Twin Mom to Twin Mom

We went to do some grocery shopping at Sam’s Club the other day and there was a mother there pushing around a double stroller with two young babies in it – twin boys!  I commented on how cute her twins were as we passed.

And I didn’t know if I should say more, as a fellow mother of twins.  Did I have to say more?  Did I have to tell her that my daughters, who were with me at the time, were actually twins too?  Should I?

I know that when my girls were infants, I certainly received a lot of advice and comments from strangers about twins, often from others who also had twins.  They would often tell me, “It gets better.”  And they are right.  It does get better each year, as your kids start to not need you so heavily.

But, I don’t get as many comments from strangers anymore.  I think it has to do mostly with the fact that strangers don’t immediately recognize that my twins are twins.  They may both be girls, but they look nothing alike other than they are the same size.  And they rarely wear matching clothes anymore.

And, to be honest, I sometimes miss the attention that I received when my twins were babies.

There is something unique about being a mother to twins or other multiples.  We join a special club that the vast majority of people will never be a part of, despite some who say that their two kids, 15 months apart, were just like having twins.  The fact is we carried two or more babies inside of us at one time.  Our kids have the same birth day.  They are unique, and so are we as their mothers and fathers.

So, as a member of this relatively small group of people, should we go out of our way to talk to those who are like us?  Do you?  Do you seek advice from other Mothers of Multiples (MOMs), who are have passed the stage you are at?  Do you feel the urge and desire to reach out to those who you meet randomly, who are toting infant twins?  And what do you say in those moments?

The Top 10 Worst Reactions To My “It’s Twins” Announcement

I am 11 weeks pregnant with twins. This isn’t my first pregnancy. In fact, these will be my fourth and fifth babies. Since I’d announced three other pregnancies I foolishly thought this time wouldn’t be any different.

I had no idea that upon hearing “It’s twins” any filter or manners a person may have immediately go out the window. Here are the 10 worst reactions I’ve experienced:

  1. “Better you than me.”

    Why? Do you know something I don’t know?

  2. “I’m sure you’re stoked but I’d die!”

    This was said to me by a nurse practitioner at my pediatrician’s office. Shouldn’t she be easing my nerves? Shouldn’t she have wonderful advice and maybe other twins moms I could talk to? Shouldn’t she stop using the word stoked?

  3. “You’re going to need a new house”

    “You’re going to need a new car”

    Thank you for your concern but do you think that you’re sharing new information? I can assure you that the financial needs of 5 kids were some of my very first thoughts and fears.

  4. “Was this planned?”

    ummmmm… yes? I have always been an overachiever.

  5. “You’re going to HAVE to pump… give formula… get them on the same schedule… hire help.”

    I assume you’re basing this on your vast experience with twins.

  6. “My friend was pregnant with twins but she lost one at ___ weeks”

    Thanks. Like I wasn’t already worried about miscarriage or vanishing twin syndrome.

  7. “Welp, guess we won’t be seeing you next year!”

    Said a teacher at my son’s school. As she’s perusing the buffet I organized for a Valentines treat. No soup for you!

  8. “Maybe NOW you’ll get your girl”

    Because my 3 boys are so terrible?

  9. “Oh! Your poor poor boys”

    Siblings suck. So do big families. WTH?

  10. “You’re going to be HUGE!!!!”

    I know this is true, but I really don’t want to hear about it. Especially from someone wearing a size 0.

Not everyone’s reactions were awful. There are many sweet ones that stay with me when I’m feeling nervous about having 2 babies. The next time someone tells you they are expecting multiples please hug them, tell them they are the perfect mom for their babies, and remind them you’ll be there the whole time.

Elizabeth is expecting twins and is the mom to three amazing boys. She lives in central Texas.

Do What I Say, Not What I Do

I’m a big believer in teaching by example.

If I’m going to talk the talk, I need to walk the walk. If I want my children to make healthy food choices, I need to make healthy food choices myself. If I want them to treat others with compassion, I need to do that in my own life. If I want them to be honest and open with me, I need to be honest and open with them. Whether or not my children are watching me, I try to model the things I want them to learn.

The problem is that I am messy. Really, really messy. I am good at many things, but tidying is not one of them. I am so bad at putting things away that two of my friends came over to help me move in and save me from myself. While the husband took all our kids to the nearest park to play, the wife walked me through my home, telling me where to put my things.

I’m great at cleaning, but lousy at tidying. In an hour, I can leave a bathroom sparkling and germ-free. My dirty laundry doesn’t pile up. Dirty dishes in the sink? Forget it! However, my bathroom counter is cluttered. When it comes to folding clean clothes and putting them away, I’m an abject failure. My kitchen counters are covered with mail, kitchen appliances, and spice containers. My dining table has a pile of books on it. My buffet is covered with paper. I moved into my house in August, and half unpacked boxes take up half my garage. The last time my daughters had a friend sleep over, she told me that I should really clean my room.

How can I realistically expect my children to clean their room when I leave the rest of the house, inlcuding my own room, a mess?

The one area of tidiness where I am consistently successful is the containment of dirty laundry. My dirty clothes always make it into the hamper. Therefore, I feel that this is an area in which I can insist the children follow suit. They don’t, though. Their bedroom floor is littered with worn clothes.

A month ago, I laid down the law. My daughters are 6 years old and dress themselves. I think this means that they can take ownership of discarding worn clothes appropriately. I would no longer wash clothes that didn’t make it into the girls’ laundry basket. Over the last several weeks, I have pushed their dirty clothes scattered on the carpet to the side of the room instead of helping them into the basket. I’ve only washed what the girls toss in their basket.

The first thing they ran out of was pajamas. These girls LOVE their pajamas, so imagine their dismay at having to sleep in daytime clothes. (I used to make them sleep in school clothes. I’ll tell you about that another day.) Next, they ran out of sweatpants and tights. They live in sweater dresses and tights or sweatpants and T-shirts during Texas winters, so this was The End of the World.

It worked. Last Thursday, M told me that she had picked up part of the growing pile of worn clothes and moved it to the laundry basket. By the time she woke on Friday, I’d washed and folded every last item she’d taken ownership of. I placed them in the bin from which they are supposed to put their clothes away, and she dressed herself in sweatpants in deep gratitude.

My girls aren’t going to do what I say, unless I do it myself.

Now tell me: How do I teach myself to be neat so I can teach my kids?

Sadia fails to keep house in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is a single mom of 6-year-old twin girls, and works in higher education IT. Her desk at work is disarmingly clutter-free, and her electronic folders well-organized. Her desk at home is another story.

Sneak Previews at School

My twin daughters M and J are in different classrooms at elementary school. Their teachers collaborate a lot, so the girls tend to cover the same course material at the same time, and are actually taught together–along with the other set of identical twins in their classes–for Language Arts.

When it comes to art, physical education, and music, though, the girls’ classes are on different schedules. They have different music teachers and learn different songs in music class while learning the same musical concepts.

Yesterday, M told me, she knew all the answers in music class. She “cheated” (her word) because J had told her all about her music class the day before. She earned a sticker for being about to explain the difference between beat and rhythm. M told the teacher that she had an unfair advantage because J had told her everything already, and the teacher didn’t seem to think much of it.

I can imagine that J’s music teacher might be pleased that J took away enough from class to want to and be able to share her new knowledge with a peer. However, I don’t want either of my daughters to be deprived of the joy of discovery in the classroom. I don’t want them to have an unfair advantage over their peers, either, from the early access to classroom material having a twin provides. When the time comes, I want them to choose to avoid previews of test questions, for instance, that would allow them to game the system. J and M are only 6 years old now, but I can only imagine that the next 6 years will rush by me just as fast as the last 6 did.

At the recommendation of some friends, I think I will talk to both girls about holding back from spilling the beans on new knowledge in the classroom until Sissy has had a chance to have the same experience with her teacher. Of course, I want them to feel like they can talk to each other, especially if they find schoolwork engaging. Some of my most effective learning in school came from discussing classroom material with my friends and getting their insights and perspectives.

How would you approach the matter of exposure to common course material at different times with your multiples? Has this come up?

Sadia’s identical twin daughters, J and M, attend dual language Spanish-English first grade in Central Texas. They have the same homework assignments, but get to choose 3 of 7 possible homework exercises each week per language, which keeps things interesting. They are lucky to have art and music at their school, in this age of funding cuts.

MoM Elevator Pitch

Today, I went into the local Army medical center in an attempt to untangle a sitcom-worthy set of mixups of appointments, referrals and prescriptions. While I was waiting, I got to talking to the visibly pregnant lady next to me. She was 25 weeks pregnant with twins, and wasn’t looking forward to her appointment. Since one of her babies was low on amniotic fluid, she was anticipating being checked into the hospital, something she really didn’t want to have to do quite yet. We happened to leave the clinic around the same time, and she gave me an update. Although she wasn’t being hospitalized, she was being put on bed rest. She lamented not being able to be more available to one of her soldiers whose wife is also expecting twins.

In the few minutes I had, I told her that I also had twins, and that I’d delivered them 7 weeks early. Although it was scary at the time, they spent less than 3 weeks in the NICU, and are now flourishing. If bed rest was what her babies needed, maybe holding on to the thought that she’s doing it for them would help the time pass faster. I told her that I’d be thinking of her, and that I hoped that her babies stayed healthy and in her womb as long as they could.

If you had just 2 or 3 minutes to comfort a scared mother-of-multiples-to-be, what would you say to her?

Sadia is an army wife and working mom of 5-year-old identical twin girls. She and her family live in El Paso, TX, where her husband is stationed at Ft Bliss.

Ask the Readers: Speaking Up

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

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

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

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

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

What would you have done?

from hospital ankle bracelets to sports jersey numbers

I’ve written a little before about my efforts to help the boys’ teachers and friends tell them apart. I’m happy to report that their teacher, by mid-October, had found some tiny freckle on one boy’s face that he can use to tell them apart. Their friends still have no idea and arbitrarily call them by one name or the other.

But now, let’s talk about sports!

like the scarlet letter, but white

My boys played tee ball last spring, and their coaches learned which boy wore which pair of shoes so they could call them by name. Yes, their coaches were that awesome, because both sets of shoes are mostly grey and black, and just have tiny bits that are green or red.

They played flag football this summer, and that was trickier. For one thing, black cleats were pretty standard. For another, it’s not like tee ball where the kids are mostly coached one by one, or assigned a spot. The boys had big numbers on the backs of their jerseys, but from the front it was anyone’s guess.

To help the coaches (and everyone), I took to putting an X in surgical tape on one boy’s shirt. I felt so weird about this — first because I was afraid he wouldn’t like it, but he didn’t mind. But I still felt like I was branding him in some odd way. I also felt like maybe I was making a bigger deal out of this than it needed to be.

It turned out to be a good thing. Their coaches were great about remembering which boy got the X (the one who has an X in his name, which made it easier) and my boys benefited from being called by name. And I have to admit, I relied on that X to keep track of who was where from the sidelines. It saved me from a lot of, “YAY! GREAT JOB– (who was that?) – GREAT JOB, um, SON!”

When your look-alike multiples are in uniforms, what strategies do you use to help other people tell them apart?
Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she freaks out about every single thing that happens at school.

Halloween Overload

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

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

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

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

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

How do you keep the focus off sugar at Halloween?

Ask the Readers: Handling Picky Eaters

It’s been a while since we’ve Asked the Readers. Please, help us out in the comments!

What is your favourite trick for tempting a picky child at mealtime?

I was quietly ecstatic when my kids first took to solid food. Fish, spinach, fennel—they loved them all. I thought they were set for a lifetime of adventurous eating. I hadn’t read far enough into child development books, though.

At around age 2, kids tend to get pickier in their eating habits. It makes sense. The hunter-gatherer argument is a compelling one. 2-year-olds stop putting anything and everything in their mouths, including many foods, because that is the age they would start straying farther from their mothers in hunter-gatherer societies. This pickiness is a survival instinct that lasts until they are old enough to make mature choices regarding what is safe to eat.

Whether their pickiness is explainable or not, picky eaters present an enormous challenge to parents. When M was at her pickiest, she could go two days on nothing but milk if nothing struck her fancy. I worried that she would starve. She’s only recently begun enjoying food again.

Please share how you deal (or would deal) with picky eaters.

Making the Bed Transition

Hello, I’m Meredith and this is my first post on HDYDI. My twins, Elizabeth and David, are 16 months old. I consider myself quite the Twin Momma (capital TM) and have all the shirts and coffee mugs to show it off. When it comes to my kids though, I acknowledge I have two very different children that happen to have been born at the same time.

I am a major planner and the thing that has been on my mind lately is planning the kids’ transition out of the crib and into a bed. I know I am still a little early since they are only 16 months old but as I said, I am a planner. I struggle because I also need to separate their bedrooms. Part of it is that they are boy/girl but the bigger part is that the bedrooms are so small in our house, I do not think I can fit two twin size beds into one room.

The logistic side of me says when they are ready to leave the crib and move to a big bed just move their rooms then. I was thinking we take a weekend where the kids can stay at Grandma’s and my husband and I can play musical rooms. Then the kids can be totally surprised and excited about each having their own room with their own stuff and it will be lots of fun.

Then the motherly side of me kicked in. No longer in the safety of their crib, no longer in a room with their sibling, and poor David will be in a completely different room. I worry that it would be a huge shock to their little bodies and no one will sleep for months (I can’t go through that again!).

So far, the best thing I thought of is when the time comes, still take that weekend, play musical rooms but keep one crib in each room. That way each room will contain one twin size bed and one crib. My hope is that that will let them deal with the transition of being apart and get used to their new rooms while still having the comfort (and confinement) of their cribs. Let them be in that arrangement for a few weeks and then start to use the twin bed.

What did you do to transition your children from the crib to the big bed?
Did you separate their rooms?
How old were they when you made these transitions?