An update on our toddler bed transition

For all of you who are fearing for us, or for the boys, a little update. We stayed the course, though we wanted to crack on Day 5 and revert to cribs. It was already too late; they were propelling themselves over the side of the remaining crib and onto the toddler bed. No cribs would be safe anymore, and I don’t love the idea of crib tents. I imagined little hands and faces pressing and pawing against mesh for what? We would only prolong the inevitable.

This particular milestone is certainly made more complicated by the fact that they are twins. G suddenly understood he had a playmate for his antics. You would have thought we installed a jungle gym in their room. Opening and closing the door, jumping on each other’s beds, throwing any object not too heavy or bolted down out through the safety gate into the hallway. And for all his fuss, C seems to have made the transition to the bed faster. Then again, perhaps he is staking out the opposite position from his brother, as he often does. S spent one night on the tiny extra crib mattress in their room, gently chiding them to get back into bed every few minutes. It took two hours for them to settle down.

Naps are the worst, likely exacerbated by having to move the clocks forward an hour. Many days they have not napped at all, and I have been really, really worried that perhaps this switch would mean the end of the nap.  It was complete mayhem for several days. I would leave them and go and check and find varying scenes:

1. G asleep on the floor, clutching one of my shoes that I had kicked off before getting into bed with C. The top dresser drawer is open and all the socks are strewn about.

2. The two of them sitting together quietly, utterly destroying the push-and-pull board book we read before nap. Shreds of the book surround them.

3. G asleep in the bed, C sitting next to him, watching.

4. The two crib mattresses we have on the floor near the beds as cushions have had their sheets removed and thrown into a ball. The beds are askew. G partially under his bed.

We are all suffering the cumulative effects of lost sleep. When I picked up the boys at creche earlier this week, their teacher told me one day that mid-way through lunch, G stopped eating, pushed his chair back from the table and fell asleep sitting up. S told me he fell asleep sitting at his desk. Another day, C fell asleep on our walk home, and he was so out, I easily moved him into the bed. C is actually sleeping much better at this point. He drops off faster for naps and bedtime and he tends to sleep through the night. G wakes at 2 and/or 5, and we sometimes lay down with him or take him to keep him from crying and waking up C. Last night he was in our bed and he fell asleep with his head in the opposition direction from ours, and we were regularly pummeled by his little feet.

But there has been progress. S-L-O-W progress. The amount of time they are up before bedtime is getting shorter. There is no big battle over being in the beds. The other day they fell asleep before 3pm. The biggest issue to conquer is the night waking. I think what it boils down to is sleep training all over again, now that everyone has adjusted to the idea of the beds.

The upside? Such a rush of new sweetness and cuddling because we can get into the bed with them. And finding them like above.

 

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Conversations between two two year-olds

C:”Mommy a man!”

G: “No, mommy a yady!”

C: “No, man!”

 

G: “My mommy!”

C: “No, my mommy!”

G: “No, my mommy!”

C: “No, no. My mommy!”

 

G: “Moon awake!”

G: “It’s a big moon!”

C: (patting the ground) “Come down moon! I catch you!”

 

C: “You’re otay! You’re o-tay!”

G: “No!”

C: “You’re o-tay.”

G: “No!”

C: “Donjuta say ‘No!’

G: “I’m not okay!”

 

G: “I go to the jungle.”

C: “I go to the ocean.”

 

Me: “Where are you going?”

G & C: “Ikea!”

 

C: “Mommy broken.”

C: “Bobby Builder fix it!”

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.)

One more plane ride

I’m back in CT and got to spend my mom’s birthday with her. As she pointed out, this is the third year in a row, completely unplanned.

I have shin splints from the two mornings I did Jennifer’s 6-mile walk with her in Winston-Salem. We got a lot of good talking in over 12 miles and it helped clear my head of the jet lag. This is the first major exercise I’ve had besides the hike last Friday with Bela & Abby. When I get back, I need to prioritize exercise somehow. Also, last night was the first night the jet lag was starting to go away, which is really great, considering I go back tomorrow night.

I spent a long time catching up with Ron on Wed. I’m not sure when I’ll get to see him again. We worked out that the last time we saw each other was the book release party in NYC in March 2009. Since Dublin has an Innocence Project, I want to see if I can get them over for a speaking engagement. I really want the boys to meet him.

Sascha is doing wonderfully, all things considered. Two work days for him were pretty much vanquished by flash fevers: first G, then yesterday C. Today Sascha took C to the doctor and he has bad tonsillitis. Murphy’s Law, or something: he was the sickest he had ever been last summer with roseola when Sascha was out of the country. Hopefully, the antibiotics will do their work soon.

C was thrilled to see me on Skype Monday, but today he turned away.  I expect a bit of attitude when I get back. G has been acting out. Today he is at daycare by himself, and apparently doing well.  Maybe some time apart from each other is good?

It was good for me. I compartmentalized. I spoke to adults and had clean clothes on at all times. According to this article, if I could work part-time consistently, I’d be happier and healthier. Then again, most part-time working moms I know don’t have the consistency, especially if you had any non-traditional career path. Like me, they have sudden work opportunities that send them frantically searching for childcare, a way that laundry might do itself (if you leave it long enough, maybe the organisms thriving in it would get up and start walking around?), and figuring out logistics with a military-like precision. It also requires a very understanding spouse.

 

On having twins

Dear everyone who remarks, “Having twins is the way to do it! Just get it done and out of the way!”

Having twins is actually, to quote another twin parent, better put as: having two effing babies. AT THE SAME TIME.

Convenient? Heck no. Economical? Nope. The easy way to do it? Are you joking?

Having twins is not like bulking up on toilet paper so you don’t have to go out and get more for a long time.

And please don’t tell me, “Mine are so close in age, they’re just like twins!” It makes me feel stabby.

I feel incredibly lucky to have two healthy sons. I can’t imagine not having them both, and them not having each other. I feel privileged that I get to watch them develop their own relationship with each other, and for my extra moments of morning dozing courtesy of their morning “chats” with each other. I also adore the ringside seat of their nightly WWF bouts. At times their twin relationship is loving, and at other times, it is a terrifying glimpse into Darwinian principles in action.

But it is not some great shortcut into parenthood. It is really, really hard. I was lucky enough to meet two women at an expectant parent of multiples group who were due around the same time. This is us at a Mommy and Me movie in Los Feliz. We texted each other all throughout the first WTF months. You need other parents of multiples friends because you will not be doing Mommy & Me yoga or going to grab coffee with your baby in the freaking wrap which takes like twenty minutes to put on but which everyone said was so great.

Once when we were out together, some guy asked us which one of us was the mother! As if one of us was the mom of six newborns and the other two were just nannies.

At times, I question our sanity leaving the safety net of my parents being around the corner during this stage in development when the boys are not listening to anything I say asserting their wills. I used to be able to corral them fairly easily by myself, simply by saying, “Come on, it’s time to go inside,” or “It’s time to go upstairs for a bath.” And like little ducklings, they’d follow behind me. Around 17 months old though, my boys started understanding that they had a choice. I read somewhere that toddlerhood is like a mini-adolescence. It makes sense. They are sort of like two extremely short, moody little teenagers.

If you have twins (or bless you, supertwins), you know that life must be about schedule and routine or else there will be a complete and total collapse of the world order you need to simply get through the day. Parenting twins of this age is a lot like running relay: Sascha taps me to run the next leg after he’s had them so he can go nap/shower/eat.

The books will not apply to you. (And I say “the books” in a collective sense meaning the bougie tomes parents like myself read to feel like they are doing the right thing or because they expect somehow, somewhere, there will be a way to Google an answer to some inevitable parenting conundrum.) For example, when one of your toddlers takes a dish and throws it on the floor in a restaurant, the books will suggest something like removing the child from the restaurant, either by taking him outside until he can behave better or simply going home.  If you have twins however, one of you may do this with Twin A, and then Twin B, who had heretofore been eating and behaving just fine, will suddenly start screaming  and crying, “Daddy! Daddy!” and frantically try to run out of the restaurant, afraid he is missing some amazing experience or being left behind. Or, when one has a protest tantrum, where he simply sits down in a park because you won’t carry him, you cannot do what “the books” say, which is ignore him, unless you have back-up. If you are alone, your other child is likely running off in an entirely different direction.


It means that even if you get the EXACT. SAME. TOY. for each of them, one will inevitably scream, “I need THAT!” and try to tackle his brother to get the identical fire truck to the one he is holding.

Never, ever believe a parent of a single child who recommends doing something and says it will be “so relaxing.” Exhibit A of our “vacation:”

Sincerely,

A mom of twins

Toddler twin serenade

One week from today, our little sons have a big birthday. A few weeks ago we discovered they knew the words to the birthday song — from creche we guess — when they started belting it out to each other. G’s version is “Happy Cake-y to you, Happy Cake-y to you.” Here’s C’s rendition, which we happened to catch on video.

I hope he doesn’t hate me for this when he’s sixteen.

New Year’s Day Dublin 2012

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Dear reader, It’s been a while. I hope you missed me. I am surfacing after the typical pre-Christmas feelings of exhaustion and being overwhelmed, but it was compounded by a nasty cold virus, then a stomach bug, and the boys … Continue reading

I jump

We used to rise when the boys would cry, and I was sure it was the middle of the night because of the blue light leaking in around the edges of the window shades. Daylight savings happened a week earlier for us than it would have in the States, and now we rise with more light, but the park closes at 5pm. At 4:30 in the lane, the amber streetlights come on. Often the boys point out the moon before I’ve had a chance to think of dinner. The sun moves away from us and goes quiet. We wait for winter to begin in earnest, wondering if it is true that the arctic winds will blow down and wreak havoc with snow in a place that is not used to it. We must find more and more indoor activities—short days, but extremely long afternoons.

We’re in a tangle of wills. Theirs and mine.

C is my accident-prone child. His forehead has a near perma-bruise, because he looks to see if you are watching him instead of paying attention to what he is doing, then he runs into a wall, or trips and falls. He has an agile little body and likes to climb things, without any real sense of danger. He is also ferociously independent. He will run off down the lane, around the corner in the park: out of sight. He is testing my limits and his own.

Of bloody lips and bruised foreheads

Yesterday, I sat on the stone steps between the living room and the office area of the house. It is a treacherous area for them, though they adapted to it more or less fairly well. “I jump!” C said, standing on one step and looking eagerly at the floor below. I shook my head. I picked him up and said “Jump!” lifting him high into the air before planting him safely on the floor. He climbed back up and shook his head.

“I jump!”

That’s what we do when we become parents: we jump, into an expansion of the heart and the world as breathtaking as it is terrifying, a wilderness of sleepless nights and repetitive days, emotional depletion and rapturous fulfillment. We figure out one developmental phase at last, only to find out they’ve moved onto another, more bewildering than ever.

The morning after my emergency C-section following 11 hours of labor, I woke up with something like existential terror: the responsibility. The weight of it sank into my ruined body, as if somehow during the whole getting pregnant and nine months of gestation, the enormity of what we were doing by becoming parents had not occurred to me.

The recent tantrums have their root in many things—and at least it appears that the week-long nap protest has ended–but as a catchall they come from frustration. Both of them want their growing independence and fear it, too. They push me away only to scream if they think I’ve left. C throws himself onto the floor when I deny something he wants, but later scrambles onto me like a monkey, so much like he did in the very beginning, when he seemed a tiny kitten, a hungry little animal. Now he puts his head on my shoulder, plays with my hair, and coos, “Mommy.” He holds onto me like he never wants me to let go.

The responsibility plants the scenarios in my head (the fat lips, the skinned knees, the car coming around the bend). It plays out in our daily battles: the need to civilize, to teach them to say “please” and “thank you” and learn how to wait, to know that they are not entitled to anything they demand, when to let them cry, when to pull them close. Basically not to screw them up, because you know the first three years are so important, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says no TV before two, and there’s sugar hidden everywhere and chemicals, too, and blah blah blah–all sorts of things that will make me a terrible mom if I do or do not do.

Most of all, the responsibility means I must juggle trying to protect them while letting them go, tiny step by tiny step. I would not always be sitting nearby where one wants to jump, to stop him from the fall I am worried he will suffer. Most of the limits I must set for them. Some they must discover for themselves.

So I swallowed my own fear and let C do his thing. He swung his arms with momentum.

“I jump!”

And in the last moment, he reached for me to catch him.