Children Lie

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Categories Discipline, Financial Literacy, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Special Needs, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saving the Bad Behaviour … For You

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Last week, my daughters’ school held its book fair, so we stopped by the library on the way home to shop. While we were browsing, the school librarian approached me. She gestured at my daughters and asked, “Are you responsible for these young ladies? They are just so sweet. They have the best manners I’ve ever seen.”

I smiled and nodded and thanked her. We finished up shopping, stopped on the way home for a small birthday cake, and ate dinner.

While J went to the bathroom, M and I set the table for dessert. J walked up to the dining table and started pushing at M, claiming that M was in her chair. I asked J to choose another chair, and the surround sound whining got underway. I tried to reason with the children through the drone of their complaining voices, but no one was listening to anyone.

I stood up and lifted M out of her chair.

“No one will sit. We will eat my cake standing,” I told the girls.

“I hate you!” my sweet J told me, her chin jutting out. “You’re a horrible meany mommy.”

“You’re not fair,” the oh-so-well-mannered M added. “You don’t love me.”

I put the cake away, untasted. I tried to tell the girls exactly why no one would be eating any cake, but I doubt they heard me over their screams and drumming feet. I tried to tell them that they needed to get ready for bed, but they couldn’t hear that either.

Fortunately, at age 7, my children can be trusted, even in a ridiculous tantrum state, not to to anything particularly dangerous. I retired to bed myself, leaving them to scream. I knew that I was close to yelling myself, and that would serve no purpose except to validate the girls’ own behaviour as acceptable.

In M's writing: Dear Mom, We are very sorry. We made this your worst birthday.
M wrote me this heartfelt apology. (What does it mean that my 7-year-old has better handwriting than I have ever had?)

At 9:00 pm, the volume in the girls’ room had fallen, so I put away their toys, kissed them goodnight, and turned out the lights. My head hurt. The next morning, I took some favourite toys away for a day as a consequence of the girls’ poor choices. They were genuinely sorry, apologized wholeheartedly, and gracefully accepted the loss of their toys.

I was thankful, once again, for the parenting wisdom of LauraC. Years ago, she pointed out to me that kids will often act out with their parents, even while exhibiting exemplary behaviour with others. Especially after spending long hours away from their parents at daycare or school, kids are able to let loose with their parents. They know that our love for them is unconditional. They can take us for granted. I’ve seen this with friends’ kids too; after a weekend of good behaviour as a house guest, I’ve seen 4- and 6-year-olds turn into whiny messes at the sight of their mom, even before leaving our house.

Much as J and M’s bickering and overreaction frustrates me, they feel safe with me. This safety permits them let out the emotions they’ve held pent up all day while being well-mannered and sweet. That idea gives me the boost to hold in my own emotions after a long day at work. It’s my job to let the girlies know that they’re safe with me. I won’t accept bad behaviour, but I will always accept my daughters.

Is there some word of wisdom that carries you through the challenging times?

Sadia is raising her 7 year-old identical twin daughters, M and J, in the Austin, TX area. She is divorced and works in higher ed information technology. She is originally from the UK and Bangladesh, but has lived in the US since college.

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Switcheroo

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Difference, Divorce, Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-Age, Single Parenting, SleepTags , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

My daughter J cried herself to sleep last night, as she had the night before.

The first night, it was because I made her go to bed without a bath after she earned a timeout. She earned the timeout for backtalk and kicking at me for asking her to take a bath. Yes, that’s exactly as circular as it sounds. Last night, the tears were because I didn’t let her finish her science homework because she remembered it (after I’d asked 2 hours earlier and she’d told me she was done) 1 minute before bedtime.

Over dinner tonight, I had to lay out our ground rules again. I’m willing to hear the girls’ opinions, but they are to listen/obey first, then talk.

We’d talked specifically about what had gone wrong last night earlier in the day, after we’d all had a chance to sleep on it. I reminded J that I’d made it very clear that both my 6-year-olds were to be in bed at 8:30, no matter what.

“You didn’t explain that properly,” she retorted. “‘No matter what’ isn’t even words!”

“I know what ‘no matter what’ means,” her twin, M, piped up helpfully from the other bed. “It means, ‘no exceptions!'”

My girls have a tendency to react to bad behaviour from Sissy by being extra-helpful and extra-cheerful. It’s actually a great arrangement from my perspective, since it means that I have only rarely had to deal with both girls crying or acting out at once. Most of the time, they’re both very good-natured and bouncy, so I’m glad they don’t get down in the dumps together.

When I go to the bottom of what was bugging J, it was concern about the next week. Spring break starts tomorrow, and the girls will be driving off with Daddy to spend the week with him in El Paso. They live with me, and this will be the longest they’ve spent with Daddy since he and I separated last April.

Tonight, it was M who cried at bedtime.

“When the overwhelmness fills my whole body,” M explained through her tears, “it makes tears come from my eyes. I’m going to miss you too much. I hate this divorce. Divorce is a ugly stupid word. I wish no parents ever fought ever and there was no word of ‘divorce.'”

J was the one to try to lighten the mood, reminding her sister of a movie they’d watched with their school counselor at ‘divorce club,’ the monthly meeting for 1st graders with divorced parents.

The nutty thing is that, until the last month or so, J has been the one completely in touch with her emotions. She’s been the one who explains to me clearly exactly how she feels about all the recent changes in her life, while M has acted out and needed a lot of help to get to the root of her worries.

This sort of role switcheroo happens all the time with my girls. One will be extremely mature and in touch with her feelings, while the other is a mess with no idea what’s bothering her. After a few days, or weeks, or months, they’ll suddenly switch roles. One will bury her nose in a book 24/7, while the other wants to play, and one day, the arguments will remain exactly the same, but with J and M reversing positions. When they were babies, M was the one who loved to be held and rocked and snuggled, while J would cry to be put down. Today, J’s the one who lists “snuggles” in the “need” column on school assignments on needs versus wants, while M tells me that my goodnight hug was “too much squishing.”

Of course, there are a lot of ways in which M and J are consistently distinct from each other. M can talk the hind leg off a donkey and just be getting started. J takes earnestness to a fine art. M is a picky, picky eater, while J is usually open to liking new things if I can convince her to try them. J has the ability to warm a stranger’s heart with one word or look, while M can leave people writhing with laughter with her wry humour.

I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing conscious about the way that J and M go about reversing roles and maintaining balance, but I can’t help thinking that the sensitivity that they’ve learned from adjusting to each others’ moods and needs will serve them well in personal and professional relationships throughout their lives.

Do your multiples switch roles?

Sadia lives and overthinks matters of parenting in the suburbs of Austin, TX. She is newly divorced and works in higher education IT. She will be at work, not at SXSW, this week. Her daughters, M and J, are identical 6-year-olds in 1st grade.

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Discipline and Love

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Categories Behavior, Difference, Discipline, Parenting Twins, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , , , 6 Comments

“Why are you acting like you love J and not me?” my 5-year-old M asked me this morning, her voice full of tears.

That was quite the knife through the heart. Within minutes of learning that there were two little people growing in my womb, I had promised myself two things: I would never play favourites, and I would treat our children as individuals.

I wasn’t playing favourites today, of course. M would be allowed to snuggle up against me with her blankie too, once she’d served her well-earned 5 minutes in time out.

Here’s what led up to this moment:

We had a small quantity of chocolate milk in the fridge, a spring break treat. I had split it evenly between two cups, and offered them to the girls to tide them over while I prepared breakfast. J took a cup from me and downed the milk in one swallow, while M tensed every muscle in her body before wailing, “But I wanted that cup!”

I offered her the other cup. I offered to pour her milk into the cup J had just emptied. She didn’t want milk at all, she informed me, because J had the cup she wanted. This sort of interaction was par for the course at age 3, but not now. Instead of having the milk go to waste, I offered it to J. That was when M started pummeling me with her fists. Instant orders to time out prompted her accusation of my not seeming to love her.

M has been having some major self control issues all week. It’s been a stressful time for the whole family. J is more in touch with her emotions than the majority of adults I know, including me, so she’s been weathering this period unbelievably well. M, on the other hand, is either unaware of what’s really bothering her or unwilling to talk about it. I sat her down with crayons and paper yesterday, and drawing seemed to help some, but she has a way to go.

While she has a legitimate reason to be generally upset, this doesn’t excuse rudeness or hitting. She’s a month shy of turning 6, and we’ve been working with both girls on a variety of tools to help them maintain their composure and handle their emotions since they were 2. Deep breathing, playing with water in the sink, and taking some alone time with a book or toy are standard ways that both J and M deal with overflowing anger to make their way to a productive solution.

She finally calmed down. I explained to M that it was because I loved her that I took the time to help her behave like a grownup. If I didn’t love her, I wouldn’t care how she behaved. Surprisingly enough, she accepted that response.

A little later, M asked to play a game on my iPad. I told her that I wanted to let her play, but the fact that she wasn’t controlling her body well made me worry that she would break the thing. That cued another tantrum and time out. Once she returned, I told her that if she went 3 hours without a tantrum, I would have enough confidence in her self-control to let her play a game. Classic bribery, I know, but we work with what we have.

She made it 45 minutes until the next tantrum hit. She begged me to lower the bar. A tantrum-free hour should be enough, she thought. I do not negotiate with tantrum-throwers, so I held my ground.

It was afternoon before she asked if it had been 3 hours; I’d been head down in work and hadn’t thought about her request for the iPad game. I realized that she’d been playing nicely with J for 5 hours, blowing bubbles in the yard and inhabiting up an elaborate make-believe world that involved pirates and restaurant owners.

It wasn’t until I sat down to write this post that I noticed how M had worded her pain to me. (I jotted the sentence down immediately for use in this post.) She had asked me why I was acting like I loved J more. She didn’t actually accuse me of not loving them equally. Even in her deepest frustration with me, she was confident in the content and equal partition of my love, even if she didn’t like how I expressed it.

I think M’s going to be all right. We’ll get through this. I just need to take my deep breaths, play in the water, and take some alone time every now and then.

What’s your approach to fairness in parenting? How do you balance the needs of multiple children?

Sadia telecommutes from El Paso, TX to her job in Austin and is thankful that her 5-year-old identical twins can entertain one another 8 hours a day.

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Family visit

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My wonderful mother came for a (too short of a) two week visit with my favorite (and only) sister’s almost 7yr nephew. Oh the fun we had! The kids don’t have many cousins to play with on a regular basis so to have one living in the house for a whole 2 weeks was beyond amazing for them.

I was slightly worried how the whole language barrier would go but turns out kids are pretty good communicators with couple words, gestures and primal noises. It took them about 10 minutes after we arrived from the airport to be playing ‘jungle’ in the basement (and the pace never slowed down after that). By the second night Daniel requested that we make a bed for him in the kids’ room.

Nathan was in awe of this older boy who knew how to climb trees and dive and speak Finnish flawlessly. It was fun to watch him soak in the ‘wisdom’ Daniel so openly shared. They planned jokes on the rest of us with such a speed and creativity that I had forgotten existed.

Prior to the visit I had worried about spending tons of money on admissions to several of our planned activities. I was thrilled to find out that through our library we could get discounted admissions to a whole lot of places. I met a mom from CA at the aquarium who told me that their library has a similar program. So if you’re planning excursions with a load of neighborhood kids or your own you should totally look into that. Our budget throwing $95 admission fee to our Zoo became pocket chance when we flashed our library pass and were charged only $12.

I had hoped that having a Finnish speaking child in the house would produce some language development in my kids but to my disappointment I don’t think they now speak one more word of Finnish than they did before the visit. Daniel however developed his understanding of English by quite a bit and would tell me sometimes when I started to translate something that ‘I already know what that means’. We have a month long trip planned to Finland in the fall. Who knows, maybe by the end of that trip my children will dazzle me with their ability to form a whole sentence in Finnish! Until then we have many memories to cherish and are looking forward to making new ones.

How do you find deals on fun things to do with the family? 

Hanna is trying to foster the sense of Finnish heritance in her kids (and her totally awesome American husband) in the outskirts of Boston. 

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Not Their Friend

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Categories Balance, Behavior, Co-parenting, Discipline, Mommy Issues, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , , , , , , , 7 Comments

We’ve been having some discipline issues around here recently. The girls have been talking back to me in a way that is not appropriate for 5-year-olds. Both M and J have had emotional outbursts that can be described only as tantrums. Age 4 and the first half of age 5 were nearly tantrum-free, so this flashback to age 3 was unexpected and unpleasant. I’d say something innocuous, and see one child or the other go rigid, rise on her toes, and clench her jaw before letting out a shriek. Despite my efforts not to, I would feel my own muscles tense and my blood pressure rise in response.

During the Reign of Tantrum Terror, also known as the Terrible Threes, I prided myself for being unflappable in the face of the girls’ outbursts, trying to show them how calm thought can work in one’s favour. I used to count slowly to 3, using both my speaking voice and my fingers, refusing the temptation to try to raise my voice over theirs. At 3, off the culprit went to time out, sitting on the floor facing a wall for a minute per year of their age. It didn’t matter if we were home or out in the world. If there wasn’t a wall available, a tree would serve just as well for a time out location.

I’ll confess that I had allowed the thick skin I developed during the Terrible Threes to melt away. At the same time, my children had learned to say, “No.” The first time that one of my daughters said “No,” when ordered to time out, I lost it. I yelled at her to go to time out, and this time she followed my instructions. I immediately knew that throwing a tantrum of my own wasn’t going to help things. All I was doing was validating the effectiveness of their unacceptable behaviour.

My relationships with both M and J became increasingly charged over a couple of months. My husband finally had to step in with some very constructive, but painful, criticism. He pointed out that the girls had learned that they could argue with me, and I was failing to rise above. I needed to remind them that “because Mom said so” carried weight.

He was right, of course.  I had been so enjoying the recent explosion of both girls’ critical thinking that I had been inviting them to offer their own opinions, and trying to show them, whenever I could, how I reached the conclusions and decisions that I did. In my attempts to encourage them to question the status quo, I had put myself in the position of their friend, not their mother.

I shed a few tears, and slept on it. Once I’d marshalled my thoughts, I sat M and J down at the dining table for a conversation. I told them that I appreciated their ideas, and loved our discussions, but I was the mother. When I asked them to do something, I meant that they should do it immediately. If they had questions about the why of things, they could ask them later, and I would decide whether or not they were open to discussion. I would also be the one to decide when they could be discussed. The girls would go to time out when I told them to, and they would listen to me. Period.

After a week of maintaining my icy calm, and an average of 3 time outs per child per day, we’ve settled back into solid mother-daughter relationships. Much as I hope to be a friend to M and J when they are grown, I am exclusively their mother in the here and now.

Do you find yourself becoming complacent and compromising your parental authority? How do you fix it?

Sadia is a Bangladeshi and British working mother of twins and American army wife living on the Texas-Mexico border. Her thoughts on matters of parenting, twins, and parenting twins can be found at Double the Fun.

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Yet An Other 'Secret' Language

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Categories DevelopmentTags , , 5 Comments

When I was expecting our first child I didn’t really read that many books about expecting and giving birth but one thing I was interested in was language development in children, especially when they were raised in a multilingual home. You see, I was born and raised in Finland, the winner of Newsweek’s 2010 best country to live in. I was going to be speaking Finnish to our children and my wonderfully totally American husband, who after 6 years of marriage knows about 10 words in Finnish, was going to use English.

I was not surprised to read that multilingual boys were the slowest to develop speech. Nor was I surprised when I read that the major cause of baby/toddler frustration, manifested in tantrums that are now way too familiar to me, is the inability to make their thoughts and desires known. I was hoping that somehow there was a way to bypass all this.

I had heard of ‘baby signs’ and properly ordered a book before our first was born. I read it but wasn’t that thrilled. The book was full of signs but it was dry to read and I had no time to study the signs well enough so pretty soon it found its permanent place in a box ‘somewhere out of sight’. Then my SIL let me borrow couple of their Signing Time DVD’s. What a great concept! (You should totally check them out, if you haven’t already.) Suddenly I was exposed to this wonderful new language in a way that was so much fun to learn, both for me and the kids.

Nathan was 10 months when we started watching the DVD’s. It was fascinating to watch him pick up signs so excitedly and effortlessly and then to see him use those signs. I’d offer him a banana and instead of throwing a fit he’d sign ‘grapes’, at the end of the meal, instead of sending his plate and cup flying through the room and adding several minutes to my clean up job, he’d sign ‘all done’. Beth and Joshua got an early start at the precious age of 2 months. When making dinner I’d place them in their bouncy seats in front of TV and all kids happily watched while I cooked.

Out of everyone in the family I believe that Joshua has benefited most from learning American Sign Language (ASL). Ever since being the reason why I ended up with unexpectedly early c-section he’s been our ‘special’ child. He would throw tantrums over anything and everything. He couldn’t figure out sequences (like, first you need to get dressed then you can go outside), he wanted to be held at all times, loud noise would send him over the edge and he didn’t seem to register what we said unless it was signed as well. So sign we did. I borrowed all available ST DVD’s from library, requested them to order the ones they didn’t have, kept them over due and paid enough in fees that it would’ve been cheaper to buy them to our selves from the beginning. But as we all learned more signs, there were fewer tantrums from Joshua and the flow of our days changed from ‘very challenging’ to ‘almost normal’. Quickly signing became his first line of understandable communication and he was rather proficient in it. (He has since learned how to speak clearly and is more than able to make his needs and opinions and desires know .. all too well!)

I noticed that the children started to sign when playing together. First very simple signs but then adding them together to form sentences ‘like pink shoes’, ‘train goes fast’, ‘let’s pretend we’re animals’. They were very good at identifying their feelings and communicating them with us early on, I believe because they associated the signs with (otherwise rather abstract concept of) emotions.

Beth and Joshua turned 3 end of last month. We still sign. I realized at one point that it would be a disservice not to continue with ASL since they already know so many signs. I signed them up for deaf/hearing children’s playgroup and I am taking classes as well. I hope that as they grow and realize that not everyone in the playground uses their hands to communicate they continue to use ASL, because you never know where life leads you and how many opportunities for friendships they might find in the deaf community in years to come. And one day, it could be their other ‘secret’ language. That is if they ever start speaking Finnish. Right now they seem content with understanding Finnish, speaking English and signing back to me. But I won’t loose hope. They just might prove to be more gifted in the area of language than their otherwise pretty awesome Daddy.

So dear HDYDI readers, are you raising your brood in a multilingual home? What challenges have you faced? What benefits are you seeing?  Have you thought about signing?  How are you dealing with potential speech delays/behavior issues with your children?

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on wholeness

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Categories Behavior, Family, Parenting Twins, SingletonsTags , , , , 11 Comments

In my last post, I wrote about how my oldest daughter is angry and acting out, jealous over the attention her twin brothers get from us, each other, their extended family, and from the public at large.

When the boys were little, we tried to make sure our daughter got special attention from us. She stayed up later, and she and I had tea parties together in the evenings. We went on little outings most weekends, to run errands or swing by the park.

Our boys were almost two before either of them got one-on-one time with a parent, out of the house and away from potential interruption by the other children. And those times were few and far between – mostly involving ER and urgent care visits. We poured most of our extra time into our daughter, who seemed to need us more. After all, our boys have each other.

That, right there, is the myth. Even when it benefits my singleton by securing her more individual attention from her parents and grandparents, we’re perpetuating a myth that hurts her: that she is incomplete, and would be – what? – more confident, less lonely, less needy, more whole – if only she had a twin. To treat her as though she needs more and her brothers need less, is to reinforce the lie she believes – that she is missing something that would complete her.

Our boys are 6 now, and even though they miss each other when they’re apart, they want one-on-one time with us. And they deserve it, as much as their sisters do. They might deserve it more, because they’ve certainly received less individual attention over their lifetimes than either of their singleton sisters has.

I struggle with meeting each of their needs for my undivided attention, like any busy parent does. Clearly the strategy we employed for the first 5 or so years of the boys’ lives – giving their older sister more time because she seemed to need it more – did not work. And as the boys have gotten older we’ve run into more situations where their being twins is not a boon, but a burden for them. Our new strategy is to treat them equally. Our twins are no more special than our singletons, nor any less deserving of our time and attention.

Because our kids are so close in age – and because our oldest needs to be in bed by 7:30 to keep her temper in check – they have the same bedtime. Our individual time comes on weekends. We rotate; each child gets one “date” with Mom and one with Dad before the next round begins. We started this over the summer and are still working through round 2.

I have no idea whether the “equality” approach to parenting is the right one, but I’m hoping that by consciously treating each child the same way, rather than according to what I perceive to be his or her need, I’ll be able to soothe my daughter’s fears that she’s missing something important and drive home to my boys that they are complete as separate individuals, as well.

(One of you asked about my youngest and how she feels – she’s not yet 4 and seems well adjusted so far. Most of her strong feelings hinge on things like Cheetos and her princess nightgown and when she watches “Dora,” so it’s hard to tell how badly I’ve screwed her up at this point.)

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.

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a double-edged sword

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Categories Behavior, Mommy Issues, Relationships, SingletonsTags , 15 Comments

For the first time in a long time, I have a lot of twin-related things to say. My boys are two months into their kindergarten year, and they are growing up before my eyes. But this is a post about my older singleton daughter.

She was not yet 2 when we dragged her to our ultrasound appointment and discovered we were expecting twins. Over the next three months our daughter went from having an active mother who played with her and didn’t allow TV, to a mother who lay exhausted on the sofa all day and expected her to entertain herself watching Caillou.

When the babies were born it got worse. We couldn’t afford for me to quit my job, but we also couldn’t afford daycare. My employer allowed me to work from home most of the time, so we all huddled in my office: boys in their bouncy seats, Miss A in front of Caillou, and me on my laptop, working. They cried a lot – we all cried a lot. And if all three kids were crying, the one who was fed last and whose diaper was changed last was the oldest one.

This summer Miss A started acting out quite a bit. She has just turned 8. She began to lose her temper and physically go after her siblings. She would claw at her own thighs or chest, and scream, “You’re lucky I’m not doing this to you!” She’d hit herself, kick the walls, stomp on the floor, slam doors, break things… She’d lose her temper over requests that she wear sunscreen, or a reminder that it was almost bedtime – and she could scream for hours. One night she carried on until well after midnight, screaming and drumming her heels against the wall.

The other kids told us they were afraid of her. We were afraid to leave them alone with her.

We took her to see a family counselor, and she’s also meeting with her school counselor. In both settings, all she wants to talk about is twins. She wishes we’d never had them. She wishes she was one of them. She worries about them. She hates them. She loves them.

Our family isn’t very twintastic. We have rarely done matching outfits, and because they are the same gender our twins are verbally grouped as “the boys,” rather than “the twins.” We don’t belong to twins’ clubs. This summer’s trip to Twinsburg was the most twinnish thing we’ve done. At first I thought that might have sparked Miss A’s rage, but then I traced her outbursts to a month or so before the Twins’ Days Festival. I love my little boys – each one of them, individually – as I love my little girls. She doesn’t understand that for all of the emphasis society places on twins, our family had been hoping for a singleton. She believes it’s the opposite – that everyone is secretly hoping for twins, and secretly disappointed to get just one baby at a time. She believes a parent’s love grows exponentially with each additional baby, like the work does.

When she is older I can tell her how we felt at that ultrasound; how overwhelmed and terrified we were, and how terribly hard it was for the next couple years. But for now, she’s hurting and longing for the other half she never had.

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 6-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.

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Oh yeah, they're a riot.

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Categories Family, Mommy Issues, Singletons, WorkingTags , , 8 Comments

‎”Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection.” – Mark Twain

This week I stumbled upon the above quote, thanks to twin mom Lisa Mazzio. I’d never heard it before, and immediately shared it with a triplet mom I know.

Like many little girls, I dreamed of having twins. What’s cuter than a matched set of babies? Even more, I wanted to be twins. I wanted a built-in soul mate.

When our second baby was discovered at our 20-week ultrasound, people told me about how they’d always wanted twins. Once the babies were born, a coworker with three children close in age told me he and his wife were considering fertility treatment because she really wanted twins. He asked what I thought.

My twins are nearly 6 and there have been very few times I’ve been out looking cute with a matched set of babies. I’ve always gotten a lot less “Awwww!” and a lot more “Oh my!” I know this has a lot to do with my twins being bookended by sisters only 26 months older and younger, and I appreciate that my crew is as visually overwhelming to bystanders as they are mentally overwhelming to me. It sets the bar low, and I like it that way.

The reality of my precious matched set of babies is a little different than what I envisioned as a kid. The reality of my first year with the twins was that someone was always crying. My 2-year-old was neglected. She watched more “Caillou” that year than anyone should endure in a lifetime. The babies took turns crying in my lap and in their bouncy seats. The guilt of being unable to comfort both of them and unable to do anything at all for my toddler was crushing.

No, I wouldn’t advise anyone to seek this out. I wouldn’t pray to be given twins. Don’t get me wrong – I feel lucky. I feel like, for whatever reason, God shone His face upon me and sent this curveball my way. “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48) I’ve been given a lot, and a lot is required of me. And I feel guilty that so much has been required of my oldest, by me and just by life. She’s a really intense kid – she always has been, but my mother guilt nags at me, suggesting she might be better able to cope if she’d gotten just one sibling at a time, or if she’d been a little older when they were born, or if I’d been better equipped to handle three under 3, or if I had been a stay-at-home mom instead of a work-at-home mom.

And while my boys have their built-in soul mates and I no longer feel as though I’m neglecting them, they must overcome challenges related to looking alike and each being perceived as only half a person among extended family, neighbors, teachers and classmates. My boys love being twins but I think it’s a disadvantage for them, socially.

I don’t know how to wrap this up. It’s been an intense 24 hours in my household and my boys start kindergarten in three weeks, and I’m a little blue. Aside: The boys have requested (demanded, actually) that I take them to the Twinsburg festival this Friday. Should make for an interesting post in a couple weeks!

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 5-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 3 and 8. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine, where she examines the finer points of potty training failure.

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