Twin Advice: On Favoritism

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Twins | 0 comments

Kristin, my friend posted a question you may be able to help with. She has boy and girl twins and both are tending to attach to her a lot now. Any tips to get them to veer back to dad? Typically the boy goes to dad and girl to mom. Thanks!

First, let me say to your friend:  I understand the need for a break.  When our three kids were all young, the attention they craved from me was life-sucking at times.  I applaud your shout-out on Facebook for help.  You are a mother, and you are also human.  A brave mother human who does not pretend to have it all figured out, and who is open to incorporating the experiences of others into your own parenting for the benefit of your kids, your husband and your marriage.

Balance is so tough with twins.  One without twins might mistakenly assume that because there are 2 parents, 2 kids and 2 genders, balance in this situation would be easy to achieve.  But twins are growing, changing, mimicking, developing, maturing, testing their limits, fighting for attention, and feeding off each other every single day during the early years.

Picture them like Gumby’s – charismatic and cute, but constantly bending and flopping in unexpected directions.  They have yet to develop a strong emotional core, and without a strong core there can be no balance.

Second, because every situation is different – I will tell you what worked for us and our own household dynamic of one boy and identical twin daughters just 25 months later.

  • On mothers and sons:  The nature of boys is to want to be big and tough like Daddy.  But it takes Momma’s nurture to get them there.  Daddy didn’t start out big and tough.  Daddy started out a little boy who needed his Momma.  When he skinned his knee, when he broke his toy, when his feelings got hurt and he didn’t know what to do with his emotions – he wanted Momma.
    Momma fixes the inner boy, Daddy molds the outer boy.  As the inner stuff starts to make more sense to a little boy, the outer stuff becomes more manageable and fun.
    So fun that this Momma now tends to get left in the dust for “Guy Time” with Daddy.  But even at 10, Gabriel still floats in between Craig and me.  He comes to me when he needs a hug, and goes to Daddy when the situation calls for a celebratory high-5.
  • On discipline:  This is tricky.  It has been our experience that boys are easier to discipline than girls.  The misconception is that boys are tough, so they can handle firmer discipline.  Girls are fragile, so we must be careful with their feelings during discipline.
    The truth is that both boys and girls are sensitive.  Discipline from both parents has to be fair and equal, making it a conscious decision to avoid the gender trap.  Decide on a consistent set of negative consequences for bad choices that apply to both genders.
    Are you as firm with your little girl as you are your little boy?  If not – balance it out.  The kids – especially twins! – need discipline to be fair, so they learn to trust in the need for it.
    Remember: Little boys are never as tough as you think, and little girls can handle more than those dimples and pigtails convince you otherwise.
  • On favoritism:  It happens.  It’s normal.  Especially with twins.  Sometimes a parent is drawn closer to one child than another.  Sometimes a child is drawn closer to one parent than another.  Favoritism is not good.  Eventually it leads to hurt feelings and low-self esteem for all involved.  Favoritism can be fixed, but it takes time and awareness.
    When the girls were younger, it felt like we had Twin Teams: Craig and Taylor vs. Sydney and me.
    Taylor is a personality clone of her father.  They have the same sense of humor.  They’re both prone to accidents and spills.  They love to be the center of attention, and will do anything for a laugh.  Craig and Taylor could relate.  They made perfect sense to each other.
    Sydney, on the other hand, is very much like me.  We both prefer the peripheral instead of the spotlight.  We love animals.  We treasure quiet calmness.  Sydney and I could relate.  We made perfect sense to each other.
    Craig and I both agreed this was a problem.  I wanted to feel closer to Taylor, and he wanted to feel closer to Sydney.  We knew we had to eliminate our separate teams, so that we could all be on the same team.
    We watched lots of family movies with the twins on our laps.  We switched the girls half-way through, whether they wanted to or not.  “Mommy and Daddy love you both, and we want to spend time with both of you,” we explained.
    We also stopped tucking them in at the same time.  I did my thing, and Craig did his own thing – without the distraction, interruption, or micro-management of the other parent (okay…ME.)
    We purposely shared our kids.  When the kids wanted me more than him, I removed myself (and my tendency to micro-manage) from the situation.  Once I was out of sight, I was out of mind.  And Daddy was (is) always way more fun!

Eventually, there was no more favoritism.  Quiet bonds formed and grew into larger ones.  Large, loud, giggly – and most often annoying – bonds.  And none of us would have it any other way.

Hang in there, Twin Momma!  Time (and double the patience) cures all!

 

 

 

Read More

Go Ahead and Blink

Posted by on Jun 17, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective, Raising Great Kids, Twins | 0 comments

“Don’t blink!” they say.
I don’t agree with They.

Blinking is an involuntary response.  Humans can’t control whether or not we blink, so why fight nature?

When I open my eyes, I like it when I find something new.  Life moves on.  Time passes.  Change occurs.  Kids grow.  A school year ends.  A sporting season draws to a close.  Awkward finds you – like when I’m busted for saying something inappropriate in front of the kids that was above their level of comprehension just yesterday.

And you know what?  I love it.

They have conditioned us to believe that endings are bad.  They expect us to feel sad.  They associate endings with the loss of something that will be greatly missed – as though nothing else could ever fill the impending void.

They forget that with every ending also comes a new beginning.   A fresh start.  A different phase.  A greater opportunity to learn.   Experience.  Know.

I love my kids, and I blink.  When I open my eyes, I continue to be pleasantly surprised.

Just last summer, I thought 7,7 and 9 were my kids’ best ages yet.  They could swim on their own.  They packed their own suitcases.  They were competent and patient travelers.  It was a choice to hold hands in a parking lot, not a necessary safety precaution.

6,6 and 9 were great because they could ride their bikes with ease.  Family bike rides were fun instead of infuriating.

5,5 and 7?  I could watch from the beach while they had fun splashing in the lake with their life jackets on.  That lounge chair never felt so good!

4, 4 and 6 – They mastered the art of pumping.  They could swing even when I couldn’t push!  This made us all happy!

3, 3 and 5 – They were potty-trained.  They could communicate.

2, 2 and 4 – I’ll admit: This was my least favorite combo.  The twins were tough at 2 X 2.  So tough that it merited a book instead of a blog.  I spent much of 2, 2 and 4 looking forward to 3, 3 and 5.

1, 1 and 3 – They could all walk and occupy themselves for brief periods of time.  They did not depend on me to fulfill every need.

But now?  Now 8, 8 and 10 are my favorite.

They wake up and prepare their own breakfast.  They put away their clean laundry.  They accept that their rooms have to be tidied up regularly.  They appreciate quality time spent together as a family, but also enjoy quiet time alone in their rooms.  They make crafts without always making a mess.  They apologize when they make mistakes.  They love to be tickled.  They fill the house with song, dance and constant piano accompaniment.  They volunteer to do chores to earn money or a song they’d like to download.  They love to text their distant family members and look forward to visiting them.  They can volley a ball and swoosh some baskets.  They check in with me when we’re out and about, because they know I’ll be worried if they don’t.  They engage in captivating conversation.  They care to know me as a person, not just Mom – When did I start shaving?  Who was my first crush?  What did I do when someone was mean to me?  What’s my favorite style?

They are turning into such amazing little people.  They look forward to new adventures.  They are willing to try new things.

Why?  Because they’re not afraid to blink.  When they open their eyes, they gain independence.  As a result, so do I.  We share in this liberation and are happy to be present in the moment.

We look forward to the next beginning, instead of dreading the next ending.  Life is as good as we make it.  I embrace the greatness that lies ahead, because it feels better than dwelling on the melancholy that will get left behind.

So don’t listen to They.  Go ahead and blink.  You’ll be glad you did.

 

Read More

Parent first, Party later.

Posted by on Jun 11, 2013 in Family Life, From My Perspective | 0 comments

Last weekend we attended a party at a house on a lake.  In the lake, there was an enormous water trampoline for the kids to play on.  There was also an inflatable obstacle course in the yard.

Water is dangerous.  Trampolines are dangerous.  Inflatable obstacle courses are dangerous.  Craig and I agreed we would share the responsibility of watching the kids.  Neither one of us wanted to be the designated babysitter all night long.

I was happy to take first shift.  Actually, I prefer first shift.  I like to get the lay of the land, figure things out, determine any dynamics that could be negative triggers for the disruption of fun.  Like when I noticed a 6th grader tackling a 2nd grader on the water trampoline – I made him stop.

“Luke, are you having fun or are you upset?” I asked the 2nd grader, because I really couldn’t tell.

Immediately he started crying.  “NO!!  I don’t want to be thrown in and he won’t leave me alone!”

“HEY!” I addressed the 6th grader.  “Keep your hands off the little kids.  They’re too little to play that rough.”

“I was just having fun,” the cocky 6th grader sneered at me.

“Well, he wasn’t – so cut it out!” I came back strong as I gestured to Luke.

The 6th grader rolled his eyes at me, and muttered under his breath to his friends.  I glared at him – daring him to argue.  He got the silent message.  The big kids did not pick on the little kids after that.  They knew I was watching.

There were at least fifty kids ranging in ages from 3-13  jumping, running, swimming, and splashing at full speed.   In comparison to the amount of kids, there was very little adult supervision.  I parked myself at a table between the water and the inflatable course so I could monitor both.

Our kids are 8, 8 and 10.  They can swim, but they don’t yet understand their limitations.  The water trampoline was in shallow water.  I was worried they’d be tempted to dive.  Or bump their heads while jumping before falling into the water.  Or get stuck under the flotation device.

Yes – I am paranoid about water, specifically lakes, and the possibility of drowning.  But as I always tell Craig when he tells me to relax, I prefer my children alive instead of dead.

The inflatable obstacle courses are great fun.  But kids get hyper and things get out of control.  Adult supervision helps to keep the crazy at a more reasonable level.

An hour into the party, the activity of the kids started to flow in a more manageable rhythm.  Their initial euphoria leveled to calm chaos.  I was ready for a break.

I looked for Craig.  I found him.  He was the bar-tender.  The life of the party.  The center of attention.  Instantly, I knew it was going to be a long night of babysitting the kids for me.  I was correct.

Was I annoyed?  Yes.  Was it worth it to me to pull him out of his glory?  No.

While I did wish that I didn’t have to remind Craig to keep up his end of the deal when it came to sharing the load with the kids, I also recognized my own limitations.  There is no way I could have let loose that night, even if he had afforded me a break.  Our kids were swimming in a lake.  They were bouncing like maniacs on an inflatable obstacle course.  They were playing basketball on the entirely opposite side of the house.  Even if Craig was watching them, I would not have been able to stop counting to 3 – making sure they were all safe and breathing.

So, I took a deep breath and let him have his fun.  Then I continued to watch the kids as they had a ball.

As for me?  I counted heads all night long.  And every time I got to 3?  I smiled at my little party animals.

 

 

Read More

I know what I don’t know…

Posted by on Jun 7, 2013 in From My Perspective | 0 comments

Write what you know…

I do just the opposite.  I write what I don’t know.

I write about the things that are stuck in my head.  The lingering feelings that won’t go away.  The thoughts worth remembering, as dictated by my brain.  Perhaps something special happened that made my heart feel fuller.  Or maybe it was a light-bulb moment – a lesson learned that I don’t want to forget.

I always know where I need to start – but rarely do I know how my writing is going to end.  Sometimes this is exciting.  Other times, it’s scary.  Only time and edits will tell.

What I do know is this…

Every time I write, I grow.

I learn more about myself.  I gain empathetic perspective about other people.  I accept more – both strengths and weaknesses – about myself, as well as others.  Every time I write, I discover ways I can improve and am excited for the challenge.

When I work up the courage to push publish, the lingering thoughts dissipate.  I am no longer stuck in my head, because I trust these memories are stored safely in my blog.  My brain can let go, and I can look forward to the next moments worth remembering or future lessons to be learned.

And now you know I know I don’t always know…

 

Read More

I don’t think you like me…

Posted by on Jun 4, 2013 in From My Perspective | 0 comments

“I don’t think you like me.”

This bold declaration was brought to my attention by an acquaintance recently.

“Why?” I asked.  I’ll admit – I was taken off-guard.  I didn’t have any reason not to like this person.  In fact, I didn’t know this person well enough on a personal level to even merit an opinion.

“Because whenever I talk about something important that concerns us all, you question my judgement,” she answered.

This is true.  I do ask questions when a conversation concerns me and my family.  Maybe my opinions differ because I don’t have all the information.  Maybe if I gain more insight we could find common ground.

“How many times has this happened?”  I asked.

“Three times,” she immediately answered, and then went on to describe each specific situation while counting on her fingers to be sure she included them all.

She has been an acquaintance for five years.  In five years, I have questioned her philosophies three times.  I took a deep breath to ward off the judgmental insult.

“You’re right.  I did ask you questions those three times.  Just because I don’t agree with you right away doesn’t mean I don’t like you.  It just means that I respect you enough to have a conversation about our difference of opinions,” I tried to explain.

“Well, I just thought maybe you didn’t trust me,” she said.

“It’s quite the opposite actually,” I told her.  “I trusted you would be able to handle the conversation, so I decided to speak up.  It wasn’t my goal to change your mind.  I was offering you the opportunity to change mine.”

I’m not gonna lie – I walked away from this conversation irritated.  I hate it when people make false assumptions about me.

I am a friendly person, but I don’t jump right into friendship.  I’m selective about who I open up to, basing my decision on a whole plethora of things.  For example, do we have anything in common?  Can we both communicate fairly while sharing the roles of listener and speaker?  Are we able to offer each other differing opinions or advice without taking offense?  Would our friendship be a positive addition to the rest of my family?

As these questions answer themselves over time, a natural friendship either will or will not develop.  In the meantime I will be very cordial, but I won’t go out of my way to establish false pretenses because I don’t think that’s honest or fair.

But if you assume I don’t like you just because I don’t always agree with you?  Chances are we weren’t a good match from the start.

 

 

 

Read More