Silly Old Grandpa

Grandparents. Ah, grandparents. Is there a more peculiar set of people out there? These last few days have really illustrated to me how amazing, spectacular, bizarre, hilarious grandparents sometimes are, especially grandfathers.

It’s been a whirlwind of Chinese New Year celebrations around here. My dad, who is only here a couple months a year, came from Taiwan a few days ago, just in time to host a big CNY party at my parents’ home. My children, who he hasn’t seen in person since a year ago, were featured prominently in this gathering of their longtime friends.

From the time we arrived, my dad gave his entire attention to my children. This man, who I’ve always known as an extremely strict and stoic father, was completely transformed when his grandchildren were placed in front of him. I mean, a completely-unrecognizable-to-me different person. It’s unexplainable, really, where this weird smiling stranger came from. Whereas to us, his grown children, there is no great outpouring of affection, never a big show of feeling, something came over him while in the presence of this next generation. It was a very odd, yet not unwelcome, sensation to watch him study my children with adoration and pride. He couldn’t control his joy when they went to him, dropped anything else to play with them… I even saw his eyes get watery when my firstborn told him she remembered a game he played with her the last time he was here.

The kids’ other grandfather is certainly not immune to their charms either. We found out that a guest at my parents’ party is coincidentally also a tennis-playing friend of my father-in-law’s. Hilariously, he recognized my children because my FIL never misses any opportunity to whip out their picture to show everyone his beautiful grandchildren. We were entertained for some time listening to stories of him talking about his grandchildren every chance he gets, to whoever was still willing to listen.

Such endearing, unexpected behaviors, especially when we are so used to the very stern and reticent fathers they used to be. Is this just crazy weird or what?

Stuck to Mommy

My daughters returned home to me in Texas on Friday after a glorious 3 weeks enjoying the holidays with extended family in Washington and Oregon. Poor M caught the virus her father and grandmother suffered before her and came home with a fever. Things were looking a little worrying for twin sister J, but she’s managed to avoid the coughing, runny nose, fever and exhaustion.

Both girls insisted that they absolutely had to have Mommy snuggles all night Friday. Mommy could not sleep in her own bed. With M still feverish, I didn’t protest and took advantage of the opportunity to monitor her throughout the night. I just need to give up on keeping the girls in their room. If I’m giving in on their request that I sleep with them, I might as well do it a non-lofted bigger-than-twin bed. We are getting seriously squished as these girls of mine grow!

Saturday came and went, all the while M refusing to leave my side. If I sat, she sat next to me, thigh to thigh, arm to ribs, head to breast. If I stood, she hooked her hand in my pants waist and came with me. J wanted to be in the same room as me but she, usually the snugglier of my pair, wanted a typical amount of physical contact: the occasional hug, the odd moment tracing the lines on my palms, asking me to brush her hair a couple of times.

I thought that M might be needy because she didn’t feel well, or just because she’d missed me. After she let me release her for the period of her bath time, it occurred to me that at 7, she might know why she was so acting so needy.

“What’s up, M? Why such a snuggle bug?”
“I didn’t get enough snuggles while I was gone.”
“Oh? You know, you can always ask for snuggles. Grammy and Grampy and Daddy and Auntie love you as much as I do.”
“I know. I had four grownups for snuggles, but I snuggle you every day and them, it was more like every other day. And then I got sick and didn’t want to share my germs.”

I imagined my 7-year-old trying to emulate her grandmother and father in self-imposed isolation, protecting those around her from her germs, sacrificing the comfort of hugs to behave like a grownup. I was proud of her and yet it made it that much harder to know that my little girl had been sick without me there to care for her. A sick little girl needs her Mommy or at the very least her custodial parent. However you categorize it, M needed me.

As she fell asleep that Saturday night, one arm under me and one arm over me, breathing in my face and occasionally coughing, I was glad to know that my mature little girl thought me immune to her germs, able to give her all those missing snuggles while she still felt poorly. Usually, she gives a sleepytime squeeze before seeking personal space.

Sunday, and Monday too, she remained glued to me. By Monday, she allowed her sister in my lap, but only as long as I kept a hand on her head and a leg where she could rest hers. I had made a halfhearted effort to find childcare for the day, since school wouldn’t open until Tuesday, but the YMCA has been inconsistent in their full day care, M begged to stay home, and I wasn’t convinced J wasn’t still incubating the virus. I elected to work from home. Thank goodness that I have that option!
Snuggle bunnies from hdydi.com

This photo was taken with my iPad resting on my stomach. M is the farther child, but her legs are hooked over mine. She insisted that I type one-handed, allowing her sister next to me only as long as I kept a hand on her head.

How do your children seek comfort when they don’t feel well? Do they seek out one parent over the 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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Twin Sister Love

My 7-year-old twin daughters, M and J, love each other, deeply and openly. They bicker and annoy each other on purpose, but their love for one another is never in doubt. They may argue at bedtime, sometimes until late at night, but they fall asleep in each other’s arms 99% of the time.

Twin Sister Love from hdydi.com

Every few weeks, J tells me worriedly, “This might hurt your feelings, but I love M more than anything.” I always let her know that my feelings are doing just fine and that her love for her sister is completely appropriate.

The other day, M was admiring her own waist length hair in the mirror. “I’m never cutting my hair,” she told me, “except to trim it. Having my hair cut off is my worst nightmare. No. J dying is my worst nightmare. But I like my long hair.” Some might consider her statement morbid, but it was delivered as fact.

A while ago, J suffered a theological crisis in church when she realized that she was supposed to love God above everything, even her sister. She began to cry in the middle of service. “You don’t understand,” she told me vehemently when I tried to soothe her. “You don’t have a twin sister and you don’t even believe in God!” She was finally comforted by a friend in the congregation who told her that her love for her sister, the sacrifices she was willing to make for her, was a reflection of J’s love for God and God’s love for her.

J and M don’t have any homework this week and will be leaving to spend Christmas with their father’s family tomorrow. On the spur of the moment, finding ourselves with some free time, we decided to go to the movies and watch Frozen.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Flix Brewhouse in Round Rock, TX, the only movie theatre near enough with a showtime that worked for us. I hadn’t gone before, assuming it would be a cheap and underwhelming attempt to copy the Alamo Drafthouse. Instead, I was pleased to find a spotless and charming movie theatre with excellent food–the fries were better than those at the Alamo–unobtrusive but attentive waitstaff during the movie, comfortable chairs, well-designed tables that fit even my 7-year-olds, and excellent film and sound quality. I was impressed even without trying the beer brewed on site; after all, I was driving.

We loved the movie. J left the theatre singing, “The cold never bothered me anyway.” All three of us were smiling. We agreed to buy the DVD as soon as it came out. (If you go to see the movie, watch for the disclaimer at the end of the credits. I laughed so hard!)

I’m a sucker for traditional musicals and this was a modern throwback to the days of Cinderella and Snow White, where the main characters broke into song midscene. I started out a little annoyed that this was to be yet another story about a damsel in distress being saved by a swashbuckling man, but there was a nice twist to story that pleased the feminist and strong single woman in me.

The part of the movie experience that touched me the most, though, was a moment in which the two main characters, sisters Elsa and Anna, clearly put their love for each other first. I glanced at my own little girls during that moment and caught my sweet J brushing a tear from her eye. The parallel between her connection to M and Anna’s to Elsa hadn’t escaped her either. She smiled at me sheepishly and said, “I just love M.”

I hope that love lasts always.

Unfortunately, my sister and I have drifted apart, living very different lives on different continents as we do. We’re nothing like twins, born over a decade apart. I wish she knew how much I love her and felt comfortable opening up to me, but I realize that it may never happen. The kind of love I have to give may not be what she wishes to receive. Meaningful long distance relationships may never be her comfort zone.

May my daughters never feel that loss.

I am so grateful that even such mainstream media companies as Disney recognize the value of the relationship between sisters. Brotherly love is harder to portray, thanks to our societal assumptions that emotions like love belong in the feminine domain. I can’t help remembering a passage in One and the Same (previously reviewed by yours truly) in which Abigail Pogrebin talks about how hard some identical twin men find it to find romantic partners who aren’t frightened off by their intimate relationships with each other.

Are your multiples close? How do others perceive their relationship?

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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

I Almost Missed My Child’s Call for Help

I predicted that M would explode into emotion at some point after her therapist’s death. When it actually happened after she heard about her Dad’s impending second divorce, I nearly missed the opportunity to talk to her about how she was feeling.

help

My 7-year-olds share a room and each has her own lofted bed. Still, they sleep in the same bed most nights. Last night, after prayers, when they should have been settling in to sleep, they were still bickering.

“M kicked me!” J informed me.
“Only ’cause J punched me first.”
“There is no hitting or kicking in the family,” I reminded them.
“Sorry,” J apologized, almost convincingly.
“She punched me first!” countered M.
I stood firm. “You owe her an apology.”
“But…”
“No ‘but’. No hitting”
“But it was because…,” M kept trying to defend herself.
“No because. No hitting. No excuses.”
“But Mom!”
“No ‘but’,” I  insisted. “No excuses. We do not hit in this family for any reason. Use words or get help.”
“I hate this family!” M yelled.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I told her. “I love you.”
She’d escalated to a full-throated scream by this point. She turned on her sister. “Get. Out. Of. My. Bed.”
“But I’m already settled,” J tried to argue.
“GET OUT!”
I tried to restore peace. “J, go ahead and go to your own bed. I can sleep with you.”
M was horrified. “Who’s going to sleep with me?”
“No one. You asked J to leave.”
“That’s not fair!” M took the default child position. “I want you to snuggle with me!”
“J may have been inappropriate at the start, but you’re the one making poor choices right now,” I explained. “This is a consequence.”
“I don’t feel loved,” M cried. “I don’t feel part of this family. I want to find another family.”
“Good luck finding a family that allows hitting and kicking and is still loving and safe,” I retorted. “I have these rules because I love you.”

I kissed both children good night and sat down on the couch to clear out the spam comments on this site before I tackled the Neverending Laundry Story. M’s words were echoing in my ears.

I don’t feel part of this family.
Family…
Family…

Realization hit all at once. She was upset about family. She was upset about Daddy’s divorce and confused about her standing with her stepmother and stepsisters. Her anger wasn’t directed at her sister, or even me, at all. We were the safe people in her life; she could act out with us. The family she didn’t feel part of was the bigger family, outside the safety of Mommy and Sissy.

I know that this is how M processes big emotions, with a massive explosion that makes way for her readiness to process things. Even knowing this, I almost missed it in the rush to bedtime, in my focus on M’s lack of self-discipline, in my quest for just treatment of my daughters.

I quite literally ran across the living room, down the hall, and into the girls’ room. They were both still awake.

“What?” J asked.
“I have to talk to M,” I told her. “I just realized something. Go to sleep, J Bear.”
I climbed into M’s bed and lowered my voice to speak to her.
“I’m so sorry, M. You’re upset about Daddy and Melissa’s divorce. Am I right?”
She nodded.

We talked and talked and talked. She told me about her confusion, her sadness, her anger. She told me that she was disappointed in her daddy. She told me she was embarrassed to tell her friends that she had two divorces. She told me that she didn’t think they gave their marriage enough time. She wondered why her stepmother hadn’t realized what Daddy’s being a soldier would mean before they got married. She wondered if her stepsisters would still love her. She wished her relatives weren’t all so far away. She wished people she loved who weren’t her relatives weren’t all so far away.

Maybe if people were allowed to marry 3 wives, she pondered, there wouldn’t need to be divorce. That way, Daddy could be married to me and Melissa and another person and would never have to be divorced. That way, she could still have a mom and stepmom and never have to know the word “divorce.”

She has more insight than she realizes.

Our discussion on her feelings of divorce slipped seamlessly into the other subject that’s been bothering her.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “This is all too much sadness for a little 7-year-old to deal with.”
“I’m not little!” she told me, offended.
“Giant 7-year-old?”
“No, Mommy! I’m a normal 7-year-old girl, despite my looks.” (What? Your 7-year-old doesn’t use the word “despite” in regular conversation? Mine does.)
“What do you mean, ‘despite your looks’?” I asked, knowing full well what she meant.
My kissy nose.”
“Are people still making rude comments?”
“Yes, but Mrs. H is reading Wonder to our class. It’s only for 5th graders and 4th graders and 3rd graders but Mrs. C [the principal] said Mrs. H could read it to our class.”
“I’ve heard great things about it.”
“It’s so good! The character has a funny face like me…”

We talked more. Auggie, M thought, would understand her if only her weren’t fictional. I suggested that perhaps the author understood her, but M wasn’t interested in pursuing that train of thought. Auggie had a big sister who beat people up when they teased him, “kind of like J! Daddy told me she beat someone up at Chick-Fil-A for laughing at me.” (They were 2 years old. A big kid pushed M off the slide in the playscape and J let him have it with all of her 18 lbs.)

“I’m not exactly like him, though,” M mused.
“No?”
“He wishes he looked ordinary. I don’t want a different nose. I just want people not to tease me.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Some people scream when they see the character,” M told me.
“No one would do that to you.” I was relieved to have something positive to offer.
“But they scream with laughter.”
“That’s terrible. What should they do instead?”
“That should ask me! And I’ll tell them I was born this way! That’s all. That’s it. I’ll tell them it’s my kissy nose.”

M is adorable.

I almost missed M’s call for help in the midst of the daily grind.

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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Another Divorce

Silly me. I thought that if I made my life as stable as humanly possible, I would be able to maintain my daughters’ sense of security despite my abrupt divorce nearly a year and a half ago. I thought I had parenting through divorce figured out.

I don’t control my daughters’ world, though. My job as a mother is to give them the tools they need to navigate life’s challenges, not to keep them from experiencing them. It’s so tempting, though, to want to keep them away from heartache, that it’s a good thing that hiding my babies away isn’t a real option.

On the night before Thanksgiving, J and M learned that their father was getting divorced again, this time from the stepmother they’d come to love in the year and a half since she entered their lives. He told M and J that their stepsisters were no longer their sisters. When J countered that we’d already bought their Christmas presents, he told her to tell me to return them. I quickly told her that she and her former stepsisters could continue their relationship regardless of their parents’ marital status. My ex-husband texted me his ex-wife’s address as soon as he got off the phone and we’ll be dropping their gifts in the mail.

As J told me once she was done sobbing, “I feel like Melissa [her stepmother] has one arm and Daddy has one arm and you have one leg and Dustin [a friend of mine J is very close to] has one leg and I’m being pulled apart.”

M had an open conversation with her grandmother. “I don’t get it. Why wouldn’t Melissa want a long-distance relationship? Daddy’s in the army. I have a long-distance relationship with him too. I have a long-distance relationship with you! Mommy and Daddy had a relationship for lots of years!”

I can’t say I agree with my ex’s choice to explain the entirety of his second divorce as being his ex-wife’s choice. While he was the one to leave me, I felt that it was important that my daughters see me take responsibility for my own shortcomings. To each their own, though. Our daughters are smart and observant, and I imagine that it was very hard for him to answer their questions. I’m used to talking to them openly and honestly and it still took a year before J did finally got me to admit that I had agreed to our divorce, but not wanted it.

The girls had practical questions. What had happened to the bunk bed with their names on it at their stepmom’s house? Were stepmom and stepsisters still living in the apartment they’d visited? Would they ever see them again? Why had this happened?

Children always want to know why, and they always think it’s their fault. I reminded my daughters of the book Was It the Chocolate Pudding? and that divorce is never a child’s fault. I didn’t hear them blaming themselves, but I wanted to be sure.

Both girls told me that they didn’t want to tell anyone about Daddy’s second divorce because they were embarrassed. They were both especially concerned about Divorce Club, the school support group for kids of divorce. They wanted to be honest but didn’t want to talk about it and felt torn.

I asked J whether she’d be willing to tell her teacher and she said yes. I called Mrs. H right away, as she celebrated Thanksgiving Eve at her parents’ house. J came away from that conversation feeling much more safe and closer to being ready to talk about the divorce with others. We were all reminded that people don’t have to officially or legally be our mothers to love us as if we were their daughters.

My little girls are 7 and they have been through things that would have broken adults. Their resilience puts me to shame. The day after they had their hearts broken yet again, they threw themselves into a joyous Thanksgiving. We had a genuinely happy day, although Daddy’s most recent divorce did come up in conversation a couple of times.

At bedtime, I reminded the girls to say their prayers.

“Thank you, Lord,” J said, her hands pressed together and her eyes closed, “for my family who loves me. Thank you for all my nice things and for all my yummy food and making the world and everything. I am very grateful.”

“Hey, J,” I prompted, “don’t you want to ask for help during a rough time? Like maybe for understanding or peace or feeling better?”

“Nope,” she responded. “I get that stuff from you.”

I know there will be a day when my child no longer needs me, and the teen years before that when she no longer wants me. For now, though, I’ll fill my role as her stability, strength and guide to the best of my ability. My sweet M doesn’t quite have her sister’s emotional awareness or talent for heart-melting one-liners, but I know she shares J’s strength and sunny outlook. I hope that she also feels that I give her strength and understanding. I do my best, as every mother does.

Have you ever had to discuss someone else’s divorce with your children? How did you approach it?

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, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

back to (home)school with twins

Where we left off (more than a year ago… whoops!), our twins’ IQ test results placed just one of them into our public school’s gifted program, which helped solidify our decision to homeschool them – and eventually all four of our children (girls ages 11 and almost 7, and our twin boys, who turn 9 today!)  – for the 2012-2013 school year.

We are now one week into our 2nd school year at home, and I’ve learned a lot. Not about geography and grammar and other boring stuff, but about my children.

Homeschooling twins: 5 key take-aways

  1. The bond between my kids – not just my twins – is stronger. At the end of the 2011-2012 school year, our oldest was at a different school than our twins and our youngest, who form a very tight trio. Over the last year I’ve noticed a change in how our oldest relates to the other three, and I think being home with the other three has made her feel less left out of twinhood. When most of the neighborhood kids went back to school and there was no one to play with but each other, my kids got really close. Over the last couple months my kids have been picked on and ostracized by a handful of neighborhood kids, but rather than being upset at being left out, they’ve felt pretty meh about it all. They enjoy each other. And I love it.
  2. I have perspective on my twins’ academic strengths and weaknesses. The twin with the lower IQ finished math a full month ahead of his brother last year, and is much more successful at employing various strategies to solve multiplication problems in his head, for example. I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to see this for myself if they were in school. And if I’d placed his brother into the gifted program, the not-gifted twin wouldn’t have gotten the chance to surpass his brother academically every now and again, and build his confidence.
  3. It doesn’t solve everything. The twin with the higher IQ tested into a higher math this year. (So far no one has noticed.) I’m still doing school work twice. We’re still dealing with “mean kids” and bullying.   
  4. They are less like twins; more like brothers. Because they are at home with people who can tell them apart, and because they are doing different work, there isn’t anything “twinny” about their day-to-day life. I don’t know that this is good or bad for them – I imagine that, for them, everything is “twinny” as much as it is not. But it is good for their older sister, and at least I know they aren’t being placed in the wrong levels or called by a hybrid name all day.
  5. There is no peer pressure. Including peer pressure to pronounce words. Being at home with people who can [mostly] understand their garbled speech has in no way motivated my boys to work hard on speech skills. In. No. Way.  

Jen is a work-from-home mom of twin boys who turn 9 today, and two girls ages 11 and almost 7.Once in a blue moon, she blogs at Minivan MacGyver about stuff like speech therapy and homeschooling and how there is not one single day without multiple kid activities and other stuff the rest of the internet seems to deal with in a much calmer fashion.

First Day Butterflies and How Kids Categorize Themselves at School

This was a discussion I had with my 7-year-old daughter, J, while grocery shopping.

butterfly

Photo Credit: Ian A Kirk.

J: I have butterflies in my stomach.
Me: Hunger butterflies or nervous butterflies?
J: mumble mumble
Me: Excuse me?
J: Nervous.
Me: What are you nervous about, sweetie?
J: I never had a teacher I knew before. I’m worried that I’ll forget how to behave.

Some context: M and J are starting 2nd grade today. Their homeroom teacher is M’s best friend’s mother. Over the last several months, she and her husband have become close friends of mine and made my girls feel like family. My daughters have spent several full days this summer at their house and even slept over. On one occasion, their new teacher, Mrs. H, picked them up from summer camp when I had an appointment, even though her own daughter was spending the night at her dad’s and wasn’t home.

Me: What do you think might happen?
J: Well, I’m used to being the… the example of… well-behaved. Actually, perfectly behaved!
Me: So how would it be different with Mrs. H?
J: It’s just different because I know her.
Me: My advice would be to listen first, then act.
J: Act? What do you mean, “act”? Like put on a monkey show or something?
Me: No, I mean to do something. Listen to the instructions first, then follow them. Mrs. H isn’t worried about it, is she?
J: No.
Me: Well, if she’s not worried, there’s probably no reason for you to be too concerned.
J: I guess.
Me: Why don’t you give me an example of a situation you’re concerned about, and we’ll figure out how to handle it?
J: Mom, I’m a role model.
Me: I know you are. Just make good choices, and it’ll be okay.
J: I guess.

You may recall that I wrote about how the most well-behaved kids may act out with the people they feel safe with. J’s concerns seem to underline that point. Mrs. H is safe harbour and practically a member of our family. To have to behave with her as a teacher has J flustered. J knows that she’s been pushing the boundaries with Mrs. H in a way that she would never do in the classroom.

We have made some efforts to maintain boundaries over the summer. My daughters call their new teacher Mrs. H, even as they refer to her husband by his first name. Mrs. H’s daughter won’t be in her home room, but due to the nature of the dual language program all 3 kids are in, she’ll be teaching her daughter for part of the day. Obviously, she’s well aware of the issues that may arise. At Meet the Teacher night last week, Mrs. H found a quiet moment with my daughters and another close friend of her daughter’s to let them know not to be surprised if she was stricter at school than she was at home. Obviously, if J hadn’t been thinking about the issue before, she was then.

The bigger thing that struck me about my conversation with J was how certain she is of her role in the classroom. She’s the kid who is perfectly behaved, the best reader and the most enthusiastic learner. Talk to M, and she’ll tell you that she’s the math whiz, fastest runner and best listener. My daughters are in 2nd grade and they already know where they fit in the classroom pecking order. Like me, they are the disgustingly obedient nerds.

What about those kids who, for whatever reason, have internalized other, less positive labels? Mrs. H asked for a particularly challenging student to be placed in her class so that she can try to break through to find the source of his acting out. It’s the rare teacher that does that. It honestly never occurred to me that these things would already be set going into 2nd grade.

Even while it saddens me somewhat to see my daughters pigeonholing themselves already, I remember that this is exactly the sort of social skill my kids will need in their adult lives. This sort of thing is why I was happy to see my kids “held back” with their age peers instead of pushing on ahead in a grade with kids a year older. When their father insisted that our children attend public schools, it was so that they would have a broader view of the types of people in our community and better appreciate the resources they have, including their talents, to give back to others.

How do you feel about kids labeling themselves as academics, jocks, or other things in elementary school? How would you feel about your child having a friend for a teacher?

Children of Military Divorce

My ex-husband deployed to Iraq when our babies were 5 months old.

My ex-husband deployed to Iraq when our military babies were 5 months old.

Early in my pregnancy, I made the mistake of referring to our twins as “military brats.” Their dad told me that he would not accept that term. Our children, M and J, would never be allowed to use our family’s military connections as an excuse for brattiness or other poor behaviour. His point has stayed with me. It extends to our divorce too. Divorce has been hard on the children, but does not furnish them with a free pass to be badly behaved.

Military life is hard on kids. The moving, the extended absences of a parent and the fear associated with having a parent in combat are no small things. We’ve honestly had it pretty easy. Instead of having to move to a different part of the country or world every few years, we were able to stay in the Austin area for 8 of the 9 years that I was engaged or married. That gave us the time to build a solid steel support network. Although I got to stay put, during the time I was a military fiancée/wife, my husband went to Iraq twice, Afghanistan once, Korea once and was activated for hurricane relief. He missed every one of our daughters’ odd birthdays.

My ex is currently stationed in North Carolina. We live in Texas. This absence is much harder for my girls than the ones in the past have been. Perhaps it’s that now, at age 7, their memories are long enough to know what they’re missing. Perhaps this absence, where Daddy is stateside and in garrison, not overseas or in training, feels different to the girls.

My ex got to master the two baby hold before he was needed in Iraq.

My ex got to master the two baby hold before he was needed in Iraq. He was also a champion diaper changer and baby burper. He did not cut nails or breastfeed, but he was otherwise as present as I was to our babies.

I don’t have much patience for excuses. Instead, I believe in acknowledging our mistakes and identifying their sources to prevent similar mistakes in the future. When my daughters try to pull the army or divorce cards to explain away poor decisions, I acknowledge that it is difficult to be military children and have gone through our divorce. I then remind them that those things are no excuse for bad behaviour.

On Monday, my daughter M couldn’t find the shoes she wanted to wear to summer camp. I was less than sympathetic. I reminded her that she was responsible for her things. If she couldn’t be bothered to store her favourite shoes somewhere she could find them, that was too bad. She could wear another pair. I was not going to help her look for her shoes beyond double checking the shoe rack where they should have been.

There were a lot of tears, but when I ushered the children into the car, M was not barefoot. She had, however, left a pair of shoes in the middle of the hallways. These shoes were neither the pair she was wearing nor the pair she wanted to be wearing. I made her get out of the car and put them away.

She was not happy about that. She cried and cried and cried. Finally…

Dress greens with daughter http://hdydi.comM: It’s because you and Daddy got divorced!
Me: What is?
M: That’s my sadness. That’s why I have tears.
Me: Uh, no. Your sadness is that you’re dealing with the consequences of not putting your shoes away.
M: But I miss my Daddy.
Me: And so you should. Would you like to call him? You can talk to him. You cannot blame him or me for you not putting your shoes where they go.
J: There is a big hole in my heart. Around the center of my heart is a empty part. The center of my heart is M. The empty part is of missing Daddy.
Me: Sweetheart, I know. I think I understand. Remember, my parents are also divorced. I know that there’s a pain that feels like it would go away if Daddy and I hadn’t split up. But if we hadn’t gotten divorced, you wouldn’t have such a great step-mom and step-sisters. And this is one of those really really difficult things that is part of our lives that we accept.
M: My sadness is because I’m not used to Daddy being so far.
Me: I don’t understand that part. I totally understand that you miss him. What I don’t understand is why you think he’s away more now than he was before. He was gone a lot even when we were married.
J: It feels more away. Because he doesn’t get to visit so often.
Me: He didn’t get to visit much from Iraq or Korea or Afghanistan.
J: This is different.
Me: You’re right. It is different. And your feelings are normal. I wish you didn’t have this sadness. Do you want to call him on my phone?
J: No! I want to see him.
Me: Let’s figure out a way to see him, then! He’s going to pick you up for Christmas. Maybe we can find a way for you to fly to North Carolina for a few days.
M: So you’ll take us and fly home and come back to get us.
Me: No, you’d probably fly by yourselves. It’s called “unaccompanied minor”. You’d be with Sissy, of course, but the airplane people would be responsible for your safety until Daddy picked you up, or I picked you up.
M: That’s a good idea.
Me: He’s going to expect you to put your shoes away, you know.
M: Moooooooom!

The Twin Connection

Around the time I discovered that I was expecting twins, that Talking Twin Babies video was viral. Nearly a dozen people sent it to me as part of their congratulations on our impending bundles of joy! The twin connection that my two babies would have with each other was exciting and novel to us. Our children would have The Shining with each other and that was pretty cool.

Growing up I was told a lot of stories about my grandmother Mabel and her twin sister Madelaine and their strong twinnection. Some stories were about how they tricked people into thinking they were their sister, basically anything you’d see in those low budget Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies from the nineties. Except oddly my grandmother and her sister, who were also fraternal twins, didn’t look much alike no matter how many identical haircuts or matching embroidered “M” sweaters their mother dressed them in, so I’m guessing people around were either playing along or a little slow on the uptake. One of my favourite stories about them is from when one twin had a sore arm all weekend and later discovered that her sister had broken the same arm skiing hundreds of miles away.

twinshandholding

Molly and Jack are almost two years old and I’m a little sad to admit that I’ve rarely noticed their Wonder Twins Powers Activate. Maybe some of it has to do with how I’ve never really embraced traditional ways of celebrating their twinness. Sure they share a birthday, toys, clothes and a nursery, but I rarely (maybe 3-4 times) dress them in matching clothes. Molly (twin A) is and acts like the oldest and Jackie (twin B) embraces his role of the baby. Molly and Jack both love each other’s company, they’ve moved past parallel play and sometimes play together chasing each other around the house squealing. The way they interact reminds me a lot of me and my younger brother. They are both crazy about each other, love to fight and tease their sibling, but share a loyalty with their sibling akin to a mama bear.

About two or three months ago I noticed a big shift in their relationship. Molly will ask for milk both for her and her brother and they will actively (and a little creepily) feed one another snacks. They hold hands more often, they’ll share toys, even if sharing means passing something back and forth 20 times so someone doesn’t have it too long. This could be normal development, or the start of The Twinning.

I thought I was grasping at straws. Then on Sunday when I was at my parent’s house something funny happened. Molly was playing with the dolls and pushing them around the house in a toy stroller. My mother and I noticed that Miss Molly makes sure that there are ALWAYS two babies in her stroller, or by her side. Because babies always come in pairs, right?

This is an excerpt from a post on my blog.  Read the entire post here

SaraBeth is a Toronto based writer.  Her blog Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.  She is a two-time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest.  She lives in The Junction with her husband and fraternal toddler twins (Molly & Jack).

Functional Multiples

Zoe and IsaiahThe first thing I noticed when I arrived here at HDYDI is that the focus is on “moms of multiples”, and not specifically “moms of twins and triplets.” Because of that, and the invitation to share my perspective, I knew I had found a place to belong!

In a recent conversation, I mentioned that most folks have referred to my kidlets’ particular situation as being “virtual” or “pseudo” twins.  However, I think it is more accurate to call them “Functional Multiples.” The next question was “what thoughts lead you to that conclusion?”

I had to think about that. Until that moment, I just knew it “felt right.” I am a word person way down deep in my soul. The meaning of a word matters to me. By definition…a “twin” is  one of two children produced in the same pregnancy. Period. I am all about validating the experiences of those around me. We all have a story to share. I don’t need to claim elements of your experience to confirm my own! I am not the mother of twins. I am most definitely a mom of multiples!

I can relate to many of the first year experiences of mothers with twins. I remember the 2 am feedings. I remember holding my breath, hoping the other baby would not wake. Of course, that was before I learned to go ahead and wake the other baby and feed them so that I wouldn’t need to get up again in less than an hour!  I also remember the first real road trip that I took alone with both babies screaming in the backseat. I thought I would lose my mind. It’s amazing how quickly you learn that screaming will not kill them, and is sometimes unavoidable! *Secret confession #1…I have since developed the habit of using ear plugs when the screaming is unavoidable and going to push me over the edge!

That is why I am here! I want to share in the common experiences. Having two little ones at the same time is incredibly isolating!  I have always been a “run for the hills” outdoors kind of person. Any chance I get I am *outside*. I am a landscape photographer by passion and profession! But, in that first year, I often wondered when I would be able to get out of my house on a blue sky day again! In fact, there were days when my response was more about sleep deprivation and less about logic where I wondered if I would EVER get out of the house again!? As far as I could tell spontaneity just exited my world, stage left!

Early on I searched for support. I researched the subject of “pseudo twins” and looked in vain for online groups of moms who are like me. There is a ton of “research” and opinion on the subject, most of which is very discouraging to a vulnerable mama with two growing babies in her care. Loads of criticism and debate are available at the click of a mouse, but little to no support for those of us already walking out this dynamic. The only advice I found that was of any comfort came from moms of multiples by birth. I can relate to the mom piece of this in so many ways!

I hope that by calling my babies “functional multiples” I can communicate my respect for the difference between what my children are experiencing and that of multiples by birth. At the same time, I hope to draw in other MoMs who may not fit into the typical scenario.

Thank you so much for inviting me to pull up a chair!

What do you think when you hear the phrase “Functional Multiples”? Does it make sense to you?

 

 

JeaneneJeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional multiples”, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. Both kids came home as newborns in 2011, adopted from foster care on National Adoption Day, November 17, 2012! She shares the perspective of raising multiples through adoption. She also speaks from the position of raising kids as “older parents,” something that Jeanene and her hubby have found is becoming a more and more common experience. Jeanene is a passionate landscape, wedding, and portrait photographer, but has put the business side of photography on hold to focus on the special needs of her kiddos as a SAHM. Her days are now spent in a mixture of play, occupational therapy, and everyday life with two-year olds running around. Think messy! When she has time, she enjoys casual photography, hiking, fly fishing, hunting, reading, writing and working researching the best ways to meet the needs of her sensory challenged kiddos! She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.