Twinfant Tuesday: How Motherhood Affects Your Social Life

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I thought that I had a decent idea of what motherhood would be like. I was nothing like the Tacoma, Washington woman who wrote to advice columnist Carolyn Hax (full text).
A particularly clueless childless "friend" just put in her place.My only sibling is nearly 11 years younger than me, so I’d done my share of diaper changing, potty training, and homework help as a pre-teen and teenager. I knew twins would be more work, of course, but becoming a mother seemed another small step in my progression to full adulthood. I’d gotten married, finished grad school, started my career, built a house and gotten pregnant, all within a couple of years. One close friend had ditched me when I got married, but that was the only casualty of all these life changes. I imagined that becoming a mother would have a similarly minor impact on my friendships.

I was completely clueless.

I had no clue how all-consuming parenthood is. I had no idea how rewarding it is. I had no idea how completely everything would change. And I confess that I gave very little thought to the impact my becoming a mother would have on my friendships.

It's impossible to understand how much life changes on becoming a parent, and friendships necessarily change in parallel.

I was one of the truly lucky new mothers out there on the friendship front. My closest friends took my babies in stride, completely welcoming them into all social activities. One of them, Kaylan, even moved in with us after a bad breakup when my daughters were just a few months old. She understood why it took me three hours to make it through a single sandwich and why I had to get up to retrieve a crying child or two mid-sentence. My dear friend Sara and I went through our pregnancies together, giving birth 14 days apart. Our husbands deployed to Iraq together, so we were in exactly the same place in our lives, even though she was a stay-at-home mom and I worked outside the home full-time.

I wasn’t much of a drinker or partier, and chatting over a meal in someone’s home or a restaurant was relatively easy with two easygoing, if premature, infants in tow. My good friends thought nothing of my getting up from the group to change a couple of diapers or of my briefly turning away to latch a baby on. The majority of my friends live a good distance from me, so I was able to maintain those friendships by telephone while breastfeeding my nurslings.

There were friends, though, who drifted away. The folks who wanted to go to the movies or a bar or do something active on relatively little notice, I could simply no longer accommodate. Friends who wanted a leisurely meal with me sitting in one place and making eye contact throughout a conversation found new friendships. Those friends who wanted my undivided attention could now afford none of my attention at all. Those friends who wanted just Sadia, not Sadia-the-mom, moved on. Some of them re-entered my life when they had children a few years later. Others, I check in with every so often. And with some, I have simply parted ways.

Yes, I miss those friends, and occasionally wish they understood why I have so much less time for them. I wish that they, like those friends who have stuck around, had become virtual family to my daughters, M and J.

Far deeper, though, are the friendships that have come to me because of motherhood. The neighbours I merely smiled when I moved in pregnant have become beloved friends, people who took the 9-hour road trip to see us when we briefly moved away. Their children are like siblings to mine. We raised our children together. Our kids peed on each other’s floors and in our yards during the Age of Potty Training. There is no friendship more precious than that. The incredible parents I have met through my daughters’ school and extracurricular activities have become our family. These friendships, born of middle-of-the-night ER visits, shared moments of parental pride, and exchanges of discipline and encouragement strategies, are just as strong as the friendships that stuck through my transition to motherhood.

The friends you lose when you become a mother are far outweighed by the mommy friendships you make.

Many parents need friendships outside the context of parenthood. For me, these relationships are fulfilled at work, and my entire social life beyond the workday revolves around my daughters. The people I enjoy spending time with are also those who I want around my children. I am deeply blessed to have friends who are as likely to look forward to spending time with my children as with me, and I enjoy their children’s company just as much. When we offer to babysit each other’s children, it’s as much for the pleasure of the children’s company as it is to help our friends out. Our children repay our affection. My daughters will occasionally want to discuss weighty matters with both me and a friend’s parent. My friend’s children will ask me to send me a picture of their report cards when they’re especially proud of their performance.

To the new parents who are discovering the impact of parenthood on your friendships, I would encourage you not to consider those who draw back as fair weather friends. They just don’t feel comfortable following you into the parenting stage of life. They may come back later, when they catch up. And I promise you that new, lasting friendships are just around the corner.

How did parenthood impact your pre-existing relationships?

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What Do You Like About Yourself?

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Older Children, Perspective, Relationships2 Comments

What do you like best about yourself?

My 8-year-old daughters decided to take a quiz, designed for friends, to determine how well they knew each other. They had to predict what the other’s answer would be to a set of questions. The questions were mostly straightforward: favourite movie; famous person you’d like to be for a day; favourite food.

My daughters did reasonably well at guessing each other’s answers. J had changed her favourite song since the day before, so M got that one wrong. J completely missed M’s favourite movie until M set her right by humming the theme to Superman. Yes, the Christopher Reeve one from 1978.

The question that really got me thinking was this one: What do you like most about yourself? J’s answer was that she is trustworthy. M’s answer was that she was a twin.

I confess to being surprised by M’s response. I’m certainly aware that her relationship with her sister is central to her life and sense of self, but I wouldn’t have predicted that she would choose that as what she likes most about herself. I asked her what she meant, and she told me that she loves having someone who is always there, who loves her, and whom she can love. Rather than responding with a personal trait, she was responding with what she likes best about her life.

The twin relationship, something I have been trying to wrap my head around for the past 9 years, is that simple to my wise 8-year-old. She has love.

Take a moment to ask yourself what you like most about yourself.

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Maintaining the Silliness Quota

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Going out, Medical, Parenting Twins, RelationshipsTags 2 Comments

Today, my daughter M and I went to her very own doctor, the one she doesn’t share with her sister. M’s twin sister, J, did not join us, instead staying at school with their 3rd grade class. This is quite the rare occurrence, since I usually try to schedule appointments outside school hours and therefore have both girls with me.

M was very silly at the appointment, needing more reminders than usual to focus on the doctors’ questions. I wondered what was going on, only to discover this was yet another sister thing.

M: I was super extra goofy for you at the doctor.
J: What?
M: You weren’t there, so I did your sillies for you.
J: WHAT!?
M: You weren’t there, so I had my own sillies and then I was extra silly to make up for you.
J: Yeah, I got that, and I repeat: “WHAT!?” That makes no sense.

At least she agrees with me.

M missed her sister. The appointment ran late enough that M risked missing lunch at school, so I took her to a restaurant for a meal. When I asked for a table for two, M let me know that it sounded wrong. She went through every combination of meal partners she could think of, pointing out that we always needed at least 3 seats.

By the time we were done eating, though, she was enjoying herself.

“I like this quality time with you, Mommy,” she confessed, “just the two of us.”

Now I need to find some Mommy-and-me outing time for J. She would be okay with M going on a playdate without her to make it work, “as long as it’s not with [one of their 3 best friends] S. We’re a trio.”

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What were YOU THINKING? New Parenting with your Partner

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Categories Balance, Co-parenting, Infants, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships4 Comments

parenting with your partner

Your Partner Isn’t Against You. When you have newborn multiples it may feel otherwise, especially in the first few weeks or months of sleep deprivation.

One of the major differences between having a singleton and multiples is the amount of chaos. You are feeding and changing and nurturing these babies simultaneously. If you have premies those demands can seem even greater.

The best scenario would be to have a partner who is in the game with you.

Since my husband and I had decided that I would stay-at-home with our children, I was the main care-giver. But, I was lucky that he never claimed that he couldn’t get up for night feedings because he had to work the next morning. We both agreed that BOTH of us were working the next morning. . .we just had different jobs and different offices.

Having twins meant that as the primary care giver couldn’t do everything on my own (I bow down to single moms or military wives!) and  it was in the best interest of our new family if Scott and I parented as a team.

But, I also had to come to (the slower and sometimes painful) realization that we parented differently. Ok, to be honest, this realization doesn’t come as a lightening bolt—although that would have been helpful—but maybe if someone had given me this one piece of advice when the babies were young I would have

Agree from the beginning that each of you is doing the best that you can in the best interest of the children.

Ignore the fact that he dressed the babies in plaids and polka dots for church. . .that he is embarking on a walk with the babies when they’ll need to be fed in ½ hour and will be screaming banchees. . .that he is literally gagging when changing a poopy diaper. . .that he is trying to watch the Master’s Golf tournament and isn’t catch watching the crawlers make their way to the dog’s bowl for a quick snack.

BE QUIET, Mama.

This works in the reverse as your partner returns home and babies are screaming, you haven’t showered and dishes are still out from breakfast.

No “I told you so’s.” No accusations of “Why didn’t you?” or “What were you thinking?” Or, my personal favorite, “Were you thinking?”

Second most important piece of advice: Leave your partner alone with the babies.

 This was hard for me and I still remember the first time I did it when the babies were a couple months old—actually one month old adjusted. My next door neighbor, Sarah, came over one evening after Scott had come home from work and said, “You’re going to Target with me.” I stared at her in disbelief. No, I thought, I couldn’t leave these babies with Scott–ALONE.

I needed to be able to leave. . .and Scott needed to experience juggling the babies and a feeding and changing session on his own. How else was he going to get good at this if he never did it. Everyone lived.

Date nights may or may not happen; tempers will be short as you are both exhausted; hygiene might not be up to par; the house will probably look like a thift store sale. . .but believing (and living) the piece of advice that both of you are doing the best that you can will help your relationship transition through this very challenging time.

 

 

 

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Toddler Thursday: Division of Labor

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Categories Balance, Co-parenting, Marriage, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Relationships, Toddler ThursdayTags , , 5 Comments

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

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

Some Tips to Maintain a Healthy Division of Labor

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

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

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Confusing Twins

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Categories Identical, Parenting Twins, Relationships4 Comments

Some people find themselves confusing my twins. It usually doesn’t last more than a few hours of interaction, since they’re not shy when it comes to correcting people, have distinct haircuts, dress differently, and have rather different personalities.

Sure, people confuse twins from time to time. But when the twins get themselves confused, it's truly befuddling.

Last night, I discovered an altogether new level of confusion.

A friend and I were going to slip out to dinner, leaving our kids with her husband. Since my daughters are offered their evening meal at afterschool care, but don’t always eat it, I asked them whether they’d eaten. They both reported that they had, so I didn’t worry about it.

As I was pulling up to my friend’s house, M suddenly spoke up. “Oh! I didn’t eat dinner.”

“But,” I replied, confused, “you told me you did.”

“I know. I confused myself with J.”

“You thought you were J?”

“I thought I’d eaten dinner because she’d eaten dinner, but now I realize that she isn’t me.”

I can’t begin to comprehend how two people can have this degree of interconnectedness.

Have your multiples ever been similarly confused? Is this a thing, or do I simply have the oddest children ever?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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Growth Spurt Compassion

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Categories Older Children, Parenting Twins, Relationships2 Comments

It’s growth spurt season at Casa Sadia. If M keeps up her current growth rate, she may even be out of toddler sizes by the time she turns 8 next week. (Yes, she’s a tiny little thing.)

J’s growth spurt occurred a couple of weeks ago. She grew so fast that she was woken by the pain in her leg muscle and my massaging did little to ease her discomfort. Yes, growing pains are a real thing.

I’ve observed that my children are particularly clumsy during these periods of rapid growth. I imagine that they aren’t quite aware of how far their arms reach and do a lot of tripping and bumping until they feel at home in their new larger bodies. During J’s last growth spurt, she spilled cat food all over the carpet and sugar all over the tile in a single day. Our broom and vacuum cleaner got quite the workout.

Now it’s M’s turn to grow. She came out of her room last night after lights out to report an injury. She’d banged her arm on the bunk bed guardrail and needed comforting. I kissed it better and offered an ice pack, which she declined. I reminded her that she was quickly growing, so she might want to be a little more careful than usual until she grew more accustomed to her 8-year-old body.

J came out to talk to me too. She was visibly upset. “Isn’t there something you can do?” she asked me. When I told her that I’d already done it in asking M to be careful, J began to tear up. “But Mom, she’s getting hurt!”

I was a little surprised at the intensity of her response. I reminded J that she’d been through the same thing herself only two weeks earlier, and hadn’t seemed nearly as concerned then as she was now.

“But Mom,” she said, “She’s my sister. I can’t stand to see her hurt.”

My wish for my girls is that each will treat herself with the same compassion they offer each other.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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How to Support an Infertile Friend… When You’re Not

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Categories Community, Infertility, Infertility Theme Week, Relationships2 Comments

5 ideas for supporting someone infertile, when you're not

It’s hard to know what to say or do when a couple we love learns that they’re infertile. It’s especially hard for those of us who had no trouble conceiving. It can become suddenly awkward, wondering what we’re doing or saying without even thinking about it to reopen the wound on their hearts. Being supportive without going overboard, especially when I have no real idea what they are going through, is a narrow road to walk.

I’ve been in this position several times now, and I’ve learned a few general lessons about what to do.

  1. Assume nothing. This is the big one. Don’t assume that you know how your infertile friends feel, what they need, or what comes next. Infertility is, by definition, a morass of the unknown. Ask questions instead of making general statements. Find out about your friends’ individual situations.

    Some questions you can (and perhaps should) ask:

    • Who are you telling about your infertility? Should I keep it a secret?
    • How are you feeling?
    • What are your hopes and fears?
    • What do you need from me? What do you want from me?
    • Do you want to spend time with my children? Would you prefer adult-only time with me?
    • Should I keep news about my pregnancy/children to myself?
    • If your friends have been through miscarriage:
      • Do you want to talk about the experience?
      • How do you want me to refer to the baby or babies you’ve lost? By name? As “the baby”? As “the fetus”?
      • Do you want to acknowledge the date of their death?
      • Do you want to acknowledge their due date?

     

  2. Recognize that every infertile couple is different. Knowing what one infertile couple has gone through gives you no understanding about the next couple you encounter. Every journey is different, from the emotions to the process to the eventual outcome.

    One couple may start seeking fertility treatment after 6 months of trying to conceive while another doesn’t think of their situation as infertility until 5 years down the road. One couple may be drawn together by their struggles while another is ripped apart. One wife may want to pour her heart out while another has a stiff upper lip. One husband may resent their inability to conceive while another doesn’t understand why his wife isn’t ready to adopt.

    I have two friends whose first pregnancies ended in miscarriage before they each gave birth to two healthy children. One considers herself the mother of 3, the other a mother of 2.

  3. Be there. Of course, friends are there for each other. It’s not so simple, though, when you’re a mother and your friends are battling infertility. Does it hurt them to have your kids around or hear stories about them? It can feel easier to just back off and let your infertile friends take their journey solo than to have difficult conversations. Do not retreat from your friends. Let them retreat from you if they choose to, but don’t assume that they’re better off without you.

    You don’t need to live nearby to provide support. A letter, card, phone call or text can mean as much or more than a hug or hot meal.

  4. Listen. It can be tempting to try to offer comfort in the form of positivity and advice. Resist that urge and listen to your friends. Let them communicate their pain, frustration, anger, amusement, bemusement, relief or whatever they may be thinking or feeling. Unless your friends are incredibly negative people, they’ve probably told themselves every positive truism in the book already. You can choose to be the friend who listens to them instead of telling them what they should do, should feel, should think.
  5. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Infertility can be devastatingly painful. It’s hard to look it in the face and let it rip at your heart if you have the option to avoid it. But if you really love your friends, you’ll let yourself feel their loss and pain alongside them.

    I’ve cried myself to sleep for my friends’ losses. I’ve felt the burn of anger on hearing news of yet another abandoned child, pondering the lack of justice that my friends, who would be such great parents, haven’t had the chance. And I’ve felt the flush of embarrassment and silly laughter hearing about the shenanigans that go on when the medical community gets involved in my friends’ private parts.

  6. Don’t say, “You can always adopt.” Trust me, they already know that adoption exists. Your friends will consider it when and if it suits them. Yes, we’re all well aware that there are many, many children in the world who need loving homes. But right now, we’re focused on your friends, and they’re focused on trying to conceive. If they choose to adopt, you can support them through that too. But it’s not your place to remind them about the adoption option.

    If they’re unaware of it, and the experience of pregnancy is their focus over genetic relationship to their children, you can mention embryo adoption. But do not say, “There’s always adoption.”

I’ve been in the unique position to offer two other kinds of support.

  1. Couples starting to use assisted reproductive technologies are often very concerned about the risk of conceiving multiples because of they know that there’s an increased risk of complications in a multiple pregnancy. My twin daughters serve to remind my friends that prematurity isn’t a life sentence, and I’m also sure to point out all the full-term multiples I know. Our family also demonstrates that having multiples doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Having several kids all the same age has its own special magic.
  2. I have offered to be a gestational surrogate to 3 couples I’m close to. None of them has taken me up on my offer, but I am fully prepared to host their babies in my womb for 9 months if that would help them achieve their dreams. I take prenatal vitamins regularly. I’ve talked to my doctor about it. My daughters and I have talked about what surrogacy would mean, and they understand that the baby would not be their sibling, that I would be the “belly mom”, standing in for the real mom during the pregnancy only.

If you’ve contended with infertility yourself, please share your story with your friends. Listen, first, but also let them know that they’re not alone. You can support them in ways I never can.

Simple steps to support an infertile friend.

What advice do you have on how to best support couples facing infertility?


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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4 Questions to Connect with My Children

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Categories Older Children, Parenting, Relationships3 Comments

My daughters and I are very close. They’re talkers. I’m a talker. That makes it pretty easy for us to stay connected. We do a lot together, but talking is the big point of connection we share.

At 7 years old, M and J are starting to realize that I’m not quite as omniscient and all-powerful as they once thought, but I’m not yet uncool enough in their eyes for them to reject me. For the most part, they volunteer news from the day and keep me informed of the things that are important to them. They tell me about their schoolwork, their friends, and particularly delicious or gross food.

Why It Gets Harder to Connect with My Children

I haven’t spent the whole day with my kids for more than a long weekend and rare vacation since I returned to work when they were 11 weeks old. When they were in daycare, I got a note from school each day telling me about their feeding, diaper changes, and daily activities. I had a decent idea of what they’d been up to from those notes and conversations with the teacher. Once they entered kindergarten, though, I was reliant on my kids for news about their day.

I know that over time my children will naturally put more of a distance between us. While that is a normal part of growth, I always want them to know that I’m here for them, and I want to keep tabs on what they’re up to. I recognize that adolescence will be a time when my girls are moving towards adulthood and wanting adult-like privacy and say over the details of their own lives. I hope to be able to respect their desires for more adult-like treatment while providing them with the structure and support these teen children still need.

One Easy Way to Connect with My Children

Elementary school is a perfect time to establish habits to stay connected that will work for us when the children are older and venturing farther afield.

Every day, at some point, I ask each of my children the following questions:

  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What was the worst thing that happened?
  • What have you read today?
  • What was one thing you learned?

In addition to helping me know what’s been going on, these questions also encourage J and M to evaluate their experiences critically. Depending on how much else is we have to get done, any one of these questions can prompt a discussion lasting an hour or more.

One simple idea for keeping in touch with your kids. Just ask these 4 questions.

Examples of Connecting with My Children

The worst thing in J’s day yesterday was my need to work from home in the evening. I had some last minute responsibilities that had to be taken care of then and there. Over 10 of us were pulling overtime to make it work.

I only ended up having 15 minutes available to spend with the children apart from the few minutes we spent together in the car. We talked about prioritization and how sometimes being the person one group of people can rely on means letting down another group. I explained to J that she and her sister were the most important part of my life, but that there were times when I had to trust them to tend to themselves while I took care of other business. She wasn’t any happier with me after we’d talked, but she felt heard and knew that I understood how disappointed she was in me.

On days when M can’t come up with a “best thing” that happened, I know it’s been a rough day and that she needs extra attention from me while her sister is occupied with something else. On days when she comes up with a list of “best things” and no “worst thing”, I know that any arguing I hear between my daughters will easily resolve itself and I leave them be to work things out. J usually sees both aspects of her day, but M sees the world in black and white.

When my children are away, usually staying with grandparents thousands of miles from here, I use these questions during our daily phone call if the conversations starts to stall. I don’t usually need them any more, since my 7-year-olds are usually bursting with news to tell me. When they were younger, age 4 or so, having specific questions to answer was helpful to them, since they kept wanting to show me things over the phone, which didn’t work particularly well.

How do you stay connected to your kids when you’re not together all day?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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My Kids’ Peers

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Categories Older Children, Other people, Parenting, Relationships3 Comments

My kids have some really great friends. I get to hang out with a bunch of insightful, kind, thoughtful, civic-minded 7- and 8-year-olds every week. There’s the little girl who approached the “bad” kid in her class to tell him that she thought that he was lonely, not bad, and that she was going to be his friend. There’s another girl who spent her entire day between early school release and our Girl Scout meeting raising over $300 for cancer research by selling baked goods and T-shirts. And my own daughters asked friends, when they were turning 5, to bring canned goods for the food pantry to their birthday party instead of gifts.

I encourage these friendships. These girls’ parents and I have made an effort to get to know each other, and were lucky to find great compatibility. We’ve all become good friends. We arrange play dates. We let each other know when there’s a fun kid-friendly activity available in town. We watch each others’ kids and encourage them to develop relationships with the adults as well as the kids. We ask after how these friends, in particular, are doing on a nearly daily basis, since they see each other at school.

Here’s why I think having deep friendships with exemplary children is important for my kids. Ultimately, it’s their peers who will shape how my children turn out. I can do my best to drill my values into my kids, but if these values are completely foreign to the social interactions they have out of my view, out of my control, they won’t stick.

For parents, the idea that peers have a greater influence on how kids turn out is an uncomfortable one. I’ve certainly met people who flat out refuse to entertain the thought. We put so much into our children that we need to believe that what comes out will be proportional to our effort.

I believe, very deeply, that my job as a mother is to give my children the tools they need to not need me any more. I hope that J and M will choose to spend time with me, to confide in me, when they’re adults, but I hope that they don’t need me. I know that adolescence is, by definition, a tearing away of the individual from the parent. This separation has to happen for child to become adult. I want my daughters to have the right peers and mentors around them to turn to when it is developmentally appropriate for them to turn away from me.

I think of the immigrant experience and how seamlessly first generation children blend into their peer groups. Children don’t adopt their parents’ accents if there’s a peer accent to be emulated instead. I’ve rarely seen adults keep their parents’ religion unless there’s some interaction with other children with similar beliefs in childhood. Both my children and I are examples. My parents grew up in Bangladesh, I in the UK and Bangladesh and my children in the US. People who don’t know our biographies just assume we’re American through and through. We learned these things from our peers.

In some ways, I feel that my greatest responsibility to my children, beyond meeting their physical needs, is providing them with the right peer group. I didn’t handpick M and J’s best friends. I did, however, make an effort to get to know their parents, as their parents did with me. I did handpick their school, a public school that would allow my kids to meet a cross-section of our community, an academically strong one that would have high expectations for children’s self-discipline. I advocated for my children to be in the selective dual language program, putting them side-by-side with other children whose parents advocated for Spanish immersion as well as children who speak Spanish at home and require English immersion. I chose the neighbourhood to be a culturally and politically diverse one that has, by necessity, a great tolerance for diversity. I’ve chosen a church where my kids’ peers and mentors will provide for them what I cannot.

Picking Peers for My Kids

Thus far, I haven’t contended with my children picking friends who consistently make choices with which I disagree. I have helped them navigate conflict within their friendships, but I have yet to deal with “bad influences.” I may very well discover that I have a lot less to do with who my children’s elementary school friends are than I think. I know that come middle and high school, I will have completely lost any such control.

I just hope that while I still have a say in the matter, I’ve shown my kids how to choose great friends to spend time with and to emulate. That may be the greatest gift this mother can give her daughters.

What relationship do you have with your children’s friends?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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