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.

sadia2toddlercarry

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.

bigsister1

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.

bigsister3

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.

mamaread1

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.

mamaswim1

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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House Monkey Update – Donna

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Categories House Monkey, Household and Family Management, Marriage, Older Children, Parenting1 Comment

In this springtime update, entrepreneur Donna talks about the  constant give and take of raising a family, nurturing a marriage, and running a business.

This morning, it’s cold & raining outside. Clearly, it is still very chilly here in the northeast yet I’m sitting here (symbolically wearing my flip flops) thinking about Spring.

The most basic thing in nature is birth, and Spring is always filled with birth. This time around I don’t have a round belly full of babies, but rather a brain bursting at the seams with a vision and a desire to birth our House Monkey dream. Over the last two weeks, my nights have been filled with sketching out the House Monkey website. What should it look like? What information needs to be on the website now (while we are still developing House Monkey itself)?

The list of thoughts go on and on. I realized I needed to gear up and get that website up and running because our magnets (promised to our backers from KickStarter) have the URL address on it… yet the website isn’t up yet. Nightly STRESS!

My days have been spent bursting at the seams with a scientific-based technical project from our day job. Another “birthing” process, but for one of my favorite clients. The guy is smart and I respect him significantly. It has been a great experience: climbing challenging corporate-manufactured “hills” with him to customize this unique product Mike and I have developed together for his organization.

Every day that I work with this client, it helps me realize that people make all the difference in the world. I believe any experience can be viewed as good or bad. I read in a book not long ago that all experiences are like a train that rides on 2 tracks. The good parts of the experience are the right track and bad are on the left track.

Which track we look at from inside the train is up to us. I do believe in this concept but I’ve noticed over time that if I like and respect someone, it is easier to look at the right track all the time! I’m feeling blessed with our work projects right now, despite the stress. I know we worked hard over the last two years to be here, but I can’t help but feel that it is all a gift.

Currently, the work-life balance seems in check (and that does indeed vary from time to time) but 5pm until bedtime has been running smoothly the last two weeks (draining, but running smoothly).

If you read Mike’s last post, you also know we were forced to call a “family meeting” to address the “spring slide” (slide in grades, slide in chores etc.). Thank goodness it seems to have worked. Perhaps it’s why our last two weeks have been smoother! Maybe the kids had a “re-birth” of their own. Or want their iPads back.

The why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Mike and I are very consciously sticking to our guns with this discipline. So not easy to do. Do you ever feel like you’re the one being punished when you have to discipline your kids? That’s how we feel. Sometimes it is so much easier to give in and let them watch TV.

On the last day of school before Spring Break, my eldest, who gets home an hour earlier than the others, is pitching in at the office. Before Spring re-birth comes Spring cleaning: make room for the new. He did his two weeks without the iPad and now I told him he’d earned back his electronics 2 days early with his efforts! Is that cheating? Am I not sticking to my guns? Or am I giving him the opportunity to make things right?

More importantly, how do handle 3 other little faces walking thru the door in a few minutes who haven’t had the same opportunity? Someone tell the basement that its floor may reappear in a couple of hours!!!! It just depends on how badly they want their stuff back!

So the work-family life balance is for the most part in check, but the work-life-marriage balance has definitely been rough lately.

Our work and family time constraints are draining our couple time. Folks make me laugh when they say, “You see him all day long”! Nothing could be further from the truth. Mike goes in the man cave basement office to work, while I am in my upstairs office. Sometimes we connect in passing in the kitchen when we go grab some grub, but we usually take lunch back to my office. (We’ve gotta stop doing that!) When we do see each other, it is scheduled meetings to discuss work content. Other employees are usually in attendance OR it’s to discuss the family or child “problem du jour”.

Mike already mentioned our trip planned for our 15 year anniversary. It cracks me up how casually he mentions it.

The last time we went away alone was our 10 year anniversary. My parents took the kids (the twins were only 2 at the time) and we went to Bermuda. What Mike seems to forget is how I panicked. It took a lawyer and new wills just to convince me to leave my babies. Who gets the kids was such a deep question I didn’t want to think about.

Then there was the plane ride. Know that even though I fly all the time for work, I hate it! Many years ago, I stood on 7th avenue in NYC and watched a plane crash into a building and it still bugs me. Add on 4 little kids that mean more than the world to me AND add on both of their parents on the same flight! It was awful for me. You know it’s bad when the flight attendant offers to buy you a drink! But we got there and spent 4 glorious days in the sun.

I remember thinking (very guiltily) I could use one more day. The plane ride home was easier – and those 4 days bought me at least a year of sane parenting and a renewed connection to my husband! So yes, I agreed to a 15 year anniversary trip for my parenting sanity and for the ability to reconnect with Mike. But that doesn’t mean I am not already feeling guilty about a trip that is months away.

How do you make time to connect with your spouse?

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Single Parenting, Solo Parenting, Co-Parenting and That Frightening Place in Between

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Categories Co-parenting, Divorce, Marriage, Relationships, Single Parenting3 Comments

In August 2009, just before I recognized that my marriage had turned down the path that would lead to its end in divorce three years later, I wrote this post:

My husband L is a US soldier. This means that he’s overseas, 15 months at a time, about every other year. Right now, he’s living in Korea. We have seven long months left before we get to see him again. He misses me and the kids, of course, and we miss him terribly.

Because of L’s frequent absences, people sometimes refer to me as a single mother. It usually comes in the form, “Wow, your kids are wonderful, but they’re a handful, and to think you manage as a single mother!” I accept and appreciate the compliment. I object to the label.

I take exception to being called a single mother because it’s disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to L, who is an involved, and loving father. It’s also disrespectful to all the single parents out there. I certainly couldn’t pull off single parenthood!

Because L’s job takes him away from us about half the time, I do tend to make the day-to-day decisions in raising M and J. However, whenever possible, we make decisions together. If I can’t contact L before I have to make a decision, we’ll discuss it afterward, and adjust as needed. Even for the tiny things that don’t merit discussion, I take into account our joint philosophy on parenting, not just my own opinions. I would have never had children by myself, or with anyone other than L. He gives me balance. He makes me a competent mother, even when he’s geographically distant, by caring as much about our children’s well-being as I do, by being their advocate, by letting me know when I’m doing things right, and showing me how to do them better.

To call me a single mother implies that I do not raise my children in partnership with my husband. I recognize that there are plenty of parents out there who are no longer in a romantic relationship or marriage with the other parent of their child, but still partner in raising their child. Perhaps our parenting arrangement isn’t all that different from theirs. However, I don’t think that this is what people mean when they refer to me as a single mother.

Parenting with a partner is easier than parenting alone. Sure, partnering takes work and commitment, whether or not you see your co-parent on a daily basis. There are constant compromises and course corrections. Unlike a single parent, though, we have two incomes. I know that L will eventually come home, and I can take a nice long bubble bath without a worry in the world. I know that he will see to the girls’ spiritual upbringing, which I cannot. I know that if anything were to happen to me, my daughters would be all right.

So please, don’t give me credit I don’t deserve. Tell the next single parent you see that you recognize that they’re doing the most difficult job in the world alone, and probably very well.

I was reminded of this post by Elizabeth‘s comment on lunchldyd’s post earlier. What a difference a few years makes!

My main point remains the same. Taking care of the day-to-day business of parenting by oneself for a while with a co-parent in the picture is completely different than single parenting. I prefer the term “solo parenting” for that temporary period of flying solo while a co-parent is away. However, being married doesn’t guarantee that you have a co-parent. A few months after I wrote the post I quoted above, I realized that nothing I could do could get my now-ex to engage with the family. It would be another 3 years before he left us, but I had no emotional or childcare partner during the slow death of our marriage. I did still have his income contributing to the family, but I had entered a realm adjacent to that of the single parenting world.

Parenting by yourself for a little while doesn't make you a single parent, but being married doesn't guarantee you a co-parent either. One divorced mom looks back on the evolution of her parenting identity.

That shadow realm was far tougher than my current reality as a card-carrying single mom. (If being the Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America doesn’t grant me a membership card, I don’t know what would!) I was trying to rescue a broken marriage. I still had to budget for the needs and habits of another adult. I had to try to shelter my children from their father’s emotional unavailability. And I had to try to raise them in his faith, not my own, without any participation from him.

Yes, things are tight on the money front for us, but not because of the loss of my ex’s salary. The financial straits we’re in just now were born of the expenses of our custody battle.

For me—and I speak for myself alone—single parenthood is the easiest of the three modes: co-parenting, transition, and single parenthood. That whole thing about needing L to raise the kids Christian? Pshaw! Just yesterday, J asked him what Good Friday was and he couldn’t remember. So I, the atheist parent, was once again the one to explain that it was the day Jesus was crucified and it’s “good” not because of his suffering and death, but because of his willingness to bear the consequences of everyone else’s mistake rendered it holy. I still get input from those I respect who know and love my kids, but this is a far larger community than my ex would allow when we were together: teachers, mentors, friends and church members. Single parenting is far less lonely a path for us than co-parenting was.

So, what are you? A co-parent? A single parent? Or are you in that treacherous realm in between? 

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Resenting Gifted Children

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Categories Difference, Emotion, Other people, Relationships, Talking to Kids, Unique needsTags 2 Comments

Profoundly Gifted

My identical twin daughters, now nearly 9 years old, have both been identified as being profoundly gifted. This is an extraordinary, well, gift. School comes easily to them and they both love to learn. They’re voracious readers, and they retain everything. They’re more than happy to accompany me to public astronomy lectures, and “let’s research that” is a phrase that’s said at least once a day in our home.

When it comes to discipline, I can reason with M and J. At 8 years old, they are intellectually capable of understanding it when I explain the psychological underpinnings of my approach to setting boundaries and expectations for them.

“You have to be strict with us,” my daughter J once told me, “so that we’ll be able to make good decisions when we’re grownups. I know you have rules because you love us.”

Kids

Despite their intellectual abilities, they are still little girls. They have to be nagged to floss and brush their teeth every night. They get their feelings hurt on the playground and can spend hours playing pretend. They believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. They needed me to inform them that Star Wars was, in fact, not a historical account.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. The opening crawl to Star Wars.

The vast majority of people they come across are incredibly supportive. While often initially taken aback by the insights in my daughters’ observations, most friends and strangers alike will adjust their conversational expectations and meet J and M where they are. Their best friend A almost always introduces them as “my friends who are super smart, but they’re really fun too!”

Resentment Demonstrated

Unfortunately, some people are intimidated by my daughters’ giftedness. Even more unfortunately, some of these people are adults whom M and J love and want to trust. They don’t always handle their resentment well.

J’s recent Pi Day project led her to find out how to calculate the volume of a sphere. While asking Google for the formula may seem rather mundane to those of us with high school geometry under our belts, 8-year-old J was beside herself with excitement. She told everyone she was close to about her plan, and nearly everyone caught her enthusiasm.

One person, though, wounded her deeply. This adult, on hearing her plan to calculate the volume of the sun, repeatedly told her that this exercise would be beyond her abilities. J attempted to demonstrate that she was prepared, explaining what π was, describing what a volume is, talking about her love of exponents. Her conversational partner was having none of it. Finally, the person found something J didn’t know to put the final nail in the conversational coffin: order of operations. J was devastated.

I explained to J that the concept of order of operations was something that she knew inherently, just not by that name. Some people, including the adult who’d so hurt her, needed to be taught the steps in which to perform stacked mathematical operations. To her, it was as obvious as the existence of negative numbers. I told J that I was confident in her ability to take on her project.

She and I elected to talk through her sadness with her friend A’s mom, who may be one of the most compassionate people I’ve ever met. J poured out her heart. In short, she felt that the adult in question hadn’t listened to her. Even as she explained what she already knew, the adult had told her that she couldn’t possibly know enough, trying to teach J things she had already demonstrated understanding.

A’s mom recommended that J tell the person who had hurt her how she felt, but that it was okay to protect her heart.

A’s mom pointed out that the adult might have been intimidated by J’s knowledge. This person may have been rusty on their geometry and been unwilling to confess their own ignorance. Our dear friend told J that she didn’t understand all of the mathematical details that J had spelled out when explaining her project, but that she was excited that J was excited and was proud that J was so comfortable with math. A’s mom knows her own strengths, and isn’t particularly concerned that math isn’t one of them.

Coming to an Understanding

While talking to me and A’s mom about the incident made J’s immediate pain manageable, it continued to haunt her for over a week. She was visibly sad. While it was pretty clear to me that the person who had hurt her had done so out of personal insecurity, J felt that she had done something wrong.

I decided it was time to turn this into an academic exercise. While M played on my iPad, J and I sat down together at the computer. We wrote down what J was feeling:

This adult doesn’t want to listen to what I have to say. They don’t think I’m smart enough to understand π.

Next, I encouraged her to come up with some alternate explanations.

This adult can’t hear very well.

This adult was having a bad day.

This adult doesn’t understand what I say. They don’t understand π.

Next, J wrote in her observations from the conversation. The only explanations that they all fit was the last one: The adult didn’t understand the math and was embarrassed to admit it.

Over the last days of Spring Break, J perked up. I asked her how she was feeling about the whole situation.

“I learned a new expression,” she told me. ‘Misery loves company.’ It means that grumpy people want everyone around them to be grumpy too. I won’t keep grumpiness company.”

I’m sure this is only one of many incidents in which my children’s giftedness will brings challenges their way, in addition to making many things come easier to them than it does to many of their peers. I wish I could protect my girls from hurtful situations like these, but part of me is glad that they’re dealing with them now, while I can still guide them towards a place of peace. As J said at the top of this post, she and her sister will need to make good decisions when they’re grownups.

What do you do when you feel that your children have been wronged?

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