Parenting Quotes I’m Eating Back Today


I once read a quote. It went a little like this: “at the beginning of my career I had no kids and 12 principles; today I have 12 kids and no principle.” I was blessed with 4 relatively compliant children before I gave birth to 4 more. When I was having children in my 20s, I believed – clears throat with embarrassment — that my success in raising easygoing children was no-doubt related to my stellar parenting skills. What I lacked in skills, I made-up in youthful exuberance. Now that I have experience and some skills, I will readily admit that I have no clue. It’s true. My experience parenting is like the used children’s shoes in my basement: no matter how many I keep, I can never find a pair of the right size, at the right time, for the right season. Over the years, I have developed an expertise in each one of my children but here’s the catch: no matter how many children I had, they all came out as unique individuals. Never seen before and never to be repeated again. Isn’t human reproduction amazing that way? If 18 years of parenting has taught me anything, this is it: the lessons learned from raising this child are rarely applicable to raising that child. I still don’t know what I’m doing but I am more “zen” about it. Instead of seeing children as problems to solve, I see them as a puzzles to complete. I did not draw the picture, but with careful dedication I can help it come together.

When I think about my early years as a parent, it is often to eat back some pearl of wisdom with a generous serving of Humble Sauce. Gulp. Here are some of my gems.

“Children won’t draw on walls if they have access to paper.” Did you know that I spent the first 8 years of my life-with-children without a single drawing-on-walls incident? Then we sold a house and shortly before we moved my 3 year-old decorated a wall with black permanent marker. Now I have children who won’t draw on paper if they have access to a wall.

“I will never buy size 6 diapers.” Seems simple enough: if a child is big enough to wear size 6 diapers, he’s old enough to potty train. Right? Guess who just purchased a Costco-sized box of size 6 diapers for her nearly-3-year-old child? Take heart, all you parents of late potty-trainers for it turns out that potty-readiness is completely out of your hands. The good news is that accepting this simple fact will make potty-training a lot easier for everyone involved.

“I won’t let myself get fat.” When I was dating my now-husband, he came to visit me at my parents’ house on his motorcycle wearing his full-leather gear. I was in the pool at the time and we couldn’t resist the temptation to take a biker chick picture, him in his leather chaps, me in my bathing suit. I found out that I was pregnant shortly after and upon seeing the picture, my aunt – who had 4 children – said “Keep that picture because you’ll never look like this in a bathing suit ever again.” I declared that I would not let maternity ruin my body. Well guess what?? Maternity never asked my opinion. Maternity took my body and turned it upside down. It moved my organs around and re-shaped my pelvis to its liking. It not only packed-on pounds as it was growing 9 healthy humans, it refused to lose even one as it was busy feeding them. I ran and I dieted and I ran some more. I stretched and planked and even starved myself at some point. It never went down. I got sick, I de-calcified my teeth, but I never lost a single breastfeeding pound. Today, after my easiest pregnancy and a beautiful home birth, I am breastfeeding a 4 month-old and a 3 year-old and I weight as much as I did during my last week of twin pregnancy. I am 60 lbs heavier than I was on that infamous picture 18 years ago and my dress size has more than doubled, going from 6 to 14. I’m definitely bringing booty back. And boobs. And legs.

“If your child is old enough to ask for breast milk, he is too old to nurse.” Refer to previous paragraph about nursing a 3 year-old. She’s been old enough to ask for milk for almost 2 years. She can explain the difference between cow’s milk (milk in a cup) and breast milk (milk in the mouth). Heck, she can ask for milk in both official languages.

What about you? Did you know everything about parenting until you had kids? What pearls of wisdom are you eating back today? Share in the humble pie!

Jumeaux: L’histoire bien ordinaire de deux bébés en santé


For my English readers: I am starting a new page on Vie de cirque on life with twins titled (loosely translated): “Twins – A very ordinary story”.  I chose to write the twin page in French as my blog gets more hits from Internet searches about “jumeaux” than “twins.” I can translate as requested.

J’ajoute une nouvelle page à Vie de cirque sur la vie avec les jumeaux. La plupart des visiteurs de mon blog qui ne sont pas les membres de ma famille ou mes amis y arrivent par le biais d’une recherche Internet sur les jumeaux. Sur une de mes pages Facebook pour les parents de naissances multiples une maman enceinte de jumeaux a posé la question suivante:

Si vous pouviez retourner en arrière au moment où vos bébés sont nés, sachant ce que vous savez maintenant, quel serait votre meilleur conseil à vous-même?

Quelle excellente question! Quelle excellente occasion de réfléchir sur notre parcours et sur ce que nous avons appris, parfois à la dure! J’ai répondu à sa question sur Facebook — avec une vingtaine d’autres mamans — mais je n’avais pas assez d’espace pour tout exprimer. J’ai donc importé la question sur mon blogue et j’ai l’intention d’écrire une série d’articles sur les aspects pratiques (et moins pratiques) de la vie quotidienne avec les jumeaux.

Le premier article sera sur la grossesse et l’accouchement et j’y publierai certaines des meilleures photos que Clara a prise en salle d’opération. Si ce genre de récit ou de photos vous rendent mal-à-l’aise, je vous suggère de passer par dessus le post ou d’éviter la page des jumeaux. Mais ne vous inquiétez pas, il n’y aura rien de trop graphique!

Câlins


Il y a quelques jours j’ai publié sur les difficultés que j’avais à faire dormir Lucas. Vous pouvez lire la publication (en anglais) ici. En somme, Lucas est un bébé adorable et souriant mais qui a du mal à s’endormir seul. Dans un moment de panique sans doute causé par un excès d’hormones (car je ne suis pas d’un naturel paniqué), je me suis vue passer les deux prochaines années à endormir Lucas en le berçant ou en l’allaitant à toutes les 30 minutes. Ce n’est pas tiré par les cheveux: je l’ai fait pour Colin, Marie et Sarah. Et pourtant, après 6 enfants, je devrais savoir que l’art de s’endormir c’est comme la propreté: ça ne se force pas, ça vient de l’enfant ou ça ne vient pas. Bien qu’il soit possible d’aider nos bébés à développer une bonne hygiène du sommeil en les encourageant à apprendre à s’endormir seuls, j’ai du mal à décider quoi faire avec Lucas. J’ai essayé de le mettre au lit somnolent mais réveillé, J’ai essayé de le mettre au lit endormi, mais Lucas se réveille aussitôt que je le dépose. J’ai dû me rendre à l’évidence: soit je l’endort sur moi ou dans la balançoire, soit je le laisse crier.

Il est parfois nécéssaire de laisser un bébé pleurer afin qu’il se rendorme seul. Certains parents (comme moi) éprouvent beaucoup de réticence à laisser un bébé pleurer et choisissent plutôt d’aider l’enfant à se rendormir en l’allaitant ou en le berçant ou en lui redonnant sa suce qu’il a laissé tomber. J’ai essayé la méthode du 5-10-15 avec Colin, Marie et Sarah avec plus ou moins de succès. Mais il semble que plus je vieilli — et plus je me rapproche de la fin des bébés — plus je veux apprécier mes bébés et non me battre avec eux. J’ai dû beaucoup porter Marie et Colin et je regrette de ne pas l’avoir fait avec plus de coeur: en rétrospective, ils ne sont pas restés bébés bien longtemps. Oui leur petite enfance était intense. Mais il me semble, aprés réflection, que j’aurais pu la rendre moins intense en ayant une meilleure attitude. Ça n’aurait rien changé aux besoins de mes bébés mais j’en aurais sans doute de meilleurs souvenirs.

C’est ainsi que j’étais indécise, paralysée par la fatigue, prise entre mon besoin de sommeil et mon appréhension à laisser Lucas pleurer. Puis est arrivée une journée de fous. Un samedi où j’étais seule avec une montagne de travail et 8 enfants. Ève dormait et Lucas, bien, Lucas ne dormait pas. Il était complètement épuisé, incapable de s’endormir au sein ou dans l’écharpe. Au bout du rouleau, j’ai dis à Lucas: “Bien si tu vas pleurer mon bonhomme, aussi bien de pleurer dans ton lit!” et je l’ai mis au lit pendant que je faisais quelques tâches. Au bout de 15 minutes, incapable de le laisser pleurer plus longtemps, je suis allée le rechercher. C’est alors qu’il a poussé un long soupir, a fermé les yeux et s’en endormi dans mes bras en finissant de sangloter. Ensuite, je suis tombée sur cette illustration au dos du dernier Youpi! des enfants. C’en était trop.

Lucas, c’est mon nounours. Je ne peux pas le laisser pleurer quand il a seulement besoin d’être tenu bien au chaud. Lucas n’a pas besoin de se faire une maman de neige quand il se sent seul. C’est vrai que le sommeil est une composante importante de la santé en général et qu’une mauvaise hygiène du sommeil entraîne des problèmes de toute sorte chez le bébé et l’enfant. Là où je décroche, c’est à l’idée que l’apprentissage du sommeil passe par l’apprentissage de l’autonomie. Car le besoin d’affection et d’attachement est au moins aussi important à la survie du petit humain que le besoin de repos.

Lorsque je vais repenser aux premiers mois de Lucas, je veux me souvenir des câlins, pas des cris.

The Pits of Post-Partum


Let’s make one thing clear: the only reason why my posts on Facebook and Twitter are upbeat and positive is because I am generally upbeat and positive and I don’t want to be seen as a whiner. But the other day, when I asked my husband “The people who do it all well, how do they do it?” and he answered, wisely, “Maybe they aren’t”, I thought how social media is great at making us look exactly how we want to be seen.

It’s an interesting paradox in that we can reveal as little or as much as we want over social media. Some people are open books and others appear completely one-dimensional. Some are always whiny, others always rant-y, some always SHOUT and other pepper everything with  exclamation marks!!!! I realized, while reading over some of my Facebook Friends’ posts, that I could be equally guilty —  if guilty is the appropriate word because I don’t think that posting too little is a sin — of making life with newborn twins in a large family look like a walk in the park.

Let me preface what I am about to write by saying that I am not looking for advice (unless you want to provide it). This post is not meant to make you feel bad for not helping more. It is not meant as a pity party and I don’t need you to write to let me know that I am not fat, lazy and stupid (unless you really want to). But looking back at the last 2 months, I get the impression, confirmed by every mother of twins I have met, that I won’t remember much from the first 6 months of my babies’ lives. And so this post is as much to let you know how it really goes down around here as a personal chronicle of the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly, of those infamous first 6 months.

In the last 2 weeks, I have really hit the wall. The twins are 6 to 8 weeks and our family life has to return to a semblance of normalcy. In the last 2 months, I have barely slept. This is a true fact. With a singleton, you don’t sleep a lot. With twins, you don’t sleep at all. On the rare occasion when I get-up in a controlled mood – not even good, but not flying-off-the-handle – I realize how much parents influence the mood of the family as a whole. These days, it seems like everyone is barking at everyone and I can’t escape the fact that this is the tone I am setting. Each member of my family needs so much more than I am able to give right now, extreme fatigue and the relentlessness of caring for twin infants are limiting me physically and emotionally. My youngest children need more of me. My oldest children need more from me.

Every book will tell you that housework can wait but what about the things that can’t wait? Like keeping my toddler from killing herself, teaching my son that he doesn’t have to whine all the time or trying to understand why my teens or pre-teens are in a funk? In the Pits of Post-Partum, it’s not the dirty toilet that overwhelms me. While housework does make me feel like I’m not quite keeping up, it’s all the missed and messed-up opportunities to be an adequate parent that grab me by the throat. The more tired I get, the more help I need but the more tired I get, the more uncooperative my children become. It’s a vicious circle that I won’t break without investing more time in forming the children; not only correcting their lack of cooperation but also giving something in return, like gratefulness, understanding and appreciation.

There is literally 100 important things competing for every minute of time when I am not  caring for the babies. And the more time goes by, the more things don’t get done. The constant gasping for more time is the biggest challenge of our large family. At any given moment, there are two kinds of stuff: stuff that needs to be done and stuff that isn’t getting done. I have developed a quasi-allergic reaction to idle time. Angst washes over me whenever I find myself idle with apparently nothing to do because it means that I’m forgetting something: a load of laundry, some boiling water for the bottles, a kid’s lunch.

In the Pits of Post-Partum, I don’t only anguish over the things I’m not doing now, I’m also worried about the things I should be doing soon, like exercise and lose the 20 extra pounds the twins have left behind. But right now, I can’t imagine having the physical energy to exercise or the mental energy to diet. I keep snacking on high-energy food while doing a double-take every time I see myself in a mirror. I still look 5 months pregnant for goodness sake!

And yet, even in the Pits of Post-Partum my beautiful family is what I am the most proud of. When we go out as a family I just want to yell “LOOK PEOPLE! 8 KIDS! I have 8 KIDS!” And maybe therein lies the rub: in the Pits of Post-Partum, I feel in short cycles tremendously blessed and terrified that I may be coming-up short.

It says we only live once. There is no second chance.