Why I’m a bad mother

I didn’t realise it, it just crept up on me. I have never compared my children but somehow I ended up treating them differently. And as I prepared for a meeting with the Head and the boys’ teacher it became clear. Why I’m a bad mother.

Like most/ all mothers. I just want my children to do well. But somewhere. Between the boys starting school in September and my meeting with the school in June. I had changed.

My first question to my daughter when she returns home: “Did you have a good day at school?”

To my sons: “Did you behave at school today?”

I am a bad mother.

What could possibly be going through the minds of my boys?

My daughter has never not wanted to go to school.
Even when I naughtily tried to persuade her not to go (she was feeling poorly and the day was going to be particularly tough for my hubby and I was working away), she agreed to have a day off, went to sleep, woke the next morning and went to school.Why I'm a bad motherMy boys regularly wake up wanting it to be the weekend or wanting it to be the school holidays.

And I let them down.

I found myself participating in a few threads this week on my multiple mums Facebook page.

I found myself again appreciating the difference in raising boys.

I found myself voicing how different I have found the Reception year with my sons in comparison to my daughter.

And I feel like a bad parent.

Because I know my boys are awesome. 

But I haven’t been prepared for raising boys.

My boisterous boys.Twin fun in multipleI know I wouldn’t have them any other way.

They are loving, caring, feisty, raucous, physical, naughty, cheeky, intelligent, funny boys.

They don’t like being bored.

They don’t like being told what to do.

They don’t like people being mean.

So what are they doing wrong?

 Or what am I doing wrong as their mother?Twin mom

And yes.

It’s all about what I’m doing wrong.

Because they’re five.

They are five.

Let them live.

Let them learn.

Let them be loved.

A Twin Education: Separating Twins

I wrote a little while ago about a decision that was playing on our mind. For many, choosing the right school is one of the most difficult decisions. It was an easy one for us, we have a fantastic primary school on our doorstep. The minefield we were met with was that of a school with a two-form entry. For us, our minefield has been that of ‘To separate or not to separate’. It has been a consideration from the moment their sibling started school, if only the school had been smaller we’d have just had to cope!Twins at 5My initial instinct was to separate but then life took hold. And at first it was easy. The school determine class allocation based on whether or not your child is at morning or afternoon nursery. In the height of laziness we weren’t thinking of taking one child in the morning, picking them up, taking the other an hour later, etc. It made sense for them to be in the same session.

And then, when it came to thinking about separating them, there seemed no benefit. Everything was ticking along, everyone was happy.

And then they started school.

I guess the easiest way to think about it, is on the basis you have a sibling. Can you imagine what you’d be like in the same classroom? Familiar? Reliant? 

And then there’s that intangible – the bond between twins.

The boys are the best of friends, they are similar in tastes and ability, when they get bored, they wind each other up, they don’t mind who’s watching. When they’re winding each other up, it’s likely to result in taunting, which probably results in an arm or leg flying. They’re 5-year-old boys. Why wouldn’t it?

When the boys get excited, they are exceptional, their laughter is truly contagious, they fly on each other’s enthusiasm.

And the ball of energy which might be one child really is compounded into a greater mass when there are two.

I don’t look at the boys and wonder how they’ll cope without the other. They have known another sibling all their lives, and there is never a moment when she is out of things, the twin bond is always there when they sleep, they always gravitate to the other, but there is no interdependence. 

And so, today has been a great weight lifted.

I was dreading meeting with the Head and the boys’ teacher. To reflect on a half term of monitoring. To consider the future.

I went in and with a deep breath explained why we think it would be in the boys benefit for them to be separated in Year 1.

To the response: “I agree”.

Oh my.

There is a sense of relief and trepidation.

Relief because there was no ‘fight’ no case to win. The school was, as they have always been, completely understanding and supportive.

But now, to support the boys, to help them understand the benefits. 

More friends to invite to their birthday party might just be a winner!

Bye Bye Milk Teeth

Another milestone is upon us. The first of the milk teeth has fallen.
It has the sharp intake of breath.
One of my boys, my babies, has lost his first milk tooth.Losing your first tooth - bye bye milk teethAnd of course he couldn’t be prouder.
As I hold back tears.
It’s ok.
He really isn’t old enough yet.
His first milk tooth didn’t fall out of its own accord.
For I am a mum of boys.

He went out on his scooter the other month, and scooted towards the beach he scoots towards most days.
But this was the day he’d stumble and catch his tooth on the handlebar.
And we’d have a rushed trip to the dentist.
And it would be ok, he could wobble it when it was less tender and it would fall out.

Then they’d be the phone call.
That (somehow) he had collided with a child on lunch break at school.
And it looked painful. His tooth.
Coincidentally, he’d had a check up booked for the dentist that afternoon.
Of course it was the other front tooth.

And so it came to be.

Two wobbly front tooth.

Until this.
The head contact had won the race.A cheeky letter from a five year-old to the tooth fairy - bye bye milk teethThe best bit about these siblings?
A big sister to show you the way!

A twin education

I wrote last week about the outspoken childminder who ‘opened up’ on her view of my sons’.
I’ll be honest, the upset I felt has been replaced with anger tinged with humour.
Reflection has made me more angry about her behaviour than able to consider her words valid.
I also have sympathy, I think for the parents, who have the children in her care, and hope they aren’t subject to her judgement.
I still standby my consideration, that I have yet to meet a parent with the same approach. Most parents seem to know that as readily as a child may have poor behaviour inflicted on them, so the following week they may be the one demonstrating poor behaviour. Such is the nature of children. And the playground.

However, the words did provoke me to contact the boys’ teacher to explore the boys’ behaviour and what I could do as a parent to better support my children.

I have no doubt I caught the teacher off guard, I’ve not contacted the school before for anything other than illness notification and I am not the parent who does the school run so am not familiar.

We talked things through, about the cyclical nature of their behaviour which has a telling off at its heart. We talked about their relationship, how they behave as they might at home- they are very physical with each other.

As a side note this, for me, has been one of the most trying elements of my boys. One will hurt the other, we will discipline them (naughty step, separation, etc), there will be an apology, five minutes later the other is complaining they have been hurt. Having witnessed the events which have just unfolded.

The teacher confirmed all incidents of poor behaviour had been addressed with Mr J.
Generally speaking they are naughty, they are lovely boys and good learners, but they fidget when they’re bored, and if the other is in touching distance they will inevitably end up brawling.

I asked whether separating them would be of benefit.
The response was in the teacher’s personal opinion there may be an advantage.
So I asked how we could make it happen.

There is so much behind this.
I had originally wanted to separate the boys.
They are so similar.
Some twins do not have similar interests, but the boys do, they have similar personalities- with nuances which make them individuals.
And I was originally concerned the teaching team would get them confused.Trunki Spike and TangI was also of the opinion that siblings shouldn’t be in the same class. I suspect if me or my brothers were in the same class the arguments would have been legendary.
Yes. My sons are twins. There should be an additional filter of consideration. But not a blanket consideration.

So I’m a little cross that once again I didn’t follow my instincts as a parent.
That I agreed when I was told the school policy is not to separate twins. Even though I know through TAMBA this may not be upheld if parents present an alternate perspective.
I am annoyed when I hear my sons speak about themselves in the third person because they’ve learned to differentiate themselves for people.
And that they complain that people cannot tell them apart.

And then, the worst part dawned on me.
Yes. This might be the right decision.
But how?
How do you decide which child to take out of their class and put into a new one?

And it’s because children are awesome. (Especially mine).
I asked them.
They decided.

It’s also addressed another issue.
This year E decided he wanted to move his birthday going forward to March 17th (I don’t fully understand the date, he is insistent it should be the day before his sister’s birthday). Why? Because he’s afraid people will muddle up his and his brother’s presents.
But now, his perspective is he’d be happy to share a birthday with his brother, because now he can invite the children in his class, and his presents won’t be muddled because the children in his brother’s class will bring gifts for B.
Problem solved.

And, of course,
The school have been fantastic.
They’ve stopped me from making a knee-jerk reaction to some outsider, who doesn’t know my children from Adam, affecting my judgement.
As any good school would, they’ve asked us to put in place a plan to make sure a considered conclusion is reached for my sons.
That we look more closely at them over the coming half term.
And meet in May, to agree what would be best for my boys.
And potentially discuss with the Governors why, if it is the result, separation is right for B and E.

In many ways, I do not support this course of action.
I do not think I, as a parent, should need to justify my options to people, who, if my children had different birth dates, would not have a say.
I do not see why I am fighting a blanket rule.
When we agree all children are individuals.
That this is an issue simply because they were born on the same day.

But like them, I am not an expert in multiple births.
My twins are individuals, as are all twins, so why should my view about my boys determine how all multiples should be treated.
So, hopefully, the Governors like me might understand the emotional attachment of a parent.
And make a decision based on, like me, wanting the best learning environment for each child.
Which, in B and E’s case, might mean they are too much of a distraction together.

So, here we go.
Let’s see what a more considered future holds for them.
And believing, because the school, for me, has been fantastic,
Will ensure, whatever I think, that B and E have, as individuals, the most positive learning experience.

On hating the school playground

I can’t do all the parent cr*p.
I just can’t.
I think by nature I am an anxious person- hell, becoming a mum proved that.

I’m probably not alone in hating walking into rooms when you don’t know anyone.
Of trying to embrace new social circles.
Becoming a mum and new social situations go hand in hand.

I remember trying to ‘put myself out there’. I went to Buggy Bunch- some form of fitness for new mums around the local park.
I was so excited walking home I phoned hubby at work- I had made friend. She had invited me around to coffee the following week.
She didn’t show the following week. The week after she blanked me. And the week after she was my friend again. And this would be my introduction to competitive parenting. Her baby was teething, and she recited the herbal remedies which she was using to ease baby’s distress. I remember teething being the furthest thing from my mind, I think our babes were no more than a couple of months old. But suddenly I was introduced each week to the latest milestones my baby hadn’t met. I stopped going to Buggy Bunch after a couple of months.

Roll on to the boys, I felt the pressure of CM having a social experience whilst I was so busy with the babies which had landed in her life.

We started going to ballet, messy play, and anything else the local community centre had on offer.
It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t any better.
As new parents we are naturally caught up in our own lives, but there are the good souls, the parents of toddlers who are coming out the other side, some were slightly more aware of the constraints of juggling three under-2’s. They lent a hand, being aware of where personal boundaries might lie and carefully interweaving them. They are the people who make life a bit easier.
But then there are the parents who embark on *that* conversation: “I could never have had twins”, “look at that woman, I couldn’t do it”. Where to even start? It might start off as funny, because it surely couldn’t be a logical thought process. But the conversation grows, others join in the commentary of your life. And it only serves as isolating for one, and camaraderie for the rest.
And you have to breathe, and know it’s not personal, it’s just personal to them.

I’m rambling. But I am going somewhere.
It never actually ends.
Competitive parenting seems a path of the course.
It’s difficult to walk away without becoming isolated. Milestones change from first teeth and weaning, to sitting, walking, potty training, writing, reading… And these become absorbed.
I can cope with these. I am my child’s mother, I am aware of their ability, their strengths and limitations. I shower them with love because I’ve learned as long as I know they’re happy I can bite my tongue at my own competitiveness.

The next hurdle, which it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to get right, is friendship circles. And this is where the problems of the playground come into their own.
You can step away from the competitive conversations but where to go when school friendships are made and broken, and no doubt a child, yours or theirs, is in the wrong. The playground is suddenly a cold place.

With CM, we seem to have found a path. We have been fortunate that since nursery all the parents have been absolutely lovely. Over the years there have been lots of parties, places for parents to get to know the caregivers of the children whose names have become so familiar.
There were hurdles, undoubtedly many friendships in school are initially based on parents being friends, and as they get older so the smaller parties begin, and you are left rationalising with your child when an invite doesn’t come their way.
And CM is, on the whole, accepting. Her friendship group changes regularly. We rise above the conversations about who’s been mean to her, we question what role she played in any fallouts.

Which brings me onto the part which currently has my eyes full of tears. When the playground becomes a horrible place to be, for the adult.
And I’m going to try to be careful with what I say. But I just feel like sh*t over it.Thoughts about the school playgroundThe boys first year in school is more stressful for me than I could have imagined. And I know it’s not that bad, that I am irrational, that these are moments in time, but the latest has hurt a lot. 

Because I’ve been caught up in social media, and believed the hype about supporting each other, about appreciating each other’s challenges, and probably I’ve used the experiences of CM as my benchmark.

The boys started Reception with friendship groups in tact, being based on those made in Nursery. Some fell by the way, which I was unhappy about, but children make their choices.

Shortly into the term we were told that B and E had been part of a group who had been engaging in physical hurting- kicking, punching and the like. The school were fantastic, they talked us through it, rationalised it, and ensured appropriate action was taken. As parents we did our bit. And all seemed well in the world.

The traumas of friendship continued, different days see different friends, some days the boys offer no-one will play with one or the other, the next day everything is well.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the boys’ teachers let us know that B was displaying poor behaviour again. Ignoring instructions and he had nipped a boy in an unprovoked act. Again, the school helped us monitor the behaviour, we couldn’t understand it against B’s behaviour at home, so we talked to him each day about acceptable behaviour and being kind, we tried to increase his sleeping hours in a bid to improve his focus and temperament.
And all was well.

This week it all turned to cr*p again.
Something happened before school on Monday, which on the surface appears to be playground behaviour. And since then, Mr J and the dad of the other child have discussed it, talked about the joys of parenting 5 year olds, and so on.
But on Monday, as the childminder was collecting the child, Mr J decided to have a chat with the childminder to make sure the child was ok.
The childminder proceeded to let Mr J know about what horrible boys we have- who kick and spit and name call. When Mr J attempted to rationalise it with the discussions which have taken place with their teachers, he was told that it was about time our eyes were opened to the situation.

I’ve never been so upset and cross.
What has happened to people? When would that be an appropriate conversation to have? When did a caregiver, who has never witnessed the interaction between the children, have a right to make judgement on a situation?
When would any caregiver think it appropriate to have the conversation with another parent of things they had not witnessed. I would have thought common sense determines that in the first instance any concerns would be discussed with the teaching team or the parent, to understand the underpinning situation.

I decided to speak to the boys teacher. And it has opened up a new set of considerations. Which is probably one for another post, after I’ve thought things through more.

But what I’m so cross about is that I know we can address the behaviour of 5 year olds but this childminder gets to think their behaviour is acceptable. To cast judgement. To be so confident without witness.

I thought I understood this parenting thing.
That some days I will get it right, and most days I’ll get it wrong.
But that’s ok, because I’m not alone.
I have a social circle who I can confide in and talk things through.
I have learned it’s always better to smile and make conversation – even though our children aren’t talking at the moment, they will be next week.
And I thought I understood that for every time my child might have some poor behaviour against another child, chances are in the next month I’ll be told about a nameless child hurting mine.

The school playground really is a place only for children. It seems it takes a more generous adult than most, to step into it and not regress.

And then, they were 5.

I sat in work today and cried.
Fortunately the workshop we were delivering had finished, everyone had left, and I was left reflecting on the week ahead.

A week in which my babies turn 5.

By the time everyone wakes up, B and E will really be 5.
And I don’t know how it happened.
I know we have lived it, I know- especially in the early days- we wondered how we’d all survive.

And yet somehow, we’ve reached a day when my boys will be five.

I was brought down to earth with a bump. Twins are 5I phoned Mr J as I waited for my train home. E has been fighting again.
To alleviate this, we have both spoken with the boys, and both have separately declared E was beating up on B, and no-one else.

The dilemma of twins. They only treat each other badly. And yet every night I will find them cwtching up together in one single bed, despite two being available.

And that’s it.

From this moment:Newborn twinsTo now.

They haven’t changed so much.
But now they are part of our family of five.
And I can’t imagine life without them.

And I can’t imagine how these boys, with their sprawling limbs, who weigh their head on my tummy to watch films, ever fitted inside me.
But proudly I wear my badge, that there was a time when I had three heartbeats.

And now my heart just beats a little louder, a little more anxiously, as these babies of mine grow, to the boisterous boys they have become.
And where my nerves used to be wrangled with whether I could provide for them, now they are wrangled with the adventure these boys pursue with every breath.

And yes.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We’ve five years under our belt.

And as much as I miss the moments, I can’t wait for the next five.

The Secrets of Twins

There must have been a reason for the consultant to mention it, but in the early days of pregnancy- before E stopped growing- the boys measurements were identical. Whilst they had separate sacs and placentas we were made aware that there was still a possibility of our twins being identical.
Non-ID twin boys ultrasound
The boys were born a week before a friend had twin girls, getting them together on a trip to Wales brought to light the differences of non-identical twins.
Non identical twin babiesEven then with weight variances the boys were similar, and equally similar to their big sister, whereas the girls were different in many ways.

And as life would have it, we moved to the same village six months later, and our children have spent a year in the same nursery.
It is as you would think, they are twins, but they are individuals, they are four year-old children, you cannot assume.
I’ve come to the general conclusion that B is cheeky and E is naughty. And that’s the only conclusion I’ve maintained.
Sometimes B and E are tight, sometimes B and CM are best mates, and others E and CM are invincible.
Moods changes, preferences alter, and we roll with it.

Since they started nursery we have aimed to make life easier for the teaching staff… and the other children.
The boys had their initials embroidered on their jumpers, one wears a blue sports shirt and the other white. Oddly, whilst I thought the one wearing blue would feel different, the only boy in class to wear a blue shirt, they actually both want to be the different child- unfortunately the teaching team don’t agree and every time hubby believes the child who says “I wear the blue shirt” whilst the other has a tantrum the teaching team have a day having to really think about each child’s name.
And that was probably my original gripe- should the teaching team learn to tell my children apart by more than the colour of their shirt, but that’s the thing.
The twin girls have grown to be so different- one a petite, short-haired brunette with olive skin, the other with long, almost afro, blonde hair and tall. And yes, you’d say “I’s the little one, C’s the taller” or “one’s blonde the other brunette”, we do distinguish by appearance.
So what do you do when you can’t distinguish?

Twin boys finishing nursery

Fortunately my gripes were pacified. The boys’ reports are testament to the children we recognise at home and the talents the teaching team have nurtured. And I love in this year how much the boys have developed, how when they started B was the less mature, who had ants in his pants, but finishing nursery B is the one more developed in reading, writing and basic maths. E whilst doing well has a greater level of empathy which, at home, contrasts with some of his more naughty antics.

My thoughts about potentially separating them as they move to Reception class have been eliminated, especially as it would mean one child would be in the same class as the afternoon nursery- knowing their classmates, and the other would be with the morning class- knowing few from outside school activities. 

In saying that E has decided that he doesn’t want to be in B’s class at school, albeit his motives are questionable.

There is no questioning the bond these boys have.
Their invasion of each others personal space is a joy to behold.
I am a parent who says “It’s ok, they only bite each other.”
Their unequivocable bond overwhelms, the love they share just when you think hair is about to be torn.

And it is different to siblings.
The bond these boys share with their big sister is the most special.
The love which she has for them, which they reciprocate by placing her on a pedestal.
The ability of the three to travel to their own worlds, to be intrinsically in the same world which grown-ups can’t seem to infiltrate.
That is the joy of siblings.

Siblings

But these boys.
What they have may be every bit the same as non-identical twins, they are- at this point- non-identical twins.
But when I accept everyone’s apology for not being able to tell my boys apart.
Pacifying them with the fact that I have an equal failure rate.
Ruining everyone’s assumption that the minute you become a mum of twins you gain the ability to notice aspects of a person no-one else can.

It is not when they are together,
Together their individuality is obvious.
But separate, for a minute they are each other.
But when you need to discipline them, you don’t have a minute,
And getting their name wrong instantly undermines any authority you hoped you held.

A DNA test won’t make telling them apart any easier.
It might make it easier for those who can’t tell them apart,
“There’s a reason, they’re identical.”
And the money to have the test can be justified “in case of medical need”,
It’s just up to now the extra funds being spent on a holiday has been more justified.

I sense siphoning off a bit of cash on a monthly basis may be called for.