What they deserve

Sam graduated from pre-K last Friday, which I used to think wasn’t a HUGE deal because, really, must we have graduations for every transition in life? But then he graduated and I was crying the second they started playing “Pomp & Circumstance” (on his principal’s iPhone held up to a microphone, which had everyone falling out laughing). He got the superlative of “the next Luke Skywalker,” which is fair, and had lots of cute pictures with his teacher and with us.

Earlier that day, he’d had his kindergarten screening, which was less to see how good he is at the alphabet and counting and such and more to make sure that his classroom next fall is a good mix of kids. While he was busy playing games that demonstrated his abilities in things like motor skills, concepts, and socialization, I got to sit down and learn all about the kindergarten adventure awaiting us in the fall, for which Sam is most assuredly ready and I am mostly ready.

I say “mostly” because I’m vacillating in how emotional I feel about it. Many days, I think, “Please, someone take this child for the full 8 hours of school, I am exhausted” and many days, I think, “Oh, I hope he’s ready, because we’ve been trying really hard, but there’s so much different about school school compared to preschool.”

Years and years ago, before I had kids, I’d planned to homeschool, less because I think that public schools are a bad influence or because I think that they’re bad overall and more because I wanted to be able to give my kids the individual attention that we probably wouldn’t be able to afford for them to get in a public or even private school setting. That way, if any of my kids were super advanced in any area, we could push them harder; and if any of my kids were having a hard time in any area, we could give them a chance to catch up. And, honestly, I still like a lot of that and would probably be more inclined towards homeschooling them if we were ever in a part of the country or the state where the public schools were less consistently good.

(our tiny town of less than 10,000 people is also a pretty upper class town, by and large, so the public schools are pretty well funded and marked well overall for everything but activities–because the schools have about 14 total people in them–and diversity–for the same reason)

But Sam is such a social kid, and yeah, programs exist for socializing homeschooled kids, but he honestly thrives in a classroom environment, even more than I’d expected he would, and I don’t think I could do him justice teaching him at home.

(the jury is still out on Isaac and Carrie)

It’s going to be a huge adjustment for him, and we’re already seeing his anxiety about that ramp up. He’s having a LOT harder time with bedtime lately, coming downstairs multiple times after being tucked in to ask for, say, a cold drink of water or for another bedtime story or so many varied things. And then once he falls asleep, he keeps waking up in the middle of the night wanting to be cuddled and reassured or, on particularly bad nights, to set up a nest in our room and sleep there until morning (mostly because he’s gotten too big for the bed). Part of me–the part that enjoys uninterrupted evenings–is inclined to scold him for it, but most of me gets that he can’t express his anxiety in better ways, so he just struggles sleeping, and we help him through it as we can.

He probably won’t remember us working through this with him–I mean, my own memories of being five are spotty at best and mostly associated with either being constipated or being at Disney World (at one point, both at the same time, hey!), but I hope that it embeds in his subconscious that Kyle and I are here to help him work through the things he can’t figure out on his own.

Ultimately, that’s what I want for my kids. I don’t want any of them to ever have the feeling of “oh man, my dad/mom’s gonna kill me, I can’t tell them about this!” or “I’ll be in too much trouble if they find out; I have to do this on my own.” If they end up at a party and can’t trust their friends to take them home for whatever reason, even if they weren’t supposed to be there in the first place, I want them to call me for a ride. If they’re really struggling with their classes in school, I want them to ask for help. If they end up either pregnant or getting someone pregnant or with an STD, I want them to talk to me as soon as it happens so that we can work out a plan together.

If they’re queer in any way–homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, genderqueer, whatever–I want them to know that they can come out to me without fear and that I’ll always be their fiercest advocate, no matter the political climate or what anyone else thinks.

If their life path takes them in a direction that maybe I don’t agree with but isn’t hurting themselves or anyone else (objectively speaking), I want them to know that I love and support them no matter what, that they will always have a place in my home.

If their political or religious beliefs differ wildly from mine but they aren’t hurting themselves or anyone else or advocating for hurting themselves or anyone else, I want them to always be able to talk to me openly and comfortably, to know that I take them seriously, even while they’re still kids.

Because they’re my kids, and honestly, it’s the least they deserve.

 

What have we learned?

One year ago today, I was in the hospital, hooked up to all sorts of monitors, plugged into all sorts of IVs, waiting to walk back for my C-section. I won’t lie–I was pretty nervous. Even though I know a lot of people who’ve delivered via C-section and even though I knew statistics, major abdominal surgery isn’t something that you skip into scattering flowers on the road as you go (though if I ever do have another C-section, I’m going with that route). And, you know, I ultimately loved my C-section and would 100% do it again (should the need arise), but at the moment, it was scary.

Also scary was the future, in a different way than I’d known before. Having Sam was its own variety of scary (the variety that says, “wait, you want me to be 100% responsible for this small human’s life? Have you seen me? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”), but this was something entirely new. With Sam, I knew so many people who’d had one kid at a time and were telling me, “Oh, yeah, I remember when little Hippocrates went through that phase. Try giving him a large sock to chew on” and things like that. With the twins? Notsomuch. I’ve got a couple of friends who also have twins, and I can’t seem to go to Target with the babies without someone saying, “Oh! My grandniece’s manager’s sister’s brother-in-law’s best friend has twins!” but it’s not quite the same as having people really close to you, people in your tribe, who’ve been where you are.

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It’s a learning curve, more than with Sam. A delightful learning curve, but a learning curve, just the same.

So. What have I learned?

1: C-sections aren’t scary. I talked about that last week.

2: The NICU is scary, but it can also be weirdly convenient. I would not want another baby in there for all the money in the world. I still can’t watch videos from when the twins were in the NICU without feeling sick to my stomach. The other day, I was reading a chapter in a visual novel (shh, we all have our hobbies and apps), and a character’s baby ended up in the NICU, and I was there sobbing about this Dollar Store brand Grey’s Anatomy and a pixelated baby in an incubator.

Because it was scary and GOD did it hurt. I internalized a lot of it. I never really cried about it much, not as much as I probably should have, but I felt it all. The moment when Isaac stopped breathing in my arms because he was eating too fast is burned into my brain. I can’t let it go.

But.

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It was weirdly convenient. We hadn’t expected the babies to come this early, so we needed the time to get things ready for them at home. I’d been panicking about the recovery time for my likely C-section, wondering how–even with Kyle home–I’d take care of two babies and a four-year-old while recovering from major abdominal surgery.

And we got two weeks. Two weeks to finish preparing, two weeks to recover. I never want to see the inside of a NICU again, but man, it was infuriatingly convenient.

3: Nothing about having one baby is at all like having two babies.

When you have twins, people comment in two different ways: they either talk about a distant acquaintance who had or has twins OR they talk about how their experience with one crazy child was like having two children at once.

It is not.

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No matter how crazy your singular child is (and I say this from the perspective of also having a crazy child), you only have one at a time. When you have two, everything takes twice as long, needs to be twice as much. A singular crazy child only needs to have their diaper changed once at a time, and yes, they may have bouts of diarrhea and such, but pretend you have two people with diarrhea and you’ll see where I’m coming from.

You can feed one child at once easily. When you  have two children and you’re alone, someone else is always screaming while you feed the one… at least until they can eat solid foods and you can distract the one who drew the short straw with some tiny goldfish or something.

The twins are REALLY good babies, but there are two of them. No matter how good they are, there will always be two of them. This means double diapers, double formula, double bedtimes, double potty training and baths and walking. And yes, that’s what it’s like having two kids, but most of the time, you can stagger it a little bit. There’s no staggering here.

I love it. I love it a lot. But it’s a LOT of work.

4: Wrangling three children is VERY hard, and when two are infants, it’s basically impossible without another adult around to help.

5: Special needs happen. And they’re not easy to deal with, but by the same token, you have to deal with them and put aside your own worries (will the helmets be enough? How will we afford it if they need a second set? Will they ever catch up to where they should be?) so that you can focus on helping your kid.

And furthermore, when your kid has a special need, no matter what it is, their need is not about you. Their story with whatever it is–developmental delays, physical handicaps, neurodivergence–is your story. You’re part of it, but I guarantee that if you make your kid’s special need about you, you’ll make it a thousand times harder for everyone involved.

6: Even when you live on a really strict budget, even when you’re technically better off than a lot of people your age, it’s still possible to reach the end of the pay period and overdraw your account at the supermarket, not because you’ve been throwing cash at frivolities or not paying attention to how much you’re spending, but because sometimes, every bill hits at once or you miss something or you run out of a necessity before you thought you would, and at least you’re not losing your house or anything, but you wonder how you’re going to feed your kids this week.

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It sucks.

We’re mostly out of that woods. This coming Tuesday, the twins have their one year appointment, and we’ll see if they can switch off formula completely, which I hope they can, because that’ll save us about $200 a month (like. Not completely because we’ll be buying a lot of milk, but even buying a gallon of milk a day won’t add up to the cost of formula). Next month, Sam has his kindergarten orientation and registration, and in September, his tuition goes away. Another $400 a month we’re not having to throw around.

But twins were a monkey wrench in an otherwise pretty smooth system. They took away my ability to work, mostly because daycare is so expensive, and they’ve added a lot of costs to our lives. And again, I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it’s been a financially stressful year, to say the very least.

(like thank GOD we’re not still giving them the formula that cost us $120 a week, that was awful)

7: Every baby is different. For myself, I think it would be hard for me to recognize this without having two babies at once. Like, I intellectually know it, but I think so much about statistical averages and things like that, I’d be likely to factor in mitigating factors. Like oh, my second child is doing this at this time, and Sam did it at this time, but we were still in the apartment when Sam was that age, so he couldn’t really crawl around, and wow, Sam was way faster at this than this baby, but he was slower to talk…

When you’ve got two babies at once, you can’t really attribute their differences to anything but that they’re different babies. And they’ve both been very different, from the moment they were conceived. I don’t know how much I attribute it to personality, since I feel like a lot of that is nurture more than nature, but I don’t know what else to call it. They’ve just been so different from day one, not just developmentally but in the way they interact with the world, and while I suppose there have been miniscule differences in the way we treat them (like maybe we smiled more at one than the other or maybe one was having a poopy week or things like that), it’s nothing that would necessarily create this much of a difference in the way they behave.

8: Especially when babies have developmental delays, you need to let go of expectations. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I went into parenthood, I read a lot, and I still do read a lot. When Sam was a baby, I got especially focused on milestones, particularly around when he’d have a doctor’s appointment. If I saw a milestone that he hadn’t hit quite yet, I spent the next several days coaching him until he got it, and he always hit his milestones before those appointments. He followed the book, as they say.

The twins? Not so much.

I knew that going in, too, but I really learned to let go of expectations when Carrie started to fall behind Isaac in terms of milestones. For a little while, they were neck-in-neck and mostly hitting milestones about where they should have with their adjusted age, but around the 8-10 month mark (6 ½ to 8 ½ months adjusted), after Carrie learned to sit up, she kind of… stalled out. I think she just likes sitting too much, since it’s neat and easy and lets her play when she wants to, but because she liked it so much, she was foregoing crawling and that… that isn’t good.

When we had her evaluated, the therapists who saw her explained that it didn’t seem to be something inherent or unchanging, just that she’d slowed herself down to probably develop another skill a lot more (in her case, communication, my little chatterbug). But it was just this stark reminder that (a) babies are different and (b) I had to let go of what I expected the twins to be like. They’re their own people, no matter how you shake it.

9: Everything is easier when you’re doing it as a team.

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Which is a funny lesson to learn because, in a scholastic setting, I hate group work. It’s a friendship killer.

But in family and marriage, having a partner there who really sees themself as your partner and who remembers that you succeed or fail as a family makes all the difference in the world. I can’t pretend this last year, despite how great the twins are, wasn’t hard… but I also can’t pretend that having Kyle as my partner and co-team lead didn’t make it a helluva lot easier than it could’ve been otherwise. From switching off shifts at night to tag-teaming poopsplosions to just lying in bed at the end of a long day and laughing together, he’s made the last year even better than it otherwise would’ve been.

10: I love my life. I really do.

I love my kids. They’re amazing, even when they’re driving me crazy (Sam is so smart that he spends his days going 95 MPH around the entire house; Isaac has entered the “let me hit and scratch your face because I’m curious about it” phase; Carrie has entire chunks of the day where she screams at an eardrum shattering pitch because she doesn’t want to be put down ever). I love to hold them, love the feeling of their weight against me when they settle down to rest, love their three unique giggles, love the way they interact with each other, love them to absolute pieces.

I love being at home with them. Oh, sure, I miss getting out of the house and, to an extent, I miss working (mostly because it meant getting out of the house and thinking about something that wasn’t poop for 8 hours at a time), but I love having days with my kids. I love cooking them meals and playing with them and making sure they stick to something resembling a schedule.

I love my husband, because he’s the best.

And I wouldn’t trade this life for anything in the world. No, not even for paid off student loans (but please pay off my student loans anyway).

So it’s been a year, and I’ve learned a lot, and at the end of it all, I’m very happy. I think Isaac and Carrie are, too. And having a happy family–myself included–feels pretty good.

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A Post with No (Few) Words

I’m not writing much today, since things remain relatively… normalish. Kyle is going back to work tomorrow, I should get an all-clear at my postpartum appointment on Friday, Sam’s birthday is in 19 days, and the twins are doing very well (save for some constipation issues, but that’s the name of the game in this house). No, today, I wanted to just post some of the pictures from our newborn/family photo shoot last week,  because they make me happy.

(all pictures were taken by Melanie Haney from Simply Mella Photography. Real talk: if you’re in Massachusetts or New Hampshire and need a photographer, hire Melanie. She’s amazing)

 

(that’s Isaac on the left and Carrie on the right)

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