Twinfant Tuesday: Separation Decisions For Multiples

“Are you going to separate them?”

“When are you going to separate them?”

Those are 2 questions that parents of multiples will have to answer over and over again as their multiples go through the different stages of childhood. The first time that question has to be answered is when you’re going home with twinfants in tow. Should they share a room? Should they share a bed?

For me the answers were fairly straightforward. Should they share a room? Absolutely! No way I’m going to manage night feedings in 2 different locations.

Should they share a bed? As long as it’s safe to do so was the consensus. What’s safe? As long as they do not have the ability to move or roll over each other, twins can share a crib. With this, my twins did share a crib for the first couple of months until they started wiggling to the middle of the crib to share body warmth. imageCute as it was, it wasn’t safe and that signified it was time for them to move into separate cribs. And so the first of many separation decisions was made based on safety and convenience.image

I wish all the other separation decisions would be as easy as the ones in the infant stage but no such luck. My babies are now pre-schoolers and I’ll soon have to face the question of separating them in school. As with the first decision that was made, the  answer will be a combination of what’s best for the family – convenient for the parents and in the best and safest interest of the kids.

If you’re a parent or caretaker of multiples, how do you do it? The separation decisions that is. What are the driving factors for determining when and how to physically separate your multiples?

Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice and she blogs about the twin parenting life at www.mytwintopia.com

Summer Camp Makes Me Cry

summercampOur school district has a 12-week summer vacation. I’m a single mom with a full-time job, so I have to find somewhere safe and fun for my 7-year-old daughters to spend the summer months. According to our divorce decree, my ex-husband is supposed to get 30 summer days with the kids when he’s stateside, but he had to decline that right this year, so arrangements for the entirety of the 12 weeks fell to me.

I pored over summer camp brochures. My kids qualified, academically, for the highly rated Summer Wonders program for gifted children, but the full-day program plus extended care (for two) was well outside my schedule requirements as well as my budget. I finally decided to go with a local YMCA program for 11 weeks and Girl Scout camp for 1 week and let the kids pick specific options.

A friend made all the transportation arrangements for Girl Scout camp and kept my daughters after camp until I got home from work that week. The paperwork was more than a little frustrating–why would a day camp require that I provide scans of the girls’ medical insurance cards?–but the kids had a fantastic time.

Most of the YMCA weeks were to be spent at a school location at one of their basic camps. Each of these basic camps has a weekly field trip, weekly swimming outing and fun activities all day, every day. The kids are obviously happy and well-cared for, and the counselors make sure that I knew the schedule, providing daily updates on a whiteboard, a printed schedule, and verbal reminders.

For a few weeks,  we elected to sign up for a few “special” camps: tumbling, cheer-leading, soccer and cooking. These camps last from 8 am to 1 pm. Outside these hours, kids can additionally register for full-day camp, and the YMCA staff is responsible for transitioning the kids from one program to the other.

Once the kids were actually at their special camps, they had a blast. The counselors were fantastic. J, being petite, got to participate in the most fun part of all sorts of cheerleading stunts. She’s a “flyer.” M couldn’t stop talking about her dribbling, defense and scoring skills.

The administrative side, though, was just horrendous. I thought that, once I’d filled out the forms, paid out my $400 deposit ($15 per week per child for 12 weeks plus some base deposit) and paid the first week’s tuition, things would go smoothly.

Not so.

In week one, I was the first one to mess up. I showed up to the school-based camp location instead of the specials place. One of the counselors made some calls to help me figure out where J and M should be. They were signed up for tumbling camp… except that they weren’t. I managed to register M and J on the spot for the school location and left them there while I tried to chase things down. As I said, the on-site staff, the people who actually deal with kids, are professional, accommodating, and infinitely helpful.

What had happened, it turns out, was that when I signed J and M up for tumbling camp (or perhaps when they got around to entering them into their system), the camp was full. So someone took the initiative to move my $30 deposit for the week to be a credit against another week of camp, without ever bothering to communicate the change to me, and effectively leaving me without childcare for that week. When I tried to point out that the appropriate, polite and professional thing to do would have been to inform and consult me, the manager simply said, “Well, I have no idea who did it. Jeff took your paperwork, but he would never do that. I can’t look up who did.”

Great. Thanks. That makes everything better. Obviously, my first impression of the “special” camps wasn’t fantastic. Neither was the second.

What I had gathered from the (incomplete) information on the YMCA website and from several conversations was that I could drop the girls off at the full-day location between 7 and 8 or bring them directly to their special camp at 8. On the first day, I decided on the latter. I easily located M’s soccer coach, signed her in, and began to seek J’s cheer instructor.

I asked for a location at the front desk. I was pointed to a room in the building. We went in and it was empty. It was 7:55. I called out, thinking that I was simply failing to see someone. There was no response. I went to the childcare program offices for help.

“We don’t run that program,” said the ever unhelpful Jeff. “You’ll have to ask at the front desk.”
“I already did,” I told him. “They told me to go to room X.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“There’s no one there.”
“Oh, you should take her down to the [location] for the full-day program.”
“Now?”
“Yeah.”

I loaded J into the car and went down the street to the full-day location. Drop-off was easy, and J and I made sure that the counselor knew that J was supposed to be going to cheer camp. I left, my heart easy. I knew Sophia, the woman running the full-day program, and I knew she’d make sure everything was ship-shape.

When I returned in the afternoon to pick up the girls, Sophia was there. “I was so surprised!” she said. “I came in around 9, and there was J! It was so nice to see her.”

That didn’t sound right. At 9:00, J should have been at cheer camp. I mentioned my confusion. Sophia looked at her paperwork and confirmed that J should have been taken to cheer. She promised to look into it. J told me that she’d repeatedly told her counselor that she was in the wrong place, but I imagine that the counselor is accustomed to the petulant and unrealistic demands of 7-year-olds.

Within 10 minutes of our leaving to drive home, Sophia called. She’d called a couple of people. She and her counselors had messed up, she told me. By the time J and I arrived that morning, the posse of kids destined for special programs had already left. I assured her that, while I appreciated her taking responsibility, there were plenty of others who had given us misinformation.

The next morning, we were there at 7:50. M’s drop-off with her soccer coaches went smoothly, but J’s was again problematic. I went to the classroom in question, and it was filled with serious looking types in suits. I again went to the front desk. I tried to express to the man there that I was seeking the cheer instructor, and he informed me that he wasn’t the person I should talk to. I asked who I should talk to. He told me that no one I should talk to was there yet. I asked who, among the people there, could help me locate my child’s coach. He finally gave me the phone number for the head of the program. I went back to my car to get my phone, called the number he’d given me, and left a message. She still hasn’t had the decency to return my call.

On the way back to the classroom (for the fourth time in 2 days), I ran into a friend whose daughter was also in cheer camp. They’d be meeting in the grass that morning because of the meeting taking place in their regular location, she told me. By the time we found them, the other kids were in a circle, stretching with the coach. A woman–Carrie? Casey? I’m ashamed to say I was too upset to have retained her name–asked if I would like to sign J in. No, I told her. I wanted to talk to her.

I told her the whole story. By the time I was half way through, I was sobbing. I told her that I was entrusting her organization with the care of my children, and their behaviour wasn’t filling me with confidence. I trusted Sophia, I told her, to make sure that my kids were safe. She’d earned my trust over months of consistent communication, thoughtful and gentle discipline, and excellent time management. Sophia knew and cared for my kids. I hadn’t gotten an impression of caring from the other administrative staff. The not-my-problem attitude wasn’t winning any brownie points.

Carrie (?) looked into the whole tumbling fiasco. She took a screenshot of the oddball transactions and put it on the accounts manager’s desk for him to investigate. She explained to me that getting full-day kids to their special camps was the responsibility of the full-day counselors. I told her that I had already spoken to Sophia and worked out that part of it. I did ask her why, when J was missing yesterday, I didn’t receive a call to tell that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. A lot of kids, it turns out, just never show up, so they don’t bother calling no shows. I recommended that the two programs get on the same page about what should be done with kids who arrive in that grey time between 7:50 and 8:00. Parents would understand, I assured her, if we needed to stay 10 minutes. Just tell us that instead of sending us on wild goose chases.

Sophia called me later that morning to check in. I assured her that I felt that she’d done what she could. I let her know, though, that a coworker of mine said that he’d had similar issues at the location 15+ years ago. It was time to fix some things. She listened to my recommendations and promised to follow up. She even thanked me for giving her a parent’s perspective.

  • Assign a person who is physically present to be in charge of parent communication at all times throughout the day, and make sure that all staff members know who that person is.
  • Coordinate between programs so that managers know where children should be taken at what time.
  • Provide clear and consistent expectations for drop-off times and locations to all employees and train them on answering questions with patience and a sense of ownership of the problem.
  • Send email or written confirmation of registration records to ensure that parents have the same impression as the YMCA of their child’s schedule.
  • Along with written confirmation of registration, send parents a list of assumptions. Who is responsible for our child at different points in the day? Where, precisely, are we supposed to go to drop them off and pick them up? What should they bring with them?
  • Train data entry staff on appropriate handling of unusual cases or insist that they check with a manager before making modifications.

Honestly, I don’t have much confidence that they’ll fix anything. I’ll just have to trust that Sophia will notice even if everyone else loses track of my children. And this will be our last year of turning to the Y for special camps.

Edit: June 26, 2013, 11 pm CDT – Things got worse today. Read on.

Shelter in the Storm

I feel incredibly petty having used the word “terrified” to describe myself a couple of days ago in light of the recent tragedy in Boston. To be honest, I haven’t reached the point of feeling frightened. Mostly, I’m horrified. My reactions today have been a lot like those I had in the first hours of September 11, 2001. Disbelief. Anger. Horror. Sadness. Helplessness. Of course, there’s an enormous difference in scale between today’s horrific attack and the unthinkable and reality-changing events in New York and at the Pentagon a dozen years ago. Another difference, on a personal front, is that I now look at the world through the eyes of a mother.

My daughters are more aware than a lot of their peers of current events. Being the daughters of a soldier who has served three tours in combat, they are keenly aware that war happens and evil exists. The poem that M wrote at school two weeks ago shows that she’s not exactly sheltered.

Soldiers are heroes,
On hard times go to war.
Loving all people.
Dying sometimes
In wars,
Ending their lives.
Right to fight for the good.
Sacrificing themselves.

“Bad guys” are more real to military kids than to a lot of their friends. While we keep the worst of what Daddy has been through from J and M, they know that he goes to war and that it’s dangerous. Still, there are some dangers they’re not old enough to cope with at 6 years old, not in the way that the news media cover them. Today’s bombings are among them.

I usually listen to public radio in the car. Before I got out of the car to pick my children up this afternoon, I switched over to a Laurie Berkner CD. I did the same thing in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting. I believe that it’s important to teach my children to be citizens. I believe that they should know and care about current events and people outside their immediate sphere. I also believe that there are some forms of ugliness from which they still need and deserve to be protected. I believe that one of my jobs is to filter information that is just too difficult or complex for my daughters, for now. There will be plenty of time for them to experience the full weight of the world when they are older.

We only turn our television on once a month or so, but even if I were still in the habit of catching the local news, the TV would be off today and for the next few days. We’re going to be avoiding the radio for the next while, even music stations, because they do often broadcast snippets of high profile stories. PBS has an excellent guide to how to handle exposure to and discussion of disturbing news events with children of different ages.

Over the next hours and days, I’m going to have to figure out how to handle it if my daughters hear about the Boston bombings at school. They have a lot of older friends, and other parents may not be as vigilant as me at keeping the news and its disturbing images out of their homes. Kids overhear teachers talking all the time. I think I’ll just make some sort of open-ended statement in the morning: “If you hear about something in the news that you want to talk about, remember that you can always come to me.”

As with all things, if we need to discuss today’s tragedy, I will be honest. I will tell the children that I, too, am scared and sad and angry. I will tell them that I don’t understand why some people are so broken that they would want to hurt others. I will tell them that I know that we live in a mostly safe world, but that unexpected tragedies happen and that I find that very frightening. I will remind them that most people in the world are like Daddy the soldier, Grampy the firefighter, their great uncle the policeman, and all the wonderful teachers and mentors in their lives. Most people are there to protect them, and they are safe, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

Do your kids see or hear the news? Are their certain stories you filter? At what age do you think it’s appropriate to start and stop shielding children from media coverage of disturbing developments?

Sadia is the mother of 6-year-old twin daughters and a former US army wife, now divorced. She lives in the Austin, TX area, where she works in higher education information technology. She is originally from the United Kingdom and Bangladesh.

Safety in the Big Bad World

I know that my job is not so much to protect my daughters from the big bad world as it is to prepare them to tackle it increasingly independently as they grow. Despite the urge to wrap them in a protective cocoon of parental control, I force myself to let my nearly 7-year-olds experience the world and fight their own battles, within reason.

For Easter, my daughters received small kites from their father and stepmother. We live on a quiet suburban street, so when my daughter J begged to fly her kite on the sidewalk while I cooked dinner last week, I agreed, trying to hide the knot of fear in my throat. I watched her from the kitchen window. She raced up and down the sidewalk, never going more than two houses away, never getting too close to the street, laughter pouring out of every pore.

The next afternoon, J’s twin sister M joined her, although they were back in the house in minutes. The kite had landed in a tree, fortunately within my reach. The grilled cheese sandwiches and apple slices I was working on didn’t take too long, so there wasn’t time for any more kite flying that day.

On Thursday, when I arrived to pick my children up from after school care, there were three police cars parked at the intersection where I turned to park. I asked the caregivers what was going on. They shooed my daughters away to retrieve their backpacks and quickly told me that a man had attempted to abduct a boy at that intersection. The boy got away, but was injured. No one there was sure how badly he was hurt, but a policeman had stopped by to talk to the after school caregivers, to tell them what was going on and to ask questions. The would be abductor had escaped.

I briefly considered not telling my daughters what I’d just learned, but decided that they needed to know that vigilance was important. They’re outgoing little girls who befriend others easily, and lack the instinct to distrust strangers. I told them what I knew, leaving out the part about the boy having been injured, and told them that I was going to ask them not to go out of the house without me, except to our fenced back yard. I promised to take them kite flying in the park after church.

J’s questions were about the boy and what the police were doing to catch the bad man. She walked around our house with me to ensure that all our blinds were closed before bed, and was generally satisfied with our safety. M refused to be in any room without me that first night, but has since relaxed.

I don’t think I’m overreacting. My kids still spend all day at school and after care without me. I still let them let go on my hand on the way to dance class or church or stores once we’re out of the parking lot. I’m just not ready to let them out of the street unless there’s a trusted adult with them. Eventually, though, I’m going to have to let them explore the world without me. I can only pre-screen their peers, teachers, and mentors for a little longer.

That terrifies me.

Sadia is raising her 6-year-old identical twin daughters in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is divorced and works full time in higher education IT.

Things to Consider When Buying Bunk Beds

With the arrival of a third child quickly arriving, my husband and I needed to figure out sleeping arrangements in our small three bedroom apartment.  Our twin daughters had been sleeping on their crib mattresses on the floor of their bedroom for months.  We wanted to use one of the crib mattresses for our newborn son’s crib and not have to buy a third crib mattress.

So, we thought about possible solutions.  We could have bought two toddler beds or twin beds.  We could have bought one full or queen-sized mattress for them to share.  We could just have our new baby sleep in the pack n’ play for a long time.

Or we could get a bunk bed for our 2.5 year old twins, which would provide each one with their own bed and save space in their small bedroom.

We thought about the advantages of a bunk bed:

1. Two beds.  Each of our girls will still have their own bed to sleep on, giving them their own space.

2. More space.  Bunked beds means more room in their small bedroom.  It allows us to actually store toys in their bedroom.  Two twin beds would leave about two feet of walking space between their beds.  One full or queen bed would have taken up most of their room as well.  Now our kids can keep toys in their room and we can have less toys downstairs!

3. If someone has an accident or gets sick in the middle of the night you don’t have to wake them both up to change the sheets (like you would if they shared a bed).

4. When the time comes, the bunk beds can be separated into two twin beds.

5. They can be a ton of fun for little kids to play on.

The disadvantages of bunk beds are:

1. Safety concerns:  Kids can fall off the ladder when climbing up or down.  They could fall off the bottom or top bunk if they aren’t being careful enough.  They can crack their head or body part on the wood or metal rails.  If the bunks don’t have a ton of space between them, the bottom child could crack their head on the bottom of the top bunk.  Also, will the slats or boards support your bouncing child enough so that the mattress doesn’t fall through?  Will the bunk bed be stable enough?

2. Making the beds.  Not as easy when you can barely reach the top bunk, or have to climb on top of the bed to make it.

3. The child on top can likely reach the ceiling, light, fan, curtains or whatever else might be higher up in their room.

4. In the middle of the night whoever is on top can’t see the ladder very well and can’t get down by themselves (though I may see this more as an advantage right now).  Also, it’s not super fun to make your tired body climb down a ladder first thing in the morning.

5. Tucking the child on top in may not be very easy if the bunk bed is very high.  Or giving them their goodnight hugs and kisses.

We figured that the advantages for us and our situation far outweighed the disadvantages and were determined to find as safe and as comfortable a bunk as possible.

Here are some of the things to consider or look for when buying a bunk bed:

1. Can they separate into two beds?  We wanted ones that could, which pretty much ruled out most of the metal framed bunks.  We like that bunks that could separate gave us flexibility in the future as our children aged and as our living situation changed.  However, not all separable bunks are made equal. One may look very different than the other when divided, which may or may not matter to you.

Bunk Beds that can become two twin beds

2. How much space is between the bunks?  This one was more important to me than to my husband.  I didn’t want my kids to outgrow these bunks in just a few years because their heads were touching the bottom of the top bunk (or because they were kicking the bottom of the top bunk).  I also thought it would be very nice if an adult (mom or dad) could sit on the bottom bunk without stooping or hunching over and cracking their heads.  Maybe this won’t be as important to you, but it is something to consider.

Not much room for someone to sit up if on the bottom bunk

3. How high will the top bunk be in your space?  Do you have low ceilings?  Or a ceiling fan?  Because then you might want to consider how tall this bunk bed will be.

My kids showing how much space they have on the top bunk

4. To trundle or not to trundle?  This style of bed seems to be fairly popular right now as we saw several at various stores we looked at.  However, since we are planning on using both of the beds every single day, the trundle didn’t seem to make sense.  The purpose, for us, of getting a bunked bed was so we’d save floor space.  Having to pull out a bed seemed to defeat that very important aspect.  Trundle beds seem like a great option for a guest bedroom or occasional use.

Trundle Bed

5. What type of ladder or stairs will the bunk bed have?  Since our kids are still very young (under three), we ideally wanted a ladder that came out from the bunk bed or stairs that had storage drawers in them so they could climb up and down safely.  Some bunks you have to climb up on one of the ends.  Will that affect where you have to place your bunk bed?  Will the ladder or stairs take up too much space in the room?  Is the ladder removable? Are the rungs of the ladder too far apart or the initial one too far off the ground?  All important things to consider. I don’t think we could’ve easily fit stairs or a slanted ladder into our kids’ room.

A bunk bed with storage stairs attached

6. How high do the rails come?  Is there only one rail above the mattress?  Or two?  Or three?  Do the rails cover the entire front or back or ends?  On both top and bottom or just one?  We definitely wanted high rails for our very young children to ensure it would be as safe as possible.

7. How stable will the bunk bed be?  Whenever we went to look at bunk beds in the stores, my husband was especially adamant about having to put the bed through a “shake test.”  How much did the bunk bed rock?  Part of the reasoning is that kids are hard on furniture.  They will jump and bounce and yank and rock that bed, so the more it allows for that, the sooner the bed may “die” or fall apart or collapse.  To gauge whether we thought a bed was fairly stable, we looked at how thick the corner pieces of the bed frame were as well as how it was assembled together and the materials used.

8. Aesthetics.  Do you like how the bed looks?  Is the wood sanded and polished nice and smooth?  Or is the wood gritty feeling?  Do the drawers (if applicable) slide nicely in and out?  Do you like the color of the wood or metal?  Do you like how the bunks look when separated?  If you like DIY projects then these may not be as important to you, but if you don’t want to have to worry about these things, it is important to consider.

9. Storage space.  Does the bunk come with extra storage space? Is there room under the bottom bunk for things?  Are there drawers in the staircase?  Does the bunk come with a desk or shelves attached?  If you are looking into a loft bed these things are probably much more important to you.  But, remember the space you plan on putting the bunk bed or loft in. Will there be enough room around it to access the shelves or desk or drawers provided?

Bunk Beds with work spaces and storage combined

10. Cost.  We are, like most people, always looking for a great deal.  And you’d be surprised how quickly the price of bunk beds can escalate, but also how unstable and unsafe the cheapest (~$150) new bunk beds can feel.  My suggestion is always to shop around.  Figure out what features are most important to you of the nine points I listed above.  Safety of course should be a top concern, so the materials and construction of the bed should be among your top priorities.  Do you feel more comfortable with a metal framed bed?  Or do you really prefer wood?  Also, when thinking about cost, remember that you will still need to buy mattresses and sheets and perhaps even bunkie boards.  We looked around at bunk beds at various stores to solidify what we and our children liked and were able to climb up on and to compare cost.  We also looked in the local newspapers classifieds and on craigslist.org.

We ended up buying our bunk bed gently used off of craigslist for only $200. Here’s the bed we ended up purchasing (without the bedding on) set up in our daughter’s bedroom.

This bunk bed pretty much takes up a large majority of the small bedroom, but it has allowed us more space on the opposite side of the room for a rocking chair, a fan, and a bin of toys:

Our girls absolutely LOVE their bunk beds.  We prepped them for weeks ahead of time before we actually purchased them.  We talked about who would be sleeping where, and let them pick out their own bedding.  Today they pulled me into their bedroom to show me their bunk bed, four days after they’ve already been set up.  They show off how they are able to climb the stairs. Both of them love climbing onto the top bunk and playing up there, even if sometimes one of my daughters gets a little scared and wants help going up or down.

We love that the top bunk has such high rails, partially because we purchased only 6″ mattresses.  But, it’s like a mini crib again for our girls!  So far no one has even come close to flipping over the rails.  We’ve had a couple tumbles on the stairs, but nothing major.

I hope that this list helps you in your search for the perfect bunk beds for your family.  Leave me a comment with anything else I may have forgotten to mention as something to consider.  How have you saved space in your home with twins?   

Trust

I recently had to take an emergency trip from my home in Texas to London, where I was needed to help care for my 2-year-old nephew. A co-worker pointed out that this went against the norm. It’s normally the UK that exports its nannies to the US, he said.

It didn’t make sense to bring my daughters with me, financially or practically. I didn’t want them to miss school. We wouldn’t even get to see London because I was going to have to focus on my nephew. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to get them passports in time. I cut it close with my own passport as it was. It had expired, but, fortunately, I fell within the criteria for an emergency travel credential, a passport substitute, good for this trip only. I drove 300+ miles roundtrip while my first graders were at school to obtain it.

I had to figure out how my daughters would be cared for while I was away. Their father lives 600 miles away and wasn’t going to be available. I don’t have any family nearby. What I do have is the village that it takes to raise a child, the people who are more family than family. These are the people who love J and M nearly as much as I do, from choice, not obligation.

I sent out two text messages, one to our babysitter Angie, and one to our former neighbour Heidi.

Angie used to teach at the daycare J and M attended for over 4 years. She’s known the girls for over half their lives, and is a trained childcare provider. She’s creative, funny, and affectionate, but doesn’t accept any disobedience or lack of discipline.

Heidi’s daughter is two months younger than my girls, to the day, and our girls have grown up like sisters, at least sisters where one sister can’t tell the other two apart. Heidi used to be the person I’d call if the girls wanted to play outside while I was in the middle of cooking dinner. As early as age 3, I knew I could trust them to go out the front door by themselves as long as Heidi knew they were out. I’d just usually end up stretching dinner to feed both families. I taught Heidi’s daughter how to bake, and she taught mine how to navigate the swampy area behind our first home. All 3 girls have known all their lives to listen to both sets of parents as if they were their own, and that the different rules of each house started at the edge of lawn and extended from the sidewalk to the back yard.

Both Angie and Heidi immediately said they could help care for the girls whiIe I was away. I went with Angie, because she could come and stay at our house with the kids, minimizing the disruption, avoiding the packing, and saving me having to find someone else to feed the cats and discipline the kitten. Her nannying schedule worked out to be a perfect complement to the girls’ school and after school care times.

I didn’t just want a babysitter for the kids, someone who would just ensure that they were safe and on schedule. I wanted someone who could fill in as Mom while I was away. Someone who would address their concerns about my absence openly and completely. Someone who wouldn’t take shortcuts to get through the evening, but would instead carry forward the work of raising the girls, discussing the choices they’d made during the day, challenging them to be responsible, building their confidence while emphasizing humility. What a gift to have two such people actually available to us on a week’s notice! There are still others in our community who would have gladly done it, had their work or childcare obligations allowed.

While I was in London, I videoconferenced with the girls on Skype every day, some days twice. I could tell that they were comfortable and happy. Their smiles were genuine, their stories from their day those of typical 6-year-olds, and their trust in Angie palpable. A couple of times, they had worries to discuss with me, but for the most part they wanted to hear about my day, be silly with their cousin, and confirm that I was okay before getting back to their busy lives of art projects and games of pretend.

Angie was the first person I gave a key to my home to after I bought it. There is nothing more precious to me than my children. I’d never leave my kids with someone I wouldn’t trust with my house keys. Anyone I can trust with them, I can trust with all that I own. After all, I’m trusting them with my life.

 

Sadia lives with her 6-year-old daughters in the greater Austin, Texas area. Her trip to London was her first to her home country in over a decade. She was too busy with a toddler and bureaucracy to see much of London.  Still, she was reminded that snow needn’t be too deep to crunch underfoot, that people walk on the left there, and that British biscuits are a far superior comfort food to American cookies. She heard a lot more Portuguese and Spanish than was spoken in London in her childhood, and was happy to learn that 11 years had put no dent in her closeness to her cousins or closest college buddy.

Balance in Baby Proofing

We purchased our first home in anticipation of having a child, and found out that we would be having twins soon before we moved in. I was prepared to install every baby proofing gizmo known to mankind, but my husband had other ideas. When I proposed baby gates on either side of our the kitchen area of our open living space, he argued that our children should be included in food preparation and taught kitchen safety. My suggestion of foam bumpers on the corners of our dining table was countered with a recommendation that we see how old the twins were before they were tall enough for those corners to be a concern. I wanted to invest in a television cabinet that could be closed against inquisitive fingers, but my husband believed that children should be taught their limits within an adult world, instead of having a limited area of the world cordoned off for them.

I think we struck a healthy balance on the baby proofing front. A couple of the lower kitchen cabinets had baby latches, keeping the girls away from electronics and chemicals. They had free access to pots, pans, and food storage containers. We installed outlet covers on unused electrical outlets, but we taught the babies not to touch plugs instead of preventing their access to them. The only significant injury suffered by either of our daughters was a magnificent bump on J’s head from diving off the couch at around age 2. I was right there, but didn’t quite reach her in time to prevent her head from hitting the tile. I called 9-1-1, but the paramedics declared J perfectly fine and concussion-free.

The girls’ cribs were our 100% safe spot. My husband insisted on solid wood construction without any moving pieces. I insisted that the cribs not have bumpers, because of the suffocation hazard, and used sleep sacks to keep them warm. When I absolutely had leave the babies, they went in their cribs. Yes, even mothers of twins must use the bathroom, and even shower occasionally. We were lucky that M and J had never thought to climb out of their cribs by the time we deemed them ready for big girl beds.

The knowledge that M and J can understand and honour limits has always made me feel like I can handle them in any situation. My mother is astonished that I’ve always taken the girls everywhere with me, starting at about 6 weeks of age – to work functions, on playdates, shopping, to restaurants, to parks, fairs and festivals, and to friends’ houses. Frankly, Mum was surprised that I felt comfortable taking the babies anywhere. It never occurred to her that one could go out with a baby, because our home had been a completely safe space during my childhood, and household staff ensured 24/7 oversight of my younger sister by the time she was born.

Honestly, the day that the children and I don’t leave the house was a rare one when we lived in an area I knew well. As with many people, I may have reacted to an extreme in my own childhood—a narrow, protected world—by taking my own parenting to other extreme. In retrospect, my husband’s foresight in teaching our children limits within the home has given J and M discipline and given me confidence as a mom. It’s this discipline and confidence that has enabled us to hunt worms, ride bikes, “fish” in puddles, enjoy theatre and make new friends.

To what extent is/was your home baby proofed? Is there a relationship between the degree of baby proofing that was right for your family and the frequency with which you explore the larger world with your kids?

Sadia is a working mom of 5-year-old identical twin girls, J and M. She used to blog publicly at Double the Fun, but took her blog private as the girls entered elementary school.

Ask the Readers: Speaking Up

What do you do when you observe an uninformed parent putting her child in danger?

No one likes unsolicited advice, especially when it comes to parenting. Strict routines work for some families, and not for others. Breastfeeding works for some mother-child pairs, and not for others. Discipline comes in as many flavours as there are children in the world.

However, there are times that it’s difficult, perhaps even immoral, to stay quiet.

My husband and I recently observed a young mother picking her child up by the head. Her thumbs under the baby’s ears, her pinkies at the base of his neck, she lifted his entire body to kiss him gently on the forehead. His body swung from the neck. To us, this screamed of possible cumulative spinal injury. We communicated our concerns to the mother. Her response was, “I don’t see the problem. I do this all the time.” We found some documents on spinal injuries in babies and gave them to her, although nowhere were we able to find a clear directive forbidding this sort of lift.

We may have very well destroyed our relationship with this mom, whose son we adore, but we couldn’t have lived with ourselves if we didn’t say something.

What would you have done?

Girls are NOT easier

I was pretty sure that parenting girls would be easier than parenting boys.  I had my son Isaiah first, four years ago.  He was all boy, right off the bat.   He climbed everything, tried anything, and showed no signs of fear.  He started walking at 10 months, was running by 11 months.  Months 12-28 were exhausting.  My friends with girls seemed to have it easier than me.  Their daughters did things like sit and walk and play with their toys quietly.  Isaiah thought that sitting and time-out were the same thing.  He thought being told to “walk” was a punishment.  He was always moving  and didn’t start to slow down and listen to me until about 6 months ago, around the time my twins started walking. 

Since I have done this parenting thing before, I was pretty sure I’m smarter than a one year old.  I know all about child proofing and how to use distraction effectively.  Besides, they’re girls, so how hard could this toddler age be?

Twins

The picture that describes my life with one year old twins!

I can’t tell you how many things I have been wrong about this time around.  I thought Ky and Cadee would be late walkers, or at least wait until they were a year old.  Wrong.  They were both master walkers by their first birthday.  I thought Cadee and Ky would be less curious than their brother.  Wrong.  These girls have gotten into things that never crossed their brothers mind!  I thought they would be fearful of falling from high places.  Wrong.  I once found Cadee INSIDE of my top kitchen cabinet eating cookies.  Who would have thought to put a cabinet lock on the ones ABOVE the counter top?

Things I never dealt with before I am now having to deal with now.  My childproofing has gone to an all new level.  There is a lock on the fridge, after my 13 month old Ky got into the leftovers and painted my floor with chicken stir fry.  There is a lock on the oven, because Ky is obsessed with pulling herself up on any horizontal bar, and once she figured out she could open the oven, it became her new obsession.  There is a lock on the dryer, because Ky and Cadee both think it’s the best seat in the house.  We have no dining room chairs in our house, they stay in the garage and only get brought in for dinner.  After the top cabinet incident, having a place to sit just isn’t worth the risk.

I remember laying down, looking at the ultrasound screen, seeing my beautiful twin girls for the first time.  I was scared out of my mind, but I comforted myself with the thought “They are girls, they will be easier to handle.”  Boy, was I wrong.  At 17 months old my twin girls are giving me a run for my money.  And so far, there is nothing easy about this climbing toddler stage, even if they ARE girls.

Dollimama is the mother of three, a four year old son and 17 month old twin daughters.  She spends her days chasing children and doing laundry, while trying to keep her children out of the dryer.  She writes about the chaos of her Life Not Finished whenever she gets the chance.

What about your toddlers?  Have they entered the climbing stage? 

Have you found a difference between raising boys and girls?  Do you think raising girls is easier than raising boys?

 

Halloween Overload

I have a confession. I am all Halloweened out, and there are still five days to go.

This is the first year our daughters haven’t needed help thinking up Halloween costume ideas. M has been asking to go by the nickname “Monkey-Moo Dadadada!!!” for several months now, so a monkey costume was an obvious choice. (She specifies, consistently, that her nickname is spelled “with 3 explamation marks at the end”.) J decided to keep to the jungle theme by being a tiger. They’ve always had coordinated costumes, and I don’t think it’s occurred to them not to. A monkey and tiger make for simple costumes. They’re not what’s wearing me down, although if you’ve got ideas to help me turn out an inexpensive tiger suit before Friday, I’m all ears. I thought I had another weekend to finish up the costumes, but learned that kids can wear costimes to school on Friday. I can’t have mine be only uncostumed children there.

The Halloween-related activities at school are overkill. I can’t even keep them straight. I had to provide each of my children with a large bag of candy yesterday to contribute to the school-wide trick-or-treating effort. I need to provide treats for the Monday Halloween party in J’s classroom. We’re also supposed to contribute a dollar per child for Friday evening’s school festivities, and I have a nagging feeling that I’ve forgotten some other contribution expected of us. Of course, I’m building up our home treat contribution for the trick-or-treaters. I’m that lady who has pencils, erasers and stickers in the bowl alongside the chocolate and lollipops.

M is having nightmares about witches and ghosts. I found her in J’s bed this morning because she had a “bad bad bad bad dream” and needed comfort during the night. In years past, she has elected to stay home with me to avoid seeing scary costumes while J goes trick-or-treating with my husband or neighbours.

I’ve done what I can to focus on the communal aspect of Halloween, and downplay the commercialism. My former neighbour always throws a fantastic party on Halloween that’s early enough for little kids to get their fill of the fun without the fear. This year, though, Halloween is running away with my kids and I have little to say. They’re hardly excited about their costumes, but have bought into the candy, candy, candy culture, even though they know that we’ll expect them to moderate their consumption.

How do you keep the focus off sugar at Halloween?