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Archive for May, 2009

While paging through the May 2009 issue of Ladies Home Journal, I came across an article titled “Workplace Wars.” The author, Carol Mithers, wrote about the cultural clash occurring between the Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980); and Generation Y or “the Millennials” (born between 1981-2000.) A small but shrinking percentage (about 8%) of the workforce is composed of the “Matures” (born between 1922-1945.)

Mithers speaks candidly of the various workplace differences that crop up when four generations with very different perspectives of the world work together. One paragraph in particular struck me:

Then there are the Millennials-at a whopping 83 million, the biggest generation of all. Millennials are techno-kids, glued to their cell phones, laptops and iPods. They’ve grown up in a world with few boundaries and think nothing of forming virtual friendships through the Internet or disclosing intimate details of themselves on social networking sites. And, many critics charge, they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance. (emphasis added)

The article continues:

Cultures also collide over such basics as how to work, what hard work means and what it takes to get ahead. For people in their 40s and 50s, dedication to a job usually means coming in early, staying late and doing nothing else during work hours. To young workers, who’ve been multitasking their whole lives-instant messaging friends, while watching TV and checking MySpace, all while doing homework-a single focus is a waste of time.

I was born is 1980, and as such skidded into Generation X by the skin of my teeth. I was raised in a rural area on the East Coast that could probably be considered a little behind the times. I was raised in a strong Christian family with my step-father, mom, brother and adopted sister. My step-dad is a carpenter and his hands bear the scars of exhausting hard work. My mom is now an insurance agent, but cleaned houses when we were school-aged so she could be home with us. My parents are extremely hard workers.

My parents modeled tough love, a strong faith in God, integrity, hard work and dedication to the family. I learned a lot from them. Specifically, the high value they placed upon family.

I wonder what my children, and their generation will say about us, their parents? Will they say we were always too busy multitasking to truly pay attention? Will they say we cared more about productivity than people?

I certainly hope not, but I find myself being pulled toward the computer to check my email or update my blog when the kids are awake (I try to save my computer time for nap time.) I find that I get frustrated with all the messes and although I try, it is hard to relax when my environment is messy. Perhaps I value technology and productivity a bit too much?

My other concern is in over-praising or coddling my children.

“…they’ve been so coddled and overpraised by hovering parents that they enter the job market convinced of their own importance…”

In this day and age, technology is so easily utilized, that we have our children’s entire lives recorded in blogs, virtual scrapbook pages, on You tube and dvd recordings. I adore my children, and am so glad that I have blogged about their lives as a way or remembering and preserving our memories…but at what point does it cross the line? Is it possible that in this documentation we over-inflate our child’s sense of worth, there by doing them a disservice when they enter the job market?

I would love to hear your thoughts on Generation Z…what are your hopes and dreams for the emerging generation? What values/beliefs/hopes do you wish to pass on? What would you like to see change? What values from the “Matures” and “Baby Boomers” would you like to see continue in our society?

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Divas and Dudes

Contrary to popular lesbian stereotypes, the majority of our friends are straight with most of those having kids. We’ve been to exactly one gay bar exactly one time and it was about as both appealing and appalling as any other bar. Neither of us are man-haters. I won’t leave the house without lipstick. We’ve been together nearly nine years, we’ve both been highly involved in our church, and many of our straight friends have been to more Pride Parades than we have, primarily because we’ve been to exactly zero of them. As if that doesn’t raise enough eyebrows, we went about embarking on a journey to get pregnant.

For we same-sexers, getting pregnant is a deliberate, planned, and oftentimes prayed for occurrence. “Oops!” is never a part of our conception story. We correct the doctor’s estimated delivery date because we know Exactly. When. It. Happened. Being a new mom turns your world on its ear. Being a mom of twins presents its own unique challenges. Being a lesbian mom add several layers of trickiness.

One thing I’ve learned as a mom of twins is that we have to anticipate as much as possible, plan as best as we are able, and be prepared for the unexpected. One thing I’ve learned as a lesbian mom is that you pretty much have to do that in almost every area of your life due to the often-experienced discrimination against same-sex couples.

Medical care, for example. None of my straight friends had to first interview their fertility clinic, their OB/GYN, the pediatrician, and the daycare to determine their level of openness and willingness to help me get pregnant, deliver, treat, and care for our children. The conversations often went something like this: “Hi, my name is Rachel and this is my partner, Jennifer. I am pregnant with twins and after they are born, Jennifer will also adopt them. We will both be their moms. If this is an issue for you personally or with the staff in general, please let me know now so that we might find a more open and professional provider. Your clinic/practice/school comes highly recommended but with all the other things that will come at us with twins, we need to know that those we entrust for the care of our children are supportive of our family structure.” I am grateful to say that we chose the best providers and all of them stayed on board. Not so on the spiritual front.

Do you know how hard it is to find a church that is open to and accepting of a two-mom household? Try locating a couple of those in your area that isn’t the “gay” church or some one-off splinter denomination. And once you do, does it have a good children’s program? Does it have a children’s program at all? Does the worship style fit with the ways you feel most connected? Do people avoid shaking your hand during the giving of Peace because a husband isn’t around to make them comfortable? As open as our mainstream Methodist church is in general, there was a small but palpable sense of displeasure that the pastor baptized the children of a same-sex couple in their church.

Godparents & Pastor

Growing up, I was very involved in my youth group and Young Life; I was the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I received my undergraduate degree from a southern Baptist university, where I was also a Young Life leader. So it’s no wonder that I’m surrounded by many people for whom my coming out kind of threw their preconceived notions of what a gay person was like through the cross shredder. I am so blessed that many of those friends have come out in a way themselves: more accepting, more open to others unlike themselves. A handful in my life did not, particularly after I decided to get pregnant.

One of the favorite questions of the disapproving is “who will be the male figure in their lives?” asked with the connotation of “Gotcha, bitch!” and the inflection of shards of glass. Unsurprisingly, my friend whose husband was killed in a tragic car accident when she was five weeks pregnant has never been asked that question. Ever.

Still, it’s a fair question – one that I’ve thought about ever since we decided to get pregnant. More so once I knew that one of the twins was going to be a boy, and particularly since our son is outnumbered 3 to 1. Which means that he is four times more likely (I’m counting the nanny) to see a woman do an activity to model from than he is a man. Take, for example, the benign fact that we often put a bow in our daughter’s hair because (a) they’re super teeny and cute, and (b) she’s got long bangs that need help staying out of her face. About half the time, though, she yanks the bow out of her hair and tosses it to the ground. Last week, I saw my son go pick up the newly discarded bow and put it to his head, holding it there and looking up at me.

I think for most diversity-inclined, open and reconciling folks, his action might be understood as mimicking behavior that he observes, maybe even seen as cute. For the homophobes, it would be precisely the reason that gays shouldn’t have kids because a 12 month old putting a bow to his head wouldn’t have happened if there was a man around and gay people are just breaking down families across the country leading to economic depression, terrorism, and swine flu.

When it comes to clothing and appearance, yeah, I’m a little sensitive to gender stereotypes. As a lesbian mom, I think twice about putting Mateo in his pink Ralph Lauren boys polo shirt that is friggin adorable because omg how would that LOOK? So when he wears it, I’m sure to pair it with rugged blue or otherwise clearly boy shorts or pants, all the while telling myself how absurd the logic is.

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I am also a very practical person, however. We (very gratefully) receive lots of hand-me-over’s from friends and from Jennifer’s clients, so there’s lots of clearly boy and clearly girl clothing in the closets and drawers. If I’m doing the shopping, more often than not, I economize on the bottoms by buying boy clothes (like sweatpants and cotton shorts) that our daughter can wear as our son grows out of them. I mean seriously, it’s gray sweatpants! Does she really need pink ones or gray ones with a pink flower to let the world know they’re for girls? My checking account says no. I’ll differentiate with the tops, thanks. Plus, have you seen how short the summer shorts are for little girls? For crying out loud.

Diva

Harper is more cold-natured and will still sleep in poly/fleece footed pajamas. The pajamas that were given to her brother. The same ones that have footballs all over them. Just two days ago I was going to return some pajamas that I had purchased for Harper because I had looked in their closet and found that she still had all of Mateo’s 18 month pajamas she can still fit into for a while(on average, there’s a two inch and two pound difference between the two). But then I thought “you know what? She doesn’t have any of her OWN pajamas and I am going to keep this cute lady bug ruffled sleeve pajama set for her after all.” So in my practicality, I still aim for fairness. Right now, we generally have a no-dress rule in the house. Not because we don’t want to put Harper in the girl box, but because quite frankly, I think it’s just cruel to put a little girl crawler in a dress which invariable gets caught under the knees.

I was once asked by a co-worker “which one of you follows the man’s role in the house?” I am not even kidding. He was referring to household chores such as mowing the lawn and changing air filters and taking out the trash, but still. If I were step back and watch us in motion, it would look a bit of a dance: Each of us alternative which baby we bathe each night, putting the kids down together, then one of us cleans up the bath area which the other gets dinner started while the former cleans up the kids’ dinner area, then eating dinner together, then one of us tidying up the play room while the other cleans up the kitchen. On a Sunday evening, one of us restocks diaper stations while the other takes out the trash. I’m better at the bills. She’s better able to accommodate the lawn during the day due to her flexible work schedule. Because we both share in all the responsibilities of our household and child-rearing, our children will witness a sense of balance because of it.

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For us, navigating the waters of gender norms with boy/girl twins reaches far past clothing selection and chores and their play. The key will be to grow two children that are independent, confident, and respectful of themselves and others. And I think most parents would agree with those goals, regardless of what their gender profile is.

I’m not minimizing the role of a man in the everyday life of a child. And for us, both our children will be afforded generous time with their grandpas and uncles and our male friends. Our situation isn’t perfect. But neither is anyone else’s.

Being same-sex parents certainly accentuates our concerns for fairness and equality for our children, both in terms of teaching them how to respect those around them and in terms of our hopes for environments that will be supportive of their family. We are fortunate to be surrounded by people in our lives who have been forging well worn paths of fairness and equality long before we came out and long before we decided to have kids. And those folks are straight! In addition, we don’t have to look much further than some of the contributing writers here on HDYDI to gain perspective on the fact that a little boy trying on something of his sister’s doesn’t necessarily have to be a big fucking deal.

So how do we go about handling the gender norm stereotypes? It’s day to day. I’ll keep letting you know how its going. For now, I’m off to finalize the order for two dolls I’m purchasing, one each for Mateo and Harper. None of the dolls’ clothing will be dresses. And none of it will be pink or blue.

Mother's Day Lunch

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The week before my twin boys turned 1, I was an emotional mess. I couldn’t stop thinking about their birth. I couldn’t stop remembering the emotions of our week in the NICU, so worried about my little boys.  I mourned the normal pregnancy, normal childbirth, and normal newborn experience I would never have. I was also ecstatic because WE MADE IT! through the first (very hard) year. Yet I was still so exhausted, so tired, and so overwhelmed.

The week before my twin boys turned 2, I was emotionally strong. I finally felt like we had our heads above water, and having twins complemented our life rather than dominated our life. I no longer mourned for experiences I would never have because I loved our life. Our life finally felt normal, and things felt easier as the boys gained more independence.

My boys turn 3 on Saturday and this week I am an emotional mess. This is the first birthday I’ve realized how very fast time is slipping through my fingers.  I see how limited my time is with my boys at home and it makes me sad because this has been an amazing ride. Usually I would try to get myself to snap out of it, but this feeling of life slipping away is helping me live in the moment and enjoy these times. In a short period of time, my babies turned into boys. As they turn from boys into adults, I want to be present in the moment.

Throughout my childhood, I clearly remember my mom crying on my birthday every year and I never understood it.  I get it now, mom.

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Other-envy.  The bane of the toddler-mom’s existance.  Doesn’t matter what it is that child A has picked up; child B simply MUST have it. Right. NOW.  There’s no lead-time on child A playing with it and making it look fun to entice child B.  Literally, from the moment A picks up the cap from an empty water bottle, B desperately neeeeeeeeds to have it.

In my house, it’s Daniel who must have whatever Rebecca is holding.  She picks something up, and he scrunches up his face and whines “my turn, my turn!”, which, in toddler-ese means, “give it to me right this very second.”  I have tried to explain to him that, no, it’s Becca’s turn and he has to wait his turn.  He then shrieks “Becca turn! Becca turn! Wait-a turn! Wait-a turn!” and continues to snatch it from her.  Sigh.  Every now and then I think we’re starting to make progress on the concept of waiting and sharing, but it’s slow going.

The simultaneously heart-warming and concerning part of this story is that, more often than not, Rebecca will decide fairly quickly to give whatever she has to Daniel.  Not always, of course, but often.  Is she just being kind and empathetic?  It really is quite sweet to see.  On the other hand, is she just doing it to shut him up? Is she too much of a pushover when it comes to her brother?  Hard to say.

Sharing markers

And I can’t decide what my reaction to her generosity should be.  Obviously, I continue to try to get Daniel to wait his turn.  But when Rebecca decides to hand over whatever she has, do I praise her kindness?  Gently refuse her gesture and give the toy/book/bottlecap back to her and insist that she take her own turn (thereby inciting a spectacular meltdown from Daniel)?  Let them work it out on their own?

We certainly work on our “please” and “thank you” (Daniel’s “sank-u Becca!” is awfully cute) and other general manners. But I find myself again feeling a little sensitive to the gender thing. I don’t want to inadvertently encourage my (larger) son to be physically dominant and my (smaller) daughter to be the one who always has to make others happy.

Reading too much into this? Yeah, probably. Rebecca may be wee, but she’s feisty as hell and has no trouble getting her way when she sees fit.  And the more-verbal Daniel is getting better and better at spontaenous “please,” “thank you,” and “wait-a turn.”  This, as with all toddler-isms, shall pass.

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My doctor asked me yesterday how old my kids were. When I told her I had two year old twins, she responded by saying, “Boy, that first year was just hell, wasn’t it?”. The other doctors and nurses in the room looked at her with something like horror, but I knew what she meant. Not how I would describe it necessarily, but boy, was it hard! As soon as we’d figured out one thing, like breastfeeding, another issue came along, such as sleep or introducing solid foods. I always felt like I was one step behind them, and could never get ahead. Don’t get me wrong. I love my twins. I love having twins. I wouldn’t go back and undo the choice I made to have twins. But, this has been my life for so long that I forget that other parents don’t necessarily have the same experience. That some people might not describe the first year like my doctor did, or would be horrified to hear it described that way. Sometimes it takes an experience like that, or a lunch with a friend and her one newborn, for me to really understand how different our experience as parents was, or how much I missed out on having my two babies together, instead of one at a time.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine came over for lunch with her 11 week old baby. When I had my babies, none of my friends had had kids. I met many friends with babies when mine were newborns, but I was too tied up in what I was doing (hurry, swaddle Danny so he won’t scream. Crap, is it time to feed them again? Who’s hungriest and should go first? Really?! You pooped through AGAIN?) to notice what anyone else was doing. And as my kids have gotten older, many of the newborns I spend time with are twins.  Anyway, I watched this friend with her one baby and was simultaneously shocked at her parenting, and a bit horrified by my own take on it.

These were the things I noticed:

#1: She took the (sleepy, happy) baby out of the carrier right away. Right away! And held him.
#2: She didn’t put the (sleepy, happy) baby down the WHOLE TIME she was at my house. Not to eat her sandwich. Not to have a sip of coffee. Not to go pee.
#3: She told me that she loves holding him while he sleeps. Huh. I always thought that sleeping meant that you had time to do all of the aforementioned (eat, sleep, pee). Why would you HOLD a sleeping baby? That is what the carrier is for!
#4: She did not, at any time, put the baby in the carrier and rock it with her foot while she ate/drank coffee/held another baby with her hands. She kind of looked at me surprised when I mentioned rocking babies.

I offered to bring her her food or coffee so she could eat with one hand while the baby ate or slept. She said no thank you. I offered to hold the baby so she could eat. She loves holding sleeping babies. She told me how lovely this time is with him and how every day feels like Saturday. Like Saturday? My memory of newborn days is that every day felt like 6am Monday morning, even Saturdays. I wanted to help her put the baby down and eat. I wanted to teach her how to get some more time for herself. And yet, she didn’t want any of that. She didn’t need any of that. The little techniques that got me through the day or a trip out to a friend’s with two babies? She didn’t need those with one baby. She just held and snuggled the baby.

And while I love having twins, I realized how much I missed out on in those first 6 months. The reveling in the baby. The way your whole world revolves around the baby—in a good way, not in a please, God, make this baby finally go to sleep way. The contentness. I loved having babies—but that first year was the hardest first year of my life. I find myself both really envious, and yet feeling a bit superior—to those moms holding their one sleeping baby. How can I feel both? I have no idea. But every once in a while something like this happens and I realize just how different having twins is than having one baby. Not better or worse, just a really different experience.

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Picture this:

Our family of six is out for our nightly post-dinner, pre-bedtime walk.  I am pushing Brett in the single stroller, Brian is pushing Aaron and Brady in their side-by-side, and Alaina is riding next to us on her big girl bike. A&B spontaneously burst out into song. We’re not sure what words they are singing, but the melody sounds a bit like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Brian and I take a moment to smile at each other and share a “Yup. All of this is ours.” proud moment. And then…

Screaming! Terror! A chorus of Brady’s “NOOOOOOOOO”. Aaron’s silence (because his mouth is otherwise occupied, full of his brother’s arm.). In 1.1 seconds we’ve gone from a Norman Rockwell painting to an audition tape for “Nanny 911″.

Sadly, we have no idea why.

And then, back to singing.

And so it goes. 22-month old brothers who love each other one second and are trying to kill each other the very next. Over nothing. Brady enjoys hitting and hair pulling, Aaron prefers to bite. Neither have ever turned their aggression towards anyone except their other half. And as quickly as they turn it on, they are over it. Leaving their father and I to scratch our heads and stare dumbly at them – and each other – thinking “What the HELL was that?”

We know they love each other. They play, they cuddle, they bring each other their cups and conspire together. We listen to them on the monitor in their room at night talking in their little twin talk we don’t understand. We hear them waking up in the morning and whispering to each other and giggling before they shout out for “DaddEEEEE”. So what is going on? Why are they so hell bent on hurting each other for what seems like no other reason than sport?

Perhaps it is a function of spending too much time together? Perhaps they are just boys being boys? Who knows. But it is frustrating to say the least. And mind-boggling that after 15-seconds of all out WAR, before we can even react, they will go back to just dancing or singing or building a tower together.

Please tell me we’re not alone!

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This weekend, my husband Jon and I  watched our friend’s son Ben along with our twin boys Nate and Alex.  I learned some valuable lessons, most notably that Jon and I are definitely two-kid parents. I also had a super huge light bulb go off in my head. Twins versus singleton: it is very different, from both sides.

In the past, most of my focus has been on the negatives of parenting two the same age. Nate and Alex always have to share. They always have to wait. They never get alone time. In all of this, I never understood what my twins are GAINING from this experience. They are great at sharing. They have patience.  They have each other. It’s all cliche but it is true.

All of this was highlighted over the weekend when we threw Ben into the mix. Nate and Alex are used to waiting their turn to speak, or when they do speak, they often speak to each other. Ben is used to talking to adults, so even when Nate and Alex talked to him, Ben wanted to talk to the adults. Nate and Alex often have to wait for us to help them, so they’ve learned to try to do things themselves if we are busy. Ben often has the help of multiple adults, so he wanted us to do things for him.

This last point was highlighted frequently in physical activities. Jon and I simply can’t do everything physical for two 30+ lb children, so we rely on the boys to do a lot of the physical stuff. They take off their own clothes, climb into their chairs, climb into the tub, wash their own hands, climb into their car seats, etc. We’ve pushed them into more physical independence because it’s easier for us. It was very interesting to be around another child the same age who could not or did not want to do these things.

In no way am I saying either situation is better. What I took away from this weekend is that it will always be hard for twin parents and singleton parents to relate to one another on tackling issues because parenting multiples and parenting one kid are such completely different experiences. But I’ve always looked at it from the twin mom perspective. As a twin mom I’ve had to do things, so many things, to compromise but I could always justify it because I have twins. I now see things from the singleton mom perspective, where your kid relies on you for so much.

I’m so very glad we had this weekend, for me, for Jon, for my boys, for my friends, and for Ben. I feel like everybody won in some way. Our friends got a much-needed vacation. My boys got to take in another boy like a brother. Ben got to live in a house with “siblings”. Jon and I took away a better understanding of the things our boys have gotten from the experience of being a twin, lessons I will never forget. And I feel like I will be a better friend to my singleton mom friends when they talk to me about their trials and tribulations.

Now who wants to take my boys for a weekend so you can experience singleton versus twins?

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