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I don’t know what it’s like to have one baby. I’ve never done it. In many ways, I count myself lucky. Because a lot of moms (new or otherwise) looked at me with shock and fear when I said I was having twins. Clearly, they felt that no mere mortal could possibly take care of two babies at the same time. But I didn’t know any different, so I could only get so freaked out. And you know what? It has been fine.

But only knowing what it’s like to have two has warped my perception of all other people. For one thing, a phrase heard frequently in my house goes something like “those people with just one baby, what do they do with all that free time?” I know, it’s obnoxious, but I can’t lie. We think that way. We definitely also have romanticized notions about how much easier this thing or that thing would be if we only had one. I’m sure that I’d think life was plenty tricky if I had a singleton, but because I don’t, I can imagine how delightfully simple it would be. As Rebecca said so well this weekend, I totally get one-baby envy.

I also found myself, from about halfway through my pregnancy, kind of assuming plural whenever I talked about baby-related things. I forgot that most people only had one, that I was the weirdo.  It’s a mindset that’s hard to shake. Oh, you mean you only bought one crib? Where’s your other carseat? You didn’t trade in your Honda Civic for a Toyota Sienna? No? Huh.

When I first mentioned this to my husband (M), he thought I was crazy. Maybe that I was being excessively self-centered or something, locked in my own little world. Oh, how times have changed. My stepbrother’s first child (my first niece!) is due in June, and I was putting together a care package of some of our favorite newborn essentials. I bought three good waffle-knit blankets for swaddling. M looked at me like I was nuts. “Why would you get three?” he asked. “That doesn’t make any sense. Then you only have one extra… Oh wait. Nevermind. They’re only having one. Huh.”

See? It happens to all of us. For as often as people look at you like you’re a freak of nature, or (I’m not kidding) laugh as they walk past you, it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everyone has two babies at once.  For as many times as I’ve wished I could just pop in and out of the store for a “quick” errand, I look at people in the grocery store with the baby in the basket, and wonder who’s taking care of the other one.  So, if I meet you someday and take a minute to mentally adjust that there isn’t another one at home with dad, please forgive me.  I have a slightly warped sense of reality.

Dueling Exersaucers

So, you’re telling me that most new moms don’t have two exersaucers taking up half of their living room? No? Huh.

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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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When my kids were newborns, I sometimes wished we were invisible.  If babies are magnets for attention, multiple babies increase that draw exponentially.  The three of us, me pushing the Double Snap & Go with matching infant carseats, were like a big neon sign.  “Come, crazy people! Talk to us!  Stop us in the grocery aisle, especially if one or both is crying!  Ask stupid twin questions, like whether the boy/girl twins are identical!”  I became highly unpleasant and defensive when out in public, because all of the attention made it nearly impossible to run errands or make it to our destination.  No one could resist the pull of double newborns.

DSC_0011

As the months went on, it got a bit better.  I chilled out in my reactions and was nicer to the old ladies in the grocery store (though I was still perhaps a bit short in my responses and tried to keep moving).  We started using a “normal” double stroller instead of the Snap & Go.  Their clothing became more obviously indicative of the boy/girl split, and their size difference became more pronounced.  We stopped being quite the crazy-magnet we once were.
IMG_0289

Now, at 19 months, people seem almost as likely to ask me how far apart they are in age as they are to assume they’re twins.  Plus, a number of my mom friends who had singletons at the same time are gearing up for the arrival of number two.  I’m getting to an age where it’s not so strange to see a second child.  The “twin thing” is becoming rapidly less obvious.  The double stroller, less unique.
Front step, February 09

I have to say, I rather enjoy this change.  It’s nice not to be the only one with two.  It’s nice to not stand out in the crowd quite so much.  It’s nice to have my other friends get into life with two.  [Not that it’s anywhere near the same thing as having twins, but try not to scream at your friends in their delirious post-partum-addled state if they attempt to say such a thing.]  And, honestly, the special-ness of twins hasn’t gone away.  People are still tickled to realize that my kids are not a year apart, but were instead born within the same minute.  Even if fewer strangers on the street take notice.  I think it’s alright if our special thing is a little more understated, a little less apparent.

What do you think, moms?  How has the “twin thing” changed as your babies have gotten older?

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For all those mothers of multiples (with extra help!) out there, or those that didn’t have help, but are interested anyway, this NPR segment aired Monday. It is on multiples and how they are changing our lives—and I’m pretty sure she’s not talking about the specifics of MY life but the bigger EVERYONE’s. I found it disturbing on a number of levels, but perhaps that’s simply because I’m one of “those moms”, as she discusses, who would rather have had two babies at once than tried to do IVF again? My own personal feelings aside, I’m curious as to what others think of this? There are certainly some interesting ethical dilemmas which are highlighted, but I do think she misses out the positives of twins or more.

http://www.npr.org/templates/rundowns/rundown.php?prgId=13&prgDate=2-23-2009

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As a first-time mom, I got my butt handed to me with twin newborns. It was a hard year. Once we got past the four month mark and we saw some things getting easier, cold and flu season started. My boys were/are in group day care. They were sick all… the… time. RSV, ear infections, vomiting viruses, random fevers, colds, they caught it all. And then there were the worries about developmental delays and Alex’s extreme plagiocephaly. I wrote very openly about our experiences on my blog and was even more honest about the difficulty of twins with my real-life friends.

Now I’m feeling like a butthead. While I’ve always been very honest, I am not a gushy person. I’m not the type to say, “Being a twin mom is the BEST thing to EVER happen to me EVER!!!” But that’s what I think. I believe having twins has been the biggest blessing of my life. Some days, I am stunned at how much love I have in my heart for both my boys. Sometimes they hug each other or laugh together and I can’t believe this is my life. I hear them call each other “brother” and I feel all melty and weepy and I wish everyone could see the instant replay in my head. Because having twins RULEZ.

One of my real life friends is going through fertility problems. Her number one question about every option is – what is the multiple rate?  I feel horribly guilty because I am sure I’m the one that scared her about twins. I’m sure hearing my daily battles with sleep regressions, illnesses, and the general insanity of twins has been a large part of scaring her. And I am a jackoff because I should be talking about the many positives of twins as much, if not more, than the negatives. I need to stop being real and start being gushy.

Here they are, LauraC’s Favorite Things About Being A Twin Mom:

* There is always someone in a good mood. Inevitably if one kid is having a tantrum, the other is being an angel. Mommy’s little angel.

* One pregnancy (albeit ROUGH), two babies. Only one childbirth, one childbirth recovery, and one newborn sleeplessness period, and you get TWO kids out of the deal.

* Baby interaction. Oh goodness, I miss two babies crawling, chasing each other around our kitchen island and laughing. Those are some of my favorite memories in my life. They would chase each other forever, giggling and panting. Best ever.

* I pretty much feel like I can accomplish anything after surviving that newborn period. Bring it, 3 year old tantrums.

* Listening to the boys talk to each other over the monitor after they go to bed has lifted me up so many times when I’ve had a rough day. Their sweet little voices talking about their toys and their day, oh man it makes my heart overflow.

* Not sweating the small stuff. I simply don’t have time to do it. I’ve tried my entire life to accomplish this.

* Jon is a much better father for having played such a large part in caring for the boys as infants. If I were a singleton mom, I would have been a much bigger control freak about my baby.

* Memories of nights, sitting with Jon, each of us holding a baby and talking to each other while we fed them. Imagining what our life would be like when they were boys instead of babies. Having twins brought me and my husband together in a way I can’t explain. We’re in this for the long road, together, every baby-feeding-puking-cleaning-up-poop-crying step of the way.

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Hidden beneath my “mommy” exterior, is a temper. A temper which does not show itself frequently, but nonetheless is consistently triggered at one specific place…the play area at the mall.

I live in Pittsburgh. Wet, cold, overcast, rainy, snowy, icy, miserable-during-the-winter Pittsburgh. Where all the outdoor play areas are abandoned for 5 months a year.  Where house-bound mom’s desperately try to create fun outlets for the boundless energy of their toddlers.  Once a week or so, many of us find ourselves at the ONLY indoor kid area for miles.

Here is where my temper and I need help. I know that pre-kids I had all of these noble and unrealistic expectations for myself as a mother: ie. “MY children will NEVER have snotty noses and wear food-crusted jackets in public,” “MY children won’t ever act like brats in restaurants,” “I will always be kind and soft-spoken to my darling little ones.”) Yeah, you could say that reality has been a sharp slap in the face! 🙂

So when I am carefully assisting Faith and Jonathan on and off of the play apparatus, and some giant six (or seven or ten year old) comes ripping through the slides and knocks over one of my kids, steam can be seen from miles away rising from my heated face.  I get SO angry when these young kids are allowed to rush through the play area while their parents sit in the corner and sip coffee. I have complained about this so much to my other mom friends that I feel like a broken record. Yet it never fails that I have to speak up and remind some older kid that all the other kids are little and they need to be careful.

Honestly, my anger is not directed toward the bigger kids. I feel compassion for them. I wish there was an area dedicated to them so they could run around and have a great time burning off their energy. Nope, I get steamed at the parents.  I am a mother bear when it comes to my kids, and I can not understand why these older kids are allowed to run around like they do.  However, I only have 2 kids, only 19 months of experience, and I do not know what it is like to have older kids. I am sure many of the parents figure it is a safe way to let their 2 or more differently aged kids play indoors.

So what do the rest of you do in these situations? Do you address the parents? The mall officials to suggest changes? The kids? Surely I am not the only mama getting hot under the collar about this issue…at least, I hope I am not! So please, educate me! I would love to hear from those of you with older kids, as you are infinitely more wise than I! And what about the rest of you toddler moms? What are your lists of “My kids will NEVER…”

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Holidays can be crazy enough when you’re single.  Add in-laws and kids of all ages, and you have the potential for madness!  Following are tips from the HDYDI moms on making it through the big family gatherings with twins in tow.

Respect sleep needs

Whatever stage of daytime sleep your kids are in, do what you can to respect their normal routine.  If you have newborns who will sleep in people’s arms, lucky you!  Just pass them around until people’s arms get tired.  I know last Christmas was difficult with my 4-month-olds, as they were still in the “sleep every few hours” stage, but past the “sleep in anyone’s arms” stage. But the time we violated the “sleep every few hours” rule went very poorly, so, lesson learned.  If your older infants or toddlers have a good nap schedule going, stick to it to whatever degree possible.  Bring a pack & play (or two) if they’re likely to sleep at someone else’s house.  Or, consider doing the hour-long drive right at naptime.  It won’t be perfect, but if you want your kids to do well with lots of new people or places, better that they be well-rested.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year.  Plus, it was bedtime.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year. Plus, it was bedtime.

Also, be respectful of bedtime, especially in younger kids. Believe me, a 12-month-old is generally not going to appreciate the “special treat” of staying up well past bedtime.  Instead, you’ll just have a meltdown on your hands.  If you’ll be at someone else’s house and will stay there until bedtime, bring pajamas and change the kids before you get into the car.  That way, if they fall asleep on the way home, it will be one less thing to do when transferring them into their beds.

Consider giving warnings ahead of time, both for the sake of the kids and for your photos-at-the-last-minute family members.  Make it known that you are leaving in 30 minutes… 10… 5.  If your kids are old enough to understand the warning, then even if they still don’t want to go, at least it isn’t a surprise.  And though you may have family members who think you’re being a stick in the mud for leaving “so early,” you know full well what will happen if your overstimulated 18-month-olds stay up too late… it won’t be pretty.  Give everyone warning, try to make sure photos are taken before it’s time to put coats on, and then pack it up and go when you need to.

Pack wisely

Bring comfort items or lovies, but maybe consider bringing the second-string stuffed animal.  God forbid you leave the absolute favorite one at Aunt Judy’s house!  For older infants and toddlers, have a good stash of reliable favorite foods in case of a table full of unsuitable items or picky preschoolers.  There’s a time and a place for enforcing the “I am not a short-order cook” rule, but you’ll have to decide relative to the age and tantrum-prone-ness of your child whether it’s a battle worth fighting at your sister-in-law’s house.  My vote is to make sure you at least have some string cheese and goldfish in your purse, just in case.  If your kids are old enough for most table foods, I’m not saying you should bring a separate meal.  Just have a little bit of backup.

Have cup, will travel.

Have cup, will travel.

If having your toddler’s favorite sippy cups or a strap-on booster seat will make things easier when you’re there, then by all means throw them in the back of the car.  As always, don’t forget standard diaper necessities and maybe an extra shirt.  (Though, hey, a little kid running around in a diaper is always considered adorable at my house.) Really, though, you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink with you.  If your supplies require more trips out to the car than number of kids, you may have packed too much.  It’ll be OK if you don’t bring all of the favorite toys.  A wooden spoon and metal bowl can go a long way.

Advance Prep

If you are going to the home of a close friend or relative, especially one who has an affinity for small ceramic figurines, it might be worth a call ahead to see if some of the low-lying breakables can be put away.  But this works for some hosts better than others, and as both parent and guest, the responsibility is yours to keep your kids from demolishing the joint.  Potentially a pain in your ass?  Yes, but it’s not your house.  So, sometimes we have to suck it up.  Parenting is fun, isn’t it?

Older toddlers and preschoolers may benefit from some preparation of their own.  Especially for those who are wary of new places and new people, start talking it up in advance. [Obviously this advice is a little late for Thanksgiving ’08, but it’s a good time to start prepping for the December holidays, or tuck it away for some other future event.] LauraC makes the great suggestion of getting together pictures of everyone who will be there, and I know some parents even put together their own little photo book of what to expect, inclusive of pictures of the kinds of food that will be served.  Introduce all of the new players, maybe let the kids talk on the phone or Skype with unfamiliar faces whenever possible.  Frequent reminders of who the people are and what you’ll be doing can go a long way towards a smooth adjustment.  Also consider books and stories about the holiday, again to help the kids know what to expect.  Talk about what you say when you meet new people, or about the very special behavior you expect when we all sit at the big table together.

Adjust Expectations

Most importantly, go with the flow.  If you are relaxed, your kids are more likely to be relaxed (that goes for any tension you may have with your in-laws – beware, the kids can and will pick up on it).  Decide ahead of time which rules are most important for you to keep consistent (behavior, bedtime, etc.), and then consider being a little more loose on the rest.  If you never turn on the TV at home, an afternoon of sitting with Uncle Jim and watching the football game is unlikely to do any lasting harm.  If you avoid sweets, having a little dessert is unlikely to be the end of you.  I’m not saying you should let the kids gorge themselves on cookies all day, but pick things that you’re willing to let slide a little bit and just let go.  And have realistic expectations about how long your child can sit at a table, relative to his or her age and attention span.  I know you’d like to sit and chat with Cousin Sal, but it may be better for everyone if you and little Joey get up from the table.

If things crash and burn

… and sometimes they do, take a deep breath.  You’re still the mom, and you’re still in charge.  If your preschooler starts melting down and hitting his brother, and needs a time out, find a way to do it.  If they’re getting overwhelmed, find a quiet room to escape for a little while, or go for a walk around the block.  Fresh air and a change of scenery can work magic.  Remember, they’re just kids, and they aren’t trying to ruin your holiday.  They’re probably in an unfamiliar situation, overstimulated and maybe overtired.

And sometimes, sometimes you just need to cut your losses and pack it up.  It happens to the best of us.  I’m sorry if that means you miss the pie, maybe you can get a slice to go.  But if you can see that you’ve reached the point of no return, say your goodbyes and try again next time.

Readers… any good holiday tricks that have worked for you in the past?  Or mistakes you’d rather not repeat?  Let’s hear ’em!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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