Twins Explaining Twins, Revisited

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Interview, School-Age, Talking to KidsTags , , , , , , , 4 Comments

We got some funny and insightful thoughts last time I interviewed my daughters, 7-year-old M and J, about being twins. I figured I’d introduce a different related topic and see where the conversation went.

Me: So, I get a lot of the same question over and over when people realize that you’re twins. Does that happen to you too?
J: Yes.
Me: What kinds of questions?
J: Like really unimportant questions. Like, “Why aren’t you wearing the same clothes?” “Why is you hair so short and hers so long?”
Me: Mmm hmm.
J: And some reasonable questions, like my friend Amy’s*.
Me: What did she ask?
J: “What’s it like to be like a twin?” And I told her, “Sometimes it can be frustrating and sometimes it can be nice.” You know how it can be frustrating?
Me: How?
M: When we get into arguments.
J: When people can’t tell us apart.
M: Actually I like that.
Me: Oh?
M: I like pranking people like Mr. M and Mr. Michael and people whose names start with M. And today Mr. Michael said…okay, let me try to tell this one… he said, “J.” And I slapped my head because it was M, who is me. And he gave up and said, “Okay! Twins! Go to the line!”
Me: And there were some other reasonable questions, right?
J: Mmm hmm. And Mr. Joel asked, “What if you were fraternal?” And I said, “We would look more different and less alike.” And Mr. Joel said, “You look fraternal to me, but I know you were born identical.”
M: A wombat…
Me: A wombat**?
M: Mmm hmm. A Wombat asked us if twins, identical twins, always looked alike and were always wearing the same clothes. No! If one of the twins are a tomboy and the other is a girly girl, then the one that’s a girly girl might wear a princess shirt and the tomboy might wear…
J: A Spiderman shirt?
M: An Angry Birds shirt.
J: You know, some girls who aren’t tomboys wear Angry Birds shirts.
M: I know, that’s just because they, those shirts have at least one girl Angry Bird.
J: No, some don’t have any. Like, Amy isn’t a tomboy and she has an Angry Birds shirt that says, “I’m the bomb!” and it has the black bird on it. No girls.
Me: Do Caroline and Vanessa…(I began to type in parentheses “older fraternal girl twins” for your benefit. J stopped me.)
J: No, they’re identical!
Me: Are you sure?
M: No, they’re fraternal. They told me.
J: But they have the same colour hair and the same colour eyes and I can’t tell them apart.
M: Another argument! Yeah, but they told me and they know more about themselves than anyone else.
J: Fine!
Me: I’d like you to think about something, please. How do you feel when people try to tell you that you’re not identical?
J: Ugh, the girl named Annabelle who’s a Wombat… really a girl, but her group’s a Wombat… when she heard we were twins she was mean about it because we didn’t have the same haircut and weren’t wearing the same clothes and didn’t have the same faces and different sizes of shoes.
M: I don’t think that’s fair, because I like my unique heart-shaped face.
J: Then me and M, then me and M said we had enough of the talk and went to play Connect 4 and a little bit of Mancala and M was too shy to tell Annabelle that we were really twins and so I told her that it really hurt our feelings when people said we weren’t twins because it wasn’t really truuuuue. (I initially typed “true” back there, but J felt that some more Us were in order to capture what she was trying to communicate.)
Me: I understand the story. But how did you feel, when somebody said you weren’t identical?
M: Sad.
J: Really mad like I wanted to punch that person.
Me: Wow!
J: Embarrassed.
Me: Then how do you think Vanessa and Caroline would feel if they knew that you were saying that they were wrong about what kind of twins they are?
J: Like us? Like maybe they will feel like I was trying to be mean on purpose.
Me: I think we need to respect people the same way we expect them to respect us.
J: I didn’t know.
Me: I know you didn’t know, but does the lesson make sense?
J: (Nod.)
M: I’ve got a story. Once upon a time. Okay, sorry, did I mention that this was fairytale?
Me: No, you forgot to mention that.
M: Once upon a time, there were two little girls who were identical twins and they had friends who were older identical twins…
J: Older identical twins?
M: No, I mean fraternal twins. And J, one of the identical twins, liked Caroline more than Vanessa. And M, who was another one of the identical twins, liked Vanessa more than Caroline. They all lived in a castle together. But one day, a dragon came to eat them, but the brave knight killed the dragon into 5, no 10 pieces.
J: “5, no 10 pieces.”
M: The End.
Me: Which of the twins was the brave knight? All of them? (Yes, I know she was probably thinking of a man coming to save them, but I am going to do all I can to raise empowered women instead of damsels in distress. Back to the story.)
M: Yes! (whispering) Do I have a too big imagination? (regular voice) Well, actually, not all of them. Just Vanessa and Caroline. So, as you can imagine, each tore the dragon into 5 pieces each. The End.

*Names have been changed.
**Wombats are the youngest group of summer campers.

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Children Lie

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Categories Discipline, Financial Literacy, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Special Needs, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to blog about this incident. It’s embarrassing to one of my daughters, but not atypical for children their age. Seven-year-olds lie and even steal. It’s developmentally appropriate, but not socially or morally acceptable. Maybe our story will help another parent know that she’s not alone in tackling these issues. Here’s what happened.

For their 7th birthday, I got each of my daughters a gift card to a local bookstore. I like to use gift cards to teach my girls financial decision-making. The finite balance on the gift card teaches them that paying with plastic should be treated as responsibly as paying with cash. When they run out, they’re out. It encourages budgeting and exercises their basic arithmetic while they’re shopping. They have to factor in sales tax. Whenever possible, I try to set up situations where my daughters spend their gift cards over multiple shopping trips. I figure it helps them understand the idea of debit and the longterm record-keeping required to track their gift card balance is a good exercise.

The gift cards I gave J and M were identical. Although I suggested that we simply write their names on each one, the girls elected to distinguish them differently. One of them decided that she would remove the hangtag from her card while the other left hers intact.

Nearly two months after our initial shopping venture, the girls asked to go to the bookstore this weekend. I asked them to grab their gift cards and buckle up in the car. I gathered up my things while they packed up theirs. The one who’d left her hangtag on let us know that she’d found her gift card, but removed the tag so that the card would fit in the wallet. The other child was upset, feeling that Sissy had gone back on an agreement. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find her gift card.

I happened to know where the second gift card was. Someone had just left her card lying on the floor of the living room last time we went to the bookstore. Despite two reminders, it was never put away, so I picked it up and set it aside.

I retrieved the gift card and discovered that it was the one with the hangtag still attached. My daughter had claimed her sister’s gift card and concocted a lie to cover it up. I showed her the gift card and she instantly knew she was caught. Sister didn’t even realize what she was witnessing. I explained it to her, and she was understandably appalled. Her sister had essentially stolen from her and then lied to cover it up.

The offending party volunteered that the appropriate consequence for her actions was my permanently confiscating her gift card. I didn’t want to do that, but I did tell her that she would not be spending her card on this trip. Sister not only forgave her, but bought the offender a book with her own card.

The next day, I took a moment alone to talk to my daughter about why she’d made the series of choices she had. She didn’t want to talk about it because she felt bad. I reminded her that she had made some pretty bad choices, and one of the consequences of those choices was feeling guilty. She was going to have to talk about it and she was going to have to feel bad. Once she finally agreed to discuss the whole situation, she explained to me that she knew that she’d done wrong by not putting her gift card away. All the wrong actions that followed were to cover up that mistake.

I told her clearly that lying and stealing were far worse than the original offense, and those were the choices I was truly disappointed in. Dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated. Mistakes happen and can be fixed, but lying was unacceptable.

I live what I preach. I admit my mistakes to my children. The only lie I’m guilty of is eating chocolate at work so that my girls don’t know the quantity of sugar I consume. I’m working on fixing that one. I even struggle with the mythology of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those feel like lies, even if our entire community is complicit.

This is another one of those ways in which parenting gets harder. You leave behind the sleepless nights and the diapers and potty training, only to have to help your children navigate morality and peer pressure.

What would you have done in my shoes? How do you tackle lapses in honesty?

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Twins Explaining Twins

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Categories Childcare, Community, Education, From the Mouths of Multiples, Frustration, Identical, Older Children, Other people, School-Age, Singletons, Talking to KidsTags , , 5 Comments

I’m going to try something new. I’m going to let my twins write, or rather dictate, this post on twinhood. They started to tell me a story on the drive home from summer camp that seemed appropriate for this audience. My 7-year-old daughters could have typed this up themselves, but it’s much faster for me to simply transcribe our discussion.

Abridged Version

M: Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M and J, posed back to back in matching dance costumes,M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did… I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” … “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example…. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.”

J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day… And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”

Real Time Version

Sadia: So, what should the title be?
J: Nocturnal Twins and Identical Twins.
Sadia: Uh… Well… Okay.

Long pause

J: Did I say, “nocturnal?”
Sadia: Yeah.
J: Is that right?
J and M are both wearing South Asian attire, but in different styles and colours.M: How are twins different from identical twins?
Sadia: Identical twins are one kind of twin.
M: But it’s a twin? What’s another kind of twin?
Sadia: Fraternal.
J: Fraternal?
M: What’s a fraternal twin?
Sadia: Ones that come from two different eggs.

Potty break.

Sadia: So, shall we start again?
M: Yeah. Mommy!
Sadia: What? I’m writing down our conversation!
M: Mama!
Sadia: Mm-hmm? Okay. J, you were telling me a story in the car.
J: About what?
Sadia: About the girl… wait… was it you, M?
J: No, me. About what?
Sadia: giggles
M: No it was me. I told you about the girl who said that because we weren’t wearing the same clothes…
Sadia: Yes. That story.
J: One second.

Trash break.

Sadia: Okay, so why don’t you get started? M?
M: giggling at my typing Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did.
Sadia: gasps
Sadia, J and M making facesM: (whispering) You gasped.
Sadia: I got it!
M: You forgot the… waves her hands to indicate italics.
Sadia: I’ll do it later. I just want to get the content now. So, J.
J: running off Yeah?
Sadia: Where are you?
J: returning Hmm? Yeah?
Sadia: I understand that you…
M: Mom, I’m not done with the story.
Sadia: You’re not? Oh.
M: I told the girl. Wait, where are we?
Sadia: “She said, ‘wrong’.”
M: Oh, yeah. Right. I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” (laughing) Okay, back to where we started. I don’t mean started. I mean stopped. (giggling) You’re typing it down!?
Sadia: Yep. Okay. Continue, pleeeeeeeease.
M: “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example.
Sadia: Mm hmm. It’s a good example. (long pause) Is your story done now?
M: No. So, ah, oh yes. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.” The End from M.
Sadia: I love you.
M: Hello to J!
Sadia: All right, pumpkin. You ready?
J: For what?
Sadia: To tell your story.
J: What?
Sadia: You were telling me you gave her a bit of a class?
J: Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!
Sadia: If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to hear what you told her.
J: Uh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhhh.
M: Mom, can anyone do this? I mean, read this?
Sadia: Yeah. Is that okay?
M: Mm hmm.
Sadia: I’d really like to hear your lesson.
J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day.” Am I true?
Sadia: 100%, baby.
M: giggles at my typing again
J: M!!! Stop giggling! Stop giggling!
M: “100%, baby!”
Sadia: Was that the whole lesson?
J: Mm mm. “And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: But if I write it, people will know. Or did you tell her, “Don’t tell anyone?”
J: I told her, “Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: So, I can write it, and that’s okay?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Was that the end of the lesson?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Well, you know what? I think you guys handled that situation very well.

And we followed up with a hands-on lesson in editing.

Do your kids know that they are multiples? Have they ever encountered a multiplicity denier? How do they handle misconceptions?

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Shelter in the Storm

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Categories Older Children, Safety, Talking to KidsTags , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

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.

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