True Mommy Confessions 8 – Sometimes I Hate Having Twins

In honor of Dr. Suess's birthday, and out of control twins...

Sometimes I hate having twins.  There I said it.  Computer did not explode, nor did I.

Every week, while I’m enjoying my “vacation time” at work, I tell myself, this weekend, I’m going to really commit to spending quality time with my kids, rather than dreaming up ways to avoid them.  The funny thing is, I really WANT to spend quality time with them.  Part of me genuinely longs for them, when I’m away.  So why don’t I rush home Friday night looking forward to spending a weekend in twin-toddler-land?

Let me tell you why…

This weekend, as I often do, I planned an outing with my children.  I do this to avoid the inevitable consequences of staying home; including trying to impress upon them the oven is not a toy, general destruction to my home, repeated tantrums, and finally, me hiding in another part of the house with my laptop, overwhelmed, and convinced I’m a horrible mother.

After careful research, I concluded the best-timed outing this weekend would be to one of the many story-times that were being run for Dr. Suess’s birthday.  After the usual lengthy period of getting ready, including pleading with them to let me get ready so that we can leave, we drive off.  Mind you, by “me getting ready” I mean brushing my dirty hair, putting sneakers on, drinking a cold cup of tea that I’ve microwaved three times, and making sure my pajamas can pass for “sweats”).

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It Shouldn’t Feel Wrong to Admit I’m Alone and Happy in Hawaii

Hawaii Surf... Ahhhhh

Today, as it has for the past two days, the calendar on the wall in our house says Mama Away in blue magic marker.  “Mama go Auntie” my kids would say as I rehearsed with them that I would be leaving and when I would be returning.  I never expected my newly two year-old twins to get how many days I’d be gone, or even that the blue marker means mama is away and the green means mama is here.  The big takeaway was supposed to be mama WILL be back.

“Mama go Auntie” is toddler for me flying to Hawaii to sing in a close friend’s wedding.  Because that’s why I’m here, to sing, right?  It would be wrong to disappoint a close friend.  I’ve found myself doing a lot of rationalizing over the past weeks when the topic of my trip has come up.  But I’ll tell you the truth – as I sit here in a quiet hotel room listening to waves crash outside my window.  I am not here on some kind of mission of mercy, to throw myself on the sword, leaving my babies to fend for themselves with no one but their totally capable father, as well as grandfather, grandmother and babysitter.  I am here because I won the fucking twin mommy lottery.  At the perfect time, just when I need it most, just when I thought I was going to explode with restlessness and tedium, a close friend asked me to sing in her wedding in Hawaii.

Two days ago I walked through the airport all alone, boarded a plane for a ten hour flight, which I spent deliciously, luxuriously unplugged and alone.  No internet, no phone, no patients, no demanding toddlers, no husband wanting to know why I’m so “prickly” lately.  I can remember 5 hours into the flight, after I had done a crossword puzzle, napped, and read, thinking to myself how happy I was that I still had five hours left.

The last time I rode a plane without toddlers was before my pregnancy.  It felt completely unworthy of comment at the time, even inconvenient.  You would think I would have been eager to arrive in Hawaii, but the funny thing is I don’t think Hawaii was even real to me at that moment.  All that was real to me was time.  This long, delicious stretch of uninterrupted, unplanned time with no demands.

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What’s in a Name? On Being DadaMama Instead of MaMa

Sometimes I still wish to be the one who walks beside my children, while others follow.

Originally Appeared here on

Only when my twins were 20 months old did they master the correct use of the words “mama” and “dada.”  They took quite a long time to even SAY these words, despite beginning to talk about six months prior.  Their first words were “uh oh” and “ba ba” (bottle), (ba)”nana,” “hi,” “bye” and “boon” (balloon).  I figured, okay, as long as they are starting to say words, no problem.  But on the inside I was wondering what was wrong.  Was I, as Mama, not as important to them as I should be if they learned “boon” first?  Had I been neglectful somehow?  I couldn’t help measuring myself against other moms with kids younger than mine who were constantly saying “Mama.”

In the next few months the twins started throwing around the words Mama and Dada, but they didn’t seem to be in reference to anyone.  Sometimes they would point at the window or a light switch and shout “Mama.”  Sometimes they were directed toward Seth or I, but also toward the babysitter, Grammy and Grampy, aunts and uncles, etc.  What was this about?  Wasn’t I supposed to be much more important than these other folks?

My anxiety only increased when their words started to get more complex.  They started saying “window,” “shake it” (when we danced) and “okra.”  My daughter started to refer to her Minnie Mouse doll as “Minya Minya Maow” and her stuffed kangaroo as “Kanga.”  Really, I thought, you know Minnie and Kanga and Hippo and Poo Bear and not Mama?  I was starting to feel peeved.  Okay, maybe even a little hurt. Then something strange began to happen.  One day my daughter looked right at me, and with a big smile, and great exuberance, as though she’d had had a revelation, she shouted “Dada!” and pointed in my direction.  Over the next couple weeks both babies began to refer to my husband AND me as DaDa.

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True Mommy Confessions 7 – Pre-School Edition

Last week I brought my children to a playgroup that meets in the basement of a church in my town.  There were many kids there ranging from infants to 5 year-olds.  The folks were friendly and there was a great, almost entirely enclosed space for the kids to play.  The facilitators had a simple craft for the kids to do.  They decorated “flashlights” (paper towel tubes) and then went on a “bear hunt” around the basement area.

As the other children played inside the enclosed area, my little J dedicated himself, in typical form, to escape.  I’m not just talking about escape from that area, but from the building.  We had come down an elevator, and J ran down the hall toward the elevator repeatedly shouting “press-a the button!”  Had I not chased him quickly enough he would have happily rode the elevator up and exited the building.  In the meantime, O pulled every single book off the shelves, and dumped several bags of blocks which she then proceeded to ignore.  She sat on the lap of most of the adults there, much to their confusion.

When the craft began, I tried to interest my kids in it.  Somehow, someway, all the babies and kids managed to participate but mine.  While the other kids colored (some with parents’ help), mine ran around, jumped on furniture, and attempted to escape up the escalator.  When the “bear hunt” began, my kids were nowhere in sight.

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Twinpocalypse (True Mommy Confessions 6 – Hurricane Sandy Edition)

Flooding from river a few blocks away last year during Irene.

As super-storm Sandy continues her collision course with our area, with storm surges predicted to travel straight down into the river a few blocks from my house, I’m sitting here trying to figure out how to whether the storm inside.

The generator is ready to go, sump pump tested, water jugs are frozen, bathtub is full, flashlights on the counter, fridge filled with milk, and most importantly, a new book uploaded on my fully-powered kindle.  Now who is going to save me, my husband and our property from our children?
I heard a lovely little report on NPR this morning about how to keep children occupied during the storm.  She told me to make tents.  I do plan to make tents, to hide from my children in.
You know what really burns me?  Having to keep hearing about using the storm as a time for quality family bonding.  I get literally all the bonding I can handle.  Typically, tomorrow morning, my babysitter would arrive, and I would skip off to work after three full days of family “bonding.”  Tomorrow, that’s not going to happen, and that, my friends, is a state of emergency.
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Wanderlust 2 – I Survived… Sort of.

A brief respite from the storm - view from our cruise ship.

Sometimes parenting is like walking into the surf during a hurricane.  You keep getting knocked down, you keep getting back up, and just when think to yourself, “I’ve got this one, I’m still standing,” a bigger wave comes along and knocks you on your ass.  I guess I was expecting my kids to get sick a lot in the first few years.  What I wasn’t expecting was the number of ailments I myself would be afflicted with.  It’s one thing balancing toddler twins and working.  I’m pretty sure that alone would be somewhat manageable.  Add in to the mix that those toddler twins are sick, and the odds start stacking against me.  Those giant waves just keep coming.  Now add in that I somehow manage to repeatedly get even sicker than they are, and just for good measure, sprain my ankle as well.  Now we’re moving into the realm of a tsunami.

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WanderLust (True Mommy Confessions 5)


Sometimes a woman just needs to wander...

Six years ago this summer, I left the apartment where I lived by myself and walked to a train station with nothing but a large hiking backpack on my back.  I would not return home for almost a month.  After stepping on the commuter train to New York City, a conductor looked taken aback by my luggage.  “Where you going?” he asked.

“Africa,” I said, barely even making eye contact.  It never occurred to me that this might seem odd to him or anyone else.  I went about my business, negotiating a variety of public transportation until I reached JFK Airport.  The next night I was in Johannesburg.  That was the year after my mother died.  It’s a funny thing how horrific pain can lead one to freedom, and joy can sometimes feel like a prison sentence.

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The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

I was thinking yesterday about the Olympics, and how I couldn’t possibly be more oblivious.  Then I realized I am participating in my own Olympics.  Yes, that’s right people, I deserve a medal!  In honor of the Summer Olympics in…?  Ah well, here we go:

The Parenting Olympics – Toddler Class

PLAYGROUND CHASE - Helicopter Parenting Event


Clothing – Olympian must cloth toddler as quickly as possible

Judging:  Score based on best time.  Missing limbs off of toddler result in disqualification.

Retrieval of Dangerous Objects – Olympian must retrieve objects from a number of toddlers before they become injured, such as sharp items, plastic bags, and items that are small enough to swallow, hot, and or could remove the eye of another toddler.

Judging:  Score based on bodily integrity of toddlers in one’s group at conclusion of event.

Medicine Administration:  Olympian must administer oral antibiotic to screaming toddler with ear infection.  Sedating toddler is prohibited.

Judging:  Toddler who stops screaming the soonest is assumed to have received the most medicine, thus rendering the corresponding olympian the winner.

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True Mommy Confessions 3 – Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I clipped four fingernails this week.  Four out of forty, and they were all on the docile one.

There was a poop incident.  J pulled his own diaper off and tasted what was inside.

I dropped O one day as the nanny was walking up.  I think I was just so done my arms gave out when I saw her.

The babies have a hit out on a mole on my chest.  They take turns trying to rip it off.  Today O found another one on my neck… damn!

We go outside now.  I’m just letting them eat dirt… and basically anything else organic, unless it is large enough for them to choke on.

There was another poop incident.  This time with something that didn’t go down when the toilet was flushed – still experiencing post-traumatic stress over that one.

Incidents involving shit make me feel the most like shit.

There’s this sweet moment when you think a baby wants you to pick him/her up to be close to you… but almost immediately an inevitable little hand points in the direction he/she wants to go and a guttural noise accompanies it, which probably roughly translates to “go now” or in some cases “go now bitch!” Is this what it feels like to be a horse?

Three calls to poison control… that makes my record one every 5 months.  Could be worse right!  They were all for her.  He doesn’t waste time eating toxic substances when he could be eating actual food.

Three baths in 15 months.  That makes my bath record the same as my poison control record.  Eek!  Everyone else just seems to be better at it than I am.  It’s fucking scary bathing the two of them!

I’ve had a prescription for fluoride in my wallet for three months.  Perhaps when they’re in high school I’ll make a decision about whether to give it to them.

I honestly don’t think my shoulders are going to make it.

I leave a lot.  The more I leave, the happier I am when I return.  Whoever said “absence makes the heart grow fonder” must have been a parent.

I am writing this from a tent in my backyard.  I have been sleeping here.  It is the only quiet place I can get any real rest.

A room of one's own?

O’s idea of kisses is biting my chin as hard as possible.  Other forms of affection include putting her fingers (keep in mind the razor-sharp, refusing-to-let-them-be-cut nails) in my nose and trying to rip it off, shoving her whole hand down my throat, poking out my eyes, and pulling large chunks, small wisps, or single strands of hair.  Then there is the face scratching.  My patients must think I’m being abused at home.

J’s approaches to affection include “mount and hump” and “nuzzle and squeeze.”  “Mount and hump” involves climbing up my body, finding a position guaranteed to cause maximum discomfort, and then bouncing up and down as hard as his little body can muster.  “Nuzzle and squeeze” starts out okay with him nuzzling his little head between my breasts, however, to make sure he has me right where he wants me, he tends to grab my nipples and squeeze mid nuzzle.  He also tries to rip my ears off.

But OH how I would long for that pain…  It is, after all, the sweetest pain in the world.  I’m reminded of Giles Corey in The Crucible as he was being pressed to death exclaiming, “More weight!”  The crushing self-doubt, the paralyzing ambivalence, the ever-present anxiety, the physical attacks… Isn’t that what parenting is…

“…to bleed willingly and joyfully.”  (Kahlil GibranThe Prophet:  Love)

 (DO NOT respond to this post with the advice that I bite off those goddamned nails!!  Don’t do it!)

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Mommy Attention Span

I sometimes still prefer time with non-mommy friends even now that I’m a mom, and “Mommy Attention Span” or M.A.S is one of the reasons.  M.A.S. occurs when one loses all capacity for attention other than toward ones children.

M.A.S is not to be confused with “baby brain” or the way parenting generally slices and dices one’s neurons until there is nothing left but a soupy mess of incoherence.  No engaged parent can think straight!  We are always splitting our attention and it’s hard to concentrate with the responsibility for another being’s entire life on our minds.  BUT the little attention we can muster has to be able to shift.  Mommy Attention Span occurs when we try to squeeze attention to everything and anything else in between reacting to our children’s every move.

I understand when you are trying to talk to another mom, there are going to be interruptions.  Clearly, when someone is in potential danger, hurt, starving, or about to eat a small, non-edible object it requires mom’s attention.  But little ones are going to want attention anytime they can get it.  If I’m trying to talk to a friend about something hard, or even something inane, why does the fact that baby brought you a toy, drooled, or made loud noises, demand a response and break from your attention every time?

Example number two.  Moms are endlessly complaining about how they have lost the freedom to go to the bathroom by themselves.  This loss of freedom results not from the condition of parenting, but from… “Mommy Attention Span.”  Don’t get me wrong, moms (and dads who spend a lot of time at childcare), give up many freedoms, often including the freedom to put one’s own needs first.  But unless your kid is in some kind of peril, shut the door and go to the bathroom!  My kids have yet to set the house on fire or kill each other during the time it takes me to pee by myself.

In part, my feelings on this topic may come from having twins.  When you have twins, the illusion that you will be completely attentive to your baby and meet all her needs is immediately shot to hell on day one.  There’s something about two sets of little hands on each knee and two little mischievous faces looking up at me that says ‘no, this is not acceptable or necessary while I pee, they’re going to wait outside from now on.’  Are they slightly miffed when I shut the bathroom door in their faces?  Sure.  But two seconds later when I come out, they have forgotten all about it.  Who says we don’t have a right to a minute or two of attending to our own bodily functions?

Where did we get the idea that a good mom is endlessly attentive?  And what messages are we sending our children?  I’m sure on one level we believe we are equipping our children to have high self-esteem and feel like they are fascinating just by being them.  And indeed, it is critically important to reflect back to our children who they are in an accepting manner.  But not every minute!!  The truth is, they are not endlessly fascinating, and giving them the idea that they are could harm them.  There are going to be a lot of metaphorical bathroom doors slammed in their faces and they’re going to have to regroup and deal with it.

Children (and adults) need to be self-entertaining.  They need to be able to tolerate times when they are not being enjoyed just for being them.  That’s why our kids desperately need us to let them develop on their own.  They need time to explore their environment, and I’m not talking about a house full of loud, colorful, over-stimulating toys.  Leave your kids alone with a few Tupperware containers and pick up a book.  They will thank you later when they can read a somewhat long paragraph without becoming unfocused and wondering where the flashing lights and pictures are.

I believe for some of us, our relationships with partners and friends are suffering, and our connections to ourselves and the outside world are too.  The combined cultural notion that we should both want to be around our kids all the time, and want to be attentive to them all the time leave us with no way to connect with other adults.  Then, feeling cut-off, uninspired, under-stimulated, and just plain bored, we beat ourselves up for not loving being cut-off, uninspired, under-stimulated, and just plain bored.

Being attentive to children can be delightful, but often it is work… plain and simple.  We do it out of love, the same way we listen to our partners go on and on about aspects of their work we don’t fully grasp, or the way we listen to an elderly parent describe the daily happenings in the hallway at their nursing home.

We don’t expect to derive the ultimate pleasure from these activities, and thus we don’t attempt to do them 24/7.  We intersperse times when we ourselves can be heard and stimulated.  We need those times!!  So moms… if another mom, or a partner, or anyone comes around and your kids are safe and have basic care, give your attention to that adult, and for the love of god, accept theirs, you need it!  Give yourself some precious moments for you.  Be “selfish.”

Your children will thank you when they can sit in a classroom for hours out of the day tolerating not being called on or paid attention to.  They will thank you when they can be that partner who listens to someone talk without turning the topic to themselves.  They will thank you when their boss provides constructive criticism and they’re not thrown off balance because they believe everything they do is fascinating.  Your daughters will thank you when they learn that being a mother means your kids are your top priority, but not that you have to make them a priority every minute.  Moms, you still exist!  Let your daughters see you exist.  Let them see you ignore them now and then so they can learn that no role, even mother, should be powerful enough to erase them.

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