Twinsters: A Movie Review

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Categories Adoption, Book Reviews, Identical, Multiples in the News, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Imagine that a friend sends you a Youtube link to check out. You open it only to find that it features you… except that you never did what you see in the recording. There’s someone out there who looks and moves exactly like you. Could you possibly have a long-lost twin?

This is how Anaïs learned that she might have a biological sister. Samantha was adopted from South Korea when she was and raised across the Atlantic Ocean. The story of how Anaïs and Samantha learned of each other, connected, and eventually met is shared with us in intimate documentary form in Twinsters, currently streaming on Netflix in the US.

Twinsters Movie flier. A remarkable story of identical twins separated at birth.

My 11-year-old identical twin daughters and I watched this movie together. We knew all along that the two young women would confirm through DNA testing that they were identical twins. Still, we were swept up in the suspense as they waited for answers.

As we got to know Samantha and Anaïs, one American, one French, both adopted, both artists, my daughters couldn’t help but reflect on their own relationship, a connection they hold sacred and special. In one of her frequent jaw-dropping insights, M wondered out loud whether twins raised apart might become more alike than those raised together. After all, she pointed out, they don’t have the same pressures on them to claim their unique identities. She’s well aware that both she and her sister sometimes make choices simply to be different from one another.

Although you might be tempted to head over to Netflix immediately to watch this movie with your young children, I offer a word of caution. Samantha has a foul mouth, and Anaïs’ isn’t much better. There is a lot of casual profanity in this movie, so if that is something that bothers you, save Twinsters for the grownups. My kids are mature enough to know that hearing F-bombs used by others doesn’t make using them acceptable in our family. They had already had exposure to these words at school. (In fact, the only profanity allowed in our home, by order of my daughter J, is “Brad Dingleman.” Jenny Lawson fans will get the reference.) Still, we discussed how uncomfortable her language made us feel and I reiterated that her swearing choices made it harder for us to connect with her.

Twin expert Nancy Segal, who has been kind enough to guest post for us in the past, plays a prominent role in helping Anaïs and Sam find answers. Her understanding of twin relationships, in all their guises, has literally filled books. Even more than her presence on the screen, her understanding of twin relationships and what can make them so wondrous is apparent throughout the film.

One huge thing we loved about this story is that it wasn’t just about discovering twin identity. The young women also explored their identities as adoptees, as South Korean in name only, as infants given up by a woman who still insists that they were never born to her. They reconnected with the Korean women who fostered them as infants. They don’t share a language with these women, but they do share love, compassion, and gratitude.

While not a primary focus of Twinsters, we also get some insight into how Sam and Anaïs’ families deal with the shock of discovering that they have another family member out there. Obviously, families with adopted children are already ready to open their hearts to atypical relationships. Nonetheless, my heart warmed at seeing the way in which Anaïs gained not only a sister, but all her sister’s brothers too. I can’t even imagine the feelings the parents had, realizing that there was another child out there that could have easily been theirs.

The thing about real life is that it doesn’t have neat endings. The circumstances of their birth and the reasons they were split up continue to be mysteries to Anaïs and Sam. Sam embraced the exploration of her history more easily than Anaïs, for whom adoption presented a greater trauma than it did for Sam. In each other, though, they both found healing and joy.

Take the time watch Twinsters (without the kids, please) and let us know what you think!

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(Giveaway) Honor A with The Barefoot Book of Children

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Categories Books, Giveaway, Grief, Loss, Special Needs11 Comments

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that Marissa‘s son A, an inspiration to so many, passed away yesterday. He was just a few days from his fifth birthday, which his twin brother D will celebrate alone. Help us celebrate A’s life with The Barefoot Book of Children.

Honour this little boy's memory by sharing The Barefoot Book of Children with a child in your life.

A overcame hundreds of expectations that came with a diagnosis of a chromosomal deletion, learning to walk independently and brightening the days of those who met him. He was the inspiration for his mother’s efforts to bring accessible playgrounds to Utah.

The Barefoot Book of Children is a colorful book for and about children in all their glorious variety.Marissa asks that we remember A by sharing with as many children as we can The Barefoot Book of Children. This book shows childhood in all its diversity: the able-bodied and disabled; the rich and the poor; the rainbow of shapes, sizes, cultures, languages, and everything that enriches our experience.

In A’s honour, I am giving away one copy of this book to a reader. Please enter and share this far and wide. A’s life was cut short far too early, but his footprint remains. This giveaway ends on January 16, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE 1/12/2017

Adding to this tragedy, Marissa and her family lost their home yesterday in a fire. The two surviving boys and both parents are okay. Marissa smelled the smoke and was able to get the children out in time.

However, their pets did not survive. Mementos of A—his baby things and supplies that could have blessed another special needs family—did not survive. The family cars did not survive. Marissa and David will have a lot of work ahead of them to bolster the children’s sense of safety, and all while they grieve A.

Many generous people have stepped forward to help the Christenson-Lang family. I can’t even wrap my head around so much loss being heaped on one family. You can donate financially to help them rebuild for what is left of their family at Youcaring.

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Explaining Being Black in America to Children

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Categories Diversity, Parenting, PerspectiveTags 1 Comment

Lester Davis’s 6-year-old twin boys and 4-year-old daughter had a fun opportunity: they could bring water guns to school. What’s better than a good soaking on a hot summer day? They were excited.

However, the Davis family is Black.

Lester had to have a very difficult conversation with his kids about how Black people are perceived, one he describes as a “right of passage” in many minority homes. He told them about the death of 14-year-old Tamir Rice, a child with toy who was perceived as a man with a gun. He eventually let the kids take the water guns, but these little ones are now a little more aware of how the world may some day perceive them.

This is parenting at its best.

On Parenting | Why this dad didn’t want his kids to play with water guns

A father struggles with whether to allow his three black children to take water guns to camp.

I’m not Black. While I am a minority, the worst stereotype I’ve had to deal with is “Indians are all good at math”.

I am good at math, so it doesn’t affect me personally. However, I am aware of Asian kids with dyslexia and other academic challenges whose access to services was delayed because of their teachers’ assumptions of their abilities based on their race. Even positive stereotypes can hurt.

As I was saying, I’m not Black, but my daughters and I have had the same conversation Lester had with his children. Changing attitudes, preventing the shooting of another Black 14-year-old with a toy, that falls on all of us, not just Black parents. Thank you, Lester, for giving us an example to follow.

You can find Lester’s wife, Tanika, blogging at Davis Family Chronicles.

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How to talk to kids about the Orlando shooting: 5 musts

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Categories Anger, Community, Fear, Grief, How Do The Moms Do It, Mental Health, Older Children, Parenting, Talking to Kids1 Comment

I felt like I was falling. My immediate reaction to learning of Sunday morning’s Orlando tragedy was visceral. I felt my stomach and heart drop before my brain could catch up to put words to my feelings. Grief. Anger. Fear. Above all, confusion. How could someone be so evil? Why would anyone bring a gun to a place of joy?

I quickly confirmed that everyone I knew who had even the most remote possibility of being at the scene of the massacre was safe. They were. My entire focus then turned to my daughters. How was I going to talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting?

Like so many parents, I’ve wrestled over whether to talk to my children about the horrific murders committed by a single deranged man. My daughters are 10. They interact with other children during the day. If they were going to learn about the shooting, I wanted them to learn about it from me, in a way that was honest, age appropriate, and non-sensationalist. I thought long and hard about how I would talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting specifically and mass shooting in general.

The way our morning went Monday, I only got around to talking to one kid. When I picked the kids up from camp, she was the one to encourage me to talk to her sister about the Orlando tragedy.

“Something really bad happened yesterday,” I started.

“49 dead? 53 injured?” she interrupted.

It turns out that she had read about the tragedy in Orlando on the news ticker. There was sports programming playing on TVs at the day’s field trip destination.

I wished I had spoken to her before she’d read those details, but she didn’t seem too traumatized. I got the impression that my willingness to discuss the matter did a lot to counter the children’s fear of this act of terrorism. Their confusion mirrored mine.

My willingness to discuss #Orlando with my kids did a lot to calm their fear. Click To Tweet

My daughters are as goofy and energetic as 10-year-olds come, but they are unusually mature. They, like me, feel empowered by information. You know your children better than anyone. If they are at a stage where they still think that everything that happens is because of or about them, they may be too immature to handle the news. Protect them from the television, radio, newspapers, and unthinking adults. You need to decide for your family, for each individual child, how to talk to them about the Orlando tragedy.

I knew that my daughters needed to talk this horrific event through. I explained that a very wrong man went to a place that is specifically intended to be a safe place for gay people to meet and hang out.

“That’s a great idea,” my daughter interjected. “It’s nice that there’s a place where gay people can know that all the not gay people will be nice to them.”

Obviously, my kids were already familiar with the concept of homosexuality. I told them that boys could marry boys and girls girls when they were toddlers. They’ve since noticed a number of lesbian and gay couples among my friends and met kids with two moms.

“But,” my little girl continued, “that makes the bad man even worse. Because he picked a place that’s nice to be mean.”

She was right, I told her. There were five massive ideas at play in the Orlando shooting, as I saw it. She had already identified two: terrorism and homophobia. She brought up 9/11 and we talked about the parallels between the two events for a bit.

It was then easy to segue into the religion part of the discussion. I told my daughter that a lot of people associate terrorism with Islam. A lot of our Muslim friends and family feared hatred from people who painted all Muslims with a single terrorist brush. I confessed that a small part of my choice to keep my married name after divorce was to avoid a recognizably Muslim name.

“But mostly to match us?” she asked. Yes, I mostly kept my married name to match my kids.

“But Mom,” my daughter realized out loud, “Christian people do bad things sometimes, but I’m not a bad person and I’m Christian.”

She was spot on. “What does it mean to be Christian?” I prompted. “If someone hurts a bunch of people, is that following Jesus’ example?”

“No,” she realized, “and he wasn’t very good at being Muslim either.”

Whenever I can, I let my children draw their own conclusions. I learn far more from them than they do from me.

“That’s three things, mom. You said there were five.”

The other two things were mental health and gun ownership. We have depression in the family, so we’ve talked in the past about chemical imbalances in the brain. I told my daughter that there was probably something very very wrong with the shooter’s brain for hmm to even imagine what he had done, much less follow through.

Next, we briefly touched on gun rights. Her father is a soldier, so she’s familiar with responsible gun ownership. I told her that my personal belief is that guns should be treated like cars, with training, licensing, and insurance required.

It was a great conversation, although one I wish we didn’t have occasion for.

“I understand the five things,” my thoughtful child told me, “but I still didn’t understand.”

I told her the truth. I didn’t understand either. No one would ever understand. There was nothing sensible, logical, or comprehensible about what this man had done. The families who are smaller today will never understand why their loved ones will never come home. The big question – WHY? – would always be out there confusing us all.

My daughter accepted my answer. She was old enough to get that this story wasn’t going to wrap up neatly. She asked me to spend the night in her room, because she was sad. We snuggled up in shared sadness, confusion, and complete love and trust.

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The Death of a Twin, Through the Eyes of a Child

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Categories Grief, Loss, Perspective4 Comments

It was a Christmas party, all jollity and camaraderie. I was an elementary school kid. Our parents introduced me to the pre-teen children of my father’s work friend. The boy and girl were twins, one or two years older than I. This was my first experience with multiples. At the time, I remember being confused because they were fraternal, not identical, twins. They looked more to me like “just” a brother and sister, but I was still enthralled with the idea of those two people as a unit.

We spent most of that first meeting playing with He-man action figures and other toys upstairs while the parents talked and chattered with their clinking drinks downstairs. I also remember reading some of my new friend’s Choose Your Own Adventure books. Eventually, after many rounds of snacks and drinks, and after a well-timed visit from Santa, it was time to go home.

We met once or twice again throughout the year, attending a BBQ or two with the family and hanging out poolside that summer. But it was the following annual Christmas party that I remember most vividly. I recall the twin sister falling down the long carpeted stairs of the house, while I looked on, unable to help. Amidst the confusion that followed, I learned that she was actually quite sick. She had a brain tumor that would occasionally make her dizzy, confused, and disoriented. This invisible invader had likely caused the fall.

If this one doesn't touch your heart, nothing will! Zyana reflects on how the death of a childhood friend, a twin, has shaped her perspective.

Her parents fought to save her as hard as they could, and she fought as well. I learned of their visits with countless pediatric specialists and more than a few late-night visits to pediatric urgent care centers and the E.R. In the end, she succumbed to her cancer a few months later. I wouldn’t consider us close friends of the family, but I do remember that the mother gifted me all her daughter’s books, the same ones that I has enjoyed reading the year before. I found that notion very hard to digest.

I always wondered what it was like for the remaining twin, to lose both his sister and twin, to a fatal disease for which they were unable to find a cure. I know it must have been painful for the whole family to go through, but especially hard for him. I imagine he experienced a roller coaster of emotions from guilt, to confusion to anger to sadness, and everything in between. Eventually I know that the family was able to make their peace with her death and move forward though life, but the shadow of the pain always remained.

"[#Twin loss] taught me to love my family despite their flaws." Click To Tweet

Years later, after all of us “kids” were married, I learned that the brother twin was blessed with twins of his own. That must have been an amazing full-circle moment for him. It must have brought up buried memories of grief, but the moment would also be made golden by the joy of meeting his own beautiful twin boys, whom I am happy to say are healthy and thriving today.

Parents of twins, and twins themselves, often speak about the beautiful bond that their children share. For those of us who have not yet been blessed with the experience of twins in our lives, it can be hard to understand all the challenges and celebratory moments. But whenever I see twins or triplets now, I think back to my first experience meeting this duo of real live twins. I marvel that they were around to share each other’s company and love for as long as they could.

This experience was formative for me. From a young age, it taught me to love my family despite their flaws. I learned to give extra care and love in the hardest moments. We don’t get to choose what challenges life hands us, but we do get to choose how we react to them. I now know that even in the face of the most excruciating circumstances we can always choose to respond with compassion, love, and grace.

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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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Twins and another, and another

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Categories Fear, Pregnancy, Singletons, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

I realize a post about adding to your family when you already have multiples is probably better suited for the toddler section, and not ‘Twinfant Tuesday.’ I happen to agree that, if you’re smarter than I, you would probably not even dream of adding another baby to the mix anytime after surviving the first year with twin babies. Enough’s enough, amIright?

Ah, but what good comes with predictability? As twin moms, we all learned at one point or another to just give in, surrender, let the chips fall where they may and just try our best. So, when I stood in my bathroom looking at a positive pregnancy test over lunchtime, having left my husband downstairs feeding our twin 7-month-old identical girls and older 3-year-old, I was somewhat…gobsmacked. I felt a little like an irresponsible teenager: how did this HAPPEN? I was still pumping breastmilk five, six times a day! For two babies! Who just started sleeping through the night?

The numbers continued to perplex me: Three under three, four carseats, four little bodies growing and eating from my body at once (two nurselings, a fetus and my own). I was 26 years old, scared, overwhelmed and experiencing a new level of humble pie, faced with the prospect of another baby already.

That baby is two and a half now, and from the other side of that craziness (it was, no doubt about it, a chaotic time), I have some thoughts for moms of twins who are expecting another or thinking about it.

  1. Savour it. Chances are, your twin pregnancy was coloured in themes of panic, concern, fear, amazement and a sooner-than-expected delivery. This time, if it’s just one bean in there, slow down and take it all in.
  2. The guilt is real. Twins require so much of us from the very beginning. More than we felt they ever got, and not nearly as much as they deserve. Bringing another baby into the picture can spur guilt from the onset (it did for me!). Que cera cera. Your babies will know love from you, whether there are two of them, six of them, spaced apart or all born close together.
  3. You have veteran status. You have successfully brought two babies from birth to wherever they are now, and that was no easy feat. This is just one! You can do this! What’s one baby waking up hungry? Pssht, child’s play.

I promise, you’ve got this, mama. Now, if you’re the planner type, my advice is: Don’t rush to have a baby 16 months after twins! I mean, it’s doable, but oh, I still feel that time period aged me five years.woods2

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New Year’s Resolution: Return to Balance

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Categories Balance, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Lifestyle, Time ManagementTags , 3 Comments

Happy New Year to everyone in the HDYDI community! Have you made New Year resolutions?

(Please forgive this post being one day late for the new year. I was making lunch for my girls on New Year’s Eve while working from home. The knife slipped and I ended up needed some minor sutures. The Urgent Care doc banned me from manual tasks, including typing, for a couple of days. I’m glad to report that I’m altogether free of pain now, except for the pain of embarrassment.)

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. My commitment to a two-week balance of my priorities has generally kept me in a place where I’m deeply joyful with the state of my life. I haven’t had a need to make a major life shift at my entry into the new year. Instead, I adjust as I go, regardless of the date on the calendar.

However, I started a new job in August, just as my daughters were starting fourth grade. My dear friend Jen offered to watch my girls after school. I took on the leadership of our Girl Scout troop and joined the leadership of our school district’s parent council for Gifted and Talented services. In the midst of all this change, I didn’t take the time to realign my priorities.

I finally get the point of New Year’s Resolutions. January 1 serves as a reminder to rethink the balance.

So now, here’s my newly ordered priority list. Each item on the list will need some time and focus, if not daily, at least every 2 weeks.

  1. The kids’ immediate well-being.
    • Safety.
    • Nutrition.
    • Intellectual stimulation.
    • Social stimulation.
    • Rest.
    • Play.
  2. The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
    • Routine.
    • School performance and enjoyment.
    • Spiritual nourishment and church.
    • Maintaining positive relationships.
    • Socially appropriate interactions.
  3. Friends
  4. My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
  5. My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
  6. Housekeeping and home maintenance
  7. Community leadership
    1. Girl Scouts
    2. How Do You Do It?
    3. Multiples of America
    4. Gifted and Talented council
  8. Community participation
    1. How Do You Do It?
    2. School
    3. Church
    4. Work
    5. Blogosphere
    6. Volunteering

I know this system works for me. Starting at the inception of 2016, I resolve to get back to it, with my priorities where they need to be at this moment in our family’s development. I’m going to return to balance.

What are you doing this year to reprioritize?

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How Much Should We Tell Children?

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Categories Mommy Issues, Parenting, PerspectiveTags , 32 Comments

The recent events in Paris are unthinkable. The unlivable circumstances in Syria defy reason. The devastation in Beirut is horrific. There is so much ugliness in the world.

I don’t believe in shielding my daughters completely from what goes on outside our immediate sphere, but I also think that it’s my job to mediate this knowledge and protect children’s right to feel safe.

All we parents are back in the quandary of talking to children about terrorism. There’s no one right way to approach it. I had the radio on for a little while driving, but the children were too absorbed in their books to notice what was being said. If it were a different week, I might have chosen to mention the Paris tragedy to my girls, but they’re already dealing with a challenging time within the extended family.

Tomorrow, my 9-year-olds will be back at school. All I can do is prepare myself for any questions they ask and reassure them that they are safe, that our little suburb is too unimportant to be a target, and that Daddy and his soldier friends are out there keeping us safe.

Much as I hate the apathy of the Western world toward tragedy occurring outside our borders, right now the mother in me is grateful. That very apathy is keeping my daughters from feeling that grief, anger, and fear that the Paris attacks have brought me.

Update – Monday, Nov 16

This morning, one of my girls asked me about the Paris attacks. “Mommy, there were bad guy shooters in Paris?” I told her that there were. Her sister had been entirely unaware and wanted details. I just told her that some bad guys decided that shooting a bunch of people would be a good idea, like on 9/11.

Then my first daughter asked whether it wouldn’t make sense if the news people only broadcast kid-friendly stories during the time that most children were being driven to school. I told her that it was parents’ responsibility to determine what’s appropriate for their children, not journalists’. There are plenty of stories that I choose not to let them hear, but I strike a balance between letting them know that people in the world are generally good, but that there are people who make really bad decisions. Unless we have some awareness of the suffering of others, we wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate what we have.

“That’s good, Mommy,” she told me. “That’s a good balance.”

Once again, my children clarified for me parenting decisions that I was over-thinking. Whatever I may be teaching my children, they teach me so much more.

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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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