Are you bored of this yet? I am.

Blog silence on my end wasn’t planned, but the transition to toddler beds has been a major upheaval in our lives.  Things actually deteriorated since the last post. And I haven’t been writing about it because it is so banal.

According to the internet of crazy, desperate Googlers like me, “Twin Escalation Syndrome” is a major factor. In other words, the fact that there are two of them means they do not get bored with quiet time and lack of parental attention and just fall asleep. Oh no.  Case in point: one day, during nap time, I went to check on them (our video monitor is in storage in the U.S., with the rest of our belongings) and discovered that they had pushed over their beds, climbed up on the dresser (thankfully this was bolted to the wall), and pulled down all the diaper ointments. They opened the can of Sudocream, and had smeared it all over the floor, themselves, the sheets, and the curtains. They also emptied the dresser drawers. Sudocream, in case you aren’t familiar, is kind of like white grease paint. Here are some pictures from that afternoon.

In Galway, they climbed out of their pack ‘n plays every few minutes until about 9:30pm, launched themselves into the tub, ran into our adjoining room, etc, and then had complete tantrums by day out of sheer exhaustion.

It has been very discouraging, because before this the boys were good sleepers on the whole, and we worked hard to achieve that.  But I don’t want to keep blogging about it. “This too shall pass,” we tell ourselves. It must.

Here is the last I will say on the matter–I know the next sleep hurdle is the loss of the nap, but I cannot bear to think of that now. I don’t want to call them tips, but learn from our mistakes:

1. If you have rambunctious, very curious children, consider a mattress on the floor. Otherwise the junior bed may seem like little more than a climbing apparatus. C got two black eyes from jumping on his bed and hitting the edge of it.

2. Bolt furniture to the wall. I always thought this might be an over-the-top move as far as baby-proofing goes, but if we hadn’t done that, the dresser would have fallen over when they were climbing up on it to reach their diaper creams.

3. Do not expect this transition to happen in three days, or a week. Expect a massive disruption, especially with naps. Expect to feel as underwater from sleep loss as the early months.

4. Toss all parenting books. In your sleep-deprived state, inane advice such as “Set the ground rules: tell them they must stay in bed until it is light out/Mommy and Daddy come get them,” will only enrage you.

5. If you have twins or other multiples, you’ll probably need to separate them. We bought another security gate for the guest room. At first just putting one in there for a few minutes was upsetting enough that he would decide he would return to his room and stay in bed. However, if the other one was up as well, it presented a big problem. Basically they just chatted through the gates to each other and threw things out into the hallway. So, the next step was me saying I had to “lock” the doors (the doors don’t actually have locks, so this required me to stand in the hallway holding both doorknobs)

My beautiful boys. They don't look like they'd tear a room apart right?

We shall return to our irregularly scheduled programming shortly. Things to look forward to:

-A visit to Newbridge Farm

-Passover and Easter in Galway, Kinvarra, and Ballyvaughan including the not-friendly toddler activity, the Ailwee Caves at the Burren

-A trip to Paris…city of lights, city of romance…with toddlers…and my parents, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

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French parents don’t get stressed?

Why French Parents Are Superior by Pamela Druckerman – WSJ.com

Someone posted this link to Facebook and it’s getting a lot of press right now. It’s an excerpt from a new book by an American mother living abroad and how she feels that the French put stricter boundaries on their children, discipline with more “conviction,” and therefore, their children sit quietly in high chairs in restaurants and leave their parents free to enjoy adult conversation. In other words, yet another indictment of overparenting culture, which Druckerman, in “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting,” suggests is particularly American.

After Druckerman and her husband decide to take a trip to a coastal town in France with her 18 month-old, she writes:

“We quickly discovered that having two restaurant meals a day with a toddler deserved to be its own circle of hell.

Bean would take a brief interest in the food, but within a few minutes she was spilling salt shakers and tearing apart sugar packets. Then she demanded to be sprung from her high chair so she could dash around the restaurant and bolt dangerously toward the docks.

Our strategy was to finish the meal quickly. We ordered while being seated, then begged the server to rush out some bread and bring us our appetizers and main courses at the same time. While my husband took a few bites of fish, I made sure that Bean didn’t get kicked by a waiter or lost at sea. Then we switched. We left enormous, apologetic tips to compensate for the arc of torn napkins and calamari around our table.

After a few more harrowing restaurant visits, I started noticing that the French families around us didn’t look like they were sharing our mealtime agony. Weirdly, they looked like they were on vacation. French toddlers were sitting contentedly in their high chairs, waiting for their food, or eating fish and even vegetables. There was no shrieking or whining. And there was no debris around their tables.”

Remember the picture I posted of the debris field around our table that I tried to contain with linen napkins while on holiday? How we felt like we were the only ones, despite being in a family resort? How we spent a small fortune on room service to avoid the exquisite torture of dining in public with them?

Normally it would be easy for me to dismiss her by saying, well, yeah, but she doesn’t have twins. But guess what? Later on she does have twins. Boys, in fact.

So six months into our life abroad, with my Euro-American twin sons and their Continental accent, I read the excerpt with fascination. Clearly, there’s an inherent problem with the sweeping generalization of “us” (i.e., American parents) vs. “them” (French parents) in her argument. But I understand they are trying to sell books piggy-backed off the success of “French Women Don’t Get Fat,” and sound very controversial. (Stay tuned for my forthcoming book, “French Women Don’t Read Self-Help Books.”) Nothing gets Americans more defensive than saying another country is superior, right? I would be curious to know if there is less Ativan or Zanax prescribed (and paid for) by the French National Health Insurance.

Why would it be just the French who are immune to this modern age of anxiety, and not say, Spanish parents, or Italian ones? Here in Dublin, the parents of other children where the boys attend creche are Italian, German, and Danish, in addition to being Irish (this is a reflection of the location–we are near the embassy zone–as well as how diverse the population of Dublin is, with people from all over the EU). I do not notice any pronounced difference, except perhaps, that European toddlers tend to wear scarves.

The biggest demarcation appears to be socioeconomic class. You know, the class that (ahem) has the leisure to write about, blog about, and read about parenting as if it was a hobby or project one was trying to get better at. Which to me is overparenting in and of itself, no? (And I am very, very guilty of this, which also has much to do with having children later in life and stopping work to be with them.) In fact, this book sits upon a very tall stack of parenting how-to books, a cottage industry that thrives off making you afraid you are doing something wrong, thereby engendering anxiety. My mother certainly never sat around and read books like “Positive Discipline” while raising the four of us. Those worrying about foreclosure or dealing with chronically ill children certainly are worried about other issues than the latest trend in parenting. Isn’t that what they say our anxiety is, evolutionary adaptations run amok because in reality, we have very little of actual and pressing danger to worry about?

People have often asked us if there’s a culture shock being here, and we tell them it’s negligible. There was much more of a culture shock when I lived in Japan. The only difference I have ever observed has more to do with parents in cities and parents in small towns. Living here in Dublin is somewhat similar to the transition we would have felt, I think, if we moved back to NYC after leaving small-town America. But again, that’s really about class in certain pockets of cities.

My neighbor, a German mom of two boys, told me that, “Ten years ago, there weren’t the big cars. You didn’t see Range Rovers trying to drive around these narrow streets. With the big sunglasses. And the big bags.  Suddenly, all the mums were carrying coffee and big purses and wearing big sunglasses. And they all went blonde.”

This was her humorous way of explaining the sudden wealth many people living in Dublin found themselves in during the Celtic Tiger years, and the attendant status anxiety. Apparently, it made everyone think they should look like Nicole Richie pushing a pram.

“Bringing up Bebe” seems like it might have been better suited to an anecdotal op-ed instead of a book. And I do wonder how much her being an expat, particularly an American one, carried its own issues that didn’t have anything to do with parenting.

I am curious what fellow parents out there think about this, especially European ones. The book is written from an American point of view. What do, say, Irish parents think about French ones? Or Italian? Or Spanish? Those of you who also parented while abroad, did you notice any cultural differences?

(As a postscript I should mention that I’ve started saying, “That’s not possible,” to my sons’ varied and unending demands in case she’s on to something.)