We survived the first week of play school

pawpatrolIt’s been an exciting, but also a rather traumatic week in our house as the twins started play school. This is the first time that they have ever been away from home and not had any access to me or IP, so as you can imagine it’s been a very emotional roller coaster for all of us.

I can honestly say that this has been the hardest thing that I have had to do as a mother – drop my little ones at school and say good bye to two screaming and crying little girls has nearly broken my heart in two. Some days the teachers have had to literally pull them off me. And every morning as I get back in my car I burst into tears myself.

I at least take comfort in the fact that they are at an excellent school, the teachers are lovely and I know they are well cared for in the day. When I fetch them I’m told that they don’t cry for long and they have a fun day, with lots of laughter and running around, so I know they’re going to be okay. In fact, when I fetch them, AG doesn’t want to come home. Yesterday, I had to pull her off the bike and carry her out. HJ, on the other hand, just jumps into my arms and says “I wanna go home”.

Despite the emotional roller coaster that school has brought, we know we made the right decision to enrol them in school. They needed this: getting more stimulation in an organised and structured environment, making new friends, and having more space to run around and just have fun. I know they are going to thrive there. And at least they have each other. It is really sweet as the teachers tell me that when HJ cries, AG pats her back and says “It’s all right….it’s all right”. That just brings another tear to my eye, but also brings a smile to my face.

My babies are growing up so fast. In fact they’re not babies any more. They are sweet, intelligent, caring, funny, amazing little girls!

We are super excited for 2017 and all the changes it will bring. A new town, a new school and new adventures for us as a family. Bring it on, we are ready!

 

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Don’t judge a parent until you become a parent

It’s funny how we have all these ideas in our head about how we’re going to parent before we actually become a parent. We look at other parents and how they raise their children and how they act once they become a parent and totally judge them, vowing to not do many of the things we see them doing…only to actually end up doing the exact things when we become a parent ourselves.

judgepicIt’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and judge their actions and words, without really understanding what they’re going through at the time, without truly knowing what they are feeling in that moment, what challenges they are facing or what they may have experienced to get to that particular point. I know I’m guilty of being judgemental quite often, and IP is quick to call me up on it. But we have also been subjected to these judgements along the way.

We recently went to a braai with some old friends and it was so wonderful to catch up with them. It was our old church small group and it was so funny to see how the group dynamics had changed over the past three years from young childless couples and singles to so many children all running around. One of the guys, who had recently become a father, commented to IP and I that him and his wife always used to wonder why we stopped coming to small group and church when the kids were born. He said they just couldn’t understand it, but then they had their own little baby, and finally they understood…and on top of that, after having one baby, they couldn’t imagine how we survived it all with TWO babies at the same time.

It really got me thinking about my own judgements of other people. I too used to think such things of my parent friends and judge them for doing, or not doing, things. But that all changed when I became a parent myself. I don’t think one can ever really be prepared for the life altering adventure of becoming a parent. From your social life to your sex life, your sleep and your sanity – it will never be the same again.

I never really comprehended what becoming a parent was all about. I was so focused on just getting pregnant and having a baby that I didn’t even think about what it meant once the baby was born. I had no idea that being a parent was such hard work. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom now, and the rewards of seeing these two little humans grow and develop, have them call me mommy and have them throw their arms around me, far outweigh all the challenges. But, it has been a hectic two years, for which nothing could have prepared us.

But we would not have it any other way. I’m glad we went through all these struggles, I’m grateful we survived all the challenges. We are stronger people for it, our marriage is stronger for it, and our lives are more enriched for it.

If there is one thing I am slowly realising, and trying desperately not to do, it’s to judge another until I have at least a small understanding of what they are going through.

It’s so important to open the channels of communication with our parent friends (and all friends in general), speak to them, ask them how they are doing.  How they are really doing. When we greet someone we always ask how they are, but it’s normally so superficial – let’s try getting to the deeper stuff, especially with our fellow parent friends; let’s not be afraid to be real with each other. Let’s share our thoughts and feelings together on this parenting journey. We will soon realise that there is so much more beyond the surface and everyone is facing their own battles, if we take the time to care, take the time to step out of our own trenches and walk a mile in someone else’s.

Having twins – a father’s perspective

A guest post by IP on the first year of becoming a twin daddy.

img-20140919-wa004Life before twins was relatively simple. I looked after my immediate needs and when I look back I realise I was largely a selfish person. Why my wife and I even planned date nights before having twin girls is a mystery to me. Why do couples without kids need to diarise time to spend with their spouse anyway?! Weekends spent with my wife were blissful and fun times. We had a blank canvas of opportunity…opportunity to do whatever we wanted when we wanted. There were no long-term consequences to our decisions. Saturday mornings were spent lying in bed until whatever time we pleased, and this was largely dependent on what we did the night before. Saturday afternoons were spent walking around markets, going for a hike, and running in the forest.

Then, our twins arrived. We were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead. They were born at 32 weeks, and spent three and a half weeks in the NICU.

I remember the last night of NICU vividly. We were given a room in the hospital with two beds and two cots and for the first time there were NO nurses to assist us. I was petrified! The side wheels had been removed, and I was leaning very much to one side. That first night consisted of feeds every three hours with a helpless little baby on each parent’s lap. Broken sleep totaling three hours at the most forced me to reassess who I was. I cried. I felt weak and helpless. How was I going to be a parent to twin girls with this amount of sleep, I lamented?! I don’t remember going to work the next morning. All I knew was that I was scared, very scared of what lay ahead.

The days and weeks that followed blurred into a haze of routine. Those three-hour feeding cycles were brutal. I assigned myself to bed and bath time routine, and the early 4am shift before showering and going to work. When I look back now I don’t know how we did it, and how we coped, but we did, by God’s grace.

img-20140927-wa002The human body, however, is adaptable if you beat it hard enough. In the same year I was finishing off a business degree, and I had started a new job which involved a lot of travel. The only way I thought to get through it all was to put each task into a box. Fulfilling each task eventually became a habit and coping mechanism, and I subtly sought pleasure in completing all my tasks.

I had many interests before the twins arrived. Hiking, fishing, camping, making beer, and flying model helicopters took up most of my time. Now my life consisted of milk, vomit, changing nappies and sleepless nights. I yearned to have the option of at least deciding for myself what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it! It was tough. I loved these helpless little beings so much, but nothing had prepared me for this. Nothing had stripped me so bare. I realised I existed only for them; none of my needs mattered anymore.

Then there was my wife, the apple of my eye. I was devoted to her before the kids came. Chaos had erupted in our house and I had battened down the hatches and went into survival mode. All the focus was on the children. We were at their beck and call for every whim and need. They not so subtly reminded us of that during mammoth crying sessions in tandem. Nights were long, and it became easy to think evil thoughts and to act a little strangely at times. Sleep deprivation does that to you.

Weekends were now very different.

My wife was facing her own struggles. Being a mother of twins requires an inner strength and tenacity that no one will understand. My hectic work schedule was also not helping matters. A busy travel schedule coupled with finishing off a business degree and trying to be a parent had me thinking I was contributing towards society, providing for my family, and taking care of the kids needs. In all these “unselfish” acts I had become selfish, driven to complete all the tasks that had taken over my life, yet forgetting the most important person in my life, my wife.

I had realised that I was attempting to take care of everyone else’s needs yet failing her as her husband. This is still a very difficult thing to accept with my driven A type personality that likes to get things done and likes to solve the problems of the world and move on. Woman are not created like that. I felt helpless. I was achieving my goals in all aspects of my life and gaining recognition in my work, yet failing my wife. How could this be?

Weekend chores did not get the response from her that I was expecting. I thought all women are pleased when their husbands do housework! Here I was feeding the kids, spending time with them, cleaning the house and trying to add value to the household, yet my wife was lonely. I had not spent time with her. I had not engaged with her like I did before the children had arrived. She was not the centre anymore. I was distracted with all the chores that had to be completed with having twins that constantly demanded a routine of crying, feeding, pooping, and sleep.

I think most men can relate to the above. We work hard for our families, we do the best we can with what we know, but sometimes it is not good enough. We struggle to focus on many things. I know I certainly did. Our families want us, they want our full attention, they want us to notice them, and they want our time. We as men often fail at this. We are responsible for not just our family’s financial needs, but their physical, emotional and spiritual needs as well. It became too easy for me to fulfill the financial need through my hard work, and long hours away from home, but I had failed to see that they needed me more in the other aspects of their life.

As men, we are to put God first, love our spouses second, and then love our children. I had got it wrong, and it showed. We do our families a disservice when we get the above formula wrong. For one, loving our children over loving our wives is a disaster waiting to happen. Our wives came first, and loving them first will allow our children to grow up in a loving and secure home where everyone benefits.

I know I have a lot to learn, and I still fail, but I am aware that the only way my needs will ever be met is if I unselfishly lay my life down for them. There are moments when I realise I have gotten this simple aspect right, and it is in these moments that I realise that I am the most blessed man alive and wouldn’t want it any other way.

In becoming a mom have I forgotten who I am as a woman and a wife?

My mother taught me to always look my best when I left the house – something about never knowing who you might bump into and all that…but what about also looking your best when you’re at home? Looking your best for your spouse? And even looking your best for your children? Looking your best for yourself?

But since having kids, I know my appearance has taken a back seat to all the other stuff that comes with being a mommy. I always vowed that when I had children, as with many other things I made false promises about, that I’d never let myself go the way I saw other moms go – you know, the mom bun, the sweat pants, no make up. Well, a bit of humble pie is in order as I look at myself in the mirror this morning. Who is this scruffy woman with the terrible dark roots, scraggly pony tail, blotchy skin and glasses on? I didn’t recognise her.

I never used to leave the house without make up on – although that’s still a regularly enforced rule for me, I wear a lot less these days, and sometimes have even gone without. My hair was always perfectly blow waved and coloured, and although I’ve never been the most fashionable, I kept up with what was in the shops and tried to look my best in what suited my figure. I realised yesterday that my standards have dropped, when getting out my car I looked down to see a juice-stained top and half painted toenails. And in that moment I realised it didn’t actually bother me that much, I didn’t really care about what people thought – I’m a mom after all – I don’t need to look good, I’ve got other priorities.

Or do I? Am I fooling myself by hiding behind the mess? Have I let myself go to the point that I don’t even recognise the person I’ve become?

What am I teaching my girls? Looking your best is not about vanity at the end of the day, it’s just plainly about making an effort, and not necessarily for anyone else, but making an effort for yourself. Surely I should be teaching my daughters to care about themselves and their bodies? To at least brush their hair? To wear clean clothes?

And what about my husband? I certainly don’t look anything like the woman he married six years ago. The woman he married cared about what she looked like and she wanted to look attractive for her husband. The woman he married was attractive to him, made an effort for him (and herself).

I had another wake up call yesterday when my mother reminded me of this. It’s something I will always remember about growing up – my mom would always go brush her hair and freshen up her make up when she knew my dad was on his way home. I used to think it was so sweet that she wanted to look good for her husband, even after all these years. It was something I thought I’d also do one day. And I thought shame on me for not doing the same thing today.

Just because we become a mom, and become surrounded by the chaos and mess of having kids, we don’t stop being a woman, don’t stop being a wife. We don’t stop being that person our spouses fell in love with, the person they married. Yes, we change and we grow, we mature, but surely we shouldn’t have to compromise on making an effort, even in some small way.

Don’t forget about yourselves ladies. Don’t forget to brush your hair, put some lip gloss on, put a pretty top on. If not for anyone else, but yourself! When you feel good about yourself, your whole outlook on life can change. After all, how can you love others, how can you care for others if you don’t love and care for yourself?

As a mother, we always try putting everyone else’s needs before our own. Well today ladies, I encourage you to put yourself first – look after yourself, care for yourself, love yourself. I know there is much more to being a woman and a wife than looking good and maintaining your personal appearance, but it’s a small step to helping you to not forget about yourself. Don’t let yourself go for the sake of motherhood. Your kids might not notice now, but one day they may look back and respect you more for it. Be the example for them. Make yourself beautiful. Embrace your new body and make yourself feel good again.

Mommy is at breaking point

Today I feel completely defeated, deflated, exhausted, finished, and kaput!

I suppose it’s partly just that time of year, but it’s more than that…

Being a parent is hard work, and being a parent of twins is harder still.

Trying to parent while working, buying a new house, planning a move to a new town, and maintaining a marriage is even harder. But I guess this is all just part of life and being a grown up, and I know I should just stop complaining about these things, because actually, they’re all my biggest blessings – my children, my husband, and our new adventure in a new town to look forward to. But I’m tired, and sometimes it’s all just a bit much to deal with. Sometimes I just don’t want to be a grown up for a little while.

Right now I feel like I’m trapped in this crazy, sleepless, frustrating world of toddler-dom. Having two two-year olds who fight me every night at bed time, and who just want me all the time at the same time throughout the night is exhausting.

I’m not complaining about my children wanting me, I’m their mother, after all, and of course I want them to want me, and I will always be there for them. But sometimes I also just need a break. I just wish I could tuck them into bed and they’ll roll over and actually go to sleep and then wake up happily the next morning after sleeping through the whole night. But alas, that’s not what’s happening in this house at the moment and it’s really starting to take its toll on all of us. Both girls are fighting bed time with all their might and it’s become a joint effort for them to see who can scream for mommy the loudest. And then they’re both waking up at least once in the night, with HJ refusing to go back to sleep in her own bed once she’s awake, so she ends up in our bed or in the spare room bed, and AG wants me to stay with her in her bed if she wakes in the night, so I end up going from one room to another in a silly game of musical beds for most of the night

And I’ve started screaming back. I’ve become this horrible dragon mom who I really don’t like very much right now. And what’s worse, I’ve become this horrible dragon wife who I like even less.

It’s all just too much at the moment and I feel like I’m at a breaking point.

I do believe it might be time to call in the reinforcements. It might be time to get in a sleep trainer. We have to do something, because something needs to change. We can’t keep running on this never-ending treadmill of craziness.

I’m sure one day we will look back and laugh at it all, but not today, today I just want to cry.

Here’s hoping things get better soon…cos this mommy is sooooooo tired.

Two toddlers, one mommy – how do I split myself in half?

It’s been a tough few weeks in our house as both our girls are going through a rather clingy phase where they both just want mommy, and they both just want mommy all the time, at the same time.

I’m sure many other twin moms will understand how this goes – it’s something we’ve had to deal with right from the beginning – having two little babies at the same time and trying to balance our time and attention for both of them. I think this is one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of multiples, and I’ve especially felt it over the last few weeks with my two toddlers.

It all started when we were on holiday in Australia last month, and I think they were feeling rather insecure being in a strange environment with lots of strange people, and naturally they clung to their mommy. But ever since we’ve been back it seems to have gotten worse and they’ve become more demanding in their quest for my attention. The girls moved from their cots into single beds a couple of weeks ago, and I think this has also been a major contributing factor at the moment.

It’s been very trying for both IP and I, as it’s exhausting for me to be in such demand all the time and it’s difficult for him not to be able to help in any meaningful way because they don’t want him, especially in the middle of the night. They’ll happily spend time with daddy and play with him during the day, but when it comes to bed time and waking in the night, they just want mommy. This has been when all hell breaks loose because they’ve been waking each other up in the night, and then they both want me to lie on their bed with them. So I am constantly going from one bed to the next to try comfort them, and they will both scream if I am sitting on the other’s bed, and if I pick one up and sit with her on the other’s bed then they both get even more upset and scream at each other.

It’s heart-breaking not being able to adequately see to both my children’s needs at the same time when they seem to be feeling so insecure and just really want their mommy.  The situation is exacerbated by my absolute exhaustion and dwindling patience, and there have been a few times when I’ve felt like I was going to lose the plot completely.

It’s emotionally and physically exhausting, and we really are hoping things will settle again soon.

Have any other multiple moms experienced this? Would love to hear some insights!

Surviving an international flight with twin toddlers

IMG-20160727-WA0018So we did it – we survived our first overseas holiday with the twins. I’ll admit, I was terrified before we left, but the girls were amazing. They surprised me at every turn, and despite some rough nights of very little sleep we had a fantastic family holiday. The girls, especially, had a blast.

My brother and sister both live in Perth, so we decided that before the twins turned two we would take advantage of the reduced airfare and hop on a plane to Australia. I’ve come to realise that many people thought we were nuts! But there is one thing that IP and I have not done since we had our twins, and that’s let having kids stop us from living life. Ever since they were very little we’ve always gotten out and about on weekends, gone shopping, eaten out at restaurants and had lots of other random adventures along the way. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve still always been very strict with our routine with them – we’d have gone mad if we weren’t – but we try have as much fun as we can as a family, and expose them to as many new and exciting experiences as we can.

The thing that terrified me the most before we left was the prospect of having to sit on an airplane for up to 12 hours with two very active toddlers. But, mercifully, it was a night time flight, so promptly on take-off we gave them a bottle and they both fell asleep straight away – giving mommy and daddy a few hours of peace – or at least as much peace as one can have with a toddler sleeping on your lap. We were also very fortunate to travel in a little bit of style – thanks to IP’s frequent flyer miles, we were able to sit in the slow lounge before take-off, so no running around a busy airport after two little monkeys – we could sit back a little in the confines of the lounge and enjoy our free snacks and drinks on comfy couches.

I imagine everyone’s experiences of international travel are different, ranging from fantastic to disastrous, but I thought I’d share a few things that I’ve learnt about flying with toddlers:

If you can, try get the bulkhead seats as this gives you loads of leg room, and when the kids are awake, and provided the seat belt sign is off, they’re able to sit on the floor at your feet and play or read a book, so they’re not confined to sitting on your lap the whole time. BUT – as we soon learnt – the bulkhead is not always ideal because if there is an empty seat next to you in the bulkhead area it’s kind of wasted as you can’t lift the arm rests to let your baby sleep across two chairs because the tray table and in-flight entertainment screen is stored in the arm rest – as opposed to other chairs where these would be attached to the seat in front of you. So even though we had lots of room, we were a bit frustrated by not being able to lift the arm rests.

Don’t drug your kids if you don’t have to. I was not keen to give the girls any medicines to make them drowsy for the flight. We had a two-hour flight between Cape Town and Johannesburg before the main flight from Joburg to Perth, so we decided to test it out first and see how the girls responded to the flight, and especially the take-off and landing. They were absolutely fine – no screaming or obvious pain from the pressure – so we decided not to medicate them for the next flight, and I’m pretty glad we didn’t have to do that, as they were fine. The only real screaming we had was in the last minutes of the flight when HJ got very restless as she had to sit on my lap for landing and she wanted to run around so she was very frustrated.

People will be kinder and more accommodating than you expect. And if your kids need to run around a bit – let them! Toddlers were not made to sit still for so many hours, so they need to get moving every now and then. HJ loved walking up and down the aisle, and it was so sweet to watch her come out her shell and stop to talk to other passengers along the way. The other travellers also seemed to enjoy chatting to the girls and even indulged them with a few games of peek-a-boo.

Pack lots of snacks. We all know that aeroplane food is not the best, but SAA totally outdid themselves in the ridiculous and revolting food department. I pre-booked a kiddies meal for each of my girls. Well, when the food arrived I was horrified to discover it was two jars of purity baby puree! I promptly sent it right back. My girls are almost two and eat what we eat, they’re too old for puree. I was even more horrified on the flight home when the steward presented us with two pouches of FROZEN baby purees. Seriously? Fortunately I had packed lots of snacks for them, and they shared our meal, so we were all well fed.

Before you go, make up a little goodie bag with some new toys and activities for your kids. My girls enjoyed opening the little pouches I put together and exploring what was inside. Include simple things like little cars and miniature books. A magnetic sketch pad was also a great source of entertainment for them. But it was also the simple things, like paging through the inflight magazine, that they really enjoyed doing. Even the emergency information pamphlet was a hit.

Don’t forget to bring along your kids blankie, or binkie, or whatever it is that gives them comfort at home and keeps them calm. In our case, it’s our girls’ taglets, or taggies as they call them. They have these with them every time they go to sleep, and it was important that they had them with them at all times in such an unfamiliar environment.

Be flexible. It can all be very daunting travelling overseas with toddlers, but the most important thing is to be flexible, and you have to develop a thick skin, and not worry about what other people think. Like when your kid is having a whopping tantrum, as AJ did when she wasn’t able to push her own pram through the airport. It’s so hard when you can feel every eye in the airport on you, but you just have to carry on – you just have to smile and wave people, smile and wave!

You have to have patience with your kids, even though it’s so difficult sometimes. You have to realise that they are in a totally new environment. An airport and a plane can be a strange and scary space for a little one, with all the new sights and sounds. So be calm with them, be patient, be kind, and expect the unexpected.

If you’re thinking about an overseas adventure with your kids, just do it! Don’t let fear stop you. We had such a wonderful holiday, and we’re so glad that we took the plunge and just did it!

I’m looking forward to sharing more of our adventures in Perth with you soon, so watch this space!