
J: No, they’re identical!
Me: Are you sure?
M: No, they’re fraternal. They told me.
J: But they have the same colour hair and the same colour eyes and I can’t tell them apart.
M: Another argument! Yeah, but they told me and they know more about themselves than anyone else.
J: Fine!
Me: I’d like you to think about something, please. How do you feel when people try to tell you that you’re not identical?
J: Ugh, the girl named Annabelle who’s a Wombat… really a girl, but her group’s a Wombat… when she heard we were twins she was mean about it because we didn’t have the same haircut and weren’t wearing the same clothes and didn’t have the same faces and different sizes of shoes.
M: I don’t think that’s fair, because I like my unique heart-shaped face.
J: Then me and M, then me and M said we had enough of the talk and went to play Connect 4 and a little bit of Mancala and M was too shy to tell Annabelle that we were really twins and so I told her that it really hurt our feelings when people said we weren’t twins because it wasn’t really truuuuue. (I initially typed “true” back there, but J felt that some more Us were in order to capture what she was trying to communicate.)
Me: I understand the story. But how did you feel, when somebody said you weren’t identical?
M: Sad.
J: Really mad like I wanted to punch that person.
Me: Wow!
J: Embarrassed.
Me: Then how do you think Vanessa and Caroline would feel if they knew that you were saying that they were wrong about what kind of twins they are?
J: Like us? Like maybe they will feel like I was trying to be mean on purpose.
Me: I think we need to respect people the same way we expect them to respect us.
J: I didn’t know.
Me: I know you didn’t know, but does the lesson make sense?
J: (Nod.)
M: I’ve got a story. Once upon a time. Okay, sorry, did I mention that this was fairytale?
Me: No, you forgot to mention that.
M: Once upon a time, there were two little girls who were identical twins and they had friends who were older identical twins…
J: Older identical twins?
M: No, I mean fraternal twins. And J, one of the identical twins, liked Caroline more than Vanessa. And M, who was another one of the identical twins, liked Vanessa more than Caroline. They all lived in a castle together. But one day, a dragon came to eat them, but the brave knight killed the dragon into 5, no 10 pieces.
J: “5, no 10 pieces.”
M: The End.
Me: Which of the twins was the brave knight? All of them? (Yes, I know she was probably thinking of a man coming to save them, but I am going to do all I can to raise empowered women instead of damsels in distress. Back to the story.)
M: Yes! (whispering) Do I have a too big imagination? (regular voice) Well, actually, not all of them. Just Vanessa and Caroline. So, as you can imagine, each tore the dragon into 5 pieces each. The End.

*Names have been changed.
**Wombats are the youngest group of summer campers.

Share this...Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrShare on RedditDigg thisShare on LinkedInEmail this to someone