Thoughts on the Multiples of America Convention 2014

The Multiples of America (aka NOMOTC) Convention last week was an intense experience. I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. I was inspired in my parenting, my writing, and my advocacy. Above all, I had fun. A lot of fun.

Multiples of America convention 2014

Before I Arrived

I took the entire week off work to attend. I could have easily attended Wednesday through Saturday and learned nearly as much. The first few days were purely social, filled with tours of the local sights and get-to-know-each-other activities. Pre-convention activities began on Sunday, July 20, but I didn’t show up until Monday.

I’d never really considered attending the conference before this year, although I was vaguely aware of its existence. This time it was in Austin (Texas), where I work. My children were away visiting their Dad. The timing and location just seemed right. It seemed to me that How Do You Do It? being a resource for parents of multiples, we should know a little something about this organization for parents of multiples. I encourage you to check out Multiples of America’s quarterly magazine, Notebook, filled with articles and ideas specific to parents of multiples and the clubs that support us.

I went into the convention without expectations. I’d given the schedule a once-over, but I had no idea what the participation in the various events would be. I didn’t know whether everyone would be carrying diaper bags, backpacks, or purses. I guessed that conference goers would be predominantly female, but I didn’t know. I knew a little about Multiples of America: that it maintained a registry of MoM clubs around the US and that it supports research into all things multiples. That was pretty much everything I knew Monday morning.

Multiples of America Convention 2014 registration.

The scene at registration. Photo by Hannah Day

First Impressions

As I wrote on the way back from the Hill Country tour, I was overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming everyone was. I felt that the convention was more like a family reunion than like the professional conferences I’ve attended in the past. (I work in IT.) MoMs who had been coming for years, most whose children are now adults, were there to see their friends. They were quick to open their hearts to me as a new member of the family. A few husbands tagged along, but this was definitely a women’s get-together.

I was among the youngest, if not the youngest, of the MoMs to attend the pre-convention fun. A couple of adult multiples, accompanying their mothers, were younger than I. (I’m 35, my twin daughters 8.) I suspect that this is not unusual. The pre-convention tours, while mostly not actively excluding children, were not child-friendly. My daughters would have probably loved the LBJ ranch tour, but wine tasting and the cute stores in Fredericksburg might not have been as much fun for them. I didn’t attend the Austin Sixth Street club/bar night, but that would certainly been out of the question with children in tow.

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In addition to being better kid-free, the tour prices were prohibitive. Few mothers of young children have $35-$65 to spare for each of up to 5 tours, especially after factoring in travel expenses and hotel room costs. I had a surprise windfall with which to pamper myself: when my ex-husband suddenly decided that he wanted our daughters to visit for nearly 2 months, I was able to recoup summer camp costs. Still, I didn’t stay at the hotel and didn’t have to worry about travel expenses beyond what I usually spend on my work commute.

I understand from the lovely women planning next year’s convention in Cincinnati that there will be more child-oriented activities. Still, I will have to scrimp and save to make it to that convention, and will likely have to bring my daughters if I am able to attend. Judging by the number of adult multiples I met who have been attending the Multiples of America (then NOMOTC) conventions since they were children, my girls would be welcome, loved, and plenty spoiled, even if we were limited to participation in only certain convention events.

Social Scene

I’m an extreme extrovert, so my favourite part of convention was the downtime. I loved getting to know so many lovely women on the bus to and from our tour locations, over meals at local restaurants, and over drinks in the hotel lobby.

Multiples of America 2014 Convention attendees

Heather and Anna, two of the wonderful new MoM friends I made. Photo by Hannah Day.

I have a feeling that many of these women will be friends of mine for life. I loved hearing about pairs who see each other only once a year at convention,  and who have shared hotel rooms annually for 20 years or more.

There were mixers, dances, and banquets aplenty, in addition to the downtime. I can’t remember the last time I danced so much or had so much fun doing it! I appreciated the thought that went into ensuring that some of the events seated strangers together while others, especially those later in the convention, allowed people to choose the others at their table. Door prizes and raffles provided extra encouragement to show up!

Mothers of multiples get together, mostly without the kids, at the Multiples of America Convention 2014.

There was raffle after raffle, thanks to a plethora of donations. And in the background are Janie and Corky, the very first of my new friends to take me under their wings. Photo by Hannah Day.

Getting Down to Business

The Multiples of America Convention 2014 wasn’t all fun and games, although there was plenty of that. The business at hand included voting on proposed changes to its laws, electing the next executive board, deciding on future convention locations, reviewing the budget and organization finances, and other non-profit concerns. Only delegates of Multiples of America member clubs were eligible to vote, although all convention attendees were welcome to attend the business meetings. Only existing executive board members ran for their positions, so the board was reelected by default.

The executive board appointed additional volunteers, called National Workers, to move the organization’s mission forward over the next year. I was appointed Single Parent Coordinator, and hope to use that role to advocate for outreach to single parents of multiples and military families by local parents of multiples groups around the country. I’ve already learned that one obstacle some single parents face in joining a club is the membership fee. Please be aware that many such clubs are prepared to cover membership costs for parents of multiples who can’t afford them. Don’t be afraid to ask!

I detected some severe generational tension between NOMOTC traditionalists and younger Multiples of America members. In the age of social media, clubs that meet in person can feel outmoded, and I got the impression that local clubs with younger memberships tend to feel that Multiples of America no longer adds value. I love that the organization changed its name last year to recognize the greater number of higher order multiples in the population, as well as the increased parenting role that fathers and other non-mother caregivers are taking in our world. I think there’s plenty of room for communities of all sorts, especially when our shared goal is to do the best we can for our children. Membership in multiples clubs in general has been dwindling, and I’m certain that the ease of finding community online is partly responsible. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, by any means, but there’s a place for both online and local community. I hope that the executive board hears this and acts on it. Multiples of America should be about supporting multiple birth families, not just keeping Multiples of America going.

In addition to the core business meetings of Multiples of America, the Austin Mothers of Multiples group that organized the convention allowed time for structured sharing of ideas between parents and between club representatives. There was a resource room and MoMs’ Mall with information and products available to the multiple mom, whether new, expecting, or experienced. Discussions on consignment sales and school placement were particularly active and rewarding. I can honestly say it had never occurred to me how much goes into keeping a MoM club running! Since HDYDI is an informal group funded out of my family budget, I’d never given any thought to what location-specific clubs have to do to guard against embezzlement or legal challenges that might exist to providing childcare during club meetings. I’m starting to realize how little I know!

Booths at the Multiples of America Convention 2014.

Photo by Hannah Day

I appreciated learning about the research that is underway in partnership with Multiples of America. Of particular interest was Dr. Susan Griffith’s presentation on the Post-Partum Mood Disorder study that the International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations (ICOMBO) is running. It’s not too late to participate! They need all MoMs, whether or not you’ve dealt with PPD, to fill out their survey, to get a handle on how PPD affects us after multiples births in particular.

Multiples of America has also partnered with local clubs to raise awareness of multiple births in the month of April. Who knows? Maybe HDYDI will participate in Multiple Birth Awareness Month next year!

In Short

I am so very glad I went to the Multiples of America Convention this year. I made many new friends and got some wonderful parenting insights. I’ll be writing another post on the different concerns that parents of fraternal multiples have from those of identical multiples when it comes to school and education. I came back energized to speak up for issues specific to multiples and empowered to advocate for single and military parents in my volunteer coordinator role.

Thank you to Debbie, Ada, Heather, Karen, and Elizabeth for all the work that went into putting on an extremely successful convention. And if you’re in Central Texas and looking for a photographer, Hannah Day was amazing! She managed to get all the pictures without ever seeming to be in the way.

Have you ever attended a state or national multiples convention? How does your experience compare?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced 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 is the newly minted Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America, also known as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC). She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and currently blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering as well as here at HDYDI.

Help a MoM Advocate for Twins at School

I firmly believe that school administrators mean well. They have to balance the needs of the individual child against the needs of the entire student population. Like parents, however, school administrators are sometimes wrong. They sometimes have incorrect information available to them. They sometimes lack all the information available on a topic. And yes, on occasion, they’re stuck in their opinions and not open to changing them, regardless of the evidence presented to them.

As parents, we are our children’s primary advocates. On occasion, we make mistakes, and I’d like to think that we learn from them. It’s essential to support others parents in standing up for their kids. Standing up against school administration can be particularly difficult.

We received the following heartbreaking email from reader Gayle.

I need help. My fraternal boys were separated for their 2 years of pre K. It was very hard.

One is a little more spirited and had a tougher teacher. We wanted them together, and they wanted to be together for their 2nd year of pre K but were met with resistance and told to wait for kindergarten. They could be together then.

So I swallowed that gut feeling and saw my spirited son develop a facial motor tic and now also a vocal tic.

I am seeing anxiety in him. We found out at the end of the year conference he was calling himself a bad boy and saying he was bad! That broke my heart!!! He has never said that at home.

Then they told us the boys need different Kindergarten teachers “because they have different learning styles and would respond better to different teachers”. They truly don’t know if they have the same learning style because they’ve never been given the chance to have the same teacher. I want them together so I know they have the same rules and more equal treatment. And when M feels nervous or feels he has no friends he can look over and see his brother.

I am fearful for him. The superintendent took almost a month to “review all the data and info” but yet would accept none from us.

We have a meeting to “discuss placement” – I am quite sure its not going to be to put them together. 2 other sets of twins going to Kindergarten have been allowed to be together. So why not give ours the chance? I don’t want to always wonder “what if”.

 

I’m sure that your heart hurts for this family as much as mine does. Gayle welcomes your support, suggestions, and recommendations in the comments.

I spoke to a local mother of 6, including several children with special needs, asking her advice on successfully advocating for our children in the schools. Her response? “Documentation, documentation, documentation. And never stop advocating.”

  • Get all communication from the school in writing. Print out emails and texts and keep them in one place. If you hear something that a school official is unwilling to commit to paper or an email, then you can email them saying, “I would like to confirm that when we discussed W, you said X, I said Y, and we agreed to Z.” Invite them to respond with corrections to your statement and give them a deadline by which to respond. End with, “If I don’t hear back, I’ll assume that I’ve correctly represented your position.” Copy anyone you think needs to be informed of what was discussed.
  • Commit to writing all your communication with school officials and related professionals. Document your discussions in email as described above. Also, I strongly recommend preparing for every meeting with school officials by writing down all your arguments and bringing those notes with you. It’s easy, in the heat of the moment, to forget everything you wanted to communicate. Trust me. I’ve done it.
  • Seek out support from professionals who know your children as individuals. Don’t be afraid to confer with your pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, psychologist/counselor, or even friends and family who know your children. Get them to write down their thoughts and recommendations. I know that it can feel like you’re imposing when you ask for supporting documentation from these people, but remember that your child’s wellbeing is at stake. It’s also okay to seek out a second opinion. For example, if the school speech therapist doesn’t think your child needs services, but you’re certain that she does, get an independent therapist to evaluate your child. We had to get a second opinion for my daughter M.
  • Keep copies of everything. On occasion, you’ll have to hand out copies of your documentation. Make sure you keep a copy of everything. Everything. I submitted my twins’ kindergarten year school records to their new school… and they lost them. I still don’t have copies.
  • Be aware that you may have to fight the same fight over and over. A new teacher, principal, counselor, or even school year may necessitate you making the same argument for your child all over again. I was fortunate that the second time I had to argue that my daughters be taught at their level regardless of their grade placement, I had the school counselor in our corner… and my arguments were practiced and polished.
  • Seek out existing advocacy documentation. For those of us who need to advocate for twin-specific issues, know that there are tools out there to explain the variation and commonalities of multiples’ experiences in school. At this year’s Multiples of American convention, I picked up a copy of the NOMOTC guide titled Placement of Multiple Birth Children in School. This is a resource I highly recommend, and can be purchased from Multiples of America. I am so convinced of its effectiveness in helping us advocate for our children that I will commit to lending my copy to any HDYDI reader who wishes to borrow it. I will mail my copy to you at my expense and ask you to return it to me or pass it along to the next person in line at your expense. For other issues, I recommend that you seek out organizations specific to the issue. They may have documentation available to you.
  • Seek out proponents within the system. Sometimes, having a friend within the system who knows you and your children can be the difference between smooth sailing and a fight. Be polite to everyone you meet and help our where you can. The friends you make can help you navigate school system politics.

Now, a few thoughts specific to Gayle’s very difficult situations.

  • You are not alone. We are behind you and support you in your efforts to do what’s right for your sons. We are angry and sad right with you.
  • Find out whether your state has a Twins Law. Many states and countries have laws in place that protect a parent’s right to make classroom placement decisions for their multiples.
  • You are the expert when it comes to your children. You. Not the school administration, regardless of what they think they know from the classroom or their general assumptions about twins.
  • We would recommend getting an evaluation from a child psychologist. I predict that a professional outside the school system would back you up.
  • Contact your local mothers of multiples club and find out whether there’s another mom or two who can testify to the importance of treating twin sets in a way that acknowledges each child’s needs.
  • The “different learning styles” argument has big holes in it. Any decent teacher is capable of teaching a group of children, each with his own learning style.
  • Point out, by email, that you have documentation that needs to be considered by the superintendent. If you receive no response, you can turn to local news outlets to help you put pressure on the school district.
  • Do what you can to tease apart what part of the negative experience may have come from having a poor teacher as compared to being separated.
  • Ask your boys what they want as far as classroom placement, and why.
  • If all else fails, be open to switching school districts. I bought a house that would us at the school I wanted for my girls.

What advice do you have when it comes to being an advocate for twins?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced 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 is the newly minted Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America, also known as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC). She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Awkward Conversations

All summer long, I’ve had two or three kids with me wherever I’ve gone. Big Sis is in preschool half-day mornings, but all our afternoon outings consist of myself, pushing two 20mo b/g twins in a double stroller, which their 4yo sister is skipping next to. Or, in a store, it would be the twins up front sharing the child seat (they just barely fit now), and Big Sis usually in the main basket (she prefers to ride) with my wallet/phone/keys and items to be purchased. It is clearly obvious I have three young children, and I “have my hands full,” which is usually the gist of all my conversations at the mall, store, or park.

However, we’ve also been frequenting an indoor playground about once a week. They’re wonderfully confined spaces for kids to run off their energy, safely climb to their heart’s content, play with other kids, all while Mommy gets to blissfully sit by the sidelines without having to constantly chase after them. Today, since it was so incredibly hot (over 100), I took them for the afternoon. Big Sis has always just taken off at these places without a backward glance, and now the twins are following her lead. So I struck up a conversation with a nearby mom whose baby was crawling around at lightening speed. I noticed a couple older kids flocking around her as well.

Me: “They sure get around fast once they start moving huh?”

Her: “Oh ya, she’s going everywhere.”

Me: “So these 3 are yours?”

Her: “Oh no, just the two girls. If I had three I’d kill myself.” (Some exasperated eye rolling.)

Me: (Uhhhh… Awkward chuckle.)

I found out her girls are 6 and 1. I chose not to tell her about my 4yo and 20mo and 20mo, but I’m sure eventually she figured it out, as 3 open mouths came running when I pulled out the snacks.

lunchldyd is annoyed that these kinds of conversations keep happening.

The Twin Dynamic (Spoiler: There Isn’t Just One)

My daughters were only one of four sets of twins in their grade in the school’s dual language program. Forty-nine kids. Eight twins. This meant that their teachers got some really great insights into the variation that exists in twin relationships.

We got to talking about this the other night over dinner, and I found Mrs. H’s observations to be fascinating.

The Twin Dynamic

First, some background.

Both my 8-year-olds, M and J, are excellent at math. However, M is extremely public and loud about being good at math. When she has nothing else to do, she walks around multiplying 2 and 3 digit numbers in her head and announcing her results to everyone within earshot. J just does the math she needs to do to get through her day and make her teachers proud. She’d rather read.

In a recent math/problem-solving competition, it was J who placed nationally. M did extremely well, earning a spot on the honour roll thanks to her 90th percentile score, but J got the really big deal award.

Their teacher, Mrs. H, who is also their best friend’s mother, is very sensitive to all her students’ confidence and emotional needs. So, before announcing J’s accomplishment to the class, she asked M if it would be okay to acknowledge her exceptional performance on this test. She reminded M that she was fully aware that she was the Class Mathematician and that she really does have stupendous numerical and logical abilities.

M didn’t hesitate for a moment. Of course she wanted J acknowledged. She was proud of her sister. She was prouder of her sister being one of 89 students out of 25,000 nationwide to earn a perfect score than she would have been had she achieved it herself. In fact, it was M who bragged to me (and every stranger we encountered) about her sister’s performance, not realizing I’d already heard from the teacher. I was the one point out how well M had done, and she poopooed my enthusiasm in light of J’s win.

Mrs. H observed to me that my daughters’ pride in each other, protectiveness of each other, and lack of competitiveness in academics was unique among the twin pairs under her tutelage. J and M can bicker with the best of them, but when there’s an accomplishment to be noted, there’s never any resentment. They have no sense that one sister performing better diminishes the other in any way.

Neither of them can stand to lose at board games, though. The tears that have been shed in our house over Candyland, Monopoly and Yahtzee could fill a small lake. I banned playing for points the day I introduced Scrabble.

The other girl twins, Mrs. H told me when I asked, are rather more likely to measure their academic performance against each other. They’re more likely to take differences to heart. They, too, are extremely high performers at school. Mrs. H joked that when other teachers make comments about how smart “her twins” are, it takes quite a bit of digging to figure out which pair is under discussion. All four girls have straight black hair, are half-Mexican, dress differently from their sisters, and are sweet, well-mannered, and popular on the playground. The two sets of boys were in the class at different times, so they’re a little easier to distinguish. The boys, too, are rather more competitive than my daughters.

I think it’s important to remember that multiples, as sets, are as unique as they are as individuals. My twins’ relationship doesn’t look like your twins’ relationship, and that’s good and normal. I wish more educators were like Mrs. H, recognizing that being a twin doesn’t dictate how a child interacts with the world. At least in my experience, the twin relationship enriches the individual child, rather than dictating her behaviour or limiting her options.

Stay tuned for a post next week containing our advice to a mother who is fighting for her sons’ right to be in the same classroom. I so wish they had Mrs. H as their teacher. She gets it.

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.

Fostering the Twinness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Twins vs Singletons

Having a set of b/g twins 2.5 years after their sister puts me in a position to be able to compare and contrast the experiences of having twins and having a singleton– really having twins vs having two singletons. Now that the twins are 19 months old and Big Sis is 4, I feel I’ve gotten enough under my belt to do a little analysis. (Of course, everyone’s situation will vary, and all experiences depend highly on the temperament of each child as well as the character of each household, but I do find that there are some definite differences).

The GOOD…

Developmentally, I’ve got two kids doing the same thing. They generally play the same way, eat the same things, like the same places. They are in the same age group in any classes for which I’d sign them up, and very soon they would be able to play with each other. It’s one drop off and one pick up for both kids to grandma’s, and to preschool/school later on. At least until they’re old enough to pick their own separate activities, they’d be doing most things together. Big Sis will always be 2.5 years older, which means they would rarely be doing or liking the same things.

Two kids at the same age also means they’re more or less on the same schedule. There may be days when their naps are off, or even weeks during transitions when one does something that the other doesn’t yet. But even accounting for those differences, I consider them a unit for eating and sleeping. Big Sis has a different naptime and bedtime from her siblings; and actually she doesn’t even get to nap anymore because of the scheduling difficulties, even though she really could.

It’s a given that children cost a lot, but I think twins come with some economies of scale (assuming the comparison is between twins and two singletons). I get to buy many things in bulk, and sometimes I can even get a twin discount on stuff. But having twins over singletons is more of a time saver than anything else. Making two bottles at once only takes slightly more time than making one bottle, when I change one child I usually just change the other– almost everything we do takes less time than doing them with two children of different ages.

They have each other. They get to grow up together, learn together, support each other, and never be lacking a sidekick because their twin will always be there. Older/younger siblings do a lot of things together too, but it’s just not the same, at least not until they’re adults.

And the BAD…

Double Trouble” is true! It was actually easier when they were infants, when as long as I figured out how to feed them simultaneously, they were happy. There was a rough patch getting them on the same sleep schedule, but after that it was pretty good going until they became toddlers. Now, sometimes there are just not enough hands (or eyes). Example: toddlers on the move in the park. One was making a beeline for some stairs, while the other was attempting to topple a large trash can. Big Sis required minimal supervision, as she had found some little friends to play with.

The twins are also much more aggressive than their sister ever was. They are much more vocal in what they want, and will fight, even bite each other! They egg each other on when they’re misbehaving. “Group mentality” perhaps. One climbs on top of the play kitchen, and the other will climb it too. One screams and throws food, other other ups that by tossing a sippy cup too. Alone, perhaps they would not dare. Singletons just don’t get away with as much.

Activities for twins are difficult when there is only one adult. At least at my twins’ age, everything is much easier when the ratio is 1:1, or even 2:3 when including Big Sis. One adult to a set of twin toddlers is sometimes impossible (as in the case of Parent and Me swim class), but even when possible, it can get very stressful and overwhelming (Mommy and Me classes). Even if different-aged children are in an activity together, they would not need the same kind of attention at exactly the same time.

lunchldyd is a high school teacher on summer break in the Los Angeles area. She wonders how this comparison will change as her kids get older.

Toddler Thursday: A Singleton Mom Tries to “Get” Twinniness

Consider me a convert to the twin mystique.

As a singleton myself, I’m often baffled by my twins’ relationship with each other. Honestly, I’ve wondered if being a twin is somewhat of a detriment – the sharing, the constant presence, the neighbor that calls them both by one composite name – and I’ve downplayed their twinship in order to honor them as individuals. I’ve always been wary of the super secret wonder twins bond that I’d heard so much about but hadn’t seen up close.

RebeccaD sees the twin relationship bloom between her toddlers, but can't fully understand it. She's not a twin.

As my boys grow in toddlerhood, their twinniness is coming out full force. I’m now convinced that there is something between them that makes their experience of the world very different than a singleton’s. I often have to check my own singleton perspective and accept a new way of seeing things.

I wouldn’t say that my boys have a secret language, per se. But they practice a word between themselves for a long time before I can understand what they mean. For example, about a month ago, they were saying something that sounded like “Annie.” They would trade the sound back and forth all the time. Finally, through my careful deduction and their increased skill, I realized they were saying “I need.” Currently they tell each other something that sounds like “mo-nay” (Mayonnaise? Money? Monet?) – I have no idea what that means. But I bet it will become clear pretty soon. Meanwhile, they look at me like, “Why aren’t you getting this?!”

Now that I let the boys pick out their own clothes (mostly), I’ve discovered that they prefer to match. I feel kind of embarrassed, being “that mom” with her matching twins, especially since I rarely dressed them matching as infants and they don’t look much alike. From my singleton perspective, I expect them to make choices based on individual preferences. But for my little twins, the only thing better than wearing your favorite shirt is your brother is wearing it too! One twin’s joy is incomplete without his brother’s joy.

The boys also have their own complex system of economics. M drinks so much smoothie at a sitting that I decided to get him a bigger thermos because I’m tired of constantly refilling (after he throws it across the room in frustration). Typically, R barely drinks half of his smoothie. My singleton brain thinks, ‘M needs something, I will give it to him.’ Well, it was a big flop. R instantly laid claim to the thermos, the way he does with anything new, and M acted terrified of the thing. He actually ran away when I tried to give it to him. After some deep breathing to quell my exasperation, I realized my error. I should have given it to R. He would have tried it out and realized he didn’t want it; M would have seen that R had it and therefore would have wanted it. Such a maze, but so normal to them.

My singleton brain also works against me when one of my boys is injured. Tonight, M fell off the bathroom stool and hit his head (many tears and a goose egg, but he’s fine). R was very concerned and reached out to hug and pat his brother. When M calmed down somewhat, R skipped off to another activity. But when M started crying again, R was right back at my side, trying to take M’s blanket, begging me to hold him. Again, I was so frustrated. I just wanted to cuddle and comfort my hurt little boy. But that was thinking like a singleton. I finally realized I had two hurt boys. Where there is shared pain, there must be shared comfort.

I try hard to treat my twins as individuals – we do one-on-one time occasionally, they often choose to play separately, and they are both hitting social milestones in their own ways. But truly, their dynamic is a entity unto itself. The way we treat one twin is always affected by his brother. I’m starting to appreciate that individuality and twinship are not diametrically opposed. My boys’ powerful connection to each other is one of the most important things in their life and that’s really beautiful – something MORE than singleton, not less. I’m a lucky mom to be able to witness and support the unique way my twins love each other.

Is anyone else late to appreciate the twin connection? Are your toddlers surprising you as they choose to be more “twinny?” Twins with twin children, is it easier for you to understand your kids’ bond?

Toddler Thursday: Division of Labor

I love life with my 20-month-old twin boys, but man, they are a lot of work. There’s the cooking, feeding, cleaning cycle that never ends, as well as the getting dressed, packing up, going out cycle that only leads into the coming in, who-knows-what-happens-after-that cycle, and that’s about eight hours of your day. Not to mention all the ways curious little hands undo things you have just done and find ways to totally reconfigure an area of the house from functional to…let’s call it “experimental.” In contrast to twinfancy, when Mom the Boob was on call 24/7, toddler years are a perfect time to set up a more balanced work load between parents. My husband, a full-time teacher, and I, a SAHM (going back to teaching part time in August), are enjoying (mostly!) this special time with our young children through a healthy division of labor.

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I started making a list of my tasks and my husband’s tasks, but the totally un-even-looking columns stopped me in my tracks. I realized that the number of items isn’t as important as how much work you feel like you’re doing. A good division of labor means that both parents are happy with the arrangement.

Some Tips to Maintain a Healthy Division of Labor

  1. Let go of some control. If you want everything done YOUR way, then you have to do everything, and that’s no fun. Accept that an alternative approach is fine.
  2. Play to your strengths. Discuss the tasks that you prefer and listen to your spouse’s preferences too. It is actually more stressful for me to let go of certain tasks, like making breakfast, than it is to do them. Doing the dishes may feel like 90% effort for you, but it’s only 30% effort for your partner. A certain time of day may be a low point for you, but your spouse needs a break at another time. Feelings may change, so keep talking about what tasks take less effort for you and even which tasks you might enjoy.
  3. Be transparent in your process. Did you already pack the diaper bag? Let everyone know. Plow through the constant interruptions from the children and keep talking to each other instead of making assumptions. We’ve started saying to the boys, “Mommy and Daddy are going to talk to each other about our outing now.” Then we focus fully on our conversation for 3.5 seconds (bliss!).
  4. Recognize, state, and honor your own needs. If you don’t take care of yourself, someone else will have to, and that places a burden on your family. It’s better to say, “I need a 10 minute break,” than it is to become a weepy, angry, chaotic mess (I know from experience!). What kind of model do you want for your children – a martyr or a healthy person capable of self-care?
  5. Remember that your partner is working hard too, and therefore should get some credit for all that they do. It’s easy to see all that you are personally doing to keep the family ship afloat (and I bet it’s a lot). Some of your spouse’s daily acts may go unnoticed. Make it a point to thank each other, compliment each other, and generally acknowledge the many positive actions that are going on amongst the two of you. One word, smile, or hug goes a long way.
  6. Even if the labor is divided, it’s still a lot. There are times, especially during transitions and illness, that you and your partner will both be working to capacity. I sometimes get frustrated with my husband when I feel like I never. get. a. break. Then I pause the pity party and notice that we’re both overwhelmed (see #5.)
  7. Cut yourselves some slack. Guess what happens if the dishes don’t get done? The kids don’t eat a meal prepared from scratch? The toys don’t get picked up? Actually, nothing. Let it all slip once in a while, even if just to remember what’s really important – the people in the family. The infrastructure is just there to support them.

What does the division of labor look like in your household? How do you keep both parents from taking on too little or too much?

Twin Birthday Time

My daughters, M and J, turned 8 over the weekend. Eight. That makes me feel old. In fact, I’m focusing on my own upcoming 35th birthday to feel slightly less geriatric.

8-year-olds are intrigued by magnetism.

How did those squishy babies turn into these mature people?

A while ago, my daughters wanted to know what time they were born. Since I’d already given in and told them who was born first, I was okay with answering their questions. J was born at 6:33 am, M at 6:35. I thought that this detail would be noted in passing and filed away for another time.

Not so. My daughters both became obsessed with their birth times. My ever-precise daughter M counted down to her birthday, or rather birthminute. “I’ll be 8 in 19 days, 12 hours and 13 minutes,” she told me 22 days, 16 hours and I’m-too-lazy-to-calculate-it minutes ago.

J asked me to wake her at 6:00 on the morning of her birthday, “so I can enjoy a few more minutes of being 7.” When 6:00 am rolled around, she elected to go back to sleep, but M bounced up. She watched the clock until 6:35, then broke into a boisterous rendition of “Happy Birthday to Me”.

Twins don't get a birthday to call their own, but there's always something they can find to individualize it!

I’m so glad that we set the precedent of singing “Happy Birthday” to each child separately at their first birthday party. This year, J actively requested that she get her own “Happy Birthday”. Yes, my twins were born together, but they’re individuals. We celebrate them with a single party and, in recent years, a single cake, but they get their own song, unsullied by Sister’s name.

Being a twin is all kinds of awesome, but having to share a birthday, that milestone that is so important to children, comes with a downside. My girls, ever inventive, have used the precise times of their births to lay claim to their individuality.

Do you refer to your multiples’ birth as singular or plural? Do you say, “my twins’ birth” or “my twins’ births”? I do the latter. Sure, it was one C-section, but there were two births. It seems that the girls agree.

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.

Twins and Shared Memory

After I wrote my post on my daughter M confusing her sister’s experiences with her own, a several moms said that they’d seen similar things with their twin girls.

I tried to get an explanation of the phenomenon from my daughters, but verbal as they are, they are only 8. Their experience is the only normal they know, so they couldn’t find the words to make sense of it for me.

I approached a coworker who is an identical twin herself and asked her whether she had similar experiences. She said she did. She and her sister have shared memories in which they have no idea which sister was the subject of the memory. In fact, memories she creates now, whether or not her sister is around, are in the third person, as if she’s watching herself. Those of us who aren’t twins don’t have much experience in seeing what we look like from others’ perspectives!

I then sat down with M and apologized for being so incredulous at her confusing her sister’s activities with her own. I told her I’d spoken with my friend and thought I understood a bit better now.

“I’m disappointed in you,” she told me pointedly.
“About what part?”
“All of it,” she said, “except talking to your friend.”
“I’m sorry.”

Once again, I’m reminded that I can never fully understand The Twin Thing.

What twin experiences are a mystery to 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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.