The topic of Twinfant Tuesday came up and I wondered to myself and to Sadia, did I have a good experience during the infancy stage and do I have something to contribute? At first thought, I had serious doubts. My memories recall close to four months in a NICU, living away from home, the discharge and then the madness of appointments that awaited us, all the while working hard to balance the needs of my older child. My husband was at work Monday to Friday, working very long days due to unfortunate timing and he and I together were trying to figure out how to navigate as parents of 3, two and under, with particularly special needs.
During the infant stage I was busy running my twin boys to appointments in town and out of town, navigating the hospital parking lots, calculating the best and quickest routes to my destinations, and breastfeeding in empty seminar rooms and in the back row of my minivan. I did whatever it took to keep these little infants well. It felt exhausting and unrelenting. These memories are my initial thoughts when I think about their infancy.
But when I think about these things and the other things that are too many to mention which made up the early week s and months of my twins’ first year, I realize that we had somewhat of a unique experience. An amazing experience actually. The healthcare they required and the follow ups that came with it enabled me to get to know these babies cues, health needs and personalities in a way I can’t explain. It’s as though I developed a sixth sense of proactivity when it came to their unspoken needs. That’s what I’m going to call it. I learned that really and truly, I was their expert. They couldn’t articulate their needs, but I knew how to sense them and articulate for them. I knew them best. Doctors knew about healthcare and the typical needs of babies like them, but I came to realize I know them best and if I had a gut feeling about something it was going to be accurate. Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate every single thing our doctors and specialists have done for us along the way, but I recognize that we worked as a team and I really was my babies’ voice.
So when I look back on my twins’ infant stage, I realize that it really was enjoyable. I did many things with them every day, maybe in atypical ways, but I breastfed them like I wanted to and made some fun and unique memories with them along the way. I look forward to sharing their stories with them one day.
…here’s something to do with your time (as if you have free time!).
I’m biased because I am an avid reader, but I devoured all things baby-related while I was preggers. Here is a collection of my must-reads, from books, to websites, to blogs, to apps.
Jenny McCarthy. Period. Here are the books she wrote:
Belly Laughs. A practical guide to pregnancy told with a biting humor that you don’t want to miss. Baby Laughs. Same as above, with a view on Mommyhood. Life Laughs. All about Mommyhood and Marriage.
Baby Whisperer. This book is a lifesaver. From talking about breastfeeding to her E.A.S.Y. method, Tracy Hogg offers great insight into the first few weeks with baby. You just have to get past all of the “mum” talk!
What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I consider this book a STAPLE. Track your baby’s development throughout your pregnancy with this classic book all about your baby bump. Watch the movie, too, while you’re pregnant. It’s a little cutesy, but you’ll definitely find that you can relate!
When You’re Expecting Twins. I took this book out of the library hoping that it would be the twin version of What to Expect (see above). It was better! If you’re expecting multiples, GET THIS BOOK! It comes complete with a postpartum diet and exercise regimen to follow to help you shrink that giant baby bump that you proudly carried your little team of love around in for many months.
How to Rock Your Baby. This book offers a compilation of advice tidbits from experienced mommies, which is my favorite part. There are anecdotes and bullet points, and you will find advice that your mother would give on everything from what to pack in your hospital bag (I write about this here) to how to burp your baby.
Little Baby Garvin. This blog was not only my inspiration, but a lifeline for me while I was pregnant, and still is! Plus she has a great name (Jessica). She blogs about everything from recipes to adorable pictures of her daughter. A MUST READ!
The Bump. If you don’t know what this website is, then go back under your rock! The sister site to TheKnot.com, sign up for a free account and watch as your baby meets milestones, find checklists for everything from your baby registry to how to be nice to yourself during pregnancy, and tips on how to keep the romance in your marriage when all you talk about is baby. You can also create a baby website to share updates with loved ones (here’s ours). There’s also a free app!
Baby Center App (My Pregnancy Today). Use this free app to track your pregnancy day-by-day. I visited this app daily, and the message boards saved my life (and stole my sleep) many, many times!
What to Expect App. The companion app to the amazing book and movie, this app will help you to know what to expect, and to find foods that you can and cannot eat, and track the growth of your baby. Not as personalized as the Baby Center app, but still a good read.
What are some of YOUR favorite parenting/pregnancy books? I’d love to hear all about them!
Hope this list helps to keep you busy for a while! See you again soon!
Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples. There was no advice out there for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery. Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk. Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day. Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life. She is the one people go to when they want the truth. You can find her at Leading the Double Life.
I think the biggest thing to keep in mind with infant twins is that every victory counts, even the tiny ones. One day, when the babies were 2 months old, Emily’s day care was closed for maintenance, or professional development, or something. Just too months in, I had all three kids all by myself for an entire day. Gulp. So I thought it might be interesting to document the day. Well, the morning. And I wanted to share it here.
6:30 Em woke up (in our bed), checked on the babies and we played in bed for a bit. Now let me just say that this day started off really weird since we are usually up and going before 5:30. But still, little victories.
6:45 came down, cleaned a bit, did 2 puzzles and vacuumed the kitchen. (so far, not at all typical, why are the babies still sleeping? Did they eat at 4 or 5??)
7:00 made Emily breakfast, assembled and put away bottles (even odder that babies are sleeping, what a great morning!)
7:30 Spencer woke up and peed on the changing table, and at that minute, Em announced she had to go potty. Took Em to the bathroom, dressed Spencer, cleaned up said pee, started negotiations will Emily over today’s clothes (I am rooting for pants, she wants a dress… I will prevail, the negotiations are going my way…)
8:15 nursing Spencer, Sidney waking up upstairs (ok, need more hands now), Em eating and playing. Chaos commencing.
8:20 Sidney crying, Spencer does not want to stop nursing. Oh no.
8:25 Sidney changed, dressed, eating. Spencer in bouncy seat, Em hugging babies and telling them about her life as a baby
8:26 Spencer spit up, trying to reach to wipe his mouth without Sidney unlatching. unsuccessful.
8:30 with 2 crying babies, washed Em’s breakfast dishes and last nights bottles while heating up water to make bottles for babies, made 2 bottles with vitamins, ate a handful of candy corn, helped Em unlace her sewing and got set up to bottle feed both at once (I need tea!!)
8:38 I swear Sidney just said “mama”! She is clearly a child genius, talking at 2 months (or 3 weeks old adjusted, definitely advanced)
8:41 Sidney pushed away bottle to laugh at me, Spencer eating, Sidney regretting earlier actions and frantically looking for bottle
8:45 burping both crying babies, Sid spit up on me, Em asking for help with sticker game, I seriously need tea (Spencer took maybe half an ounce, but did a full nursing, Sidney 2 oz formula, 1 oz breast milk). I have 45 mns to finish feeding babies, shower etc, dress Em, and make a picnic lunch for today’s trip to the zoo with her friend. Oh and while I fed Sidney, Spence spit up. Now feeding him while she chills
9:00 both babies fed and happy, they are in bouncy seats, Em and I race upstairs. I take world’s fastest shower (may have only washed left side of body), while Em gets dressed and reports that they are both crying. Finish shower, babies quiet (crap, did they cry it out, damn!), get dressed, both crying again.
9:20 Sidney finishing earlier bottle, Spencer chilling (I am perfecting one handed typing ). Em is gathering pacifiers, I still want tea, and I need to put together our picnic lunch, and the diaper bag.
9:37 picnic packed, diaper bag packed, babies ready to go, heading to the zoo to meet friends, anticipate we will be 10 minutes late…
We arrived at the zoo 20 minutes late.
All in all, a fairly routine (except for the babies late start) morning.
And I never got my tea.
The twins are now about to be 19 months old now, and Emily is almost 5. But re-reading that account of our day I am amazed first of all that we all slept that late. Currently, 5:30 is a huge victory. I am also impressed with myself for taking such good notes (likely one handed). The point, I think, is that that day was a huge victory for me, because I did it. I won’t say I did it alone because Emily was there and from day 1 she has been a huge help. But I still claim it as a victory. The truth is, 17 months later, every morning is a victory. And I think that as a parent of twins, you need that. You have the right to celebrate every tiny victory. Oh the celebrating the day the babies held their own bottles! Every little victory counts. Even if that victory is simply a fabulous cup of tea. Peach tea.
I am thrilled to be a new member of HDYDI, but I wonder if I should confess to you all now that I am a fraud, or should I just let you figure it out for yourself? Decisions, decisions.
I spent some time before writing this reading through other posts and I have to say that the amazing women on this blog really know their stuff! They are fabulous mothers and I have no clue how they do it (no pun intended). And I am beyond jealous of them! Because I am not so sure that I know how to do this…. The other night when we had an extra 90 minutes of screaming and melt downs, I realized just how little I do know.
Emily, is 4 (or as she puts it, “4 and 3 quarters, for real”), and the twins (aka troublematic or kidlets) are 17 and a half months. Fractions are obviously a part of our preschool world.
The twins were a huge surprise. A knock-me-out-of-my-socks (or stirrups I guess) kind of surprise. But the bigger surprise has been them, as people–their distinct personalities. Emily is a fabulous big sister. She makes this easier. She makes this doable. But I am constantly having to remind myself that she is only 4 (and 3 quarters), or risk asking way too much of her.
The twins, Spencer and Sidney, are really funny. Sidney is incredibly headstrong, determined, and once she knows you, sweet. Until she knows you, she will stare you down with a look of doom, barely blinking, while she decides whether or not she approves of you. If so, you are in for a world of hugs, smiles, and kisses. If not, just leave now. Give up; it is not going to happen. You can just imagine her face on picture day at daycare.
Spencer is my cuddle bug. He loves to read and his favorite reading spot is in my lap. He wants to play with whatever his sisters have. He is a tease already. He is currently debating the wisdom of learning to walk, but until them, he loves to have crawling races. Unfortunately, as his sisters are both walkers, he rarely wins. Potentially a good life lesson for a boy with 2 sisters?
When Emily was younger, her favorite book was Pickles in My Soup. We would read it every night without fail. She has tried to read it to the kids, but they are not ready yet. Every time I get stressed now (or crazed, or on edge), Emily tells me I need tea. Her homemade (imaginary) tea often has my beloved lemon, and just as often has pickles in it. The other night during the 90 minute scream-fest, there was not enough tea in the world to fix things! But that is the beauty of twins (or of kids I guess). Every morning is a new chance to start over. And every morning starts with hugs. Thank goodness for the hugs, and for tea.
I was having a completely awful day a few months ago. After I put Jack and Mara down for their nap, I grabbed my computer and googled “when do twins get easier” and “first year help with twins” and “getting through year one with twins.” Through that search, I found this website, and for the next hour I absorbed article after article, tip after tip. I felt as if I had found a whole new and amazing twin group of moms to talk to and get reassurance that yes, things will ultimately be okay. Because during the first year, that is so important to hear.
That being said — ten (!) months in, I am so close to that amazing milestone – my twins will soon be turning one. Granted, I realize I titled this post “rocking”, and there have been many, many days early on (and many times even now!) when I was definitely not “rocking” anything and am really just surviving day-to-day, but overall, I think I got this whole twin thing down for now. At least at this age!
Here are some things, looking back, that have truly helped me so far this first year.
Remaining positive about having twins
I am sometimes taken aback about how negative some parents of twins can be about having twins. I have heard parents say they cant help to think what if their situation was different, or wishing out loud that had both children but at different times.In a recent article I read on raising twins, a mother commented that she wished she only implanted one embryo, not two. How sad!
Trust me – I do understand that twins can be incredibly challenging, but not once have I ever let myself go down that line of destructive thinking. If I let myself worry about whether the grass would have been greener with a singleton, I would miss out on what I have. My babies are blessings and I truly believe twins (and multiples!) in general are incredible blessings. I think my positive attitude has had a lot to do with how well my first year is going.
Getting help in the beginning
A fellow twin friend told me that one of her friends (also a mother of twins twins) had cashed out her 401k to get round the clock help during the first few months. While that initially sounded like an extreme situation, I can relate to the importance – and almost the sheer desperation – of getting help.
I am fortunate that both of my parents are retired, and that my husbands entire family lives within ten minutes of us. I could not have gotten through the first three months without help from our families. My mother lived with us for the first three months, for four days out of the week. She cooked us delicious meals each day, did our food shopping and most importantly, helped take care of the twins. I could not have done it without her. My mother in law would stay with us the remaining three days those first three months. She was also a saint. My husband’s father and step mother have been truly amazing as well. And now, almost a year later, they continue to be an incredible support for my husband and I.
I understand I was fortunate to have so much (free) help from family members. My advice for others expecting twins would be to enlist the help of friends, family, baby-sitters, neighbors, mother’s helpers – anyone willing to help. Take anything you can get! And don’t be shy about asking for what you need, whether it’s an hour alone to run errands, or someone to grab groceries for you, or even let you have a few hours of sleep. I remember my sister-in-law and her husband watched the twins for me for two hours when they were about two weeks old so I could get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more grateful.
Yes, I know this is silly but trust me, its been a huge help for me, especially this year. Using dry shampoo, I am able to extend my hair washing to three days. When you don’t have a ton of time to wash and style your hair, this comes in handy. I was able to catch up on more sleep, get my house in order, gleefully waste a few precious moments trolling for celebrity gossip on the internet, cleaning bottles – anything instead of washing my hair. Gross? Perhaps, yes. But sooo useful.
Being able to carry two babies at once
My husband recently watched Jack and Mara for an afternoon while I ran some errands. When I returned, I asked him what the hardest part was – feeding, changing, nap time. He replied, “carrying them up the stairs at the same time.”
Really? I guess by now its second nature to me. I scoop up each baby and cradle them under my arms, almost in the nursing “football position” but back up and stomach down. I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with the dual-carry which has saved me from transporting two babies upstairs at different times. I am sure they will soon be too big to do this, but it has really helped me this first year.
One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Pam Kocke, author of Pyjammy’s Triplets wrote one of the my favorite blog posts ever on raising multiples, delightfully entitled “Are three kids easier than one?” (Check it out here.)
In explaining why sometimes having multiples is easier than a singleton, Pam describes why having a strict schedule has enabled her to get all three of her boys on track. She also shares that her boys sleep better than a lot of singletons she knows.
Jack and Mara have slept through the night since month four or five, and continue to take two consistent naps a day. I take pride in this, and almost feel like it was a reversal of fate after a really super hard beginning four months. Jack and Mara sleep better than any of the singleton babies I know around the same age. Why? We have been adamant about keeping them on a schedule. I NEED that hour or two during the day to myself. Its my sanity. The babies now know when its nap time and bed time. I don’t have another one of me to rock two babies to sleep, or coddle them into snoozing. By putting them down awake (my only choice!), they have successfully learned to self soothe.
My jogging stroller
I was one of those twin moms who gained a TON of weight – probably close to 75 lbs. While the first 65 came off pretty easily, the last ten were very stubborn. Trying to fit in trips to the gym and working out at home was pretty much impossible. When the twins napped, all I wanted to go was nap. So this left me with little free time to exercise.
I purchased a jogging stroller in January, when the twins were four months old. As the weather got nicer, I began to take them out once a day. I am the first to admit I am not a runner by any means. However, I began to really enjoy jogging with Jack and Mara. It was a way for me to get some exercise, it allowed the babies to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, and it gave us another “activity” to do during the day. A few of my friends purchased the highly coveted double BOB strollers, but I opted for the Schwinn Jogger, which was about half the price and still continues to do the job just fine.
Lowering my expectations about what I can handle …
When Jack and Mara were born, I left my job in corporate communications to be a stay-at-home mom. I was recently offered a pretty great consulting gig — one that I could do from home. While I initially accepted it, I had to turn it down. Why? I just can’t juggle it now. If I tried to take on something that time-consuming, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my new, main job – raising the twins. It would stress me out and put me over the edge. So, I said no. It was a difficult decision but in the long run, I know my sanity is most important. I can’t do everything right now, and I’m okay with that.
… and lowering my expectations about nursing
I went into my pregnancy gung-ho about breast-feeding. I would tandem nurse both babies each day exclusively. I hired a lactation consultant to help me in the beginning and put me on the right path. I rented a hospital grade pump to help with my milk production. I bought every book written that included sections on nursing multiples. Yadda yadda yadda. I WOULD DO IT and I WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.
To make a long story short, I was able to nurse and pump for about three and a half months before I gave up. It was a difficult decision to throw in the towel, but in the end, it was the right decision for myself and my family. I tried not to be disappointed in myself for only lasting three and a half months. Instead, I was proud that I was able to last that long. I did my best, and that’s all I could do.
My nap nanny
Oh, nap nanny – why did you get recalled?!!?? A fellow twin friend introduced me to these amazing devices when my babies were just a few weeks old. This slanted foam seat was my savior the first eight months. In the beginning, my twins napped, relaxed and even slept in them (on the floor, buckled) as they dealt with some pretty typical baby reflux issues. I would use them for dual bottle feeding, to anchor one baby while I bathed the other. I took them to other people’s homes as a place for the baby to sit while I tended to the other. Although they got recalled in December, around the time my twins turned three months, I happily continued to use them (with no issues!). At ten months, Jack and Mara wont sit in them for more than a minute or two, but man, they really were a lifesaver to me during this first year.
What has helped you parenting multiples during year one?
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?
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.
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.
This is a loaded question. It really depends on what your “all” represents and I think each mom’s opinion of having it all is going to vary.
Having it all to me, in a dream world, would be having enough money to not worry about how to make ends meet, how to pay for extracurricular activities or for special things or healthcare costs, how to get kids to school on time and also make it to work in enough time to sit at my desk and sip my coffee, while I calmly get ready to start my day.
Notice I said “make it to work”? As a woman, I value the opportunity to go to work, to think about things outside of mommyhood, to do my thing and hopefully help those that I work with in a social services environment. At work I get to put on my thinking cap and think about adult issues and problems. Even if I had all the money in the world, I would still take some time away from the hectic life of being a mom.
When I am not at work 9-5, I am at home with my kids. We get a few hours together before its bedtime, which sometimes bothers me and I think I’d like to be at home more with them, and then one starts screaming at the top of his lungs or wailing on a brother and then I think…maybe not! I figure I do have vacation time and a dependable income, which in the long run means I can plan fun times and take time off to spend more time with them throughout the year. I just have to plan my time with my kids a bit more than a mom who stays at home with their kids full time. I really do enjoy the balance of home life and work life.
I think if you want certain things in life you have to go after them. As mothers it can be very easy to find reasons to put things off when it comes to our own needs. We have to learn to prioritize and compromise on our needs and our personal values. You need to set goals to achieve your dreams of having it all, as well as have realistic expectations of attaining them. The best way to do this is to talk to our partners and let them know what we need out of life and check in with them to find out what they’re thinking, planning and needing as well. As a mother, if you’re tired and feeling burnt out, then you have to ask for help. I’ve been there. Completely exhausted and trying to figure out what to focus on and when. It’s so important to ask for help when you need it because it will do wonders for your sanity and long term happiness.
Yes, there will always be bumps in the road and sometimes things will not go according to plan, so it’s always important to have a Plan B, regroup and sometimes reprioritize in order to have your “all.”
Carolyn is a full time employment counsellor working for a not-for-profit social services agency in Canada. She has 3 young boys–a 5 year old singleton and 3 year old twins. You can find more of Carolyn’s thoughts about parenting, twins and prematurity awareness atTwintrospectives.
I’m a homerun hitter in this game called Parenting. That’s right! Some days I practically “hit the ball out of the park” with my parenting skills…but (of course there’s a but) then there are other days…those bleak days…where it’s three strikes and I’m out and I haven’t even finished my morning cup of cold coffee yet.
Last week I took part in a workshop, put on by a local social service agency in partnership with the Parents of Multiples Births Association I am part of. The workshop was on Positive Parenting and Raising Responsible Children (us multiples moms and dads need all the advice we can get, right?!) The facilitator used a baseball analogy in her explanation of positive parenting, which I will explain shortly.
We all want to raise awesome children and give them all we can to achieve success…but we learned maybe that is not exactly the right approach. We need to let children make mistakes, as painful as it may be to watch happen. We need to let them learn from their experiences, not clear the path or fight their battles for them, while thinking we are doing them a favour. We talked about the importance of give and take when it comes to the parent and child relationship. We heard about the reasons why children may seem to be “misbehaving,” when perhaps in fact they are having a hard time verbalizing or expressing what it is that’s actually making them react in ways we consider “bad.” We also learned from other parents’ reactions we are not alone when we wonder where the heck The Parenting Manual is and why didn’t we get training before we had multiples running around the neighbourhood when the lights are out and all the other kids are home in their beds?? Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight.
The facilitator of this workshop discussed the importance of understanding the difference between praise and encouragement. Another key thought was to consider the difference between punishment and discipline. At first glance I am sure many parents, including myself might think these words are one in the same, just a different way to state them…but with further explanation many of us had our “a-ha moments” going off one by one through the session.
For starters the facilitator explained a concept called STEP – Systematic Training for Effective Parenting. The main point that drove it home (like a homerun) for me was praise is used to reward only for well-done, completed tasks. From this the child begins to develop the ideal that “to be worthwhile I must meet your standards,” allowing the child to develop unrealistic standards and measure worth by how closely the child reaches the parents’ perceived level of perfection. From here children learn to dread failure. On the flip side, in comparison, encouragement is when a child is recognized for effort and improvement. The child internalizes the idea that he or she does not have to be perfect and that efforts and improvements are valued and important. Based on this type of repetitive experience the child learns to accept his/her and others’ efforts. It also enables a child to learn discipline and persistence to stay on task.
Bringing up the rear were the concepts of punishment versus discipline. I thought, Aren’t they the same?…one just seems to have a meaner tone? I looked it up, because that’s what I do, and yes, they do have similar meanings…but “discipline” is also defined as activities, exercises or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.
During the workshop, “punishment” was outlined as our belief that we must teach a life lesson and that a punishment, such as taking something away will make the child think before acting next time or “suffer the consequences.” You may randomly take something away, that has nothing to do with the problem or situation and will make no sense to the upset child. That sounds scary and frustrating…Then on the other hand is the concept of discipline, which is to train the child by working with him/her to develop effective strategies for expressing their emotions and managing behaviour to avoid grocery store mid-aisle meltdowns for all to see (and judge.) To discipline, you have to work at achieving your own skill of understanding a child’s reasons for behaviour and misbehaviour, use firmness and kindness in your approach, look for solutions and alternatives and the ultimate goal is to teach the child self-discipline. In other words don’t start screaming and yelling, thinking you’re going to help the already frustrating situation. In this sense you’re really reverting to child-like mannerisms because you can’t get your point across. I get it…but it’s going to take a lot of practice to make it right…and ultimately this whole concept of parenting indicates we should not strive for “perfection,” but rather a balance of confidence in our abilities and a willingness to persevere and try again next time.
To close, the way the facilitator of the workshop summed up these ideas is that when you start to learn to play baseball, you don’t immediately know how to swing and hit a ball, or pitch and throw a strike. This was my a-ha moment, after playing many, many summer baseball seasons over the years, I knew what she meant. I realized this idea of baseball is similar to learning to parent; these are all things that take time, dedication and potentially many mistakes along the way to become as good a parent as you can be. Rarely does a pitcher ever throw a perfect game and so it’s reasonable to think parents will make mistakes, feel like they should be thrown out of the Parenting game and maybe even take themselves out of the game for a few minutes to collect themselves and then start again with a fresh approach.
Our friends at GoNannies.com asked us to share some of their similar thoughts shared on their recent blog post, How to Gain Your Child’s Cooperation Without Yelling, so please feel free to check them out for more advice on discipline and gaining your child’s cooperation.
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.