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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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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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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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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Twin Mother Vocabulary

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Categories Birth Order, Parenting Twins, Perspective3 Comments

My only children are identical twins. My entire experience of motherhood has been filtered through the lens of the monozygotic twin experience. I’ve noticed that my twin perspective has had an interesting effect on my mommy vocabulary. There are phrases that other parents use without even thinking about them that I use differently because of our family’s very special dynamic.

It vs. They

When I was first pregnant, I once made the mistake of referring to the growing life inside me as “the embryo”. My (now ex) husband was appalled and insisted that I should refer to our little one as “the baby”. Of course, we didn’t know until 17 weeks into the pregnancy that we were having girls, and I was worried about offending my husband by referring to the baby as “it”. As soon as we learned we were expecting twins at 7 weeks, that eliminated the issue altogether, since I could just use the pronoun “they”.

A funny thing is that I find myself referring to friends’ singletons in the womb as “they”, even after the gender is known. It’s not that I don’t know that they’re having one baby. It’s just that “they” feels like the right pronoun for any person while still in the womb. My friend Julie and I were close throughout my pregnancy, and she said that she found herself referring to her son as “they” in utero. She credits me with that particular quirk.

My daughters have much in common, but many, many differences in personality, preference, and strengths. Still, I often find myself referring to them as “they” and comparing and contrasting them. Talking to their teacher about one child, I found myself including tidbits about the other. I think it’s that I’ve trained myself to be fair to the point of not wanting to devote more sentences to one twin than her sister.

Water(s) Breaking

Mothers of twins mostly share the same parent vocabulary as other parents, but there are some surprising differences in the twin mother vocabulary.Right until I went into labour, I thought of water breaking as something that happened to the mother. “My water broke” says many the American mother when narrating her birth story, or “the midwife stripped my membranes”. In the UK, it’s “my waters broke”.

My daughters’ birth (more on “birth” below) gave me an altogether new perspective. The first sign of labour was amniotic fluid leaking from me, but we would soon learn that it was only Twin A’s inner sac that had ruptured with the twins’ shared outer sac. In fact, Twin B was born en caul, or with her amniotic sac entirely intact.

When I tell my birth story, it’s not “my water” that broke, but rather my child’s. When I hear others tell of the births they’ve experienced or witnessed, I flip the metaphor in my mind to make the membrane belong to the newborn, not the mother. This is certainly because of the very unusual birth circumstances the three of us shared. Neither girl ever tires of hearing how she and her sister was born, and even had me tell their birth story to the school principal’s daughter, so now says, “Good story!” to me every time she sees me darkening the school halls.

Firstborn/Older

I think of both my girls as laying equal claim to the title of Firstborn. The way I see it, they came to be in the same miracle of conception and were, for some period of time, a single body. Sure, one exited by C-section two minutes before the other, but I don’t see that as making her older. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I’d had the vaginal birth I’d hoped for. I know that for most parents, the idea of an older and younger sibling is the most natural one in the world, but I cringe when the world applies that concept to my girls. One of my daughters agrees with my worldview on this point, while the other does not.

Birth(s)

I find myself going back and forth between referring to my daughters’ birth(s) as singular—”their birth”—or plural—”their births”. They share a birthday, of course, and parts of a birth story, a womb, DNA, and so much more, but they are altogether different people. They touch the world in different ways. When I focus on my experience of their birth, is feels like a singular event. When I look at the results of that experience, these two vibrant light beams of people, I can’t help but think of the two girls’ birth as being separate events. My mind can’t contain the concept of so much wonder coming from a single birth, and I find myself calling it “their births”.

To my daughters, it’s all so simple. They were born together. Whenever they talk about, it’s “our birth”. Nine years afterward, though, I still can’t quite believe what our bodies did.

Do you find simple concepts to be complicated by the multiples experience? Or am I alone in overthinking my twin mother vocabulary?

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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 Judgment and Me Time

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Categories Diversity, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Multiple Solutions, Other people, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.

“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.

Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.

SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.

Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told  she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.

Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.

As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.

MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”.  The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children.  She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.

Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!

Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.

People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!

During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them. 

Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.

We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Me Time in the Morning

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Categories Balance, Divorce, Feeling Overwhelmed, Making Time for Me, Mental Health, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, Single Parenting, Theme Week, Time Management2 Comments

Yep, I’m one of those people. I love mornings. I love the calm anticipation that it often holds, and I love the feeling of getting a head start on my day before everyone else. I know that mornings have fallen out of favor with a lot of people recently, but I’m here to tell you about some of the reasons I get up early to have some time to myself every day.

Waking before your kids may be the way to find time for yourself.

First a little background: I’m a single mother with twin girls who are currently 3.5 years old. I am a full time music teacher in a public school and also run my own online business. I am also an introvert and a homebody. Because of all of these factors, having some quiet time for myself is essential to my ability to function with a positive attitude each day. There are 3 reasons why I think having some “me time” each morning makes a huge difference for me: 1) my brain has time to process everything from the previous day, 2) I can think through and prepare for the upcoming day’s responsibilities, and 3) I can start the day feeling more in control.

1. My brain has time to process

I have a lot of stress in my life. I work in a Title I school with a lot of behavior problems. Communication with the girls’ father is full of conflict. My girls are both 3 years old. Did I mention I have two 3 year old’s? Often when I try to deal with problems that come up during the day before going to sleep, I don’t respond well. When I give my body rest and my brain a chance to process everything, I usually find a much better perspective or solution the next morning. Getting up early for some time to myself, rather than staying up after the girls go to bed, allows me to deal with life’s ups and downs in a healthier way.

2. I can prepare for the day ahead

I know that, in theory, this can be done at night. And if you are a night owl rather than an early bird, it is probably completely effective for you to get ready for the next day the night before. But if I try to get ready the night before, I always miss something. My brain and body are shut down by the time I get the girls in bed- there is no organized or logical thinking happening! By getting up early enough, I have time to think through my responsibilities for the day and make sure I am ready before the girls wake up. For me at least, even when I am able to effectively prepare the night before, I find that I don’t remember everything I had set up by the next morning. Doing everything that morning gives me a better chance of remembering what I had planned the rest of the day.

3. I feel more in control

There’s something about setting an alarm, and waking up when it goes off, that makes me feel more successful. Maybe just that small success of getting out of bed while others are still sleeping is enough to make me feel like I am capable of following through on my decisions. Having time to sit with a cup of coffee, reflect on the previous day and the day ahead, and calmly prepare for the day helps me to feel like I am in control of my life and that I am equipped to deal with whatever challenges may come my way.

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you take time for yourself in the mornings? I really believe that taking that time, even when I would rather sleep in sometimes, makes a big difference in my ability to handle everything life throws my way. What do your mornings look like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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TV is a Tool

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, How Do The Moms Do It, It Gets Different, Making Time for Me, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, SAHM, School-Age, ToddlersTags Leave a comment

I learned a long time ago that I was a much better parent before I actually had kids. I thought picky eaters were the result of indulgent parents. (Guess what! I introduced my duo to the same foods at the same time off the same spoon and one only eats things that are beige and crunchy. He came like that, I didn’t do that to him.) I also thought my kids wouldn’t watch a lot of TV. That one makes me laugh now!

While we are at it, I also sort of thought I would have ONE baby at a time and well, that didn’t happen either.

I am not ashamed to admit thatI use TV as a tool to give myself a break and distract my kids from mayhem. I have been home with them since they were one, and with no family nearby and no babysitters to speak of, I rarely had any time for a break. Not long before my boys turned three I started trying to work from home. I had a small Etsy shop and did custom sewing. I enjoyed the quiet time while they slept and the creative outlet helped me refresh. I was able to use the 2-3 hours they would nap to work on projects and promote my business online.

In contrast, while these two were awake, there was rarely a quiet moment. Here’s a small snapshot of the chaos my duo managed from a very young age. I didn’t include any of the photos where there was blood — and there was blood, more than once. Nor did I include any naked shenanigans, which was also incredibly common. You’re welcome.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me Teamwork: Trying to remove outlet covers with a pretend screwdriver, escaping through the dog door onto the concrete patio, trashing a closet, using an entire box of tissues to decorate their room, working together to escape their play area and unrolling all the toilet paper.

Remember when I said my kids weren’t going to watch a lot of TV? That didn’t last. They were nearly two before we ever turned on the TV for one single half-hour of something with educational merit each day. But then guess what? They turned 3 and all bets were off. Three, in our house at least, was the worst. Ever.

But before that, when my boys were not even two, they figured out and verbalized to me, “There is one of you and two of us and we want to do this!” when I was home alone with them. Most of every day they worked together to outsmart and out-maneuver anything I did. They overcome any childproofing efforts we made and they were giving up naps.

They gave up their nap long before I gave up their nap.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me The dresser was moved into the closet, which also had a lock, which did not dissuade them from pulling every stitch of clothing out. They also raided the fridge and the pantry, took a Sharpie to the carpet, and flushed things that should not be flushed.

When they were awake, which quickly became all the time, they were in constant seek-and-destroy mode. BUT, when the TV was on they sat, quietly and slack-jawed and provided me a brief respite. They weren’t trashing toy bins or flooding the bathroom. They weren’t trying to escape baby gates or scale cabinets. They just sat. And it was quiet.

In the beginning, we stuck mostly to educational stuff. They were picking up songs and letters, colors and numbers. And more importantly, they were giving me the break I needed to do crazy indulgent things like shower and cook meals.

At age 5, they still watch mostly stuff with educational merit, but there are more and more mindless shows thrown in there too. By age 4 they could each name 100 superheroes (give or take) and they knew all sorts of crazy phrases and giant words they probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They have picked up all sorts of cultural references and they incorporate storylines and theme music into their play.

So there’s the truth: My kids watch too much TV. Way more than they should, for sure. But it helps me get things done and it keeps them from clobbering one another or trashing our house. Judge if you want, but TV in our house keeps the peace. Now that they know how to turn on the TV and navigate around, my work is done and I can retire from Mommyhood.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
Look how sweet and well-behaved!

Allow me to share some things I have learned since becoming a Mom who uses TV for distraction to get a little time to myself. (It’s OK, I give you permission* to use TV as a tool to entertain your kids.)

  • Streaming is awesome. Get yourself Netflix or Amazon Prime or something on-demand. My kids have only ever watched on-demand shows either from Netflix or from our own personal video library, which we stream to our TV via AppleTV. They also have channels on the AppleTV you can stream if you do have cable. (We don’t. We canceled it when I was pregnant to cut our monthly bills.) Plus there is a PBS channel my kids love too.
  • Paying for a streaming service means my kids don’t watch commercials, ever. They never have to flip through channels, hoping there is something decent on. They just pick something and watch it. We stayed in a hotel recently and they were so flummoxed not being able to control what was on, but subsequently asked for every single thing each commercial endorsed. That was only about an hour’s worth. I can’t imagine living with that every day. Netflix is less than $10 a month, a fraction of the cost of cable and without the commercials.
  • Making them agree on a show and take turns picking has helped them understand sometimes you do what someone else wants. Is it always peaceful? Nope. But then, neither are kids sometimes.
  • Netflix streaming truly is unlimited. Believe me, we’ve tested it. More than once I have thought, “Gee I am glad we don’t get a monthly usage report showing we watched the same episode of Octonauts 437 times so far.”
  • Use parental controls. I mean, if you are going to plop your kids in front of a neglect-o-magic, at least be a little parental. My kids have their own profile and they are locked into ratings for 8 and under. They can’t accidentally watch Orange is the New Black.
  • Be careful trying to replace paid streaming content with YouTube. It’s crazy easy for kids to click on the next thing YouTube thinks is related and find something you’d really rather not have them seeing.
  • Not everything on TV is terrible. My kids are actually pretty smart and know a lot of things because of TV than they would be otherwise. Sometimes they will start talking about some creature they learned about and will tell me 32 facts about it and I am blown away they retained so much. They also smash things like Hulk so there’s that.
  • Try to quiz them after they’ve watching something to make sure they are actually learning. Tell me something about [whatever] that you didn’t know. It makes them recall what they learned and it creates a dialogue. Even the mindless stuff has morals sometimes. How do you think he felt when that happened? What would you do if that happened? Especially great for kids who might struggle with emotions.
  • When they were in preschool in the afternoons, we had a no-TV-before-school rule, because sometimes it is hard to turn off without a fit. We made the rule and stuck to it. It was disputed the first week or so then they accepted it. Now with them starting Kindergarten we’ve made a no-TV-on-school-days rule so they can stay focused on their schoolwork and activities. They know it’s the rule and it’s non-negotiable. (Exceptions made for sick days.)
  • We do a LOT of stuff that isn’t watching TV, I promise. They are exposed to lots of things in real life too. We try to get out of the house every day and we’ve filled the past 5 years with tons of educational and mind-broadening activities. And a lot of TV.

I know the recommendations of nearly everyone who recommends such things say kids should limit screen time, and TV is not a babysitter and it’s bad for developing brains. All of which is probably true. But in our house, my kids watching TV is essential to MY mental health.

* Permission granted in this instance has zero actual authority and is offered without guarantee or responsibility.

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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