Kids are Different – More Different When They’re Not Identical Twins

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Categories Education, Identical, Individuality, Parenting, Siblings, Talking to Kids1 Comment

“My kids are totally different,” I tell anyone who will listen.

Identical twins aren’t identical people, after all. They’re siblings who happen to have matching DNA and several months as wombmates.

One of my girls gets anxious more easily than the other. One is loving her Orff ensemble, while the other has us scheduled to attend a sculpture demonstration this weekend. One is all about T-shirts and sweatpants, while the other can spend an hour matching a new top to the perfect skirt.

In celebrating my twin daughters as individuals, I forget, sometimes, how similar they are. Their shared DNA, the shared crucible of our single parent home, and being in the same school and extracurricular programs all contribute to similar interests and abilities.

Girls Scouts: The Reality Check

I’m a Girl Scout leader. Exhausting though it is, I love it. I get to have 9 extra daughters, in addition to a supportive community of other adults who mentor girls from age 5 to 18.

5 Girl Scouts posing. Girl Scout leaders get to experience a massive variation in abilities and interests. The the identical twin kids are different!

Girl Scout meetings, field trips, and cookie sales have made me realize that my daughters are far more alike than different. While my troop runs the gamut in mathematical ability from struggling with subtraction to bored with basic algebra, my daughters are the ones who see math in everything they do. I see all sorts of behavior when the troop is together, but my girls tend to have the narrow repertoire of hard work, silliness, and sulking. My daughters are among the most extroverted in the troop. They’re also the shortest.

One of the moms in my troop is leading the Geocaching badge. I usually plan out badge work myself or help one or two of the girls come up with the plan. I thought it would be nice to share some hard-earned wisdom with the mom on her first badge-leading escapade:

Don’t assume all the girls have the same background knowledge. You may need to cover basics like “the world is a sphere” when explaining latitude and longitude.

Then I remembered that she has two kids of different ages. She deals with different levels of knowledge and ability every single day. She doesn’t need my advice on handling differences in ability. I’m the one who needed that advice, because I’m the one wearing identical twin blinders.

Would I parent differently if I had kids of different ages with a greater variety of talents and interests? I would definitely spend more time marveling at how similar my identical twin daughters really are in contrast.

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Twinspiration: Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

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Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Pregnancy, Toddlers10 Comments

When I heard that my friend Cheryl was publishing a new edition of her book Twinspiration, I was giddy at the opportunity to review it.  See, Cheryl is not (yet!) my friend in real life, but she’s become an amazing virtual friend since my twin girls were born almost eight years ago.

She’s Been an Inspiration for Years

I started following Cheryl’s blog when my girls were infants.  At the time, Cheryl’s boy/girl twins were in early elementary school, and I looked up to Cheryl as a twin mama blogger. The mix of advice and antics she wrote about gave me hope that I, too, would get through the dual dirty diapers and not-enough-hands angst that was my life at that time.

My twin girls are long past the diaper phase, and I have come to reckon with not having enough hands.  Still, I so enjoyed reading Twinspiration. Years past the infant and toddler stages, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with Cheryl, alternately chuckling, “Ain’t that the truth!” and “I sure wish I’d known this ahead of time!” and finding myself misty-eyed, remembering some of the trying times and the fleeting stages.

What’s in the Book

I thought so many, many times, “Where was this book when I was expecting my girls???”  I had several books on pregnancy, and one specifically on multiples, but nothing quite seemed to hit the spot that this book does.

Twinspiration provides a wealth of knowledge on what to expect, specific to a twin pregnancy and twin infant- and toddler-hood.  It’s written from the perspective of a MoM who’s been there, of course, but it’s not just an account of Cheryl’s personal experiences.

Certainly Cheryl writes about her dynamic duo, which grounds the book in real-life experience and practical advice.  But it’s more than that.  Cheryl shares different perspectives, too, informing the reader that things don’t always play out by the book.

There are also tidbits interspersed throughout the book from a pediatrician’s perspective.  What I love is that the book doesn’t attempt to present The Singular Answer, but rather it offers a range of possible scenarios.  As a prospective/new parent, I feel like this book would have equipped me with the knowledge to ask the right questions specific to my particular situation.  And what a treasure that would have been!

Dad’s Eye View

And as an added bonus, there are snippets of insight from Cheryl’s husband, affectionately dubbed “The Double Daddy Perspective”.  I know my husband would have appreciated hearing the spouse’s take on some of the twinfant stages.  Even now, eight years later, I had to share some of Double Daddy’s accounts with my hubby…it made for a fun conversation for us both, remembering things from Hubby’s point of view.

In Short, I Loved It

Twinspiration.  It’s engaging…it’s captivating…it’s a plethora of knowledge and experience.  And best?  It’s such a warm read, like sitting down for a cup of coffee and hearing the tales from someone who has been there…really been there…and can smile a big, warm, welcoming smile as she tells her tale.

Get Your Signed Copy

At How Do You Do It, we rarely do giveaways.  But Cheryl is one of our own. She’s such an ardent supporter of the twin community, and she’s generously offered to give away THREE SIGNED COPIES of her new book to How Do You Do It readers!!!

Are you expecting twins (or more)?  Have a friend who would appreciate the support?  Want to add a copy to your MoMs’ group library?  Or just want to reminisce about those mommy milestones?  Enter to win a copy!

To enter, simply leave a comment or a question on this blog post.  (Cheryl would love to hear from you!)  For extra entries, visit Cheryl’s Facebook page, Twinfatuation, or visit How Do You Do It’s Facebook page! If you like what you see, follow us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will run through November 16, 2016.  Please help us spread the word!

***

MandyE here.  Cheryl provided a copy of Twinspiration for me to read.  And I loved it.  The views I expressed here are my own.  I joyfully recommend Twinspiration to any of my MoM and soon-to-be MoM friends!

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Mommy Vows: Back to School Edition

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Categories Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Older Children, Parenting, School, School-Age, Time Management5 Comments

My twin girls are starting second grade this week.  On the eve of the beginning of their third school year, I realized I was giving myself a bit of a pep talk.  Having two years of school under my belt, I am going to TRY to learn from my hardships and do a few things to give myself an easier time of it.

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The first day of first grade!

1. I will carve out time over the weekend to do some food prep for the upcoming week.

While I would love to spend every ounce of the weekends hanging out with the girlies, it makes my life much simpler to put together some make-ahead recipes on Sunday.

2. I will invite the girls to help me in the kitchen when I do food prep.

I have done a pretty good job of this this summer, but it’s easy to get into “get it done” mode during the school year.  I’ll feel better about “taking away” time from the weekend for food prep if I can count it as quality time with the girls.

3. I will make lunches the night before.

I’m bad at this one.  I get so tired by the end of the day, I often wait until the morning to assemble lunches.  I’ll enjoy more of my mornings if I’m not rushing to peel cucumbers at 5:50am.

4. The girls will clean out their own backpacks each day.

We get busy in the afternoons, and I want to spend down-time with the girls as much as possible.  This often leaves the task of cleaning out the backpacks to me.  I already have an adorable in-box in place.  I’m going to try to break this habit!

5. The girls will load their backpacks for the following day (with the exception of their lunchboxes) before bedtime.

See #5.

6. I will have the girls in the car by 7:30am.

That’s actually a tiny bit more time than we need to get to school at 7:45, but that allows me to run back into the house for whatever it is I forgot that day.  (It’s seemingly inevitable, at least once a week…might as well plan for it.)

7. I will fix the coffee pot before I go to bed.

What a great treat it is to get up in the morning with just one button to press between me and that sweet elixir!

8. I will blog at least once a week.

I feel much better when I sit down, relax, and write.  It’s so easy to get out of the routine, but I feel much more like “me” when I stick to it.  I’m hopeful that I’ll have time in the mornings here and there…since I’m saving myself time on lunches and coffee prep, mornings are going to be a breeze, right???

So here’s my game plan…

A. Get Hubby’s buy-in…

…in the food department.  I don’t exactly need (or want!) his help in the kitchen most of the time, but he can help facilitate the Sunday afternoon schedule for me to do that.

…in the management of backpacks.  He’s home with the girls in the afternoon, and I’ll ask him to help reinforce our new outline.

B. Keep the girls on task with a fancy list…

…to remind them of their backpack chores each afternoon.

…to provide a checklist of their morning duties to give us the greatest chance of success for that 7:30 departure.

C. Cut myself some slack, when necessary…

…to allow for the occasional pizza night or PB&J two days in a row.  Even the best-laid plans don’t always pan out.  We will survive!

What am I missing on my list?  Any tips and tricks you Multiple Mamas can share that make your days run a little more smoothly???  

MandyE is mom to 7 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Explaining Being Black in America to Children

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Categories Diversity, Parenting, PerspectiveTags 1 Comment

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

However, the Davis family is Black.

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

This is parenting at its best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Categories Anger, Community, Fear, Grief, How Do The Moms Do It, Mental Health, Older Children, Parenting, Talking to KidsLeave a 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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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.

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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 Did I Do It?

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Categories Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayLeave a comment

My 2 sets of twins are pretty high maintenance right now. Between school, sports, homework, chores, potty training, work and family, I am stress paralyzed most of the time.

In the meantime, our office manager just had a baby. She brings him to my house everyday to work. He is a happy 3 month old that eats, sleeps and plays on a blanket on the floor. I hold and rock him while he is fussy to help out. While I was rocking him the other day I remember thinking, “how did I do this with 2?!” It seems impossibly hard.

Every time this new mom asks me a question about milestones, or a sleep schedule or what formula to use, I just shrug and answer, “It doesn’t matter. Just keep him breathing and he’ll be just fine. I had twins remember–the only goal was to make it to the end of the day.” I find myself being so jealous of this mom who gets to cuddle and rock her baby all day. I actually long for the days of sitting on the couch covered in spit up. At least then nobody can spill the crayons, or poop in their underwear.

But then this sweet baby did something that made it all okay. He started cooing. Babbling just a little bit. And I remembered. My twinfant days were more than just bottles and routines. When my girls were fussy I would put them close face to face and say, “Talk to your baby!” . They would gurgle and coo and smile at each other. It was the first indication of a lifelong bond. I would smile and tell them: “you’re lucky-not everyone comes with their own baby.”

Having twins may look different than the rest of the infant world, but as Daniel Tiger sings, “In some ways we are different, but in so many ways, we are the same.” and so I say to you who are strapped to the couch with infants: it might seem impossible and unfair some of the time. But you are just the same as any other new parent; you just have a bonus baby or two 😉

SAMSUNG

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Never Will I Ever: Toddler Thursday Edition

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Do you remember the drinking party game Never Have I Ever? I was part of a group of friends in college who loved to waste away long winter nights playing this game. It was a fun way to get to know someone you had a crush on or just learn new and interesting things about friends.  If you’ve never played let me quickly catch you up: You all sit in a circle.  The first person makes a statement beginning with “Never have I ever…” If you’ve done it you take a drink you’re out. The object isn’t necessarily to be last person standing, but rather to be the person to create the most awkward social situations.

Before I had the twins I had several very basic parenting standards.  When it was just the three bigs (that’s what I call my older three sons) it was so easy to adhere to them that I really didn’t even know I had them.  They were almost “parenting givens”.  Then Laurel and Rhodes turned two.  Now I have no standards.  Seriously.  They have won every round of “Never Will I Ever…” we have engaged in. They are masters at creating awkward social situations.  Let me show you:

Never Will I Ever buy a toddler something just to stop a tantrum.”  In December my two oldest sons needed new shoes. I hauled everyone into the shoe store and set up camp in the aisle with the “almost man” sizes.  Laurel and Rhodes were playing happily in the same aisle so I was lulled into thinking it was ok for me to look away.  Rookie mistake.  I looked up and Laurel was gone.  We split up to find her perusing the clearance racks having chosen a new pair of very sparkly, very pink, 1 size too big, hello kitty, slip on shoes for herself.  When we found her she was clutching them to her chest and had her eyes closed in reverence.  She was in love.  I admired the shoes and calmly told her that it wasn’t her turn for new shoes and we needed to put them back.  She opened one eye and stated “IS my turn. MY shoes. YOU go.” and turned her back to me.  The three bigs were standing behind me and I could hear them start backing away and begin silently putting away the shoe boxes we were done with. Rhodes summed it up with an “Uh Oh”. They knew what was brewing.  I got down on my knees and softly asked her to put the pretty shoes back.  She started shaking her head as tears were rolling down her cheeks. I asked her one more time.  After she still didn’t move to put the shoes back I reached for them.  Before I could touch them she began shrieking. It was a sound straight from Hell. It was loud, high, and unending. The screaming was so disorienting I almost couldn’t figure out what had happened.  Laurel was backing into a storage room (still clutching her precious shoes and still shrieking) and looking at me as if I was coming to eat her. I grabbed her, grabbed my purse, and called to the bigs to get their shoes and meet me at the cashier.  Sweet little Rhodes had found a display of koosh balls and was quietly rummaging through the bin (we won’t discuss why a shoe store had these for sale). As I called for him to come with us to the register he began whimpering and whining for a ball.  At this point sweat was dripping down my back and Laurel was still shrieking while I held her horizontally across both my arms.  “OK, Rhodes.  Bring a ball.  Let’s just GO!” When I finally make it to the register the cashier asks if I would like her to put the Hello Kitty shoes away.  “No, No, I wouldn’t.”     Twins: 1    Mom: 0

“Never Will I Ever have a car so dirty it’s embarrassing… or a health hazard”.   In January I decided to get a car wash.  Before pulling in I made sure to stop at a gas station and do a quick clean up so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed when dropping it off.  After choosing a wash and paying I made my way to the waiting area which happened to be right next to the vacuums. I glanced over and saw that the man who had been vacuuming my car had stopped and was now pulling on gloves. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and assumed he must have been cold.  Then I paused and looked again… he hadn’t put on leather or wool gloves.  He’d put on LATEX gloves.  That’s right.  The carwash man had been so disgusted by the state of my captain’s chairs he’d felt the need to protect himself from communicable diseases. Guess who sits in that part of my suburban? My precious goldfish crunching, apple juice swilling, milkshake spilling, tissue needing toddlers.      Twins: 2  Mom: 0

  • “Never Will I Ever feel the need to host every playdate at my house for the rest of my children’s lives.”  When the twins were infants I usually invited friends to our house for playdates because it was more convenient.  I didn’t have to haul my giant twin nursing pillow to someone’s house.  When the babies were sleepy I could put them down in their own beds.  I didn’t have to worry about putting on real clothes.  Now I usually invite friends to our house for playdates because I have more control over the environment thus reducing the potential for humiliation. After finding myself in the following scenarios I’ve learned my lesson:
  • Twin locks themselves in bathroom
  • Twin found in teen’s bedroom trying on their new lip gloss
  • Twin rummages through refrigerator and helps themselves to pre-prepared lunch
  •  Twin found in bathroom brushing teeth with husband’s toothbrush
  • Twin grabs host’s coffee and pours onto pristine white carpet

Thank goodness my friends were gracious and able to see the humor in these situations.           Twins: 376  Mom: 0

Never Did I Ever think having two toddlers would be this hard… or this funny! I am so fascinated by these two little people.  While learning how to navigate this big world they are having two totally different reactions to the very same situations.  That is bound to leave this mama in some seriously crazy circumstances!

Tell me about a situation you never thought you’d find yourself in.  Ready to play Never Will I Ever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raising Readers

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Categories Development, Developmental Geekery, Language, Toddlers2 Comments

Spending time reading to children isn’t a matter of convincing parents whether or not to raise literate children. That’s a no-brainer in North America; either be literate or be left behind in this big, fast-moving world. Fostering a love of reading, and setting the foundation for kids to easily learn to read, that‘s what’s on the table.

Love of #reading. Setting a foundation for kids to easily learn. That's what's on the table. Click To Tweet

I get it: It’s the end of the day, you’ve wrestled your multiples (and maybe their siblings) into the bath, into their jammies, teeth brushed and into their bed. Why, oh why, throw a book into the mix? Why not call it a night, tuck them in and head downstairs for some much-needed adult time?

Whether you choose to incorporate reading into bedtime routine (which is common and easy to stick to) or throughout the day, reading daily to children as early as possible has substantial benefits. Anecdotally, I have seen kids learn sight words from repetitive rhyming books (like Dr Seuss). Academically, study after study supports early reading as a pathway to early reading and writing, language development, ability to focus and self-regulation. Many hospitals send new parents home with a book for baby, pushing home the point that reading is just as important as basic necessities like diaper changes and bathing. It is!

With my twin girls, their interests differ, but they have learned to wait their turns to sit in my lap, having me read (and re-read) their favourite books. I’ve noticed they frequently choose the same five or six titles for months at a time, so while I may be mind-numbingly under-stimulated, their little brains are firing away, developing at a rapid pace with each reading.

As twins, their language development has been slow, (which is common for multiples). Daily reading, asking them open-ended questions about the story and encouraging them to finish sentences they’ve memorized has helped tremendously. It’s a calm situation, they know the story, and are eager to please me by contributing their own thoughts and words, few as they may be. As they prepare to start kindergarten later this year, I am less nervous they will be behind in their slower-paced verbal development, because I see the spark of early, voracious readers.

It’s so easy: five, 10 minutes tops. Everyone has access to books, in any social situation (go to the library, borrow books, start your own collection). There are a great many books about twins geared towards all ages, and my girls love identifying themselves in the pages of twin stories. (for a list of twin books, see a past HDYDI post here). Find books that pique their interest, make it a habit, and watch your little readers soar.

 

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Twinfant Tuesday: Distinguishing Night from Day

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Categories Overnight, Parenting, SleepTags , , Leave a comment

Switching kids from vacation to school mornings is no fun. They’re grumpy enough that vacation is over. The earlier wake up time just adds insult to injury.

The end of winter break got me thinking about sleep patterns. I worked through December, with two days off (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), but my daughters were out of school for the second half of the month. For the first time, I didn’t send them to daycare or a winter break camp. Instead, I worked from home and let the twins stay home with me.

Although I stayed on my regular work routine, my daughters stayed up later than usual and slept in. They loved having a full day for games of pretend, fort building, board games, and reading. And yes, I allowed them 2 hours of screen time per day, a quantity usually reserved for weekends.

Transitioning from an 8 am wake up time to 6 am for school wasn’t going to be fun for anyone. I did some reading on circadian rhythms and body clocks. Most of what I read, I already knew and had begun to put in place. One thing surprised me: the impact of exposure to electronic screens. More on that later.

Parents fixate on sleep. We worry about whether our children are getting enough sleep, whether the sleep is happening at the right time, and whether our children will ever again let us sleep enough to feel rested.

Parents fixate on #sleep: our kids and our own. #Babies learn to distinguish night from day. Click To Tweet

Whether or not we’re consciously aware, every parent has at least one sleep goal for their newborn: distinguishing night from day. As they grow, we want our children to develop sleep patterns that involve increasingly long stretches of sleep at night and increasing short stretches of sleep during the day.

We’re built for such sleep patterns. Our bodies produce a chemical called melatonin, and how much we produce is tied to the time of day. Melatonin levels, in turn, tell our bodies whether it is sleep time or wake time. The way that our bodies determine how much melatonin to create is strongly influenced by light exposure. It’s very logical. In the thousands of the years humans were around before the invention of the light bulb, we could rely on the timing of sunlight to regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

Consider gradually dimming lights around your little one as part of sleep training.

My daughters have a good friend who is blind. While I now allow some flexibility in my 9-year-old girls’ sleep time, their blind friend gets no such luxury. Without light input to help regulate to her body clock, she is wholly reliant on routine to keep her on the same sleep-wake schedule as her peers. Sleeping in on weekends or staying up late as a treat isn’t worth the disruption that it would cause her.

Electric lights may do something to mess with our body clocks, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start dimming lights as bedtime approaches. I babysit my friends’ 8-month-old with some regularity, and he goes down for the night easiest when I don’t turn on lights in the house as the sky darkens. He’s an active, curious little boy who tends to fight sleep, but the changes in light quality after sunset have an unmistakable effect on him.

The thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I started to research it more is that electronic screens, even those used for reading, can trick our bodies into thinking it’s still daytime as we’re trying to wind down for the night. After I read that little fact, I adjusted our “Kindle time doesn’t count as screen time” rule to “Kindle time doesn’t count as screen time, but any reading within an hour of bedtime must be on paper.” And of course, no other types of screen time, whether a game or a show, is allowed within that same pre-bed wind-down hour. Ideally, that wind-down hour would be two hours, but a full-time job and commute makes that impossible. When the girls are on the computer until close to bedtime because of homework, I can dim the screen as much as possible.

If rejiggering your family’s light exposure doesn’t work or isn’t an option as your kids are returning to their school schedule, you can actually buy melatonin in pill form. Please, before acting on this option, speak to your child’s pediatrician and go with the lowest available dose, 0.5 mg or less. It seems that the best time to take a dose is around 6:00 pm, which sets your school-aged child up to be sleepy right around bedtime. Unless your child has a confirmed sleep disorder, there should be no need to use melatonin over the long-term. It’s especially helpful when switching sleep patterns, for example after a trip to counter jetlag, or if you work a night shift.

Do you take light exposure into account when you consider your family’s schedule?

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