Twin life, twin love

This is just too long for Facebook..

The girls have been begging us since Grade R to split them into different classes and we relented this year, now that they’re in Grade 2. (and Daniel in Grade 4. I have stocked up on wine and gin to get us through the workload)

My fellow twin Moms (and people that are twins themselves) will better understand the dynamic of being a twin, but it’s a whole different thing to even having siblings close in age.

They are literally attached at the hip. They hold hands when they walk, they sit, huddled together on the couch, they play silly games with rules only they understand (which, thankfully, they include their long-suffering brother in), they are always, at the very least, in each other’s peripheral vision. It’s like they orbit each other and is the most beautiful thing.

Bearing this in mind, I have been a little anxious about how they would cope by themselves. 

It’s in the little things, Isabel rushing Mignon to finish a task and sit on the couch with her. Their need to almost exclude everyone else so they can just BE with each other and soak up being together after being separated during a large part of the day.

We had some threatening tears last night at bedtime about how Isabel misses her sister, even though she looks like the tough twin, which just breaks my heart.

We’ll keep an eye on it and see how it unfolds and I’m sure they’ll be ok, but yoh, parenting is HARD. It’s so hard to find the balance between letting them make their own decisions and wanting to be there to catch them before they fall, especially when they’re still so young. 

PS. No. I haven’t blogged since September due to an issue with my right hand, not being able to type/bake/crochet and just general avoidance of writing and social media and the need to withdraw for a while. It’s been so good for the soul, I highly recommend it.

Taking the sting out of bullying

About a year ago we went through a really tough time with our son being bullied at school. It took many months of play therapy to help him deal with it and about the same amount of time for myself in counseling to learn how to not fall down crying in a heap on the floor at the mere thought. 

I received a call from a school Mom today, her child is going through the same as our boy did last year, courtesy of the same little group of fuckers. (Doos is just not a strong enough word here). I’m hoping the school will deal with it better this time, but that’s a whole other story. 

It made me think of how far we’ve come, sometimes 3 steps back before we could inch forward, but we’re getting there. 

Something that Mom said today about how she is opening dialogue with her son really hit home. Our son starts smirking when he feels scared or threatened. It’s his coping mechanism. He also doesn’t disclose easily, we’ve had to find other ways to get him to open up. 

So I thought, why don’t we play the Bully Game?

As we sat down to dinner tonight we said we had an awesome idea, why don’t they (the kids) pretend to be bullies and they can say absolutely anything horrible and we would respond like we were the ones being bullied. 

They looked at us like we were mad. 

Then our boy started out. We oooeeeed and aaahhhd, thought long and hard and looked perplexed and then offered a come-back which they had the right to agree with or not. 

It was like a verbal diarrhea of junk that came tumbling out. I think it was cathartic because he (and the Sussies) were free to just blurt it all out. We could see in his face when he was having fun and making stuff up and when he was repeating what has been said to him. It was the most he’s ever told us, knowingly or unknowingly. It gave them all the freedom to entertain that dark side we are forever telling them to suppress. 

This is huge. It is monumental. 

The lesson for me is really about the fact that, the more we, as parents, freak out, the worse it is for the child. There is much more value in being constructive about things like this, opening the door for them to feel safe enough to talk and to never, never make them feel weak for having to go through something like that, no matter how good our intentions are. 

The world is full of bullies, whether you’re 9 or 39, so I’d rather us teach our  kids to think on their feet and to allow them to practice how to deal with it. To take the power away from the bully. 

Because fear is what fuels a bully, and when you can laugh in their face or verbally put them in their place they longer have any power over you.

Whether you’re 9 or 39. 

When you wish you could convince your child that it really will be ok in the end

We have the most amazing son. He is irreverently funny, he is incredibly kind and super sensitive to other people’s emotions. He is, fortunately or unfortunately, uncannily perceptive for his age.

He is also not a stereotypical boy child. He doesn’t fit into the mold of the majority of boys (especially Afrikaans boys) of his age. He is never going to be a rugby player and has never enjoyed rough and tumble. 

This is not a problem for us, but he is finding that the world doesn’t always accept, especially, boys that don’t fit into a certain box. 

This is very hard to write about as, first and foremost, we don’t want to label him unless we absolutely have to. We just want him to BE who he is and be HAPPY. 

Secondly, this is the Internet. Enough said. 

I have realised lately that I have wasted too much time feeling a little sorry FOR him. Hurting FOR him. 

Because he is so very perceptive and knows that I get upset when he tells me when something bad has happened he stopped talking to us for a while. It’s only when I realised that he is way, way more resilient than we gave him credit for and started trusting him that he started opening up again. 

It has been a huge lesson in not jumping in and wanting to rescue the whole time, but rather taking a step back, breathing deeply and creating opportunities for him to open up when he was ready to talk. For trusting him to work through some of his own stuff and then seeking us out for comfort and acceptance when he is ready.

I still want to keep him close to my heart and tell him that he WILL find his ‘tribe’. He will find those special people and it will feel like coming home.* 

You’ll forgive me if I sound vague, but it’s part of our personal parenting journey. Those of you that have beautiful, amazingly different children like we do will get it though, and you’ll know about getting over yourself and adapting to what your child needs. Come hell or high water. 

*As long as it’s not some weird religious cult, in which case, all bets are off

Dinner table conversations

Some nights I wish I could record the things said around our dinner table. It really is one of my most favourite, albeit noisy, times of the day. Second only to when they are almost asleep and you sneak in to have that last kiss and hug.

For context:
Yesterday Mignon tells me on the way home that they had to be separated in class because ‘Isabel spat on her head’. Isabel retaliated with ‘and then Mignon tore up my picture’.

Spitting is a complete no-no, so as punishment there was no tuck shop money for them today (Tuesday’s their class-tuckshop day). I also mailed their teacher to let her know that they had told us and about the subsequent punishment.

At dinner tonight, when we were doing our usual ‘Best/Worst part of your day’ thing, Isabel tells us, beaming with pride, that the teacher (bless her, I love her) made them get up in class and thanked them for telling their parents what they did yesterday. I’m sure there’s some kind of reverse psychology going on there, but Etienne and I giggled into our food.

Next up, randomly, Mignon says that she can’t wait! Tomorrow ‘she’s getting Waterpokkies’. We were beyond baffled until they told us it was the title of a book they’ve been waiting to read. I love how into reading they are. All those nights of reading the same books over and over again are hopefully paying off. It’s such a beautiful thing to see all 3 of them so enamoured with reading.

And Daniel? He talks up a storm with them. Today it was a tale about a run-in with the local chess-hero in chess class.

They usually all talk at the same time and often about three things that are completely unrelated, it’s sometimes hard to keep up.

But. It’s always, always entertaining.

How did we get this lucky?

When you love to hate Aftercare

Warning: Ranty post.

Our kids are in aftercare and I have a rather interesting relationship with them. Read: I love to hate them, for various reasons I don’t have the energy to go into right now. They are an unfortunate necessity in our lives.

I know, that sounds terribly ungrateful, but there you have it.

Today, when I collected the kids, Mignon was very upset and crying because the Aftercare lady ‘forgot’ to collect her from ballet. She did, however, not forget to collect the 9 other children that also do ballet.

I then ask the class ‘teacher’ what happened.

‘XXX did say she only came with 9 kids and she was meant to have 10, but we did explain to Isabel.’

You read that right. She said Isabel.

At this point I would like to say that I get that they are identical twins and that it can be confusing, but not knowing which child you FORGOT about is rather alarming.

I would also like to say that ‘explaining’ to a 6yo little girl why she was left behind is just not good enough. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Which is what I kept asking: Why did it happen in the first place?

It probably sounds like a huge overreaction on my part, but coupled with other things that worry me about Aftercare this kind of pushed me over the edge today.

I politely (ish) suggested that if she needs me to give her some pointers on how to tell them apart I would be happy to oblige. No, no, she says, I know exactly who is who.

And then proceeds to hug Isabel and apologise for her being left behind at ballet.

I can’t. I just can’t.

And no, I didn’t have the heart to point out her mistake.

We have spent the last almost 7 years celebrating the differences between our girls and treating each as their own person, knowing that the world will often see them as the same person because they look so much alike, but this infuriates me beyond belief. These people are responsible for taking care of our kids, the least they can do is get it right.

Ok. Rant over.

Ps. I am completely aware of the fact that my anger is partly fuelled by guilt. What. Ever.


Tonight I want to take a moment to express gratitude for our children.

We have been together pretty much 24/7 since Christmas Eve and they have been amazing.

Yes, we have the usual make-your-bed-get-dressed-brush-your-teeth-battles, but in general they are super cool.

They are funny, they play, they swing and they sing (sometimes at the same time). They make up games. They are happy whether they are swimming in the pool or setting the table. They make jokes. (Just tonight I found plastic flies and spiders in my salad amongst giggles)

Yes, they bicker like, well, children, but in general the 3 of them get along so well.

I love that they are a pretty much imprenetable unit. They defend each other and are generally kind to children they cross paths with and include them in their play.

They are generous with their affections, I love the random hugs and kisses we are showered with.

I also love (and am a little sad) that they are pretty much independent now, they require very little to be done FOR them. You can send them to get dressed, brush their hair and teeth and pack everything they need for the day, with minimal prodding and guidance. I was watching parents with tired toddlers at a restaurant this afternoon and was very grateful that we are past those days, with most of our sanity intact. (Ha. Ha.)

I almost want to freeze them as they are now and hope they remember this holiday and keep the joy in their hearts in the year to come when times may be difficult for them.

A meandering on spanking

At the risk of opening a Pandora’s box, I want to chat about spanking. Or not spanking.

This post is not about whether spanking is good or bad, I’m long over judging people for their parenting decisions or trying to force my opinion down anyone’s throat.

This post is also not about war stories of the hidings I got as a child and the miniature cricket bat a teacher used to smack our open hands with in St 5. (that would be Gr 7 for the younger folk reading this). Or my extreme fear of my Mother’s big wooden brush that could sometimes be wielded indiscriminately. (I hesitate to say deservedly so as I was a master at driving my Mom up the walls)

This post is about what replaced spanking, because, lets face it, in giving up spanking as a method of discipline something else has had to take it’s place. Yes?

What are we left with?

1. Threat of spanking

Yes. Most of us has done this, whether we intend on following through or not. “Pick up XYZ OR there will be trouble”. Which is fine, but WHAT trouble? I’ve always been of the opinion that, if you’re going to make a threat, you best be willing to follow through, especially as a parent.

2. Manipulation

“Father Christmas is watching”, “Granny won’t come visit if you don’t stop doing XYZ immediately”, “we won’t go to the movies if you don’t stop teasing your sisters”. Useful, but only up to a certain point. After that they will simply shrug and give you the middle finger.

3. Withholding of treats/privileges

We end up using this quite often. Bad behaviour = no device/TV. Once again, useful, but I wonder if it drives the right behaviour and it certainly will not work forever.*

4. Time Outs

This works fine with smaller children, but I suspect our 8 yo is getting a little old for this. I also suspect that he drove us to putting him on time-out the other day just so he could have a break from his loud twin sisters. I was tempted to join him, to be honest. Peace and quiet bliss in the bathroom.

5. Positive reinforcement

Whether it’s pocket money, star charts or any other carrot that is dangled. Not something that has worked for our lot so far and, quite frankly, it’s far too much admin for me to get my head around. When Daniel was potty training we tried it and, besides the fact that he actually just didn’t give shit about getting stickers and then a toy, when you’re juggling life and not with him the WHOLE day it’s a little hard to keep up.

6. Shouting/Hurtful words

I was in Ackermans the other day, on the first day of school holidays, when a lady (I’m assuming it was the Mom) was swearing at a child at the till. “Jy maak my mal, jy gaan maak dat ek in die fokken malhuis opeindig en dis nog net die begin van die vakansie” she said to the toddler. Everyone in her vicinity cringed, hopefully herself included.

That, coupled with a link posted yesterday by the lovely Shannon about spanking, prompted this post.

Look. I’m a shouter. I hate that powerless feeling of repeatedly being ignored by the children when I make (what seems like) a reasonable request. What I, however, will NOT do is belittle our children or allow anyone else to do so. What I have realised this year is that words are often much more harmful than actual violence.

Daniel was being bullied at school. With words. This is almost impossible to prove, because, you know, no bruises. We had a hard time initially convincing the school that there was, in fact, bullying going on. Gone are the days where boys came home with bruises and cuts and the bully could be sorted out. We teach our children to use their words and to express their emotions, but whilst we are doing this some parents are victimising and belittling their children with words, rendering our work futile. Whether those kids are being spanked or worse at home I wouldn’t know, but it did make me think about the power of the words we use, especially with our children.

Yes, we get angry. No, we aren’t perfect.

BUT. Surely discipline should be constructive and meant to guide. Surely we should pick the battles that are worth fighting and not sweat the rest.

I hope this makes sense and that I’m not sounding all judgy and preachy. We are all just doing the best we can, but sometimes, just sometimes, you need to ask yourself: is this really worth getting upset about or are you just being a stubborn asshole? (I often find myself falling under “stubborn asshole”)

So anyway,sermon over. Be kind and mind your words, your children go out in the world a treat others the way they are treated at home.

* incidentally, we recently banned electronic devices during the week, not to punish our children, but because we quite like having an actual conversation with them and they *wait for it* actually end up playing games that they’ve made up. WIN.

Parenting Daniel

Daniel presented us with his first written story tonight.

Last night he lined up his Lego figurines, got into bed with a notebook and a pen and told us he was writing a story with the figurines as inspiration.

I cannot even begin to tell you how proud this makes me. (And a little weepy)

He has come such a long way this year. He has overcome intense separation anxiety, bullying and some other challenges that are not for me to write about.

He is a funny, gentle, clever little man and we are incredibly blessed that he chose us to be his parents.

It is so good to hear him laugh his trademark belly-laugh again. Having twin sisters that are a tsunami of energy and noise at the best of times can also not be easy, I’m sure he feels excluded sometimes. Yet, the three of them are a unit. They stand up for each other, they giggle, they make up silly games. They love with abandon.

How did we get this lucky?

Let’s talk about Christmas

Ok. I will eventually, but first, let me say: Fokkies. People. It’s almost Christmas. I know it’s the end of the year when dragging my backside through the last month and seeing the days whizzzz by fill me with equal amounts of dread and glee. To-do lists seem to get longer and longer, projects *have* to be wrapped up by the end of November.

I also know it’s the end of the year when I no longer have any filters and some of the things that come out of my mouth make me cringe. My Boss calls it ‘Interpersonal Sensitivity’. I call it ‘Too tired to put up with crap’.

Tonight I realised that I’m doing the same as every year: buying too many little stocking filler gifts for the kids and contemplating the utter futility of buying expensive toys.

Toys that they will play with for about 20 seconds before they are discarded in favour of the disposable arty kakkies that are the stocking fillers. (Unless they are the 2 microphones and a guitar the kids got from my folks a few years ago. The less said about that the better. They are like a bad rash)

Toys we spent time agonizing about, not only because there are 3 children and it adds up WAY too quickly, but also because we would hate to ruin Father Christmas’s reputation of buying the perfect gift.
I really do wonder what the point is of buying toys. Our lot are quite content to play silly games with each other and, really, they (mostly) hold no educational value. But then it wouldn’t be a toy, now would it?

What are you buying your kids for Christmas? Do you agree that buying toys are more often a monumental waste of hard-earned money than anything else?

Life post-Au Pair

Funny how life works out.

I’ve been saying for ages how I wish I could just have an extra hour a day with the kids and through a sequence of events I now do. It used to kill me to come home at 5:30pm and find them wrapped up in themselves or the TV or an electronic device.

Yes, I now start work at 7am and just get to see them wake up before I leave, but I get to leave at work at 4pm. This is huge.

Yes, the kids have to go to Aftercare, but I get to collect them now. I get to hear all the stories about their day first. And trust me, they have a LOT to talk about!

Yes, I now have to do homework with a Master-of-Dodging-fling-yourself-on-the-floor 8 year old, but I now have a grip on what is going on at school. I get to see how well he is doing and tell him so. For the rest there is wine.

Yes, I’m now more responsible for dinner, but I was really, really spoilt, so it’s not a problem at all. I cannot abdicate all responsibility for supper to my long-suffering husband anymore. (On this note, I’m trying not OCD the crap out of it and set up a 6 week menu)

I’ve never been averse to change, but the whole rhythm of my day is a little out of whack at the moment, almost like when the clocks used to move an hour forward or backward in the UK. Weird for a couple of days, but then you’re back in the swing of things.

Now just to survive the homework..