Why All Moms Need A Twin Pass

“I’m the mother of twin toddlers” is a phrase I often use when writing. It’s a true statement, but it’s also the ultimate parenting get-out-of-jail-free card. I have watched, in real time, faces of disapproval and judgment turn to empathy and understanding upon learning I have twins.

Had a cesarean? Twins. Haven’t figured out the how to get more than two hours of sleep in a row, let alone settle on a philosophy about it? Twins. No end of diapers in sight and your kids are pushing 4? You guessed it! Twins. Whether the topic is childbirth, breastfeeding, discipline, or potty training; I get an understanding nod where others might get a sideways glance.

I know it’s hard to believe, but people do tend to give me a pass on things when they see that I have more than one child at the same developmental stage.

Carting my kids through an airport, store or gym – I hear things like… click here to read more at Pregnant Chicken

Above All- Kindness

I’m going to get myself into hot water on this one.

I have been in Shanghai for close to six weeks now. In that time we have moved into permanent housing, the children have started school, and I have begun the work of settling into our villa.

In the beginning, all was new and exciting. The boys were getting ready to start Kindergarten, and we were going to move into our new home and neighborhood filled with children. With these events came the prospect of many new friends.

Day one of school came and went. The boys got a little more comfortable with the routine of it, and all seemed relatively well. They would each come home with stories about things they learned, things they loved, and things they didn’t like so much. I was particularly surprised by how often they talked about other kids being unkind to them. I figured 1 of 3 things was happening. 1- My children were annoying others and getting push-back (very likely); 2- my kids were being far too sensitive to the way others treated them; or 3- kids in the international schools were a little tougher to navigate for one reason or another. I imagine there was and is a healthy mix of all of the above going on. So I have been listening and observing and trying to guide them to be good friends in their own lives, to ask first what they might be doing to contribute to the conflict, to speak up for themselves; and to ultimately shake off the way others treat them.

More recently, however, I have shifted from silent observer to aggravated mother. I see the way some of the children here act, and I find it sad if not outright appalling at times. I try to keep in mind that troubled children have trouble for good reasons and that I do not know what battles they are fighting through. My kids are socially weird for a variety of reasons. I can acknowledge that and trust the process of socializing with others to work out their rough edges.

It’s the mean and unkind that I can’t understand. I have to think that if children are mean- just flat out mean- it has to do with parenting or lack thereof. I am not trying to get on any soapbox here either. My failings as a parent are vast. My kids are bad at sharing and taking turns and following directions. They talk over people, like potty talk way too much, and have no desire to exhibit self-control. They are not the quietest or the most well- behaved.

In spite of all of these aggravating behaviors- they really love life and people. They like to meet other children. They are excited about what pants they are wearing, if their shoes light up, the horn on their bike, and loads of other little silly things. I realize that as much as I focus on the misbehavior that drives me insane; and on their tendency to do exactly what I don’t want them to do- the most important thing I can focus on is their heart.

I will take kindness over all the other behavior stuff any day. In the long run- these kids will learn how to behave as society expects. They will eventually get the food in their mouths when they eat and sit at the table until they finish their meals. Some day they will stop pulling their pants down at the drop of a hat. And sooner than later (I hope) they will stop introducing themselves as “Hi- my name is butt” in Chinese.

The world that surrounds our children will not shape their hearts well. It will not honor and care for their innocence or sense of wonder. This may be one of the more heartbreaking realizations I have had as a mother. I’m realizing; indeed realizing that if I spend my time and energy focusing on behavior over heart- I am not making the contribution to society that I want to make. When I as a parent focus my time and energy(the little that I have) on symptoms (behavior)- I miss the greater opportunity and impact that I can have on others and the world.

Everyone is talking about bullying these days. We all want to stop bullying. So let’s start in our homes. We have to recognize that we are shaping humans here, and as much as we want to say they are their own little people- let’s not fall prey to this notion that we have no influence. We can shape them into individuals who embrace or push away; who seek justice and clothe the poor or feed their own bellies in pursuit of their passions. We can raise children who look out for those falling behind and who notice the lonely kid in the corner, or we can raise kids who run past others without an ounce of thought.

It’s our choice. We do have a say. And today, I’m choosing kindness above all else.

Confessions Of A Hard-Ass Mama

Parent camps. We love to set up in one or another. Some of us try out certain spots, get comfy and set up permanent dwelling spaces. Others set up for a while and decide to move on as they outgrow the space.

I’m part of the parenting camp that brings all the gear. You know the one. We have the super wide, ultra prepared, loaded- with- all- the- amenities mobile home on wheels. I am camped out and ready. Have a need? I have an item. Have a behavioral issue? I have what I think is a solution. Sass, bully another, talk back, disobey- there will be a consequence. Succeed at something, use good manners, clean up after yourself, do something kind or thoughtful- I will be there to celebrate and lavish praise. Problem- meet answer. My camp is called the “hard-ass” camp by some. Rigid. Inflexible. Controlling. These are all words I’ve heard about my camp. I’m okay with that. I know I’m not perfect, so I certainly have no illusion that the parenting method I’ve chosen is perfect.

Being from this particular parenting camp can be exhausting. We thrive on consistency, follow through, and a host of other well-intentioned ethics. As a parent in this camp there are some things you never say, and certainly, never accept. Of these things is the foreign and silly idea known as going with the flow. Of utmost danger is the crazy practice known as taking the path of least resistance. Least resistance? That’s the “lazy” parent camp. For the people with no backbone. You know- the ones raising future delinquents.

Well, tonight was truly “one of those nights”, and you know what? I chose the path of least resistance. For a moment I questioned the integrity of my decision, even chastised myself. But the last few weeks have been very challenging. We’ve had a ton of Doctor’s appointments, done a ridiculous amount of waiting around in tiny office spaces, and have experienced a general increase in stress. To top things off, the boys have gained some very new freedoms with potty training; as well as an increase in personal responsibilities and mama expectations. My babies are no longer babies, and we’re all feeling it right now.

It’s no wonder that on this particular night, bedtime became a crescendo of protest from my children and sighs of absolute exhaustion from me. Could I fight it out with my 3-year-old and make him stay in his dark room just as I do every night? Sure. Could I show him who has authority by not caving into his cries and perceived demands? Absolutely. I may have even had a little more “me time” with my iPad or “adult time” with my husband (all incredibly important things I might add). But tonight I chose differently. Tonight I sent my husband down to his music studio with a glass of Whisky and told him I’d handle things.

A look of shock and amazement crossed my children’s faces as I opened the doors to their dark rooms and turned on the lights. I told them I would bring them snacks, drinks, and books. Naaman told me I looked beautiful and that he wanted to spend more time with me. Isaac said what a great day this truly was. I chatted with each of my sons and reminded myself that this was precious chatter that would fade soon enough. You could say I set aside my hard-ass mama rule book and went off-roading a bit. I like to say that I snuck into the other camp after dark. I met a boy. His name was flexibility, and we stole a kiss under the starry sky. It was freeing, memorable and full of possibility.

I left my camp in the interest of sanity and serenity, and I made some precious memories that night. It’s not that I plan to move anytime soon, but it’s nice to visit the other side for a different perspective and view from time to time.