Dimensions of Intelligence

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My children are smarter than me.

Allow me to define “smart” for my purposes. I am certainly more knowledgeable and experienced than my 9-year-olds. I am better read than they are and more able to find practical solutions to problems, whether academic or everyday. I am far better at explaining complex concepts to people than Misses Giggles and Distractable. My ability to critically examine an argument is currently, at age 36, quite a bit better than J and M’s at age 9.

M and J, however, have always been better at absorbing new concepts than I was at the same age. Their minds work faster and burrow deeper. They see connections and parallels that would have never occurred to me. I have no reason to believe that this general trend won’t continue. As far as I can predict, when they are 36 years old, their brains will process ideas more effectively and deeply than mine does today.

The only milestone I beat them to was reading. According to my mother, I read at age 2. J and M were 3 before they were reading independently.

The fact that my daughters are smarter than me makes me proud. Perhaps if I had fewer academic successes under my belt, I would feel diminished by being outshone by my children. Perhaps if I were less egotistical, I wouldn’t be confident that I am just as smart as I need to be. I’m not in competition with my children. My task is give them the tools, skills, and support to be the best M and the best J they can be. I certainly aim to be the best Sadia I can be.

I am not a trained teacher, but I’m a proud nerd and I love getting others excited about knowledge. When my daughters learn a new concept at school, I often expand on it with them at home. It was while doing this that I confessed to them, for the first time, that they’re both smarter than me.

The children were studying 3D shapes in their regular 3rd grade math class. They told me all they knew about rectangular prisms, pyramids and cylinders. I asked if they knew why they were called 3D shapes.

They didn’t.

A mom explains the third and fourth dimensions to her kids, and is at peace knowing that they learn more easily than she did at their age.

The “D”, I told them, stood for “dimensional”. They could think of a dimension as a direction that exists in a shape.

  • A dot has no dimensions because you can’t move around inside it.
  • A line has one dimension because there’s no room to turn around.
  • A plane, I told them using a piece of paper to illustrate, has two dimensions. You can go back and forward or side to side. By combining those two motions, you can get anywhere on the sheet of paper.
  • If you jump off the sheet of paper, you’re in three dimensions. That’s the world we inhabit. Back and forward. Side to side. Up and down. Ocean creatures experience the three dimensions more fully than we do, being able to move vertically with ease.
  • The fourth dimension, I told my girls, was time. That took a little more convincing.

I still had the 2D piece of paper in hand, so I rolled it up to illustrate.

Sadia uses a rolled up sheet of paper to explain to her daughters why time is the fourth dimension.

Imagine, I told them, that there was an ant walking around on my sheet of paper. His world is two-dimensional. He’s not aware of what’s off the paper. Whether the sheet is flat or curved until opposite edges touch, he’s moving around in two dimensions. Even if I wave the paper through the air, the ant probably doesn’t know that it’s being moved. His entire universe is that 2D sheet of paper.

We are similarly unaware of moving through time. Right now, we’re in the dining room, playing with paper. Count to three, and we’re in the same place in the three dimensions we can navigate, but in a new second in the fourth dimension of time.

How to visualize time as the fourth dimension.

J and M said that made sense. “I’m in a new time now!” exclaimed M. “And now… and now. And I hardly wiggled!”

J took the next logical step. “Is there a fifth dimension, mommy?”

“Yes,” I told her. “I’ve read about theories of physics that argue that there must be a fifth dimension.”

“Show me, mommy!” J demanded. “Explain me the fifth dimension.”

“Little J, I recognize the concept, but I can’t see it in my mind. Without a picture, I have to use words. My best explanation is to say it’s the next logical step in the ant analogy.”

“So the fifth dimension is of the parallel universes, mom!” J realized. “Why didn’t you just say that?”

“I didn’t say it because I didn’t understand it. I can’t see it clearly the way you can right now. I’ll do my best to create a metaphor and picture in my mind, but it’s going to take me some time.”

“Mom! It’s obvious,” J told me, more than slightly irritated.

“Sweetheart, you’re going to run into a lot of people who have a harder time understanding ideas than you. Please be patient.”

“But mom,” J pointed out, “you’re mom.”

“I know sweet girl, but as you get older, you’re going to know and understand more and more things that you’ll have to explain to me instead of the other way around. There’s a lot I don’t know, and a lot it’ll take hard work for me to understand. Some of those things will come really easily to you, and that makes me happy.”

I hope that this confession, made with confidence and without apology, showed J and M that it’s okay to be smart without being smartEST. That was a lesson that I struggled with. It was quite the blow to my ego to realize that I wasn’t the top undergrad at my college. I was “only” in the top 10% based on the very narrow measure of GPA. I’ve since learned that being seen as the smartest person in the room is no measure of success.

Doing my best — that’s how I now measure success, even if that fifth dimension escapes me. And for the moment, I’m doing my best to raise two little girls who are officially smarter than me.

The Dad Network
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Resenting Gifted Children

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Profoundly Gifted

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

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

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

Kids

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

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

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

Resentment Demonstrated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to an Understanding

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

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

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

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

This adult can’t hear very well.

This adult was having a bad day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Exersaucer Just for Twins? Yes, Please!

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Categories Products, Toys, Twinfant Tuesday, Unique needsTags 2 Comments

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably walked through the baby section of the store or seen a handy baby gadget at a friend’s house, and thought, “I wish they made that for multiples. It would just need a [insert brilliant recommendation here].”

And if you’re anything like me, you probably moved right on with your day.

Allow me to introduce you to Karan. She had an idea for a twin improvement, and has actually done something about it!

Meet Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.
Karan, twin mom and inventor of the Twin Funsaucer.

Karan’s a MoM, just like us. Her mono/mono identical boys, Nolan and Gabriel, turned a year old in May. Karan saw how much her little guys enjoyed their one exersaucer and bought a second one, but wished she could have just one that they could share and interact in.

Identical twin brothers.Karan drew up an idea for a two-baby interactive exersaucer. A Twin Funsaucer, if you will. There’s a spot for one baby in the center, and the other baby has a spot around the outside of the exersaucer, like a snuggly wriggly solar system of joy. You can see a diagram at Quirky, where inventors can submit their ideas, and the best ideas can get turned into reality.

If you want to help get the Twin Funsaucer to market, or just help another MoM out, please visit Karan’s invention on Quirky and give it a nice big thumbs up. You do need to register to vote, but you can connect your Facebook account or create a Quirky-only account with your email address. I did the latter, and it took less than a minute to sign up and vote. I imagine that Facebook is even faster.

I asked Karan how inspiration struck, and here’s what she had to say:

The inspiration for my idea was essentially that our boys always want to play with the same toy at the same time, but with exersaucers and jumperoos, it wasn’t possible.

karan water

[Gabriel and Nolan] like interacting, but there also needed to be enough space between them that they couldn’t grab or hit one another. We have exersaucers, and this other Bright Starts toy that has an activity table with a seat attached that allows freedom of movement around the table – like a walker.

I thought, if you could combine those things, then two children could play at once. Then I thought, why couldn’t you sell an another seat for triplets? And for that matter, possibly even create a way to turn the seats into walkers when they are not attached?

I am an ideas person, but I never had something I felt so filled a niche. My mother-in-law helped me come up with a couple of possible design concepts and that was that!

More About Karan

karan umbilical knotAbout her sons, Karan says, “They are so smart and funny. We feel incredibly blessed that they have done so well – especially when their umbilical cords were so knotted.” Karan had to return to work only a week after the boys came home from the NICU. Her husband had been laid off from his bank manager job and stayed with them for nearly 8 months. Now that he’s back at work, they consider themselves very lucky to have found a daycare they trust with their sweet boys.

Karan and her husband met later in life. His 11-year-old daughter lives with them during the school year. You can see what a great big sister she is, and how she is adored in the photo below!

Big sister with twin brothers!Karan started trying to conceive at age 38 and lost a pregnancy. She and her husband tried again a few months later and Gabriel and Nolan joined the family. Karan is a sonographer by day, so she discovered that she was expecting monoamniotic twins on her own! She went into inpatient care at 24 weeks at the University of CT Health Center and delivered via scheduled C-section at 32 weeks. The boys were 4 lbs 1 oz each and spent 40 and 42 days in the NICU/step down unit respectively.

Karan, expecting twin boys!Karan loves everything about motherhood much more than she thought she would. The biggest challenge she faces being a twin mom is not being able to help them both at the same time. The boys are still too little to understand that she only has two arms and doesn’t have the power to make all their hurts go away.

Look at that proud Daddy!

Karan confesses that having twinfants is also stressful on a couple. She calls her husband a patient, forgiving person, admitting that she can be hotheaded. I think a lot of us can relate to that!

You can reach Karen by email… and don’t forget to give her Twin Funsaucer your vote of confidence!

What’s your brilliant idea, just waiting to be produced?

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Am I a Special Needs Parent?

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Categories Congenital Anomaly, Difference, Other people, Parenting, Perspective, Special Needs, Unique needs3 Comments

I read this exquisite piece by Sheri Dacon on the very particular grief that comes with having a special needs child. I hope that when I see a child with the facial features of Down Syndrome or the electric wheelchair that indicates some sort of mobility challenge, both the child and her parent see my smile as genuine, not strained and feel seen, not ogled.

I read a list of special needs parent characteristics that Marissa shared on Facebook, and was moved to tears by numbers 18 and 19:

  1. Your biggest fear is your child will outlive you.
  2. Your second biggest fear is he/she won’t.

What must it be like to fear or know that your child will never be self-sufficient? I felt it for a very short time. For a few months, early in my daughters’ lives, I felt the fear that I would have to bury my child. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Later, I feared that she would never be able to care for herself. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone either. But we’re past that now. M is doing great.

special

I’m Not a Special Needs Parent

Certainly, like every other responsible parent, I have a will that specifies who should care for my children if I die while they are still young and life insurance to minimize any financial burden on their care providers. I don’t, however, worry about their long-term wellbeing. Barring some unforeseen tragedy, both my children will be able to provide for themselves beyond high school. At age 7, they’re already talking about college, planning to get an apartment together as upperclassmen so they can have pets.

Compared to the parents I mentioned above, I am not a special needs parent. Not even close. The closest my kids come to being having special needs is in needing to be treated as intellectually well beyond their years while being emotionally and socially still just 7. J’s concern that it’s “rather risky, don’t you think?” for her father to mail her health insurance cards deserves a complete answer. Her question about the similarities between the recent Great Recession and the historic Great Depression, inspired by the Kit Kittredge books, required a nuanced response. I need to warn M to be careful about sharing her enthusiasm for the Fibonacci series because it might be perceived as bragging. These were just three topics that came up in the hour before I wrote this paragraph. My girls keep me and their teachers on our toes.

But I Am a Special Needs Parent

There are other measures, though, by which I am very much a special needs parent. We weren’t always so certain that my daughter M’s birth defect wouldn’t affect her life expectancy.

When the principal calls me into her office to discuss how children at school are teasing my child for her appearance, I am a special needs parents.

When my child’s teacher reads her whole class the beautiful book Wonder to help them have compassion for her, I am a special needs parent.

When I need to discuss with my 7-year-old whether she wants corrective surgery, I am a special needs parent.

When I ignore the stares of others because my daughter is panicking at the sight of a grocery store mascot or ballet dancer, I am a special needs parent.

I Fall In Between

My family is not shaped by M’s particular challenges. I do not have a severely disabled child. Nor are my children typical. M’s frontonasal dysplasia isn’t something I can afford to ignore. My daughters’ extreme intelligence is a parenting challenge.

I don’t pretend to understand the life-altering realities of families further down the special needs continuum. Nor should parents with neurotypical children or those whose appearance falls within our societal norms think they understand my reality.

There are things in my life that are hard for me. I can look around and see what appear to be easier lives and those that are much, much harder. Compassion beats comparison. “Hard is not relative,” says Ash Beckham around 3:40 in the video below, “Hard is hard.”

What’s the hard thing in your life? Do you feel guilty for finding it hard?

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.

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Special Needs in the NICU

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Throughout my pregnancy, I knew premature delivery was possible, perhaps even likely. I read up on prematurity and the NICU. I was on bed rest for 12 weeks, and had access to the internet, after all. I thought I knew, more or less, what to expect from a NICU stay, especially as my pregnancy stretched into that “they’ll probably be just fine” stage after the magical 28th week.

I did not know, did not even suspect, what was in store for us. It took me a very long time to grasp it. In fact, I still may not fully comprehend things.

There is a whole other side to the NICU. Not just premature babies go there. Other babies, who may have been full term, end up there for various reasons. Whether by coincidence or by design (I never quite asked), our children’s hospital had an entire room (at least one) full of these babies, and that was where my Mr. A was transferred on his 15th day of life.

On his first day, and all the days leading up to it, I had no clue. He was measuring small, but doing fine. His anatomy scan was perfect. Our first trimester screenings—while not fully reliable for twins—were perfect. What they did not detect was undetectable: a cleft soft palate, dysgenesis of the corpus callosum, malrotated intestines, tracheomalacia, and other issues that, for his privacy, will remain undiscussed. At the root, a so-tiny and yet so-significant missing chunk of DNA. We did not find all this out on the first day, first week, or even first month. And we are not alone in this.

With a typical premature baby, of course there is no set path, and no guarantee. But with a special needs baby, especially one with a rare diagnoses, there’s even less. Every exam might have another pitfall. And when your baby is early and/or very small, as our Mr. A was, that’s all there is. The bad news just keeps coming, and they can’t do anything to fix it until he is bigger, if at all.

It is frightening. It is lonely. It is so very lonely. When you converse with parents of typical preemies, they cannot understand why your baby is doing so poorly. Conversations with parents of other medically complex babies are equally challenging: you are all new to this. “Oh, your baby’s heart is a mess? My son’s is just fine, but they want to give him a tracheostomy. What do you think I should do?”

specialneedsnicu

Conversations with doctors and nurses can be equally frustrating. Most of them, I have found, do not want to hurt your feelings. They might find refuge in medical terminology, they might be evasive, they might conceal information about your child’s health because they don’t want to overwhelm you. Worst of all, they may write you off completely, believing that your child is not worthy of their time and energy. All of these happened to us during our NICU stay.

When A was born, he did not have a gag reflex. I asked the neonatologist what that might mean for him, aside from the obvious. Her reply? “Oh, some sort of midline nervous issue,” and she walked away.

The doctor who gave us A’s diagnoses refused to answer any questions, saying, “But really, who can predict. My own son has learning disabilities. You never know.” We were not asking what his grades would be in 3rd grade, we were asking “But what does all this missing DNA mean?” The information pamphlet he handed to us (upside down, slid across the counter, like some sort of dirty secret) was printed entirely out of order and contained information on every known issue with deletions on the long arm of Chromosome 2, meaning not all of it applied to our son and much of it was conflicting. There were no page numbers and the printing cut off photos and such, so we were unable to piece it together and finally found it on the internet after we’d gone home. I don’t think the printing was intentional, but I do think he did not even glance at it and did not want to tell us anything it said.

A doctor, two weeks following A’s major abdominal surgery, told me he didn’t think A would ever be on full feeds, “because of his syndrome.” When I said he had been on full feeds (by tube) prior to the operation, the doctor at first refused to believe me, and then said, “Well, sometimes kids with syndromes just get worse.” My rage following that conversation ensured that that doctor never treated my son again.

Our underlying question, that I was only ever able to voice once, was: “Is all this worth it? Am I torturing my son for no reason? Should we just let him go? What will his quality of life be? Will he ever be happy?” The doctor I asked this to simply said, “Well, will your other son ever be happy?” To have asked the question that tormented my soul and to receive such a side-step of a response silenced me. I decided right then that, unless anyone flat-out told me that A was going to die, he would not die. He would be happy and just fine, thank you. (While it turns out that this is more or less the case, I was extremely angry to discover, by reading his medical records and asking more pointed questions of some of his doctors and therapists, now that I am in a more stable place myself, that very few people expected A to live to see his first birthday. The fact that no one, not a single person, prepared me for this is something I cannot forgive, even though it did not come to pass.)

This post is rambling. I have attempted to fix it numerous times. I simply can’t. The reality of having a child with complex medical needs in the NICU is overwhelming and, frankly, incomprehensible to live, and it appears that writing about it is the same.

The second piece of this all is the second baby. I was dealing with this and another newborn. At first, I could not distinguish things in my mind. That doctors seemed so fearful and pessimistic about A led me to feel that both my boys were at risk. No one ever called D a “feeder/grower”, no one ever said, “This little man will be just fine.” I was not well-versed enough in preemie-land to understand. Neither could eat, neither could maintain their temperatures, neither was awake for more than a few minutes at a time. I was as nervous making my post-pump midnight, 3, and 5 am calls to the NICU when asking about D as I was about A. Eventually it became clear to me that D was doing well and would be coming home soon. I did not realize how long of a road A had ahead of him (as their birth hospital, despite having a Level III NICU, could not do the imaging tests we needed, much less the surgeries). I’m glad of that. It allowed me to feel joy at D’s gains as well as A’s much smaller ones. I did feel a fundamental sense of wrongness when we took D home, leaving A there by himself…but I’d felt the same way upon my own discharge, leaving both my boys behind.

A was transferred the day after D came home. They’d kept him there as a kindness to us, but also because, really, nothing was so urgent that anyone would risk doing anything to such a small and fragile baby. He would have been doing the same things—trying to get bigger and stronger in order to face the upcoming challenges—at the children’s hospital, so there was no need to move him. But with one baby at home and one baby in a further (though still relatively close) NICU, life became even more complicated. D could not visit A. No baby can ever go back to the NICU (at least at our hospital) once they’ve left, because the risk of their “outside germs” infecting the delicate babies in the NICU is simply too great. I understand that. But it meant that, not only were my heart, body, and milk-containing breasts torn into two locations, I had to find babysitters. My husband needed to save his FML time for surgeries, scary times, and A’s homecoming. (We did not save nearly enough, but we did not know.) I had to leave D with my mother or grandmother, and A with his nurses. It was awful. It was exhausting. Pumping every 3 hours for A, who could not eat, and trying to establish breastfeeding with D (which I could not fully do until A came home), etc.

D came home when they were 14 days old. A came home on April Fool’s Day, after several false starts that made us unable to believe he was coming home until we were in the car. That was their 62nd day of life. 48 days apart. 48 days of driving from one place to another, always missing one baby, always feeling like I was failing both. I was so glad to close the door on that.

Of course, the other thing about a child like A is, that door never closes (until it is slammed shut for good, which is too horrifying to think about). I did not know it at the time, but ten days later, A would be back in intensive care. But it would be the PICU, then and again and again and again. Our NICU journey, at least, was behind us.

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Parenting a Prodigy

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Earlier this month, I heard the NPR story “Don’t Call This 12-Year-Old Concert Pianist A Prodigy” on my drive to work. The subject of the story, the pianist Emily Bear, meets every definition I’ve heard of a child prodigy. This 12-year-old’s musical gifts, which were obvious at a year old, are undeniable and inexplicable.

Parenting a Prodigy from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: Nick-K (Nikos Koutoulas)

What struck me the most in the story wasn’t Emily’s genius. It was her mother’s love and pragmatism. “I have a husband,” she said, “and a marriage and three children, not one. And just keeping the balance of all this… Keeping it healthy and happy… The 60 year plan.”

Emily’s mom is a parent after my heart. She sees her whole child, not just the genius. She sees her whole family, not just the brightest star.

My 7-year-old daughters are smart, crazy smart, but they’re no genuises. M sees mathematics in the world around her and thinks that calculating the Fibonacci sequence to 4 digits is fun, but she’s not doing calculus. J’s literary analysis is very advanced, but she’s analyzing Laura Ingalls Wilder, not Nietzsche.

Even though my daughters are merely very intelligent, I feel like I understand in some small measure Emily Bear’s mother’s predicament. I have been entrusted with the care of two exceptional minds. I do what I can to encourage them and give them opportunities to explore and test their limits. At the same time, it is incredibly important that I nurture all the aspects of their personalities, not just their intellectual gifts. I want them be successful not only in school, but in life.

It’s not enough to be smart. My girls also need to be kind, patient, disciplined and generous. I am very fortunate that their current teacher adopts a role encouraging responsible behaviour, and cares about more than just classroom and test performance. J and M have had a tendency to coast on their smarts, but Mrs. H doesn’t allow it.

On Monday, I sent a text message to the girls’ teacher. “Be it known,” said my text, “that I’m not a deadbeat mom. I didn’t exactly fail to check the girls’ Friday journals. I reminded them each once and they never presented them for review.”

J told me later than Mrs. H had told her that she understood her forgetfulness, but that she was disappointed. Then she sheepishly presented me with her journal for review.

My favourite parenting book of all time is Nurtureshock. The first chapter of the book is titled “The Inverse Power of Praise.” The authors argue, based on solid research, that children who are constantly praised for their performance don’t learn the value of effort or how to recover from mistakes. I’m so proud of my daughters that it’s hard to keep myself from praising them, but I do my best to praise their effort. “You got 100%,” I’ll tell M, “but did you do your very best?” The other side is, “I know you didn’t make any goals this season in soccer, but did you do your very best? I don’t care about the goal count. I care about how hard you worked.”

Whether Emily Bear’s mother has read the book, I don’t know, but I have a feeling that she’s well on the way to raising a confident well-rounded young lady who just happens to also be a genius.

Are you tempted to emphasize your children’s gifts? How do you keep the whole child in mind in your parenting?

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.

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The Most Challenging Age

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Categories Age Brackets, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Prematurity, Unique needsTags 1 Comment

The first year in a parent’s life is so challenging that we talk about it nearly every Tuesday here at HDYDI. You’ve heard of the “Terrible Twos“. So, what’s the most difficult age? Where’s the point where you get to tell yourself, “After this, it gets easier!“?

A quick poll of the HDYDI moms finds no agreement. The tales of struggle for those sleepless newborn nights are often just as harrowing as the three-year old tantrums, the four-year old follies, and on and on. The list is actually pretty long!

We’re not saying that life with small children is always a struggle, but rather that different families have different perspectives on what is “the most challenging age”. Kids are different, as are parents, and we shine (or fail to) in different circumstances. While the perspectives differ, the promising news is that it’s just an age–childhood is a series of stages–and these challenges will pass.

Here’s what some of the HDYDI moms have to say about the most challenging stages they’ve encountered.

Preterm Birth to 1 Year Old (Corrected) – Carolyn

If you don’t know me, you don’t know how the experience of preterm birth has moulded much of my life. Those who do know me can attest to the fact that the preterm birth of our twins right up to 15 months (12 months corrected) consumed my life and it was challenging to see and hear about even for those who were outsiders looking in on our rather unusual state of affairs.

Twin A ready for transport to Level III NICU
Twin A ready for transport to Level III NICU

The twins’ first few months were filled with many medical questions, some of which were put on the back burner, while we dealt with a newer, more pressing question to answer during medical disclosure meetings and consultations with the best of the best doctors. I quickly gained my honourary PhD in Neonatology. I was up for the challenge because I knew I was my babies’ main advocate during the long days in the NICU.

Twins' NICU "bedrooms" for 3+ months.
Twins’ NICU “bedrooms” for 3+ months.

Those early days and the activities that evolved became engrained in my brain. I may have been sleep walking the majority of that time during the very early days. Can you say, “routine”? Absolutely!

After our twins came home from their neonatal intensive care unit, we were faced with hundreds of appointments to attend in and outside the home. Somebody forgot to prepare me for the realities a preterm mom and dad should expect when it comes to bringing home tiny 27 weekers. While we were in the NICU talking about all the medical factors surrounding the babies’ lives, they didn’t mention anything about how much time was going to be spent in waiting rooms of doctor’s offices, hospitals, physiotherapists and speech therapists and occupational therapists…and audiologists…in that first year…Oh MY! It practically leaves me breathless just recollecting those long and busy days.

While chauffeuring my mini-men around in the mini-van to appointment after appointment, I was also a mom wanting to breastfeed her twins. When I would find myself in a waiting room at a hospital, with one or maybe two babies getting hungry, I’d talk to a staff member about where I could find a private nursing room, to be told there wasn’t one. Or I’d be stuck in a board room to nurse my babies sitting in an office chair with big clunky armrests! Those were the days. As much as I valued breastfeeding my babies, I was not a mother who wanted to do it in public spaces with random strangers surrounding me. Not my cup of tea. To each her own.

I missed the days many moms get during that first year, getting to establish a routine in their homes, sometimes sitting with their feet up for a few minutes to watch Ellen while they nurse their babies or attend to their needs. My daily routine was more comparable to an army drill, testing my skills and agility with getting twins dressed, big brother dressed, myself dressed, out the door and into the van without forgetting anything. Then there were days when it would snow on my parade.

Bundled up and ready for another run to a follow up appointment.
Bundled up and ready for another run to a follow up appointment.

Those were horrible days, but I didn’t have the choice to go back in and hibernate with my little cubs. We had to be somewhere and we were going to get there for our very important appointment. Come hell or high snow bank.

When I look back on that first year and a bit, which was two years ago now, I remember those days like they were just yesterday. Although that year was my most challenging year to date, I learned so much and truly value the life lessons the experience and my little babies taught me. It taught me so much about what it really means to persevere, to look fear in the face and tell it where to go!

Since then ages 2 and 3 have been a piece of cake. We’ll see what the future holds.

Age 1 – 2 (Toddler-hood) – ldskatelyn

While the first year proved a blur of feedings, naps, changings, sleepless nights, pumpings, doctor visits, and a complete upheaval from my previous life, I enjoyed my super cute girls!  They were innocent little babies incapable of really doing anything wrong and were so completely dependent on me.  I adored them.  They were perfect.

And then they started to walk.  And life was never the same again.

My girls were (relatively) early crawlers and walkers.  They were army crawling around by six months, even before they could sit up by themselves.  By 10.5 months Lisa was walking.  By 11 months her sister Alison was too. I find that the toddler years was the most challenging age.  While the tantrums, the lying, the attitude, and disobedience of my now three year-olds is challenging at times, it’s not all the time, and they are so independent now that it’s easier for me not to feel so stressed out.

But those toddler years, or from about 1 years old to 2.5 years old were rough.

And while my daughters were able to toddle and walk, allowing me not be carrying a child or two everywhere I went, it meant I had TWO little people often going in opposite directions.  I remember trying to walk in a straight line, holding both of their hands, being impossible.  One would walk faster, one would tug to the side, one would spin around in front of me, colliding into the other, leaving both crying on the ground.  Then I would be left pulling them both up to standing positions, which they seemed to no longer be able to do.  They may know how to walk, but it doesn’t mean they will.  And it certainly doesn’t mean they will walk to you when you ask them to.  It often meant the opposite, at least with one of my daughters.

most challenging agePlus, toddlers get into everything.  They don’t know what is safe or unsafe and absolutely everything ends up in their mouths.  They seem to think that if it’s on the ground, it must be picked up and handled, even nasty things like trash and cigarette butts.  They don’t know better.  Toddlers prove to be a source of greater anxiety for their parents.  They hurt themselves all the time, bumping into things. They pull everything off shelves, climb onto chairs and counters, knock over your safety gates, and much more.

My daughter Lisa from about the time she was 13 months old could undo the Velcro on her diaper.  And she was like a ninja with undoing it.  It often seemed no matter what we did, she would find a way to take off her diaper.  This often proved extremely messy.  I would have to clean poop out of sheets and off babies.  Diapers would be wasted.  And Lisa eventually taught her sister some of her diaper shedding ways.  (Stay tuned for a future post with all the fun we had with this).  And this went on for over a year. Most Challenging Age

Teething.  One of my daughters didn’t get her first tooth until she was nine months old.  This left lots of teething over the toddler years.  And every time my girls were teething it meant diarrhea.  And with Alison, it went everywhere.  It was horrible.  Combine that with Lisa’s diaper removing antics and it meant a lot of bathing and laundry.

And then there’s the messy mealtimes.  I wrote all about the joys of that in a past Foodie Fridays post. Finger foods are not really that simple or easy, and really just mean they are easier for little fingers to drop or throw around the room.  Or squish between their fingers, or mash into their hair.

My daughters didn’t say a whole lot of words for what felt like forever (age two).  Most of what I had the pleasure of listening to every day was crying, whining, and grunts, never knowing exactly what they were wanting.  While they began to understand what I was saying to them, I craved for the day we could actually have conversations instead of cavemen communications.

And finally there is nap time.  One nap or two?  In the morning or the afternoon?  One would be awake, the other asleep.  They might play for an hour in their cribs, before passing out, if they did at all.  It could be an hour in length or three.  And when it came time to transition out of cribs to toddler beds it opened up a whole new can of worms.  How do you contain the chaos if you didn’t stay there until they fell asleep?  And when they are napping regularly, it really just means your whole life revolves around their nap schedule.  And when they were taking two naps a day, it means your windows of opportunity are so very short.

I am glad that the toddler stage is past and that my girls talk (even though it’s non-stop), help, no longer require bibs, can walk themselves anywhere, are potty-trained, and we’ve figured out nap and bedtime (most days) in this house.  And they haven’t teethed in over a year. Three year-olds aren’t that terrible…

Age 3 – Sadia

Sure, I was sleep-deprived and frequently in the ER with my twins the first year, but I could hack it. Age One was delightful as I watched my little lumps of snuggle turn into strong, funny little people with a visceral affection for each other. I scoffed at the whole idea of the Terrible Twos; my girls were pure delight. Their observations of the world left me exhausted, but smiling. Nothing gave them greater joy than making Mommy or their teachers happy.

mandjcryingWhen we hit the Terrible Awful Horrible Titanic Tantrum Threes, I was completely unprepared. My sweet little girls turned into irrational demon monsters as they discovered their own wills and the concept of defiance. I didn’t recognize these back-arching, heel-drumming, kicking, hitting, screaming banshees. I became certain that someone was going to need to be institutionalized. I just couldn’t tell if it was going to be me or the children.

In order to prove to myself that it wasn’t just me, I began keeping a record of the causes of each day’s tantrums on my blog, boringly titled the Daily Tantrum Report. Here’s a taste:

October 23, 2009: [M’s] pants were too tight. She hated her socks. Her shoes wouldn’t go on fast enough. She wanted chocolate milk. (She actually had chocolate milk, but was too busy flipping out to realize what was in her cup.) She didn’t want today to be J’s turn to lock the door. She didn’t want the sun to be shining yet.

November 10, 2009: I asked [J] to wash her hands. She refused. I gave her a chance to change her mind under threat of revoking her right to wear a dress today. She dug her heels in. I dug my heels in. I tried to dress her. She kicked me in the gut when I knelt to pull her pants on.

A dear friend recently contacted me on Facebook in desperation. She remembered my tears from Age Three and my dire warnings of the horrors to come. Her darling boy turned 4 a few days ago. My friend wants to know when the Terrible Horrible Awful Threes would give way to the Fabulous Fours. I told her to give it a month. Given that our children have been on similar developmental trajectories and we share a parenting approach, I expect to soon hear that her son, like my girls, makes age 4 her favourite age. At 4, my children discovered the beauty of logic, albeit with a slew of strange assumptions that came of a lack of experience in the world. They discovered a degree of self-control and rediscovered patience. Three was behind us. Good riddance.

Age 4 1/2 – MandyE

I’ve always considered our girls to be well-behaved.  They eat well.  They sleep well.  And they’re really pretty predictable.

I actually commented to the pediatrician when they were two that they’d never had a tantrum…I was a little concerned that something wasn’t right developmentally.  The two-year old mark passed with no sign of “terrible”, and my three-year olds continued their exemplary behavior.  Sure, I had fussy babies from time to time, and they would sometimes challenge to see what they could get away with, but the vast majority of the time, the girls were even-keeled.  I credited the 1-2-3 Magic methodology, along with a structured schedule inspired by BabyWise, with my girls’ temperament.

However…shortly before the girls turned 4 ½, I started to experience some of those “terrible” challenges I’d read about.  They were defiant.  “NO!!!” was screamed at me more times that I could count.  They were doing blatantly wrong things, seeming to vie for attention.  While I haven’t (yet?) seen a throw-yourself-on-the-floor tantrum, I have gotten swiped at a few times.

Where did this come from???  I felt like I could hardly recognize my precious babies.

This behavior continued to varying degrees for a couple of months.  It was terrible.  I felt like I was walking on eggshells, wondering when things would flip from joyfully-engaged kiddos to nothing-makes-me-happy.  I hated the feeling on some days, when I’d be counting down the hours to bedtime, praying that the following day would be better.  I missed my sweet girls, whose company I’d always truly enjoyed.

In hindsight, I remember that I started to suspect there was some attention-getting behavior around the time the girls turned four.  I read the book “The Five Love Languages of Children”, hoping to gain some insight.  I did my best to play to what I think my girls’ motivations are – physical touch for A, and words of affirmation for B.  Things were mostly OK until the girls stopped napping over the summer.  Whatever the combination of being more emotionally needy (???) with a bit of missing sleep…it felt near-lethal at times.

Thankfully, the majority of our challenges seem to have passed.  The girls have adjusted to their new schedule, and I have augmented my discipline strategy.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is a difference in common “misbehavior” and sometimes-nasty attention-getting displays.  I continue to rely on the 1-2-3 Magic methodology, but there are times when I pull one kiddo off by herself for a few minutes to help her sort through her emotions and regroup in a more positive manner.

At age four, the girls are still babies in some respects, but they have more complex feelings.  They are able to communicate at a pretty high level, but their logic isn’t always sound.  Ultimately, I’m just grateful to feel like I’m mostly back on course with my girls.  And those challenging times make me even more appreciative of the free-for-all fun and super-sweet snuggles.

What has been the most challenging stage for you?

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Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Feeding, Frustration, NICU, Prematurity, Unique needs, World Breastfeeding Week Blog CarnivalTags , , , , , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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We all hear it. We all know it. “Breast is best.” Being able to breastfeed babies is something to strive for and many new mothers are bound and determined to be successful breastfeeding mommies. But it’s not always that easy.

What happens when you have more than one baby at a time, each demanding to be fed as newborn babies do? How do you balance the needs of twins, ensuring they are being well-nourished? How do you handle your own needs as a mom, such as getting enough sleep, managing your own diet when you are trying to balance the needs of multiple babies? How do you learn to nurse your babies if they are born premature and are living in a NICU? Each situation is challenging, but each of these needs can be achieved. I am telling you, because I have done it for three premature babies, including twins while in a NICU. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. You might shed a few tears. You might want to give up. People might try to talk you out of it. But I’m telling you now, it can be done!

While in the NICU for over three months with twins, I learned to nurse each of my babies when they were ready. Unfortunately we found ourselves in contact isolation for about 9 weeks of this time, all the while trying to learn to breastfeed and nourish my babies enough to be able to go home when they were ready and continue on with breastfeeding for as long as possible. Wearing gloves and gown while in isolation, I learned to work through the awkwardness of breastfeeding while in my isolation “get-up,” along with dealing with numerous wires and sticky things about my babies’ bodies. It truly was awkward, yet I wasn’t going to give up because of a rash of a bit of bad luck. The one thing that was natural and I could do for my babies, I was going to do.

Here are my 5 tips for you to try with the hopes that you will be successful while breastfeeding in a NICU and beyond.

Why Do You Want to Breastfeed?

First things first, ask yourself why you want to breastfeed. Is it for your own personal satisfaction and goal of providing for your children? Is it because you feel it is best for your children? Or is it because someone else told you that you should? If it is because you either want to gain something out of it such as the feeling of satisfaction of knowing you are providing nourishment for your babies or because you feel in your heart it is what needs to be done and you’re going to do it, then you’re on the right track. To be successful at breastfeeding babies, who are living in a NICU, when you are already under an enormous amount of strain and potential mental, physical and emotional stress, you have to be sure breastfeeding is important to you and you’re not doing it because someone else said so. If you are not mentally prepared to breastfeed, you’re headed for a rocky road.

Communicate Your Breastfeeding Goals to Others

Make sure you tell your babies’ NICU nurses, lactation consultant, and medical team your goal to breastfeed your babies when they are ready. Remember, because your babies have arrived early, they may not be able to start nursing immediately due to their size or health situation. Give it time and be patient. Begin using a breast pump as soon as possible and on a regular schedule, which you will expect to follow when the babies are ready to begin breastfeeding. Most hospitals will have you begin to get accustomed to an every three hour pumping and eventually breastfeeding schedule. Now is a great time to allow your body to what it was designed to do, which is produce milk for your newborn babies. If you find you are experiencing challenges with producing, consider being in a NICU a blessing in disguise. If you are struggling in the early days, you will have a bit of time to investigate and figure out how to have your milk come in. By being in the NICU you have access to the nursing team, as well as lactation consultants, which you wouldn’t have if you went directly home after the birth of your babies.

Use the NICU Resources

No one wants to be in the NICU. I know that. The way I looked at it though, is that it was a chance situation that put me in the NICU, surrounded by medical experts and a team of lactation consultants, occupational therapists and dieticians, so I was going to make full use of the medical team there to support me and my babies. Each of these experts has a different way of looking at the breastfeeding process. Your lactation consultant can discuss tips and tricks for positioning yourself and your babies for optimal comfort and breastfeeding success. An occupational therapist can also be brought into the picture to assess how babies are handling the “suck, swallow, breathe” process and make any necessary adjustments needed for your breastfeeding technique. The dietician may discuss your dietary needs, what’s best to eat while breastfeeding, as well as possibly discuss your infants’ dietary needs and possibility of higher caloric intake, which may depend on weight and rate of growth. These people are a quick phone call away and they will come to help you when you ask. Where else can you get a team of experts like this practically at your fingertips?

Find Your Comfort Zone

Each mother is different and thankfully there are different ways to breastfeed your babies. Figure out what works best for you by trying things out. Once again, since you are in the NICU, now is the best time to hammer out the best approach for feeding your babies. Having premature babies often means they are very small in size. It can be very uncomfortable in the early days when it comes to figuring out how to handle their little bodies and having the confidence that you are not actually hurting them as you move them around getting settled to breastfeed. It will take some time to get comfortable with these things. Ask the lactation consultant if they have a variety of nursing pillows for you to try. One mom of multiples might swear by nursing pillows made specifically for twins, while another mother might prefer a different style which fits her small premature babies on it. Some moms are quite content layering a few pillows across their lap and adjusting based on the babies’ needs for positioning. You may find your babies also have a preference for a certain breastfeeding hold over another. Once again, your time in the NICU allows you the unique opportunity for “practice,” as well as bedside coaching from the nurses and other staff involved in your babies’ care.

Before Discharge from NICU

The day you get to take your babies home will eventually arrive. Make sure you plan how you will transition yourselves from the NICU with constant access to experts to your own household, which will not have a 24 hour staff on call. How will you and your partner handle your breastfeeding schedule once you have brought your babies home? Will your partner be able to support your goal of breastfeeding by helping you keep on top of your feeding schedule and by helping you get up in the wee hours of the night to feed them? These are all important points to consider and prepare for before being discharged from the hospital. To help make a smooth transition from NICU to home, consider contacting your local multiples organization to see if they have a breastfeeding support person, or your local public health office and even your children’s pediatrician’s office. All of these organizations will know how to put you in touch with a lactation consultant or formal breastfeeding supports. Knowing that you can build your own “team” outside the hospital will hopefully help you keep on track with breastfeeding your babies until you are ready to wean them, whenever that day may be.

Landing in a NICU with your premature babies is not ideal, but take it is a chance to accept help you would not have received otherwise. Consider this your opportunity to get breastfeeding right. You are in a place with some amazing experts that you never would have had access to if you’d had your babies and went directly home. The NICU is likely a whole new world to you, so take the time to explore it and the unexpected opportunities it has available to you. I am confident I was able to successfully breastfeed my three children for 13 months and 9 months based on the fact I had supportive experts rooting for me and showing me the way from day one.

Carolyn (Twintrospectives) writes for How Do You Do It? and has three boys born premature, including fraternal twins. She is the proud mom of NICU Grads 2008 and 2010! Carolyn and her family live in Canada.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)

  • Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to’s to handling the social stigma.
  • Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
  • In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
  • Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
  • Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
  • Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
  • Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
  • Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
  • Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
  • Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
  • Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
  • Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old’s case of pink eye.
  • Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
  • My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
  • My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think “A-B-C-D-E”Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby’s arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as “A-B-C-D-E”: Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
  • Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
  • Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
  • A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding – the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
  • From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding – what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
  • Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
  • How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.
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Guest Post: Separating Twins at School by Dr. Nancy Segal

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Categories Classroom Placement, Difference, Education, Multiple Types, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School, School-Age, Unique needsTags , , , , , , , 7 Comments

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Nancy Segal, the director of the Twin Studies Center at Cal State, Fullerton.

Nancy L. Segal, Ph.D.
California State University, Fullerton
nsegal@fullerton.edu
drnancysegaltwins.org

The biggest dilemma regarding twins seems to surround the arguments for and against separating them at school. There is no simple answer to this question, but I strongly urge that there be no policy one way or the other. That is, each twin pair should be evaluated separately, taking their particular needs into consideration. I am, therefore, very much against mandatory separation of twins, a policy that is upheld strictly in some school districts.

Some schools maintain that twins will not grow up to be independent individuals if placed in the same room as their twin brother or sister. This is, however, not a research-based practice. It is known that when friends go off to school together for the first time they are more comfortable in their new situation, more interactive with other children and less likely to cling to their teacher. Interestingly, no one worries that two such children might not become separate, independent individuals!

Going to school for the first time can be a little daunting for some children, and forcing twins to separate from their parent and from their twin at the same time may be a lot to ask in some cases. A solution is for teachers to arrange for separate tables within the same classroom so that twins can see each other (that is often the only thing they need!), but develop separate friendships. I once tracked twins during recess and found that while identical were together more often than fraternals they were not together all the time. Often, just a glance at the twin was enough to make them feel relaxed and happy.

Separating Twins at School

We also need to be mindful of twin types. Identical twins are in a very different situation than fraternal same-sex twins who, in turn, are in a different situation from opposite-sex twins. Identical twins may be confused by their classmates and teachers, due to their matched appearance. If identical twins are placed together parents should have them wear different outfits or hair styles, or even wear name tags! It is important that people learn their names and address them as such. Fraternal twins (both same-sex and opposite-sex) will probably not be confused—although some people may forget which name goes with which twin in the case of the same-sex pairs. Same-sex fraternal twins will generally have different interests and abilities and may benefit from separate classrooms in some cases. Male-female twins may benefit from separation for other reasons—little girls mature ahead of little boys socially, intellectually ands physically. Girls in these pairs tend to mother their brothers, behavior that may not always be beneficial for the boys. Above all, however, all decisions regarding school placement for twins should be rendered on a case-by-case basis and evaluated periodically by parents and teachers working together. Young pairs, regardless of twin type, may benefit from being together during the early school years.

A word of additional caution: I have worked on cases of older identical twins who have been falsely accused of cheating on exams and projects because they produce similar scores and essays. If identical twins are in the same classroom, they should never sit together while taking tests!

For more information about all sorts of twin-related subjects, please visit my website at drnancysegaltwins.org.

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How I Do It

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Categories Ask the Moms, Attitude, Balance, Co-parenting, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Lists, Mommy Issues, Organization, Other people, Parenting Twins, Perspective, Relationships, Unique needs25 Comments

A couple of days ago, Mercedes asked us, “Seriously, how do you do it?” This is my answer.

(This is a revised version of a post I originally wrote when my now 6-year-olds were toddlers.)

I don’t think parents of multiples or military families or single parents or working moms are unique in needing to answer this question repeatedly. I suspect all parents get it, because seriously, parenting is a hard hard job. It’s physically, emotionally and creatively demanding, and, although its rewards are incomparable, there are days it’s a thankless slog.

So, how do I do it?

My 2-second answer to the question is, “I do the best I can.”

My 20-second answer is, “I prioritize, and I lower my standards. I figure out what really matters and what’s necessary. Then, I let everything else slide. The kids and my job need a level of attention that cannot be compromised. I have to care for myself enough so that I am mentally and physically healthy enough to manage those things. Everything else has to fit in around those top priorities.”

Here’s the long answer:

My priorities are clear. In order, they are:

  1. The kids’ immediate well-being
  2. The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
  3. My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
  4. The kids’ relationships with their family members who don’t live with us, including their father, stepmother and stepsisters
  5. A healthy diet for the family
  6. My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
  7. Friends and remaining family
  8. Community participation
  9. Housekeeping and home maintenance

I look at the balance of my life in two-week chunks. I might not get to cleaning, talking to relatives, exercise, or even reading with the girls, every single day. I may go a week without making a meaningful contribution to my community. Within each 14 day period, though, each of the areas I value should have had some attention, in proportion to their place on the priority list.

How do I fit this blog into my life? Well, blogging helps me work through the most challenging questions of the day, reminds me that the kids are the primary reason I even try to achieve balance, and keeps me connected with the amazingly supportive and smart community of parent bloggers. Priorities 1, 2, 6 and 8 addressed in one fell swoop. Again, the 14-day balance helps me stay on top of things. I don’t write nearly as regularly as I publish. Some days, I’ll have three things to talk about, and I’ll publish the extra drafts on days when there’s a gap and I don’t have the time, energy or creativity to come up with a timely post.

Here’s the big secret. I don’t do it all. On a given day, I either don’t sleep enough, don’t clean enough, feed the kids junk like mac and cheese and hot dogs, don’t shower, or don’t take any time to sit and breathe.

So, how do I do it? I don’t.

Sadia is a recently divorced mother of 6-year-old twin girls, M and J, having spent 8 years as an army wife. They live with three cats in the Austin, TX area, where J and M attend Spanish-English dual language public school and Sadia works at a large university in information technology.

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