First Father’s Day

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Father’s Day has always been a tough one for me.

My own dad split before I was two. My ex-stepdad and I have a relationship that has run the gamut from good to bad to nonexistent. Now, we have a healthy respect for each other and I definitely consider him an important family member. But I don’t call either one of these men “Dad.”

Enter my amazing husband. When we decided to start a family, I knew that we would truly parent as a team – my kids would have the dad that I never did. He is tender, kind, courageous, strong, funny, and smart – all the qualities that I hope my boys someday emulate. And he is there, in big and small ways, everyday, present and available to our sons. He is teaching me what a dad is.

Twin dads are a special breed. They don’t get enough credit much of the time. While many first-time dads are auxillary care-givers, twin dads are primary care-givers alongside mom. Most twin dads I know are more involved and more knowledgeable than dads of singletons, simply because they have to be – with two, mom can’t do it all (even if she wants to!).

The day we got home from the hospital when the boys were born, I returned in an ambulance for an additional four-day stay (uterine lining infection, among other things). My husband and my mom were suddenly responsible for 4-day-old infant twins. He was awesome. He took tender care of them, sleeping on the floor beside their Nap Nannies, because he wanted to be close to them. He dressed them and brought them to me in the hospital, one at a time, so they could nurse. He painstakingly fed them from a cup so they wouldn’t have trouble breastfeeding. When I got home, he would get up at night with me and bring me the boys one at a time. I literally did not change a diaper until the boys were two weeks old because my husband was eager to take care of them in any way he could.

As the boys have grown, I’ve watched their relationship with their dad blossom. R cries everyday when he leaves for work, and scampers up to him with a huge smile and shining eyes when he gets home. In the future, I can see the two of them enjoying hikes, playing catch, and sharing a love of books that R already exhibits. Shy M looks around for dad when he’s feeling nervous, and settles comfortably in the security of his arms. I know they will love sitting quietly together, making a meal or watching the game, and trading jokes, each with their own fantastic laugh. My boys love their dad, and he is crazy about them too.

I know this first year of parenthood hasn’t always been easy. In addition to having twins, my husband started a new job this year. Talk about major life stressors. Yet every day, he participates in running the household and finds energy to scoop up his boys and give them cuddles and play time and lots and lots of giggles. At times, I stand back and just watch the three of them, happy to witness all this love.

This Father’s Day is special because it’s the first one that I am happy to celebrate. Instead of an awkward reminder of half-relationships, this year I am proud to honor the best dad I’ve ever known. Times two.

Happy Father’s Day to all the new and veteran dads out there.

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Classroom Placement: An Update

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When I told you that my twin daughters were now in separate grades, many of you provided very thoughtful, thought-provoking responses.

The bulk of the opinions were on the side of keeping M and J at the same grade level, rather than having J skip 75% of kindergarten and 25% of first grade to become a 5-year-old in first grade, while her twin sister M stayed in her kindergarten class.

I can’t say I disagree with any of the arguments, although we decided as a couple to skip J up.

Yesterday, J made an offhand comment that M doesn’t enjoy reading, and my husband decided it was time to take her down a peg. After I reminded J that it was M who had recommended The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales to her, Daddy told J that she was no better a reader than M was. In fact, there were hardly any skills at which any one of them was significantly more adept at than the other. M was unsurprised by this announcement, but J was visibly deflated. I think she’s better for her ego having been somewhat shrunk, but time will tell.

M woke this morning to tell me that she had had a bad dream. She had dreamed that she had to leave her kindergarten teacher to go to first grade. I told her that this was something that would eventually come to pass, and reminded her that her past teachers had, for the most part, remained in our lives after she left their classrooms.

Many of the moms who commented on our decision to move J to first grade noted that, while supporting the individuality of children is key, being a multiple is a real and tangible part of our kids’ lives. To ignore that fact is to ignore a key component of their self-image. It’s interesting that my mother-in-law and I made that same argument when we were trying to come to decision. My husband and father-in-law were on the other side of that. Could there be a gender component at play here? Are MoMs and FoMs basically different in their outlook? How would your male partners vote?

As it happens, we ran into M’s kindergarten teacher, her beloved Mrs. K, at a birthday party over the weekend. Mrs. K’s daughter is in J’s first grade class, so our mommy circles overlap. M was giddy at the sight of her teacher and firmly attached herself to Mrs. K’s leg while we talked. In the midst of smalltalk, Mrs. K told me that M wasn’t getting the benefit of interacting with peers to encourage her reading; she will be joining J’s first-grade class during reading time. She has made leaps and bounds in her time management, both at home and in the classroom, and her confidence has shot up. If she stayed on the this trajectory, Mrs. K said, she would be recommending that M also move to first grade in 9 weeks’ time. While Mrs. K can find work to challenge her, she believes that she would benefit from having peers who challenge her too. J’s first grade class is already at the state-mandated maximum of 22 students, so they would most likely not be in the same classroom.

Does the possibility of M now going through school on the same schedule as her sister change your opinions about the wisdom of having J bypass kindergarten?

To the teachers out there, is kindergarten any less critical a year to children who have attended structured pre-K programs, or does pre-K simply give them a better chance for kindergarten success?

When not pondering parenting decisions, Sadia and her husband work from home as a geek and on base as a soldier, respectively. With their identical daughters, J and M, they are exploring life in El Paso after having been Austin-area suburbanites for the majority of their relationship.

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Questions and Answers From a Twin Dad (Guest Blog)

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Sorry my first guest post is a little late on Thursday.  As if highlighting some of the issues I will be posting about today, I had several crises at work the last few days that kept me on my toes instead of providing content for your fine site.

In any case, my name is Jay (Gydyon is my “screen name” for you more Internet-savvy types).  I am Krissy’s husband, Jonathan and Faith’s dad, an attorney, and poker enthusiast (my blog is updated less than we change the clocks for Daylight Savings, but nevertheless it can be found at http://gydyonsmash.blogspot.com/).  I am pleased to be permitted to post on your site today, and I hope I can present a perspective of a twin dad that you find worthwhile (at least worthwhile enough that Kris lets me do it again).

Krissy thought it would make sense for me to answer some questions she’d posed, and I think that’s as good a start as any, so here we go:

What is the best part of being a twin dad?

Naturally, the celebrity status I get in a mall when I am giving Mom a night off. 😉

How stressful is it to be a twin dad?

Incredibly.

I don’t do well on little sleep, and for some reason when the kids were getting up several times a night I developed the obnoxious trait of getting nauseous when I had slept for less than three hours at a time.  So, yes, I was nauseous for at least six months straight.  Yippee.

Now that the kids are sleeping through the night, I find it to be a constant struggle to keep being a good employee (when I really need to be home to get the kids to bed), husband (when I need to plan ahead for date nights and giving my gal a break of her own), and father all at once.  I’m managing, but I find my natural introverted state is magnified, and I truly need a relish time to myself.  Of course, that’s even more rare these days, but I’ll take what I can get.

Do you ever wish you were the stay-at-home parent?

No, never.  Ever.  No.  Next.

More seriously, I am so glad that we have been blessed enough financially so that Krissy was free to make the choice to stay at home with the kids.  I respect those who choose to work or who have to work, but since Krissy has dreamed about being a full-time mother for a good portion of her life, I am so happy that I’ve been put in a position with my career to let her be free to do that.  Frankly, I can’t fathom how she keeps it all going — I simply would not have the patience and the strength to manage our household (as evidenced by any pictures of the house that remain from my bachelor days).  I sure don’t have the skill set for it!

How do you think being a first time twin dad is different than being a first time singleton dad?

I never used the term “singleton” before about April of 2007.  Seriously, we couldn’t come up with something better?

The interesting thing about my life as a twin dad is that I have no idea what it would be like to be a dad to just one (and oddly, never will).  So it really is only what I think, and not what I know, which blows my mind sometimes.

Frankly, I think the main difference, especially for a guy like me, is that I am forced to step up as a twin dad more than I might be as a singleton dad.  There’s not always enough of Krissy to manage both little ones, and I can’t in good conscience hide from my duties as a parent.  I’m not saying that singleton dads are slackers — what I am saying is that I might be one if I was not thrown into the frying pan with two kids!

What has surprised you about being a twin dad?

How much I could grow and change.

How much more I could grow to admire and respect my wife and her amazing skills.

How certain I am that I can be a good dad, despite my fears and uncertainties.

How much I would love both of my kids, but how different that love would manifest itself.  Jonathan and I have a neat father-son bond — we horse around, and I am the one to “tire him out” for bed most nights, but nevertheless I am the one he wants comfort from when he can’t sleep.  That’s pretty fun (except at 2 am or after my semi-monthly poker night).

Faith doesn’t usually need me for comfort — she’d prefer that from Mom.  But she melts my heart twice a day — when she claps when I get her up in the morning and when she claps when I come home at night.

Yesterday we went to a picnic for a group of Krissy’s friends and their kids.  I arrived late because of work issues.  That little girl, surrounded by toys, swings, a jungle gym, babies, bigger kids, food, and Mama saw me across the park, dropped everything, and ran to me saying “dada, dada”.

I hope and pray that my little girl will always run to me.  I hope to earn that trust and love every day of my life as a dad.

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