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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Mommy Brain

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Categories Anger, Attitude, Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers7 Comments

It’s a real thing, you guys. Mommy Brain. A disease whose onset begins during pregnancy for some, sets in after the birth of a child for others, but definitely progresses with every additional child, and is most acute during those children’s toddler years. If you have multiples, your form of this disease is most likely incurable.

I’ve always considered myself a very organized, in control kind of person. All through high school and college, I’ve always had my schoolwork together: a straight-A, AP class person others would admire. After starting work, things loosened up a bit, but the house would still be clean and picked up, the bills in order and paid.

However, Mommy Brain hit when the kids came. Having the first was not so bad. I remember several times losing my phone or leaving my wallet places when distracted by having to take care of someone other than myself (I always got them back). And a couple of times of driving all the way to Costco and realizing I didn’t have my wallet with me. Things like that.

But since the twins have been born, these incidences have begun to cost me money. The most serious example: I forgot to pay our December property tax after the twins were born in late November. I remembered the day after it was due, but it was too late. The penalty was something like $350. In retrospect I should have called and pleaded “Mommy Brain.” Probably wouldn’t have worked, but it would have been worth a shot. I could have gotten a woman at the other end who had experienced this disease as well.

I also lose everything these days. I had a bunch of Thank You cards printed for Big Sis’s birthday gifts, very cute ones that had her picture on it. They were in a Costco photo envelope along with some pictures of her and her siblings from the party. I had sent most of the Thank You cards, and brought the envelope to school with the intention of giving the photos to coworkers. Just as I was getting ready to hand out these photos, the envelope was nowhere to be found. Then when a couple of late birthday gifts came, and I had to reprint new Thank You cards. Eventually I found them in a bag with other stuff I packed when cleaning out my desk at school, but too late to give out the photos, and no need for the Thank You cards now. It would have almost been better not to have found them.

I lost a $25 Target gift card too. I’d been telling myself it’s not lost, and had even been looking for it a little bit every once in a while, but by now I’ve just got to accept that it’s gone. Somewhere between my car and the Target checkout line, it disappeared. Let’s not even mention all the receipts that have vanished into thin air. Luckily, most places can now look up purchases by running the credit card I used… if I could remember which one, or whether my husband was the one who paid. Hah!

I walk into rooms without remembering why I went into them. Then I spend a minute or two wandering the house, trying to remember, before something, or more likely somekid distracts me again. The house is a mess, stacks of papers everywhere, and even with all this summer vacation time at home, there hasn’t been much I could do about it.

Most recently I forgot to pay my car registration. It was due in April, but since they send that renewal 3 months in advance, I squirreled it away somewhere and totally forgot about it until I got the delinquent bill at the end of May. By then the penalty was $174. To add insult to injury, just a couple days before my new tags arrived in the mail, I got a parking ticket for expired tags. $55.

It’s a good thing most of our bills are on autopay. I really can’t afford to have Mommy Brain anymore!

lunchldyd is a soon-to-be part time high school teacher and mother to 18mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. She is working on putting her organizational skills to use so she could avoid more financial repercussions. Perhaps a board of some sort…

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Parenting Meltdown: Know When to Seek Help

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Categories Anger, Mommy Issues, Parenting4 Comments

It was the corn dog that did me in.

The morning hadn’t started on the best note. When I woke J for school last week, I asked her if she was excited about her teacher’s plans for a day of puzzles and bubbles. She snapped at me, thinking I was asking whether it was puzzle and bubble day: “Do you even know where the paper I gave you is? If you did, you’d know!”

Parents are human too, and sometimes we need help.

I was annoyed, but didn’t rise to the bait. The children bickered all morning as we got ready for our day. I asked the girls to grab their backpacks, and we all piled into the car. I was backing out when M squealed, “My backpack!”

I pulled back into the driveway, unlocked the door and let her in. “It’s all J’s fault,” she grumbled as I opened the car door for her on her return.

Then I saw it. The 6-day-old corn dog lying on the back seat, next to M’s car seat.

“How long have I been telling you to put that disgusting corn dog on the trash?” I screamed.

Both kids began to cry and M leapt to dispose of the nasty leftovers. And I just kept yelling, all my frustration over their inability or refusal to take care of their things boiling over. I tried to drive to school, but I was so angry I had to pull over. The children were in tears as we arrived at school, and I felt horrible.

As soon as arrived home, I emailed the school counselor:

Carrie,

I hope that you’re well and looking forward to the summer.

I’m sure your hands are full this time of year, and M and J are generally doing fine. However, if you have a free moment to check in on them … or if one or both come to talk to you, I just wanted to let you know what was going on.

I lost my temper with them this morning. I realize that that’s a relatively small thing in the grand scheme, but it’s very much out of the norm for us. I haven’t been taking good enough care of myself (sleep, food, etc.) and I let myself lose control. I know that it scared both the girls.

M, in particular, has been really struggling with the end of the school year. As you probably know, she doesn’t cope well with transitions. She’s been short-tempered, easily overwhelmed, and self-pitying. I’ve been patient with her, but this morning things came to a head and I yelled at both her and J. The girls are not used to me yelling. Ever.

M’s negativity, both girls’ whining, and my struggles to get them to clean up after themselves just pushed me over the edge. (The final straw was a corn dog M left in the car that I’ve been asking her to put in the trash twice a day for 6 days, plus J being uncharacteristically combative first thing this morning.)

Thanks for all you do for all the kiddos.

I am not proud of losing my cool. Not even close. I am glad, though, that the other adults in my children’s lives provide stability and reason when I do not. I am glad that I took the time to get to know not only the children’s teachers, but the office staff, counselors and school nurse.

The counselor wrote back to me within 90 minutes:

Of course I can check on the girls! Thanks for the heads up and I hope things improve. I can also talk with them about their roles at home and things that they can do to help out, etc.

When I picked the children up that afternoon, the first thing they said was that they were sorry.

“But mom,” J said, concerned, after we had all apologized to each other, “do you really think we’re filthy?”

“Well, honey, leaving dirty socks on the floor is really gross. Plus leaving dirty dishes all over. So, yes, I do think that at times you both make filthy choices. I also need to work on being neater.”

And I need to continue to ask for help, because parents have limits too.

What pushes you over the edge? Who do you turn to?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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The Search for a New Pediatrician

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Categories Anger, Different Gender, Fraternal, Frustration, Guilt, Medical, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Parenting Twins5 Comments

A few weeks ago, I went through a semi-traumatic experience at my pediatrician’s office, one that prompted me to start searching for a new pediatrician. (Please read this letter first to get the full back story.)

I was actually very torn whether to even bring it up with the doctor, much less take the drastic step of actually switching to a different one. I don’t know why exactly, because I’m usually a very proactive and assertive person, especially when it comes to anything dealing with my kids.

I may have felt some guilt for having put my daughter in that situation in the first place. What if I had stayed with her the entire time instead of going back out to the lobby to check on my son? What if I had my husband meet me at the doctor’s earlier so he was there for the temp/weight checks? These thoughts went back and forth in my head, resulting in me sort of blaming myself for letting it happen. Yet, I couldn’t shake the upset feeling, and therefore I wrote the letter.

It was a source of anxiety for many weeks. Some fear of confrontation perhaps, or maybe just a fear of the unknown. What if I did switch doctors and it wasn’t any better at the new place, or even, it was worse?!? This is where HYDYI helped me. From the comments I got on my post, I garnered enough moral support to feel justified in what I was thinking. (Thank you!)

I rewrote the end of the letter, to strongly emphasize that I feel the conduct of his staff has become unacceptable. I demanded that I would be willing to work only with the single competent nurse/medical assistant on future visits. Then I mailed it and waited in anticipation of what would happen next.

Well, a few days later my doctor called and left me a voicemail. In it he thanked me for writing the letter and bringing the issues to his attention. He wanted to call and speak with me the next day. I was trepidatious because though the reply was prompt and the message was polite and sincere, there was no apology in his voicemail. I just had a bad feeling that a conversation with him would not turn out well.

It did not turn out well, indeed. He called at lunchtime the next day, and the conversation began nicely… but I was getting the vibe that he didn’t even have a clue who I was until almost the end of the conversation when he remembered that I was the parent with the side by side double stroller that didn’t fit in his exam room doors. He explained that his twin patients usually ride in tandem strollers, and they’re accompanied by many relatives, which I felt was his way of faulting me for the horrible visit that I had. I was getting more and more upset as the conversation continued, and he was having some trouble keeping his cool as well it seemed.

But the last straw was when he absolutely refused to ever see my twins in a joint appointment. For the first time I’ve ever heard this in the almost-year of my twins’ lives, he explained that his policy is that separate patients have separate appointments. He will not see them back to back, nor can shots be given to one after the other. Appointments are made together, but in actuality, they’re not at the same time. His rationale is that he never wants to make a mistake with a twin and give the wrong vaccinations, so wants to take his time as well as give his staff time to make sure no mistakes take place.

I could kind of understand if the patients were identical and very difficult to tell apart, but my twins are not, and his policy really applies to all sibling appointments, which makes absolutely no sense to me. Plus, really, what parent would let one child get a double dose of vaccines while the other got none? And couldn’t you easily tell which baby got shots by which one is crying hysterically and has little band-aids on the legs already anyway?

So that was it. His insinuation that I should bring a cadre of people to my kids’ appointments to help out, and that I need to buy a new stroller to accommodate his facilities, brought me to the conclusion that I never want to see him or his staff again.

On Veterans’ Day when my preschooler and I had the day off, I made an appointment with a new pediatricians’ office to meet their patient liaison. I knew the second I walked into the office that the vibe was different there. We liked it so much that I changed them to my provider that very same day. Fingers crossed that our first actual doctor’s visit will be everything I’m expecting it to be.

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Special Needs in the NICU

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Categories Anger, Congenital Anomaly, Emotion, Fear, Feeling Overwhelmed, Grief, Health, Love, Medical, Mommy Issues, NICU, Parenting, Special Needs, Theme Week, Unique needsTags , , , , , 2 Comments

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Throughout my pregnancy, I knew premature delivery was possible, perhaps even likely. I read up on prematurity and the NICU. I was on bed rest for 12 weeks, and had access to the internet, after all. I thought I knew, more or less, what to expect from a NICU stay, especially as my pregnancy stretched into that “they’ll probably be just fine” stage after the magical 28th week.

I did not know, did not even suspect, what was in store for us. It took me a very long time to grasp it. In fact, I still may not fully comprehend things.

There is a whole other side to the NICU. Not just premature babies go there. Other babies, who may have been full term, end up there for various reasons. Whether by coincidence or by design (I never quite asked), our children’s hospital had an entire room (at least one) full of these babies, and that was where my Mr. A was transferred on his 15th day of life.

On his first day, and all the days leading up to it, I had no clue. He was measuring small, but doing fine. His anatomy scan was perfect. Our first trimester screenings—while not fully reliable for twins—were perfect. What they did not detect was undetectable: a cleft soft palate, dysgenesis of the corpus callosum, malrotated intestines, tracheomalacia, and other issues that, for his privacy, will remain undiscussed. At the root, a so-tiny and yet so-significant missing chunk of DNA. We did not find all this out on the first day, first week, or even first month. And we are not alone in this.

With a typical premature baby, of course there is no set path, and no guarantee. But with a special needs baby, especially one with a rare diagnoses, there’s even less. Every exam might have another pitfall. And when your baby is early and/or very small, as our Mr. A was, that’s all there is. The bad news just keeps coming, and they can’t do anything to fix it until he is bigger, if at all.

It is frightening. It is lonely. It is so very lonely. When you converse with parents of typical preemies, they cannot understand why your baby is doing so poorly. Conversations with parents of other medically complex babies are equally challenging: you are all new to this. “Oh, your baby’s heart is a mess? My son’s is just fine, but they want to give him a tracheostomy. What do you think I should do?”

specialneedsnicu

Conversations with doctors and nurses can be equally frustrating. Most of them, I have found, do not want to hurt your feelings. They might find refuge in medical terminology, they might be evasive, they might conceal information about your child’s health because they don’t want to overwhelm you. Worst of all, they may write you off completely, believing that your child is not worthy of their time and energy. All of these happened to us during our NICU stay.

When A was born, he did not have a gag reflex. I asked the neonatologist what that might mean for him, aside from the obvious. Her reply? “Oh, some sort of midline nervous issue,” and she walked away.

The doctor who gave us A’s diagnoses refused to answer any questions, saying, “But really, who can predict. My own son has learning disabilities. You never know.” We were not asking what his grades would be in 3rd grade, we were asking “But what does all this missing DNA mean?” The information pamphlet he handed to us (upside down, slid across the counter, like some sort of dirty secret) was printed entirely out of order and contained information on every known issue with deletions on the long arm of Chromosome 2, meaning not all of it applied to our son and much of it was conflicting. There were no page numbers and the printing cut off photos and such, so we were unable to piece it together and finally found it on the internet after we’d gone home. I don’t think the printing was intentional, but I do think he did not even glance at it and did not want to tell us anything it said.

A doctor, two weeks following A’s major abdominal surgery, told me he didn’t think A would ever be on full feeds, “because of his syndrome.” When I said he had been on full feeds (by tube) prior to the operation, the doctor at first refused to believe me, and then said, “Well, sometimes kids with syndromes just get worse.” My rage following that conversation ensured that that doctor never treated my son again.

Our underlying question, that I was only ever able to voice once, was: “Is all this worth it? Am I torturing my son for no reason? Should we just let him go? What will his quality of life be? Will he ever be happy?” The doctor I asked this to simply said, “Well, will your other son ever be happy?” To have asked the question that tormented my soul and to receive such a side-step of a response silenced me. I decided right then that, unless anyone flat-out told me that A was going to die, he would not die. He would be happy and just fine, thank you. (While it turns out that this is more or less the case, I was extremely angry to discover, by reading his medical records and asking more pointed questions of some of his doctors and therapists, now that I am in a more stable place myself, that very few people expected A to live to see his first birthday. The fact that no one, not a single person, prepared me for this is something I cannot forgive, even though it did not come to pass.)

This post is rambling. I have attempted to fix it numerous times. I simply can’t. The reality of having a child with complex medical needs in the NICU is overwhelming and, frankly, incomprehensible to live, and it appears that writing about it is the same.

The second piece of this all is the second baby. I was dealing with this and another newborn. At first, I could not distinguish things in my mind. That doctors seemed so fearful and pessimistic about A led me to feel that both my boys were at risk. No one ever called D a “feeder/grower”, no one ever said, “This little man will be just fine.” I was not well-versed enough in preemie-land to understand. Neither could eat, neither could maintain their temperatures, neither was awake for more than a few minutes at a time. I was as nervous making my post-pump midnight, 3, and 5 am calls to the NICU when asking about D as I was about A. Eventually it became clear to me that D was doing well and would be coming home soon. I did not realize how long of a road A had ahead of him (as their birth hospital, despite having a Level III NICU, could not do the imaging tests we needed, much less the surgeries). I’m glad of that. It allowed me to feel joy at D’s gains as well as A’s much smaller ones. I did feel a fundamental sense of wrongness when we took D home, leaving A there by himself…but I’d felt the same way upon my own discharge, leaving both my boys behind.

A was transferred the day after D came home. They’d kept him there as a kindness to us, but also because, really, nothing was so urgent that anyone would risk doing anything to such a small and fragile baby. He would have been doing the same things—trying to get bigger and stronger in order to face the upcoming challenges—at the children’s hospital, so there was no need to move him. But with one baby at home and one baby in a further (though still relatively close) NICU, life became even more complicated. D could not visit A. No baby can ever go back to the NICU (at least at our hospital) once they’ve left, because the risk of their “outside germs” infecting the delicate babies in the NICU is simply too great. I understand that. But it meant that, not only were my heart, body, and milk-containing breasts torn into two locations, I had to find babysitters. My husband needed to save his FML time for surgeries, scary times, and A’s homecoming. (We did not save nearly enough, but we did not know.) I had to leave D with my mother or grandmother, and A with his nurses. It was awful. It was exhausting. Pumping every 3 hours for A, who could not eat, and trying to establish breastfeeding with D (which I could not fully do until A came home), etc.

D came home when they were 14 days old. A came home on April Fool’s Day, after several false starts that made us unable to believe he was coming home until we were in the car. That was their 62nd day of life. 48 days apart. 48 days of driving from one place to another, always missing one baby, always feeling like I was failing both. I was so glad to close the door on that.

Of course, the other thing about a child like A is, that door never closes (until it is slammed shut for good, which is too horrifying to think about). I did not know it at the time, but ten days later, A would be back in intensive care. But it would be the PICU, then and again and again and again. Our NICU journey, at least, was behind us.

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NICU Names: Guilt, Anger, Sorrow

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Categories Anger, Emotion, Fear, Frustration, Grief, Guilt, Mommy Issues, NICU, Parenting, Prematurity, Theme WeekTags , , , , 4 Comments

Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Aside from the times I truly feared for the health, happiness, and life of my babies, one particular thing stand out when I think back on how very emotional the NICU can be: my children’s names.

My husband and I had given so much thought to their names. We’d discovered they were both boys when I was 18 weeks along, and had full names picked out for them by before I was 20 weeks. We always referred to them by name from then on, never as Baby A or Baby B. We chose names that were very different but harmonized well. It was important for us that their names not reflect their status as twins: we very much wanted them to feel like they had individual worth from before they were born. (This is a personal thing, I know, and I am not disparaging how others name their multiples; I am simply stating how things were for us.) Even before they were born, we felt that they (particularly our Mr. A) fit perfectly with their names.

One other thing of note: I kept my maiden name. We discussed what to do with the boys’ surname—mine, his, hyphenate, combine, make up an entirely new one—and eventually decided to give them my husband’s last name. We both like the name, and as my husband is both adopted and an only son, we thought it might matter to their paternal grandparents.

When they were born, the boys were on record as MyLastName,MyFirstNameBBA (for Baby Boy A) and MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBB. And they kept those names. And kept and kept and kept those names. The nurses made nametags with their given names and placed them on their warmers, but everything else was MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA/B.

namesThe names on their ankle bands. The names on my wrist bands. The names we had to give when calling to ask for updates. The names we had to state at the intercom to be admitted to the NICU. The names we had to sign in under to visit them. The names on the whiteboard. The names on the labels I stuck to each bottle of expressed breast milk. The names on the records—with a huge red NAME ALERT marked, to remind doctors and nurses that there was another patient with an extremely similar name, and so meds and procedures must be very carefully checked to ensure that they had the correct patient. The names printed out on the instructions and med dosages for Code Blues taped on their warmers. The names the doctors used at rounds.

I hated it. I cannot even begin to describe the feelings of anger, sorrow, and helplessness I felt about their NICU names. Not a single part of those names were actually my sons’ names. At heart, I felt like I was not their mother; that they had been stolen from me and renamed what the hospital thought was best. I knew my boys needed to be in the NICU, and I accepted that. But it was hard, so very hard, to not feel like their mommy. I didn’t change their first diapers or put on their first outfits (which came later). I wasn’t the one who decided what and when and how much to feed them. I couldn’t even hold them without permission (although that quickly ceased to be the case with Mr. D). And they didn’t get their real names, their true names, the names we had loved and loved them with, until they came home. Even when Mr. A was transferred from his birth hospital to the children’s hospital, he was admitted as MyLastName,MyFirstName,BBA. I raged and pleaded, but “nothing could be done”. A simple matter of hospital protocol meant that my sons had been robbed of their identity.

I realize this is not rational. I even realized it at the time, despite being overwhelmed with postpartum hormone shifts and scary diagnoses and not being able to watch my sons breathe as I fell asleep. I think I channeled most of my grief at the whole situation onto the issue of their names. But recognizing this intellectually is not at all the same as feeling it emotionally. And emotionally, I felt like their names had been stolen from me, along with all those precious newborn moments I missed, shared with strangers, or experienced in a setting that made the whole thing feel incongruous. My babies were simply not my own: they were shared with a very large staff of doctors, techs, and nurses (some of whom I never met or only briefly met) and all the love in the world could not change that. And their names reflected that. It hurt, and even now, a year and a half later, I am not “over” it. I don’t think I ever will be. I don’t see how one ever could be.

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Conflict Resolution

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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.

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My First Racist Comment?

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Categories Anger, Perspective, RevulsionTags 6 Comments

Today has been a comedy of errors. The kids’ school is closed for Columbus Day, so I figured they’d attend the full-day program they usually go to for school closures. We showed up at the school that hosted this program last year, and there was no one there. We went to the main YMCA office, and they said they knew nothing. I was on my way out the door when the woman I’d spoken to called me back, saying that they had a $5-an-hour program after all, but on-site at the main location, not out at a school. I enrolled the kids and paid. When I walked them over to the childcare location, the person there told me that the full-day program was only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I just handed her my receipt and asked her to arrange for reimbursement. I’d rather conserve my energy for my kids than spend it on bureaucracy. I called into work and let them know I wouldn’t be coming in.

The girls and I had a nice morning. It’s a rare rainy day in Texas, and we’re happy for our yard and the relief from our ongoing drought. The kids helped me cook oatmeal with raisins, apples and brown sugar for morning snack. We went to the local optician to have the broken nose piece on my glasses fixed. I managed to talk my 7-year-old twin girls, M and J, into trying an Indian restaurant for lunch. Misses Picky and Pickier (J and M, respectively) enjoyed their meals, which was a pleasant surprise after all the years of their rejecting all efforts on my part to introduce them to Bangladeshi cuisine.

While I was paying for our meal, I noticed a couple of women at a nearby table eating with a brood of kids. Included among the children were two infants who looked around the same age. I smiled at them and asked if the kids were twins, quickly adding that mine were, so I have a tendency to think I see twins everywhere. They said they weren’t, and I smiled and waved.

whaI quickly lost my smile when their friend, who had just emerged from the bathroom, grinned at me and said, “I guess all we white people look the same to you.”

I recognize that people unfamiliar with twins often have an unexamined assumptions that all twins are identical, so perhaps she thought I thought the babies looked alike. Really, though, I just noticed the babies’ ages. I’ve been known to ask if kids who look to be of different races are twins; after all, I have multi-racial children and know that the same two parents can have very different-looking kids.

MSJI’ve never encountered racism in the US. Never. I’ve been known to joke that people assume that I’m good at math because I’m “Indian” (actually, Bangladeshi), and that I am, in fact, good at math. In all seriousness, though, I really haven’t encountered racism beyond people mistaking me for my kids’ nanny since we don’t look to be the same race.

I was a South Asian in an Indian restaurant. Maybe I’ve avoided racially-tinged comments by avoiding being in “Indian” contexts. Perhaps this wasn’t a racist comment, as the woman insisted was true after I called her on it. Maybe she was “just jokey.” Perhaps I overreacted.

I went out to the car, buckled the girls in, and waited for them to get engrossed in their books because I allowed myself to cry. I guess there’s one good thing about the complete oblivion that overcomes J and M when they’re reading.

So, did I overreact? Is there a non-racist interpretation of this woman’s comment that I’m missing?

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 was born and raised in the UK for her first 8 years, spent another decade of her childhood in Bangladesh, and moved to the US at age 18. She became a US citizen last month. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Dear Pediatrician

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Categories Anger, Ask the Readers, Attitude, Different Gender, Fraternal, Frustration, Infants, Medical, Mommy Issues, Parenting7 Comments

I wanted to let you know that I was very dissatisfied, and actually quite upset at one point during my recent visit to your office.

I’ve always appreciated your straight-forward no-nonsense style, but since our twins have been born, the quality of your staff is becoming unacceptable. They have been inexperienced, disorganized, and in my opinion, unqualified to work with young children.

At one of our babies’ first appointments in your office, a nurse wrote the wrong name on one of my twins’ vaccination cards and decided to shred it without my permission. I was close to tears when I found this out. It takes just a little more attention to differentiate my babies. They’re not even identical, in fact of opposite genders, but I get asked every single time which baby is which, often incorrectly.

Every visit takes longer than it should. I don’t expect having two babies’ visit to be the same duration as one child, but it should take less time than two separate appointments. Their measurements, exams, and vaccinations can all be given back-to-back. Some acknowledgement and understanding could be made by your staff for double cranky babies who are waiting up to 15 minutes between each of these steps.

During this most recent visit, your staff was unable to tell me what to do with my twins or my stroller. We were in the hallway, obstructing traffic, until I decided to take the stroller back out to the waiting room. No one offered to help with the babies, so I was taking one after the other into the exam room by myself, first for temp/weight checks, then for your physical exam. This is obviously the most inefficient way to set up a twin appointment. There was a point when I was caring for my son in the hallway that the nurse left my daughter on the scale, at counter height, alone. I wasn’t alerted of this until she cried. She could easily have fallen.

Though I like you as our doctor, I believe the lack of competent trained staff is hurting your practice. If conditions aren’t different at our next visit, I may have no choice but to consider looking for a new pediatrician.

—————————

I haven’t sent this letter yet, though I’m obviously irate, because I haven’t decided whether I should. I’m afraid conditions are the same at every pediatricians’ office, and what I know is better than what I don’t, I suppose. I’m also afraid of some sort of retribution. What do you all think? Is this experience common? Is it a twin thing?

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The 7-Year-Old Tantrum

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Categories Anger, Behavior, Discipline, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, How Do The Moms Do It, Parenting, School-Age, Talking to KidsTags 2 Comments

I’ve said before that parenting gets both easier and harder as our children get older.

Things get physically easier. Just think how much time you get back when your children become capable of wiping their own behinds!

My 7-year-olds can shampoo their own hair and M is starting to want to dry herself after her bath! If they hate the meal I’ve prepared, they can fix themselves something to eat. I can even stay in bed when they’re awake because they’re fully capable of pouring a bowl of cereal. I spent 4 hours (4 hours!!!) in a rehearsal this afternoon, focused on music while my girls sat quietly-ish on the other side of the room, reading, playing on their tablets, drawing and making new friends.

Things get emotionally harder. We have to teach our kids to be okay without us there to protect them. We have to help our children learn to tackle peer pressure, perhaps even bullying. We have to advocate for them at school with their teachers and administrators. Our kids learn about injustice and hate and we must teach them to live and fight for acceptance and love. Today, J said to me, “You and Sissy have perfect eyes and I have little lines.” She’s only 7. Age 7 appears to be when girls, at least, begin to criticize their own appearance, and my heart hurts. J happens to currently have eczema under her bottom eyelids.

The constant thread through parenting, the one that doesn’t let up until many years from where I am in my parenting journey, is the quest for self-control.

A Bit of Context

M and J were given Samsung Galaxy tablets for Christmas when they were 5 years old. They’re the only grandkids on the paternal side. My ex-in-laws are actually very good about respecting our rules and expectations for the kids, but they channel all their grandparental spoiling powers into over-the-top gifts.

We don’t really watch TV at our house. We’ll watch a movie together every month or two; I’d actually been living in our new house for about 3 months when I unpacked the TV remote and realized we hadn’t noticed that it was missing. Screen time is, instead, time spent on the girls’ Galaxies or my iPad.

We have a loose policy of no screen time during the week, although I will occasionally allow J and M to use their Galaxies for research or as Spanish-English dictionaries in support of homework. On weekends, I may give them an hour or two to play games, watch movies on Netflix, or research various topics. The most recent Google search was “Is magic real?” which led them to a Youtube video of a stage performance by a magician that they thought was, “Awesome!”

Before they can have Galaxy time, I usually require that the M and J have dressed for the day, brushed their teeth and hair and eaten breakfast. I’ll also ask them to pick up around their room, help me with chores, and take care of any other responsibilities that are relevant. They are not allowed to download anything new without my permission and they need to be in a room where I am within earshot. Any inappropriate behaviour results in the immediate loss of screen privileges.

What Happened Yesterday

J and M requested Galaxy time yesterday morning after we got home from the gym. They had taken care of the basics already. I reminded them that I would be going to choir practice in the afternoon and asked if they would rather save their screen time for then, and they both elected to cash it in in the morning at home instead. I agreed.

J went over to the charger and grabbed the tablet off it. M screamed at her. “Why did you do that? Get your own Galaxy!”

J tried to explain that she’d failed to read the name on the tablet and had thought it was hers, but M was too shrill to hear her. She snatched her tablet away from J and stomped off. I considered intervening, but J seemed to have things under control.

While I was taking my post-workout shower, M came into the bathroom to ask what J’s name was in some game they both play. I told her I didn’t know. As I was drying myself off, I heard her growl something at her sister. I quickly dressed and asked M into her room for a private conversation.

Me: M, I’ve observed you talking rudely to your sister twice today, both times over your Galaxy. What’s going on?
M: I asked J what her name was! And she didn’t know! And I asked her was it XXX. And she said no! And then I asked you and you didn’t know. And then J said it was XXX. I asked her that. It was so frustrating!
Me: I understand that you were frustrated, but your tone of voice was completely inappropriate. You also got upset when she mistakenly picked up your Galaxy this morning, and weren’t very gracious about accepting her apology. She just made a mistake and thought it was hers.
M: I didn’t know that.
Me: You didn’t know that because you didn’t listen to J’s explanation.

At this point, M began to cry.

M: This is not fair! J’s getting more Galaxy time than me.
Me: I understand that you feel that this time is unfair, but we have to have this conversation because of choices you made. I need you to speak more politely. It would also help if you listened to me and sis the way you would like us to listen to you.
M: This is not fair!
Me: I agree. It’s not fair that J is getting Galaxy time right now and you’re not. You can go back to your Galaxy after we’ve discussed what’s causing you to be rude to your sister. Is something bothering you?
M: I don’t know. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. She sobbed and fell into my arms.
Me: Oh, sweetie. I can help you try to figure it out. It’s a big step for you to acknowledge that something is wrong. That’s the first step.
M: Gritting her teeth. This. Is. Not. Fair. Getting louder. I. WANT. MY. GALAXY. TIME!
Me: When you calm down, you can have Galaxy time. Screen time is a privilege and tantrum-throwing is how to lose privileges.

At this point, M went into a full 3-year-old style fit. She threw herself out of my arms onto the ground, arched her back, drummed her heels and screamed, “Not fair! Not fair!” I knew full well she wouldn’t hear anything I said, but I still told her what was going to happen so I knew I’d done my part.

Me: You can stay in your room without your Galaxy. I’m going to go to the living room with Sissy and rest my ears. If you can get control of your body while it’s still screen time, you can get it back.
M: LEAVE ME ALONE.

I picked up the tablet and took it with me as I left the room. M ran out of the room and screamed.

M: DON’T THROW MY GALAXY IN THE TRASH.

She repeated herself I don’t know how many times, while J and I ignored her. She retreated into her room. After about 5 minutes, I felt calm enough myself to dare enter the Cave of the Out-of-Control 7-Year-Old.

M: STAY OUT OF MY ROOM. YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE.
Me: Okey-doke. I love you. See you when you’re calm.

About 15 minutes later, I went into the girls’ room for a hairbrush. M had shoved her toy box against the door in an attempt to keep it shut, but I walked in anyway.

M: I told you to stay out!

I ignored her, grabbed the hairbrush, and left the room. It was another 30 minutes before she ventured out, sniffing.

M: Did you throw my Galaxy away?
Me: Of course I didn’t. I just brought it out of your room because you need to be calm to have that privilege.
M: I’m ready to calm down.
Me: Okay. Can I help you do that?
M: I need snuggles. Can I snuggle?

I held her for a while and then pointed out where her tablet was. There was only about 10 minutes of screen time left, and both girls meekly put their tablets away when I asked.

Me: M, you are within your rights to feel frustration, but the way your approached your sister was not okay. You were venting anger instead of solving a problem. And your tantrum? Completely unacceptable.
M: Everyone throws fits sometimes.
Me: I disagree.
M: Yuh-huh.

I didn’t have an immediate reaction to that, so I let it go and picked the discussion back up in the evening.

Me: I’ve been thinking about what you said about everyone throwing fits. I think everyone feels frustration and anger, but there are lots of better ways of expressing it and dealing with it.
J: Like reading a book or taking a cozy bath with good smells. She meant essential oils.
Me: Well, those are ways to calm down, but that doesn’t actually give you chance to fix the problem that’s causing anger. I think those are great ideas, but often you need to go back and deal with the problem. Do you understand? Another great way to get frustration in your body out so your brain can think well is to exercise. Run around the backyard or do some jumping jacks!
M: J shouldn’t have taken my Galaxy.
Me: How about you ask her what she was thinking?
M: What were you thinking, J?
J: I forgot to check the name. I’m sorry. I thought it was mine.
M: I’m so embarrassed. She began to cry again.
Me: I’m sorry, sweetie. I know that doesn’t feel good. Please use today as a lesson that you need to use the Golden Rule instead of assuming that people are hurting you on purpose.
M: My less time of Galaxy was fair, Mommy. I behaved terribly.
Me: I bet that was really hard to admit. I’m proud of you for recognizing what you did wrong. Next time, talk to your sister and come to me for help, okay? We’ll figure out our problems together.

What Happens Next

M obviously learned her lesson, but will that learning stick? Will J think twice the next time she feels like giving into rage? I have no idea, but I continue to hope that these discussions will trigger something in my girls to cause them to take ownership of working on self-control.

You know where I learned my self-control? It came from a deep desire to model for my children how I want them to behave. Perhaps the self-control I want for them will be out of reach until they have a reason as good as mine to learn it.

I hope I don’t just scare those of you with younger kids, but this is pretty par for the course for age 7 so far. I have no idea whether my approach will bear fruit, but I can’t really come up with any other ideas.

Is teaching self-control part of your parenting strategy? What techniques have worked for you?

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 in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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