Respecting Boundaries

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Categories Independence, Individuality, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Perspective1 Comment

Last night, I scrubbed the girls’ bathroom from top to bottom after tucking the children into bed. I then took a little break on the couch, eating a piece of chocolate while watching part of an episode of Turn on Netflix. Next to me lay my daughter’s sketchbook, closed. She had once again failed to put it away.

I was tempted to peek.

My daughter turns 10 in a few days and her artistic abilities are impressive. Her classmates commission drawings from her. She entertained a 4-year-old a waiting room for an hour the other day, drawing what the littler girl demanded: a ballerina performing on a stage in front of an audience. The perspective was spot on, the stage curtains elegant and heavy-looking, the dancer light on her feet. Some of the seats in the front row were empty, the audience members a mix of children and adults. The kid can draw, not professionally by any means, but well.

I am tempted to share her drawings with you.

I didn’t peek. I don’t share her drawings with you until I get her consent.

image

My daughters have boundaries and I choose to respect them. My little girl will let me leaf through her sketchbook when she is ready. She has shared some drawings with me but says I need to wait to see others.

I am allowed to hug her, but the bedtime kisses on the nose have been banned for a few months now. She was feeling poorly earlier this week and wanted snuggles. I forgot myself and kissed her on the top of her head, then apologized. “It’s okay,” she told me. “Feeling better kisses are okay.”

She shares with me her thoughts on school, life, family, and friendship. I feel like I know what’s going on with her.

She knows that I will respect her boundaries, despite temptation. This is how I keep boundaries from coming between us.

 

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Twinfant Tuesday: To separate, or not to separate?

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Categories Going out, Guilt, Independence, Parenting, Routines, Time Management, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

Looking back on our early days with our now two-year-old twins, there aren’t too many things I’d do differently.  (Well, maybe hire a night nurse!)  But one thing that stands out in my mind that I would have changed if I could, is taking one baby out for an outing more often.

I recall having friends ask how often my husband and I would split up with our kids.  At the time, I filed these comments into “you don’t understand because you don’t have twins” category.  On days when my husband and I were both around, we pretty much operated as a family of four.  We did all activities together, or were cooped up in our house together.  It felt essential to have both sets of hands on deck for both kids at all possible times.  For those necessary tasks like running to the grocery store, which, sadly became our “me” time for the first year, one parent would grin and bear it for an hour, while the other blissfully strolled the aisles solo.  This made perfect sense to us: it’s not “easy” to bring just one of the babies on errands, so why wouldn’t we leave both kids at home if we had the option?

However, now that our kids are older, we split up much more often.  We’ll take one on an errand alone, or on a special outing, and the kids light up at that grocery store, like we took them to Disneyland.  (They do often end up shouting the other twin’s name, and/or the absent parent’s name, on the outing, looking for them.  But, it still is so precious to see how excited they get to have their own trip with mom or dad.)

It makes me feel sad that I didn’t realize earlier how special that solo time would feel to them.  Arguably, maybe they were too young to have the awareness of this separation before we started doing it.  But, still, I think there may have been value in us splitting up with them before they did recognize it.  So much of the first 18 months or so of parenting twins was filled with anxiety for me.  Looking back, I think if I had ventured out on my own with one baby more often, it would have built some confidence in me that would eventually have led to adventures with both babies.  I think it also would have led to less mommy guilt: ie, since an hour at the store was my “me” time, I wasn’t “allowed” other time alone.  If we’d divided up with baby, maybe I’d have done more sans baby for mommy.  :)  Lastly, I think it may have been healthier to split them up more than we did, allowing them to be their own person, even if just for an hour.

Katie is a working mom of 2-year-old twins, who makes too many trips to the grocery store, with or without kids!

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Toddler Thursday: Sharing a Bedroom

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Categories Attitude, Development, Different Gender, Independence, Individuality, Joy, Lifestyle, Love, Mommy Issues, Multiple Types, Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlers4 Comments

After obsessively searching for about two years, my husband finally found us a new house. It isn’t too far from our current house, conveniently closer to our chosen dual-language elementary school, and in a nice quiet neighborhood of the foothills. It is a little larger than our current house (which is good because we’re bursting at the seams here), but still only three bedrooms. For a family of 5 with almost-3yo b/g twins, I was really hoping our next house would have four bedrooms, so that all the kids could have their own. With the cost of remodeling prior to move-in (gutting both bathrooms, building a laundry room, moving the water heater, updating electrical, refinish floors, new paint, etc), we are left with not much of a budget for what I really wanted: a bigger kitchen and another bed/bath. Those will have to wait until we can get plans drawn and a permit for the additions.

I was very disappointed that this was how it all worked out. In my mind, the whole point of moving was so my kids wouldn’t have to share bedrooms. All the labor of packing and managing a renovation just didn’t seem worth it if I couldn’t get what I really wanted. It’s true that remodeling this home instead of buying a move-in ready one makes it feel more our “own,” there’s been a lot of stress involved with money spent and making decisions, choosing finishes. Thankfully that’s all now starting to come to a close. I just decided on a floor stain today, after having chosen paint colors last week.

And I feel like I’m also starting to turn the corner on being disappointed on the lack of a fourth bedroom. At this point, I believe the only one who really wants to make sure all the kids get their own rooms is me. For sure the twins don’t care. They’ve literally been together all their lives, even before they were born.

There are times I certainly wish they wouldn’t keep each other awake during naptime, or wake each other in the middle of the night during an illness, but most often what I see is that the presence of their twin comforts them. They are always put to bed together, and always woken up (or left in) together. On the rare occasion that one sleeps longer/shorter than the other, and they become separated, they always look for and ask the whereabouts of the other. Every day I hear their conversations before they fall asleep and when they wake up.  There is talking and giggling, singing and dancing, squeals and jumping. If a strict can’t-get-out-of-bed-during-sleep-time wasn’t imposed (I just transitioned them into toddler cribs), they’d probably be in each other’s beds. I’m not sure they would be able to verbalize their closeness right now, but I know their separation would definitely cause them anxiety, especially during such a vulnerable time as sleeping. It would be too scary. Perhaps they need a few more years together for that security and comfort.

Also, so many big changes are taking place in our lives right now with the move coming up, Big Sis starting kindergarten, and little ones beginning preschool that I’m wary about giving them any more to deal with. I now think that even if we did have a fourth bedroom, I would not be separating the twins just yet. I think it will be a while before they will ask for their own privacy and space. It may be many years before we move them into their own bedrooms. I’ve come to see that this is the connection between twins, and that it doesn’t diminish their independence nor hamper their development in any way. And it’s actually a pretty amazing thing to have in our family.

lunchldyd is sad her days have been filled with contractors instead of fun with her kids (and posting on hdydi).

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Mommy Blogger Privacy?

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Categories Blogs, Community, Independence, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships5 Comments

My daughters are thoughtful and well-informed. Our family dynamic is one of laughter, mutual respect, and open communication. I hope that our family’s approach to mommy blogger privacy can help other families set guidelines that work for them.

I have been blogging since before my twins were born. In the early years, it was up to me to decide what details to put out there and what to keep private. In those days, I could rely on my narrow audience of friends and family to keep things secret. Now that I have a much larger following, and now that the kids are old enough to understand what it means for information to be published on the internet, it is only right that they have a say in what I do and do not share.

Allow me to lay out the privacy doctrines I have followed from the seventh week of my pregnancy.

Mommy Blogger Privacy Doctrine

  • The children’s physical security is paramount.
    1. Do not share information that would allow a reader to pinpoint the children’s location at any time.
    2. Do not share information that would allow a reader to contact the children online.
  • Children deserve respect. Do not share anything that the children consider embarrassing. Something that wasn’t embarrassing two years ago may be so today. Take it down.
  • Children have a right to their own memories. I may remember an incident in one way. My daughter’s recollection of it may be completely different. An adult’s experience of an event is no more right than a child’s. Always acknowledge that you can speak only from your own perspective.

Make a Personal Agreement with Your Children

For example:

  • You will not write a post about a specific event or experience unless a child proposes that you blog about it or you clear it with them beforehand, as with publicity events. If they do approve writing a post about a specific family outing, they will review the entire thing, including photos, and okay it before publication.
  • If you wish to use a particular example from your lives in a post, check with all children before using it. Have each of them review the post in its entirety before publication. They have the veto.
  • I can write about what I have learned about parenting or about myself without running it by kids, as long as I do not reference specific examples that include them, or these examples have previously been posted about.
  • Either one of my daughters can ask me to take down a post I have authored, at any time, no explanation required. If they wish, they can propose ways in which I can rewrite the post to eliminate any content they find objectionable. But first, it comes down. Any rewrites can come later.

Some Practical Pointers

To protect keep the girls’ physical location off the internet, I have taken the following precautions:

  • Thus far, my girls have been referred to by their initials, with very rare exception. They now no longer wish to be referred to even in that much detail, so I’ll just be saying “my kids,” or “the twins”.
  • I do not name the town or neighbourhood in which we live. The suburbs of Austin, TX are large and numerous enough for us to be able to disappear.
  • Photographs are chosen to minimize unique attributes that might indicate the location of our home. Therefore, I either use photos taken away from our home, or within our house or back yard. License plates that may appear in a photograph are blurred. The GPS on any device used to take photographs is disabled.
  • During the time that I’ve been employed by the state, my professional information has been a matter of public record. However, I restrict release of every piece of information that the law allows, including home address and phone number.
  • I do not name the children’s school, ever, and I refer to teachers and other school staff only by their last initial. We don’t want someone to be able to Google “gym teacher Mrs. Wigglesbottom” [not a real name] and be able to figure out the girls’ school. While I do wish I could give credit to the extraordinary teachers in the twins’ lives, they understand the need to maintain anonymity. We love our school and summer camp, but you’re going to have to wait until the girls have outgrown them or we move away before I’ll tell you which they are.
  • I do not announce our intentions to attend local events. I only blog about them after the fact. You will notice that the only events I have promoted on this blog are ones we couldn’t possibly attend. This means that I will not live tweet events unless the children are absent.
  • Similarly, I do not announce travel plans until the travel is complete and we are back home. You may also see me say vague things like, “several thousand miles away” or “in the UK”.

I’m Not the Only Blogger

My kids’ teachers have, on occasion, maintained a classroom or program blog with student contributors. I think that blogs make for wonderful educational tools. I am incredibly proud of my children for initiating conversations in their classroom about online safety. For instance, during the creation of one school blog, they pointed out to Mrs. O that I only refer to them by their initials, and why. They had a productive discussion on the topic.

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Making Room for More

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Categories Guilt, Independence, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships, Siblings, Singletons, Twinfant Tuesday38 Comments

Every mother worries how her first-born will adapt to life with a new baby. How can we quantify and plan for the way our hearts expand to supply enough love for more babies? When preparing for twins, I wondered how bad it would be to bring twins into a family that already housed a three-year-old.

It turned out not to be a matter measured as, “how bad,” but more “how different.” From the beginning, we were keenly aware of how important it would be, during those first few weeks, to give her a role to play as big sister, and to keep up on our promise to love her. Love comes in cuddles, extra helpings of dessert, shared bubble baths, movie nights and special walks together, at least when one is three years old.

The First Days at Home

My husband and I kept a close eye on how our oldest handled the transition. It was important to involve her in as many of the new changes as possible, so we did: She bottle-fed, sang to them, changed diapers, and drew pictures to decorate their nursery. Anytime a visitor came with a gift for the babies, we made sure to express our gratitude, but not evoke much fanfare if there wasn’t also a gift for the new big sister. This was the beginning of our learning the lesson of being even-Steven with everything in a family with multiple children.

bigsister1

One-on-One Time

We chose to do a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pumped milk and formula, which gave my husband and I some free time to spend one-on-one with our oldest girl. This. Was. KEY. Honestly, having a energetic three-year-old was often more work than having twinfants. She did not care if we were sleep-deprived, and she had more needs to be met than ever before. Initially, this intimidated me, and fed my worry about how I would ever have enough time and energy to satisfy each daughter.

Each day, I took a moment or two to capitalize on time together. If she woke before the twins, we would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, just us two. If the twins happened to nap at the same time, I would take her for a walk, or a quick trip into town. If all were awake, I would pile everyone onto my lap and read books, letting my oldest have a chance to ‘read’ to her sisters.

bigsister3

Let Their Bond Grow Organically

I watched my oldest with our twins and recognized there was a new dynamic in the family that required very little from me. New sister relationships were forming, and I moved out of the way. Sometimes, she was too rough with them, and they would cry or whimper in response. Rather than scold her, I watched her face process the twins’ reaction, and she learned how to better handle them. Giving her the space to learn how to be a big sister to twins on her own has given her the confidence to forge ahead, to the beat of her own drum.

She has learned when to shut them out (kindly), because she needs to be alone and doesn’t want to be a big sister sometimes. That’s her prerogative, and rightly so. In turn, the twins have learned to idolize their big sister, and today at age three themselves, they are elated when they are invited to play with her.

We also let her paint on their faces; It was non-toxic and washable!

bigsister4

When Our Hands Were Full

There were, of course, times I was busy feeding the twins, or rocking them to sleep, and I couldn’t physically respond to our oldest’s requests. I would do my best to explain I could help her with my words, but not my hands. I would sing songs if she had a tantrum, I would play word games if she was amenable. I even took to setting up a pile of stuffed animals beside me as I nursed, so I could throw them at her if she was getting into something she wasn’t supposed to!

Telling her, “I’m sorry, mama’s busy feeding” was heartbreaking and, I’ll be honest, is a guilt that doesn’t go away, although it changes as they grow older. I never feel like I am giving each of my (now four) girls everything they need at all times. How can I possibly? I cannot raise four girls with 24/7 individual attention from their parents, but I am happily raising four girls who have established a true sisterhood. They have learned from infancy the values of cooperating with others, empathy, shared joy, and patience.

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Transition to Toddlerhood

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Categories Age Brackets, Development, Independence, Infants, Language, Parenting, ToddlersTags 2 Comments

I was not a person who had a lot of experience with babies before having my own. I actually am fairly certain that the first diaper I ever changed was one of my own babies’ in the hospital. I didn’t know the distinction between newborns and infants, googled the difference between infants and toddlers, and I’m sure someday I’ll be confused by what makes a “tween.”

Our twins are now nearly 21 months old and we still refer to them as “the babies.” A quick Wikipedia search tells me that a child becomes a toddler when they’re between the ages of one and three. Our experience of crossing over into Toddlerville has been a sensory one. Let’s focus on three of those senses today.

Katie takes us from infancy to toddlerhood through the senses.

Sound

I’d love for someone to keep tabs on how many times in one week my husband or I say, “I can’t hear you.” This is stated while one or the other is talking and is inevitably interrupted by one of our kids shouting, grunting or whining to communicate what it is they want. They do have a few words in their arsenal (I use the collective “their,” because they seem to say words for the first time at the same time!) but they seem to first try shouting at us or each other.

Ironically, one of the things we made a point of, pre-children, was making the effort in our house to walk to where the other person was to talk, rather than shouting room to room when we were going about our business in our house. It’s like our kids knew this courtesy that we had for each other, and squashed it in those cute, chubby hands on purpose. Their caveman communication seemed to evolve over time, but in retrospect, is markedly different than the distinctly infant coos.

Sight

Sight can be broken down into two categories. First, what our kids can now observe. Back in those hazy infant days, I could eat a rice krispie treat while my kids ate dinner, with them none the wiser. Nowadays, if they see me do that, the aforementioned shouting/whining begins until each has a rice krispie treat in hand. (My husband makes the BEST treats, and they’re around regularly!) Hence, we’ve noticed modeling appropriate behavior (like, not eating dessert first??) has become more important.

Secondly, what I see in my kids’ behavior. One example coming to mind: getting the bath ready, changing poopy diaper of boy toddler, while I watch my daughter take my kindle, run into the bathroom, and chuck it into the filling bathtub. I could give countless examples of seeing the mischief these two are already getting into. But, it’s also seeing their faces light up as they discover new things, like the birds using the birdhouse on our porch, now that spring is finally returning.

And TOUCH

I looked at a photo the other day from the infant days and noticed I had big picture frames on a low shelf in our house. Doesn’t that sound luxuriously decorative? These toddlers want to touch everything! In fact, I would say that the times I feel most frantic as a mom of twin toddlers is when they’re both into EVERYTHING at the same time-one might be emptying out the contents of the nightstand next to our bed, while the other is pulling toilet paper off the roll. One time I was attempting to put laundry away in the same room as them and my son ran into the room and jumped in front of me, with a tampon in one hand and scissors in the other, so proud of his discoveries. Mind you, drawers that contain these things have child locks on them, which brings us back to sight, and them watching how to undo the locks.

Not quite as simple as Wikipedia’s definition, but a bit more fun to reflect on.

Katie is a working mother of 20-month-old b/g twins, eating too many rice krispie treats and loving introducing them to her kids, even when that bites her in the bum.

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Twinsburg Movie in the Works

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Categories Friendships with Other Multiples, Independence, Individuality, Multiples in the NewsLeave a comment

Twin celebration season is right around the corner.

Next week, the Multiples of America (formerly NOMOTC) will be holding their annual convention right here in Austin. Will I see any of you there?

Twins Days in Twinsburg Ohio is at the beginning of next month. Jen B has taken her kids in the past. Jen W’s family are regulars. Have you ever been?

This year, twin brothers are even filming a movie there, a movie about twinhood, interdependence and independence. “TWINSBURG is a dramatic comedy about identical brothers reconnecting at the world’s largest gathering of twins.

We recently received an email from Jessica Kelly telling us about the movie Twinsburg.

I’m part of a small crew of folks from the San Francisco Bay Area who are making a short film about two twins who grow apart and find themselves reconnecting at the Twins Days festival in Ohio. Since I got to read all of your twins-love, I thought we could share some of ours!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and gain some support as well. Let us know what you think!

Identical twin Joe Garrity and fellow Bay Area multiples need your help making a short film this summer at the Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio! We’re crowd-funding our production budget and asking friends and families of twins to help make this independent project about twins, by twins, a reality. Check out the Kickstarter page, pledge your donations, and help spread the word!

You can also follow the movie on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @twinsburgmovie

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Fostering the Twinness

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Categories Identical, Independence, Individuality, Parenting Twins, Same GenderTags 3 Comments

Full disclosure: I am a die-hard Type-A. I research, I make lists, I have a five-year-plan. True to my nature, when I was pregnant with my twin girls, I did a lot of information-gathering. This included reading up on what it is like to be a twin, what growing up as a twin entails, and watching documentaries about twins. My methods were unscientific and perhaps a little narrow in focus. I watched one particularly memorable documentary about the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, that featured the lives of a few adult twins. I was particularly horrified by a set of identical girl twins who were in their fifties, lived together, dressed alike, were incredibly co-dependent, and had no prospects for marrying, or living separate lives.

Basically, I was jolted into a paranoia that my unborn girls would become sideshow spinster sisters.

I made a silent vow that I wouldn’t ever treat my girls like twins, I’d never call them “the twins,”, never dress them alike, never give them the same bedding, nothing. They would just be two girls with the same birthday.

popsicles1We all know what happens when parents-to-be vow they will never do something, right? See, the thing is, the girls are two and a half now. I see them growing, both as individuals and as twin sisters. I have been pretty committed to fostering their independence and individuality, but I have also come to see that regardless of parenting choices, these girls have an innate, unique bond. And who, exactly, am I to tinker with that?

Sure, there’s the twin language, the monkey-see-monkey-do behaviour, the early development of interactive play between the two of them, but there’s something else. Something that can’t quite be measured, or even labelled. I see it when they spontaneously hold hands when we’re on a walk. When I check on them before I go to bed, and see them spooning in one bed. When they both draw very similar pictures on opposite ends of the table.

There is a very special connection between these two girls, more than the one they share with their other sisters, more than the one I know with my own sister. These girls have spent their days together since they were a single cell. When I think of the miracle of it all, I know I have to honour what makes them so special and celebrate it, rather than try to quash it.

I’ll just make sure they understand they will one day grow up and lead separate lives, or at the very least, in separate bedrooms.

 

SarahNSarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

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Separate Preschools – An End of Year Update

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Categories Classroom Placement, Independence, Individuality, It Gets Different, Preschoolers, Same Gender, School, Special Needs1 Comment

Preschoolbeforeandafter

Some of you might remember my post last summer about separating my twin boys for preschool, not into different classes, but into different schools. We are wrapping up the school year so I thought I would share a bullet-point list update of how the year went. One kid was done two weeks ago, the other finishes today. (Making up the snow days.)

DSC_0700

Good

  • Independence. Every discussion on separating twins in school eventually independence is cited as a main reason to separate. In our case, I didn’t feel like they were ready to be apart, and they didn’t really understand what was happening. However, it was very clear to us as parents that one was incredibly reliant on the other, to the point he would defer to his brother to answer questions about the alphabet or counting. Being in his own school, he has been able to demonstrate he can do those things on his own, without his brother.
  • New Experiences. Both boys love their teachers and have enjoyed going to school. They love telling each other about what they did today in school and they are able to share these experiences with each other.
  • Excelling in the school. Without the other to lean on, they have each grown and really prospered.
  • New friends. They have both made new friends and look forward to seeing them at school. We have set up playdates with new friends and it is nice to see them form friendships without each other. 
  • Progress. This time last year we were at such a tough place, middle-of-terrible-3’s, a kid with un-dagnosed, indeterminate delays, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. Now a year later it is so much better. We have answers, strategies and we are all working together. It’s truly amazing to see how much progress we have all made as a family.

Bad

  • Juggling two different school calendars. One kid goes four days a week, one goes two days a week, overlapping only one day, but forcing us to be two places at once. Both schools were considerate of the situation within our family and invited the other kid to class parties. It never worked out though, it seemed whenever the parties were scheduled, one or the other was sick, or the other was in class that day in the other school. Both schools had a policy of no siblings on field trips, but requested parents to accompany their kids. Every field trip except one we couldn’t go because the trips, of course, fell of a day the other was NOT in school. 
  • Dependence. My boys are very close and play well together (most of the time.) They have active imaginations and finish each other’s thoughts. They devise games and scenarios and have similar interests. We have a playgroup we have played with since the boys were babies, comprised of other twin families, and whom my kids play with really well. It was surprising to read in a progress report that one of my sons did not have any friends, did not play with any other children and did not seem to socialize with anyone other than the adults in the room. Considering how social he is at home and with his playgroup friends, this was unexpected. He has since made a couple friends and seeks them out occasionally, but without the companionship of his brother it seems like he is less confident in making friends.
  • Emotions trauma and drama. The first weeks were really hard. Tears, tantrums, acting out, you name it. Same thing happened after Christmas break and the first few days of spring break after they’ve been together 24/7 again. We’ve also seen a lot of jealousy when one kid has something fun at school like a field trip or pajama day. One kid would have a bring-your-favorite-toy day and the other would want to bring one too. I was always writing notes explained weird outfits or things in backpacks. 
  • The Twin Thing. When we have been invited to parties or playdates, I am not really sure how to include/not exclude the other kid. I have been “that Mom” who invited her other kid to a playdate because I didn’t want to have one miss it because he has a twin brother. At age 4, playdates are still a Mom-goes-too event and as far as I am concerned these two are a package deal for now. Eventually they can have their own social calendars, but for now where one goes we all go.

Ugly

  • Germs. Lots of them. One preschool class is a pertidish of plagues, two was ridiculous. We just got through the longest, crummiest winter in Chicago in a century so we were inside, a lot. And with two classes full of oozing, snotty, sneezy preschoolers exposing our family to bug after bug, we pretty much had something or another in an endless cycle the past seven months. We had so much plague at our house, it was gross. Pink eye, tummy bugs, endless coughs, colds, fevers, snot. Yuck.
  • Uncertainty. We had to wait until May for the IEP meeting to find out whether my one son would continue in the early childhood program. Truthfully I wasn’t sure he would, he’s done so well meeting his goals. So we had to enroll him in the other school with his brother so we could save two spots in one class. At the meeting we were told he would definitely be going back next year, that he still has ground to cover before he’s ready to start Kindergarten. Due to their November birthday, they will be almost-6 when they start Kindergarten and have another whole year of preschool where they will be 5 most of the year. After this year of preschool, though, it is uncertain what will happen next. Whether they will be back together, separate classes, separate schools, separate grade levels. 

 

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 4-year-old twin boys who just finished up a year of preschool, separated and on their own. They all survived and thrived.  Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

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Toddler Thursday: Weaning Myself from the Stroller

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Categories Going out, Independence, Parenting, Shopping, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers6 Comments

Once our twin girls were a few months old and the pediatrician released us from house arrest, I quickly learned to get out and about with them in tow. The first few trips were a bit nerve-wracking, but once I got the swing of things, I would go anywhere and everywhere with my babies safely tucked inside our double stroller.

My trusty double stroller was like my best friend, always by my side. It allowed me the freedom to be out and about, mostly hands-free. I could run virtually any errand, and my girls loved seeing the sights all around town.

At some point after the girls turned one, though, I started to think about Life After Stroller. I would see other mamas with one toddler, ambling adorably along beside them. Were my girls missing out, constrained by their five-point harnesses?

It took a lot of courage, but – when the girls were 18 months old – I finally worked myself up to try a [very limited] outing with them…sans my BFF the stroller.

I wanted to buy a loaf of bread at the local bakery. I planned our trip when it wouldn’t be crowded, and when the girls were in an amicable mood. I can still remember the drum of my blood pressure as we made our way across the parking lot, hand in hand. I had prepared ahead, bringing a reusable shopping bag to put the bread in, knowing I wouldn’t have a spare hand to carry it. I had only my credit card in my back pocket. I just had to turn one of the girls’ hands loose long enough to hand over my credit card and stick the bread in the bag. It wasn’t our usual relaxing trip to the bakery…but we did it!

Over the course of the next year, I gradually worked up to the retirement of our double stroller. It was a bittersweet farewell to my former BFF, but being able to walk hand-in-hand with my girlies was a great reward. Here’s what worked for us…

1) Practice. Hubby helped me practice being out and about with the girls. We would go to the mall or to the park and walk, hand in hand. At first I wasn’t up to a larger trip by myself without the stroller, but I think that practice helped the girls learn to walk in public. After a while, the girls and I would practice walking, just the three of us, usually in our neighborhood.

Picture1
Practicing with Daddy…coffee shop, here we come!

2) Have an exit strategy. The girls knew that walking “like big girls” was a privilege. They also knew that if they didn’t respect that privilege, Mommy kept the stroller in the car. It only had to happen once that we left our shopping cart at the customer service desk and returned to the car to get the stroller.

3) Enlist their help. Eventually I could offer the girls a little more freedom. Having them “help” me in the store was always a huge motivator. Sometimes they would carry a hand basket to hold small items. Other times they would help me push the cart. Or I would give each of them a particular item to be “responsible” for…Baby A would be fixated on holding the tea bags, and Baby B had a death grip on the bag of salad. It makes the errand a learning experience, too, and can be a lot of fun for everyone.

4) Employ the “one finger” rule. Kids like to look with their hands, and I don’t find it realistic to expect them to keep their hands to themselves at all times. If they absolutely must touch something, my girls are allowed to use “one finger”. There’s limited damage they can do [in most circumstances] with “one finger”, and it satiates their need to reach. Too, the times when they must keep their hands to themselves – like in an area with breakable items – I am able to limit my “HANDS OFF” mandate to when it really matters.

5) Have a few tricks up your sleeve. For downtime – waiting in the check-out line, for example – I used a couple of techniques to keep the girls engaged. Our girls loved shirts and pants with pockets. While I unloaded the grocery cart, I might tell them, “Put your hands in your pockets,” and they would focus on that long enough for me to complete my task. In other situations – like in public restrooms – I would ask the girls to find their very favorite square (tile) and stand on it…or challenge them to see how many squares their feet could occupy at one time. (At age five, they still love that game.) And if we have to wait in line at the bank, even today I quiz them on baby sign language. They get focused on the task at hand, and they forget they’re being good!

My girls are now five. Things don’t always go perfectly when we’re out and about…they still try to push buttons now and again…but they are largely very well-behaved. To those of you in the midst of toddlerdom, hang in there! This is one area that I can confidently say does get easier with age.

For those of you with older children, what are your tips and tricks to maintaining your sanity with multiple littles in tow?

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls. She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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