A Gift of Mommy Time

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I don’t think any first time mother quite knows what she’s in for, regardless of how much childcare or research she has done before her children come along. All mothers are thrown in the deep end of motherhood. The pool into which I was thrown was a little colder and deeper than some others.

Like most of our readers, I had the twin thing to contend with. Two babies are no small challenge. I worked full time. I exhausted my maternity leave and returned to work when the babies were 11 weeks old. I worked forty hours a week. Add in a required lunch break and an hour or more of commuting in each direction. I was committed to spending the remaining 113 hours of my week with my babies and maximizing our chances of breastfeeding success. The Iraq War didn’t help. My husband deployed when the babies were 5 months old. We didn’t have any family nearby, although our neighbours became practically family.

My husband knew me well enough to realize that I would never willingly take any time for myself outside work. He came up with a truly inspired gift. The perfect gift. My husband bought me a pair of premium season tickets to Broadway in Austin, the local series of touring musicals.

I’m something of a musical theatre geek. Name a song in Rent, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Singin’ in the Rain, or Mary Poppins, and I can sing it for you, likely the melody line and a few harmony parts for good measure. By giving me pairs of tickets, my (now ex) husband ensured that about once a month, I would have to hire a babysitter and schedule a night out with a girlfriend.

I came back from these evenings out re-energized and feeling loved. I went to each show with a different friend, ranging from choir buddies to coworkers, and once even my mother-in-law. My daughters were no worse for wear after an evening with a babysitter, an evening I wouldn’t have taken were it not for the tickets burning a hold in my pocket.

I recently gave a dear friend two gifts at her baby shower: a Boppy pillow and an offer of 12 date nights worth of babysitting, one night a month for Baby’s first year. Her son is now 5 months old and she cashed in her first couple time this past weekend. I’m hoping that my attempt to give her the gift of me-time is as effective as my husband’s.

Have you ever received a gift of me-time?


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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Inexpensive Ways to Make Time with Your Partner

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Whether you’re a two income family, or a one income family, money is a concern. As a one income family of six, creativity is the name of the game when it comes to entertainment, date nights, and me time. For me, being with my husband—alone—often translates to me time. As I mentioned in a previous Me Time post, nurturing my marriage is crucial to both myself and my husband.

Recently, we moved from the city to the country to be closer to my husband’s family. It has been quite an adjustment for everyone, but a wonderful one overall. Because of this, we have free babysitting, BUT we do not abuse them, we always plan ahead with them, and our children pay them in slobbery kisses.

I asked my husband for input on this, and his immediate response was sex. Well yes, he’s right, sex is free and you don’t have to leave the house or hire a sitter. Can I actually talk about such things on a parenting blog? I suppose so, since we became parents this way! All joking aside, finding ways to be intimate in any way with your partner is a fantastic use of Me Time and can truly enrich your marriage/partnership.

Other ways my husband and I make time for one another, AND that will not get me in trouble in the blogosphere, include:

Date night in. We have Netflix and Hulu streaming subscriptions, so our options for movies are vast. We also have a large DVD collection to choose from. I’m also a fan of the free Redbox codes that come out occasionally. If it isn’t free, it is still way cheaper than a movie ticket! Pick a movie, grab a snack, and cuddle up together.

We are also huge game night fans and really enjoy playing cards together. This is a great way to initiate conversation fairly easily and it rarely revolves around the children. ~Cough, ahem, cough~ We also enjoy playing video games, like Zelda and Final Fantasy. And this mama has been known to pull out her NES for a good game of Super Mario Bros. Just sayin’.

Take people up on their offers. If you have friends or family members that have offered to help you with meals or childcare (and you trust them), take them up on it. As one who has been on both the giving and receiving ends of this offer, they really do mean it and are truly happy to help.

Go for a walk. This requires some outside help (see above or hire someone), but aside from finding someone responsible to watch your child(ren) for a bit, a walk is free. My husband and I walk every evening together when he is not traveling for work. Typically this is after the children have gone to bed so that my in-laws only have to be there for nightmares and ensure that a fire doesn’t break out. We don’t go for more than 20-30 minutes, but it is a great way to clear our heads after a long day and reconnect as a couple.

Go shopping. Oh yeah, now we’re getting sexy. Wait, buying groceries and clothes for the kids who insist on eating and growing isn’t sexy. But finding a way to do it with one another—without said kids—that’s special. I always enjoy those shopping trips more because we always ALWAYS end up giggling and really enjoying that time. This too, requires some outside help. Currently, we do this after the children are in bed as well. This way, we aren’t abusing grandma and grandpa.

What if I don’t have free help like you? Before we moved here, we used friends and occasional family members. I also called up our local college and found out that they have a website for their students who are looking for part time work. I went on, posted a babysitting job at the hourly rate I was willing to pay, interviewed applicants and ended up hiring a wonderful sophomore who became very close with our children for a year. Perhaps your local church would know someone reliable and reasonably priced. Or your local MOPS or multiples group might have some references (or older children of their own looking for a job).

Get creative! While it isn’t always easy, we make time for our marriage. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes it costs a little bit, but the investment into our relationship is priceless. (Did I go a little MasterCard advertisement there?) There are no limits on your creativity. If you’re out of ideas and don’t like mine, ask your partner. Just be ready for an answer like my guy’s. Yeah, I’m keeping this one!

 


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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Children Matter, But Not Above All Else

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Categories Making Time for Me, Marriage, Parenting, Perspective, Time Management53 Comments

My children are not the most important thing in my life. GASP! Okay. Deep breath. Let’s try this one again.

I have four incredible, messy, beautiful, frustrating, funny and crazy children. And they are not the most important thing in my life. There… I said it.

I realize that such a statement is not a popular one, so let’s go back to the title that children matter. My children matter so much to myself and my husband. They are the reason we wake up early (too early) every morning. They are the reason that my husband works hard at his wonderful job. They are the reason I chose to leave my job and stay home after the Twinkies (#3 and 4) were born.

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These four beauties hold my heart. So why aren’t they the most important things in my life? Three big reasons: doing so makes them the center of my world, my marriage, and taking care of their mama (me) matters a whole lot.

#1 – Making my children the most important thing makes them the center of my world.

The idea of making my world revolve around my children is a problematic one for me. Making them my sole focus puts unrealistic expectations on them and gives them the job of making me happy. They are children, they are innocent, and their only job is to be a kid, not to make their mama happy. Additionally, making them the center of my world takes energies away from my marriage and self-care.

#2 – Nurturing my marriage benefits my entire family.

Special K (my hubby) and I have built a strong foundation for our marriage, but that doesn’t mean that we can forget about it and count on it to be just as strong later on. We must put time and energy into our marriage. Whether they know it or not, our children need us to nurture our marriage so that they can grow up in a happy, healthy, two parent home.

In no way am I putting down single parents or divorced parents. As a child of divorce, I know what it feels like and I nurture my marriage in the hopes of protecting my children from such feelings.

If you’re a parent, you know that your child(ren) watch everything you do… everything. This includes how I speak to my husband, how he greets me when he returns from work, how we fight and how we make up. We know that our children watch our examples, and in putting my marriage first, I am (hopefully) teaching them how to model their relationships after ours.

Okay so how do we do that?

I’m going to delve deeper into this on a future post this week, but for a few quick ideas:

  • Date night in after the kids are in bed. Easy and free!
  • Utilize offers from family and friends of help, whether that’s bringing a meal, watching kids, or something else. If people in your life offer to help, let them!
  • Get creative! We are a single income family supporting 6, but we still make time (which sometimes costs money) for our marriage. Our last date was a trip alone to the grocery store! Sexy? No. Fun and loaded with non-kid conversation? Yes! There is no limit to how creative you can get. You just have to be willing to look at things differently and be committed to taking time to take care of your relationship.

We had children early into our marriage, but we were married first. This relationship is primary for us. Someday, if we do this whole parenting thing right, our children will leave our home as independent individuals and we will be left with just each other. After our children grow up, I want my marriage to continue and I want to know and love the man that I’m sharing an empty nest with. In order to do that, I have to put him and our relationship before our children… FOR our children.

#3 – Taking care of mama so that I can, in turn, take care of the children.

Oftentimes, I find that I take care of my family before I take care of me. I’m sure that I am not alone in this. For the last year, I’ve been dealing with a major health issue that has hopefully been resolved with recent brain surgery. I had to leave my children for three very long weeks while I left the state to receive my surgery and post-operative care. Since being home, I’ve had to let others take the lead while I ensure that I don’t overdo it. Obviously, this is extreme, but the point is still valid. If I didn’t take care of myself, I would have died. Then who would be their mother?

Okay, how about a more relatable tale? With my last (twin) pregnancy, I gained about 55 pounds. I nursed both twins so the weight came off quickly, but I knew that I needed to take care of myself to keep the weight off after weaning the girls. I found a gym with daycare options and pinched and tweaked our budget for a few months while we worked the membership into it. As soon as I got the membership, I went at least every other day. I found that when I was done at the gym, I felt stronger, healthier, and more emotionally available to my children.

What I’ve learned over the past few years is that I am a better mother when I am healthy, well rested, etc. Perhaps you need 10 minutes to yourself to sneak in a walk after dinner when your spouse or friend can watch the children? Perhaps you need to skip a latte or two so you can get your hair done? Perhaps you need to go to bed 30 minutes earlier tonight so that you are better rested for your day tomorrow? Whatever it is, if you take care of their mother first, your child(ren) will have a healthier, more secure, happier life.

What things do you do to take care of your marriage/your relationship/yourself?

How do you encourage or remind yourself to take time for you?


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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Mommy Blogger Privacy?

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Categories Blogs, Community, Independence, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships5 Comments

My daughters are thoughtful and well-informed. Our family dynamic is one of laughter, mutual respect, and open communication. I hope that our family’s approach to mommy blogger privacy can help other families set guidelines that work for them.

I have been blogging since before my twins were born. In the early years, it was up to me to decide what details to put out there and what to keep private. In those days, I could rely on my narrow audience of friends and family to keep things secret. Now that I have a much larger following, and now that the kids are old enough to understand what it means for information to be published on the internet, it is only right that they have a say in what I do and do not share.

Allow me to lay out the privacy doctrines I have followed from the seventh week of my pregnancy.

Mommy Blogger Privacy Doctrine

  • The children’s physical security is paramount.
    1. Do not share information that would allow a reader to pinpoint the children’s location at any time.
    2. Do not share information that would allow a reader to contact the children online.
  • Children deserve respect. Do not share anything that the children consider embarrassing. Something that wasn’t embarrassing two years ago may be so today. Take it down.
  • Children have a right to their own memories. I may remember an incident in one way. My daughter’s recollection of it may be completely different. An adult’s experience of an event is no more right than a child’s. Always acknowledge that you can speak only from your own perspective.

Make a Personal Agreement with Your Children

For example:

  • You will not write a post about a specific event or experience unless a child proposes that you blog about it or you clear it with them beforehand, as with publicity events. If they do approve writing a post about a specific family outing, they will review the entire thing, including photos, and okay it before publication.
  • If you wish to use a particular example from your lives in a post, check with all children before using it. Have each of them review the post in its entirety before publication. They have the veto.
  • I can write about what I have learned about parenting or about myself without running it by kids, as long as I do not reference specific examples that include them, or these examples have previously been posted about.
  • Either one of my daughters can ask me to take down a post I have authored, at any time, no explanation required. If they wish, they can propose ways in which I can rewrite the post to eliminate any content they find objectionable. But first, it comes down. Any rewrites can come later.

Some Practical Pointers

To protect keep the girls’ physical location off the internet, I have taken the following precautions:

  • Thus far, my girls have been referred to by their initials, with very rare exception. They now no longer wish to be referred to even in that much detail, so I’ll just be saying “my kids,” or “the twins”.
  • I do not name the town or neighbourhood in which we live. The suburbs of Austin, TX are large and numerous enough for us to be able to disappear.
  • Photographs are chosen to minimize unique attributes that might indicate the location of our home. Therefore, I either use photos taken away from our home, or within our house or back yard. License plates that may appear in a photograph are blurred. The GPS on any device used to take photographs is disabled.
  • During the time that I’ve been employed by the state, my professional information has been a matter of public record. However, I restrict release of every piece of information that the law allows, including home address and phone number.
  • I do not name the children’s school, ever, and I refer to teachers and other school staff only by their last initial. We don’t want someone to be able to Google “gym teacher Mrs. Wigglesbottom” [not a real name] and be able to figure out the girls’ school. While I do wish I could give credit to the extraordinary teachers in the twins’ lives, they understand the need to maintain anonymity. We love our school and summer camp, but you’re going to have to wait until the girls have outgrown them or we move away before I’ll tell you which they are.
  • I do not announce our intentions to attend local events. I only blog about them after the fact. You will notice that the only events I have promoted on this blog are ones we couldn’t possibly attend. This means that I will not live tweet events unless the children are absent.
  • Similarly, I do not announce travel plans until the travel is complete and we are back home. You may also see me say vague things like, “several thousand miles away” or “in the UK”.

I’m Not the Only Blogger

My kids’ teachers have, on occasion, maintained a classroom or program blog with student contributors. I think that blogs make for wonderful educational tools. I am incredibly proud of my children for initiating conversations in their classroom about online safety. For instance, during the creation of one school blog, they pointed out to Mrs. O that I only refer to them by their initials, and why. They had a productive discussion on the topic.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Social Life with Infants

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Categories Community, Infants, Other people, Parenting, Relationships, Twinfant Tuesday3 Comments

In case you hadn’t figured this out, I’m quite the friendly outgoing person. I’m extroverted to degree that I max out the extroversion scale on every personality test known to man. Staying home alone with my children all day, every day, simply wasn’t an option for me. I knew that would have been a recipe for resentment, and I’m glad to report that I have never resented my daughters.

J and M came home from the hospital tiny (under 5 lbs each) but otherwise healthy. Their immune systems were immature, although boosted by my breastmilk, and so I initially kept the babies out of large crowds and sick people. Still, once I was clear to drive, we could go to our local outdoor mall and people watch. The fresh air of the outdoors meant that even though there was a good number of people around, the babies weren’t any more exposed to pathogens that in our home. Texas summers get very hot, so these adventures were usually complete by 10:00 am.

Getting stir crazy with a new baby? Go people watching at an outdoor mall.

People watching is fine and all, but getting out of the house was far more fun with friends.

The friends who were easiest to socialize with were those with children of a similar age. They understood why I took forever to get anywhere and would happily breastfeed unobtrusively (or bottle feed less unobtrusively) with me. They had no problem with my umpteen diaper change stops or my need to order two entrees at a restaurant to have enough calories for myself and my two nurslings.

Out and about with other new mommy friends.

They understood my great love for my double stroller system.

Three car seats? That's what you get when you make friends when you're pregnant with a woman expecting twins!

Even while I was getting my extrovert top-up, my girls were learning about friendship themselves. They were learning to interact with children other than their twin.

Interactions with other babies set the stage for understanding social norms.

Once my littles were slightly less little and far more prone to run away on chubby little legs, these same friends had chubby little legs of their own to contain.

The Three Musketeers at the mall. Holding hands keeps them headed in generally the same direction, make moms' lives a little easier.

We quickly learned that requiring them to hold hands kept them all going in the same direction, which made our lives easier.

If you’re expecting and make friends with another pregnant woman, don’t be surprised if that friendship lasts the rest of your lives… and your children’s!

 

 

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Don’t Suffer in Silence. Ask for Help.

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Categories Community, Mommy Issues, Other people, Perspective, Relationships2 Comments

I vividly remember attending a birthday party with my toddlers and leaving angry.

It was once of those first birthday parties that was very adult-focused. It was a celebration of having survived that first difficult year, rather than a multi-kid playdate. That makes a lot of sense. A 12-month-old likes routine. Having a bunch of people all over his house and yard is not his idea of fun at all.

While I spent the entire time chasing my twin daughters, swinging them on my hips, soothing owies, and serving them food, the hosts smoothly worked the crowd. The father, mother, and grandmother took turns tending to the birthday baby.

At the end of two hours, I was exhausted and I knew my daughters would fall asleep on the drive home. The only thing I’d eaten was a slobbery carrot shoved into my mouth by sticky little hands.

Chasing twin toddlers is not for the faint of heart!

My friend hugged me goodbye, saying, “I hardly got to talk to you!”

My eyes smarted with tears. How dare she? How dare she complain about my lack of good guest graces, not having lifted a finger to help me corral my two children? My husband was deployed. Other family was thousands of miles away. I’d shown up with a ratio of 1 adult to 2 kids. Hers was 3 adults to 1 kid.

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Perhaps if she’d held a child for two minutes, I could have used my newly available hand to shove hors d’œuvres in my mouth. Perhaps if she’d carried her baby over to where my little ones were exploring leaf piles, we could have had a conversation.

Now, with the clarity of retrospection, I realize that the failure was mine. I failed to ask for help. I’m sure my friend was intimidated by the competence with which I wrangled my rowdy pair. I’m sure that if I had just asked her to hold one of my girls so I could eat, she would have done so in a heartbeat.

Don’t suffer in silence. It’s not that people don’t understand. We just don’t know how to offer help.

Ask for help when you need it.

Your friends will appreciate the opportunity to help you out. I know this now from the other side. Nothing makes me happier than being able to help out a friend with young kids. My girls are now big kids, leaving me with two free hands. They love to help too. We bring 6 extra hands to the party.

Do you find it easy to ask for help?

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Making Room for More

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Categories Guilt, Independence, Infants, Older Children, Parenting, Relationships, Siblings, Singletons, Twinfant Tuesday38 Comments

Every mother worries how her first-born will adapt to life with a new baby. How can we quantify and plan for the way our hearts expand to supply enough love for more babies? When preparing for twins, I wondered how bad it would be to bring twins into a family that already housed a three-year-old.

It turned out not to be a matter measured as, “how bad,” but more “how different.” From the beginning, we were keenly aware of how important it would be, during those first few weeks, to give her a role to play as big sister, and to keep up on our promise to love her. Love comes in cuddles, extra helpings of dessert, shared bubble baths, movie nights and special walks together, at least when one is three years old.

The First Days at Home

My husband and I kept a close eye on how our oldest handled the transition. It was important to involve her in as many of the new changes as possible, so we did: She bottle-fed, sang to them, changed diapers, and drew pictures to decorate their nursery. Anytime a visitor came with a gift for the babies, we made sure to express our gratitude, but not evoke much fanfare if there wasn’t also a gift for the new big sister. This was the beginning of our learning the lesson of being even-Steven with everything in a family with multiple children.

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One-on-One Time

We chose to do a combination of direct breastfeeding and bottle-feeding pumped milk and formula, which gave my husband and I some free time to spend one-on-one with our oldest girl. This. Was. KEY. Honestly, having a energetic three-year-old was often more work than having twinfants. She did not care if we were sleep-deprived, and she had more needs to be met than ever before. Initially, this intimidated me, and fed my worry about how I would ever have enough time and energy to satisfy each daughter.

Each day, I took a moment or two to capitalize on time together. If she woke before the twins, we would enjoy a quiet breakfast together, just us two. If the twins happened to nap at the same time, I would take her for a walk, or a quick trip into town. If all were awake, I would pile everyone onto my lap and read books, letting my oldest have a chance to ‘read’ to her sisters.

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Let Their Bond Grow Organically

I watched my oldest with our twins and recognized there was a new dynamic in the family that required very little from me. New sister relationships were forming, and I moved out of the way. Sometimes, she was too rough with them, and they would cry or whimper in response. Rather than scold her, I watched her face process the twins’ reaction, and she learned how to better handle them. Giving her the space to learn how to be a big sister to twins on her own has given her the confidence to forge ahead, to the beat of her own drum.

She has learned when to shut them out (kindly), because she needs to be alone and doesn’t want to be a big sister sometimes. That’s her prerogative, and rightly so. In turn, the twins have learned to idolize their big sister, and today at age three themselves, they are elated when they are invited to play with her.

We also let her paint on their faces; It was non-toxic and washable!

bigsister4

When Our Hands Were Full

There were, of course, times I was busy feeding the twins, or rocking them to sleep, and I couldn’t physically respond to our oldest’s requests. I would do my best to explain I could help her with my words, but not my hands. I would sing songs if she had a tantrum, I would play word games if she was amenable. I even took to setting up a pile of stuffed animals beside me as I nursed, so I could throw them at her if she was getting into something she wasn’t supposed to!

Telling her, “I’m sorry, mama’s busy feeding” was heartbreaking and, I’ll be honest, is a guilt that doesn’t go away, although it changes as they grow older. I never feel like I am giving each of my (now four) girls everything they need at all times. How can I possibly? I cannot raise four girls with 24/7 individual attention from their parents, but I am happily raising four girls who have established a true sisterhood. They have learned from infancy the values of cooperating with others, empathy, shared joy, and patience.

Sarah 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.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Are Newborn Twins Aware of Each Other?

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Mothers of infant twins sometimes ask when they can expect their babies to start interacting with each other. Anecdotally speaking, it appears that this is yet another thing that varies wildly between different sets of twins. It seems quite common for a newborn infant to seem quite unaware of the existence of his or her twin.

My monozygotic daughters, though, always appeared aware of each other. They were separated for 20 days after birth. As soon as J left the NICU to join her twin M at home, she made it perfectly clear that she was aware of her sister, at some level.

I placed both babies on a blanket on the floor, a few inches apart.

Newborn twins, placed a few inches apart, find that expanse to be far too wide for comfort.

After a diaper change, J stretched and wriggled…

Newborn twins, reunited after their stays in the NICU, seem to seek each other out.

…and wriggled and stretched, until she was squished up against her sister. Only then did she fall asleep.

Newborn twins seek each out the comfort of their wombmate.

In nearly every photograph I have of M and J together their first few months, their heads are turned toward each other.

These weeks-old twins turn toward each other instinctively.They both liked to fall asleep holding onto Sister’s hair. As you might imagine, this didn’t often end well. I took to placing a fuzzy blanket above their heads when they were particularly stubborn, to give them both something to hold that didn’t also pull on the other’s scalp.

When did your multiples seem to become aware of each other?

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Toddler Thursday: Relating to Other Siblings

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Categories Birth Order, Identical, Individuality, Relationships, SiblingsTags , , , , 11 Comments

I dreamed of my three girls playing together as I incubated my twins, conjuring images of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. They would join their big sister and embark on a lifetime of adventures in adorable rompers. I took notice of sisters at the park, studying their bonds and dreaming of how close-knit my girls would be. Shortly after the twins were born, I found myself pregnant again, and gave birth to another girl. A houseful of ladies. Feelings. Hormones. Hairbrushes.

Though we have four children, we have no middle child, and that has made a big difference in how they relate to one another. Hailey and Robin, our identical twin girls, have such a unique, close relationship with each other that they don’t fit the typical description of a neglected middle child. There isn’t (yet) much competition between the girls, and so their accomplishments are celebrated by their siblings as though they are all teammates. They also coalesce in relative harmony by fulfilling roles that have developed organically.

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I could tell in the months after the twins were born that my oldest desperately needed a role, a more solid identity. Her family became a five-some and the twin babies were a novelty to every guest who visited. She quickly became the leader. As the twins grew, began talking and moving, big sister was there to guide the play, teach them new tricks and show them boundaries. She may have delighted in kicking them out of her bedroom a little too fervently, but she found her stride as the leader.

When the youngest girl was born, Hailey and Robin were still too young to grasp the concept, but our oldest found a comrade in arms. Her role as leader and the baby’s role as the ‘other singleton’ fused a bond that rivals the twins. Big sister and littlest sister have become two peas in a pod, leaving Hailey and Robin to happily continue forging their special twin connection.

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Our twin girls share a closeness far deeper than a sister connection. I’m sure as the girls grow, the singletons will experience feeling left out of that special closeness. Like every tribulation in parenting, we’ll tackle that when it arises using empathy and respect. Most of the time, our daily (mis)adventures are a scene of four girls, not divided into teams, but united as a foursome.

We have tried to let the oldest be the leader, because the younger ones delight in idolizing her, and falling into line under her command. We might let the baby get away with more (we’re exhausted after just going through it all with twins, for goodness’ sakes!), but her big sisters seem to enjoy doting on her as well. The twins continue to attract attention wherever we go, and their sisters are there to put them on display and chat to interested observers.

I’m not sure to what I should credit the closeness between these four girls, but I suppose that is part of the magic to sibling relationships, isn’t it?

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.

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The Twin Bond and School

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Categories Health, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School, School-AgeTags Leave a comment

One twin starts to feel sick herself at the prospect of going to school while her sister stays home - and it's not for any lack of love for school! - How Do You Do It?

My daughter M stayed home from school today.

I’m pretty sure her immune system caved in the aftermath of Texas-wide high stakes standardized testing. It appears that M has more in common with me than just our tendency towards perfectionism and gift of the gab. During high school and college, I invariably started running a fever immediately after that last of my final exams, having seemingly exhausted all my immune energies. I did the same after completing my Masters thesis.

The STAAR tests left this bright and high-performing third grader sick from the stress.Even though both my daughters are excellent test-takers, and have aced all their practice tests, the general atmosphere of stress got the better of M. My daughters reported that in the past children have been sent home the day before the tests, after throwing up from the stress. As M wisely noted, when reporting to me that science and social studies were tabled in the run-up to these math and reading tests, “The STAAR is just getting in the way of my learning.” I’ve been looking forward to these tests being over so that the teachers can get back to teaching.

M woke herself up coughing on Saturday morning, following a delightful school field trip we attended the day before. She was most pathetic, but perked up over the next few hours once she had a good breakfast and plenty of fluids. She seemed well enough to attend her best friend’s birthday party that afternoon, but come bedtime, she was warm to the touch and complaining of aching limbs.

On Sunday, the cough continued and was joined by a runny nose. Although the fever stayed away, the headache she complained of in the evening made me decide to keep her home on Monday. Her twin J asked if she could stay home to care for her sister and I responded with a straightforward, “No.” Both J and I had runny noses, although Austin allergies could have very well been to blame. We got into a rather detailed conversation about the nonspecific immune system, which I enjoyed thoroughly. J complained of no other symptoms….

Then morning came. I asked J to get ready for school. She brushed her teeth and then remembered that M would be staying home. I saw the realization dawn on her face and she suddenly got very pale.

“I don’t feel good, Mommy. I have a headache and an everything ache and I think I have a fever.”

I checked J and felt nothing approaching a fever.

“But I’m sick, Mommy. I’m queasy. I don’t think I should go to school.”

I told J that if she continued to feel ill, she could ask to see the school nurse, who would call me if she needed to come home. I was quite certain, though, that her queasiness was more to do with being without her sister than fighting off a microbe. After all, it was she who felt most strongly that she needed to be in the same classroom as her twin.

“But mom,” she explained, quite patiently, “the nurse will only send me home if I have a fever. What if I need to come home with no fever?”

Against the protestations of the usually very reasonable J, I loaded both girls in the car to go to school. M sensibly suggested that we switch their booster locations so that J would be able to exit the car in the school drop-off lane without having to climb over her sister. For entirety of our short drive, J attempted to illustrate how genuinely ill she was, coughing dramatically and clutching her belly. I told her that I was completely convinced that both she and I were fighting off whatever had rendered M unwell, but that our immune systems were up to the task.

I was struck by the contrast between this and M’s reaction to J staying home sick earlier in the school year. M was concerned about her sister, of course, but it never occurred to her to miss school. She certainly didn’t feel ill at the thought.

As soon as we got home, M headed to the bathroom. She washed her hands and opened that door saying, “Hey J! Let’s play Webkinz…. Oh. I forgot.” She was able to laugh at her own forgetfulness. She and I spent much of the morning playing pretend with my “grandchildren”.

Mommy and daughter play pretend.
This is Balance, my grandson. Or perhaps grandcat. He knows he’s a cat and likes to groom and bunny-kick his siblings, but he can talk and is getting lessons in literary analysis from his 8-year-old mother.

M didn’t mention J again until after lunchtime, when she asked how many hours it had been since we dropped her off. When we picked J up from school, I asked her how she’d felt. She said that around 1 pm she had developed a headache and gone to see the nurse, who had told her she had no fever and recommended a good night’s sleep. J’s symptoms could very well be entirely physical, but I suspect a strong emotional component to them.

In the car, on the way home, the girls exchanged notes about their days. J told M that science was back on the menu at school and that they were working on the life cycle. M was disappointed to had missed the lesson. J had picked up M’s homework and was glad to report that they didn’t need to write a reading summary this week. M was disappointed. She loves homework and gave herself some today while she was home with me.

M told J about her day, and noted that she couldn’t find her tiny stuffed hippo, Oliver, anywhere. “Bad parenting!” J responded with a giggle. Oliver was located minutes after our return home, after I insisted that the girls’ dirty clothes make it inside, rather than in the general vicinity of, the laundry basket.

Today reminded me of the time when J, home with an ear infection around 6 months old, cried inconsolably for hours. I was convinced that she’d ruptured her eardrum, but the doctor saw evidence of nothing beyond run-of-the-mill ear infection. As soon as I picked M up from daycare, where I’d taken her to be able to focus on J, J calmed down. She had been missing her sister, not crying from pain.

J is very protective of her sister, at least when they’re not arguing. M adores J, but sees no reason to mother her, instead projecting her maternal instincts on her stuffed toys. Identical they may be, but their relationship isn’t particularly symmetrical. I don’t think it needs to be.

How do your twins react to being apart?

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