Having twins isn’t such a big deal anymore. It seems like everywhere you go there is a set of twins or triplets or even quads.
But although there are more of us mothers of multiples, I find that parents of “singletons” still aren’t sure of the rules of friendship.
I get it. To be honest, it’s dangerous ground. As a mother of girl-girl twins and another daughter just a year behind in school, most people think they are triplets. Nearly everyone I encounter is extremely kind and includes all three of my girls, but I’m not sure if that is the best course of action (for them or my kids) so I thought I would provide a few tips:
+ Do I have to invite both twins to my child’s birthday party/play date? In my opinion, twins should not mean a package deal, so the short answer is no. It’s your party and you can do whatever you want. Most parents of twins would not want their child to be excluded for the sake of the other. However, I would offer the following guideline: if your child is in the same class with both twins, or the twins feel that your child is their mutual friend, then know you are probably going to have some hurt feelings. If the twins are in separate classes, than no, you do not have to invite the other twin unless you want to and have the room.
I’ve heard some parents of multiples grumble about this, and they feel very strongly that it is both their kids of none of them. When it comes to this then you have to do what works for your child–and that may mean playing with neither of them outside of school. From my point of view twins — even identical — need to be treated more like siblings than a set. It is hard when one of my daughters gets invited to more events than the other, but it is an important lesson that life isn’t always fair. In some instances, it gives me an opportunity to talk about social skills and being a good friend to the one who does not get invited.
I am very appreciative when moms reach out and discuss the issue with me. For example, one mom said that she could only fit five girls in her car for a birthday outing, but she didn’t want my daughter’s twin to feel left out. I readily told her that it was fine, but I did respect the mom’s compassion towards my daughter and the heads up before the invite came so I could discuss it with them. It’s then my job as the mom to ensure my other daughter gets socialization of her own. If one of my twins gets to do something fun, I use that as an opportunity for some one on one time, or she gets to invite a friend of her own over for the day.
+ I have been invited to a twins birthday party….do we get them the same gift? I always look at gift giving as a choice and personal, but I understand why this is a dilemma for some parents who don’t want to hurt feelings. The short answer is I always think it’s good to tailor the gift to the individual, but do whatever works for you. For example, for years my girls often got Barbies as gifts where one was blond and the other a brunette (just like my fraternal twin girls.) Separate but equal. For some people who really knew both my kids, they would buy something based on each girls’ interest (e.g., a Hello Kitty puzzle for one and a horse puzzle for the other.) My kids personally were never a fan of joint presents because they had to share everything, but that being said, they knew better than to complain — and sometimes a special gift for both of them did become their favorite. Any parent worth their salt is not going to let any of their kids get wrapped up in the fairness of the presents (pun intended) so don’t stress out about it! The last thing I want to do is stress another parent out.
Sometimes parents of twins have a joint party, but let each child invite their own guests. If you receive this type of invitation, feel free to only purchase one gift for the child that invited your son or daughter. Parents of multiples usually set the expectation for their twins before the event.
+ My child only likes one of the twins and no longer wants to play with both of them…what do I do? This is a toughie but a common problem. Although most people think that multiples have a leg up on socialization, it usually is the exact opposite. Parents of multiples don’t always seek out as much social interaction for their children because they have an always-available playmate, and if they do try to set up playdates when they are young, it is not always reciprocated since some parents find hosting multiple children a daunting task. This means that multiples can be behind when it comes to social issues.
Keep in mind that parents of multiples are often receptive to individual playdates, but no parent likes to hear that another child doesn’t like their kid. Instead, keep it positive: “My son loved playing Legos with Brendan at school and wanted to invite him over to build a new set. I thought it would be nice if they got some one on one time together, does Thursday work for you?”
In the rare situation that a parent of twins pushes back and suggests that you invite both, keep it simple: “My son doesn’t do as well when there is more than one kid over at the house. If it doesn’t work for your family, I understand.” But unless you have something specific to address about the other twin’s behavior, don’t use that as your excuse. Chances are the other parent is painfully aware that one of their children is more socially adept than the other — or maybe the other twin isn’t looking to forge a friendship with your child either.
At the end of the day, if your child befriends a twin, a set of twins, or the Gosling sextuplets, do what works for you; but as you should for any child, keep in mind the feelings of the kids and their parents. And if you are unsure, talk about it with the parents and they can decide what works best for their families.
It finally happened. My almost ten-year old asked me when she was going to get a cell phone. Her exact words were: “I don’t have to have one right now, but I heard some of the kids in my class are getting one for their tenth birthdays, so I was just wondering.”
I’ve told my kids that I am not sure when I will get them their own phone. There is no exact date or age I am ready to commit to at this moment because honestly, those small pieces of plastic scare the crap out of me. If my kids sometimes can’t remember to take a shower, I am sure as heck not ready to trust them with a phone.
But it’s not just electronics. My 8-year-old wanted to buy a shirt from Justice that I didn’t think was appropriate, despite her assurance that another girl in her class had the same one. Then I said no to shoes with heels. And then I said no to watching the movie Pitch Perfect, which apparently was a discussion at the lunch table (I personally loved it, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain that shower scene.) I found middle ground by letting them watch the music portions on You Tube.
It used to be so much easier. No, you can’t bring Lunchables to school because I’d prefer if you had something else. No, you can’t stay up to midnight like your friend because our rules are different. No, you can’t watch Calliou because he makes mommy want to put pins in her eyes. Easy decisions, easy parenting.
But it’s so much harder now. Now there are sleep overs at parent’s houses I am still just getting to know. Now they have friends with unfettered access to technology. Now I am having serious discussions based on other people’s parenting styles, discussions that are important and serious and could be life-saving.
And I started thinking, if raising kids takes a village, why do I feel like I am on an island?
I never thought of myself as a strict, helicopter-type parent, but I am a “what-if” parent. Every time I let my child do something new, I try to run down the “what-ifs.” What if I let them go to a house that has a gun….would they know what to do? What if a stranger tried to contact their friend online, would they know what to do? What if , God forbid, another mom took them to Justice without me (can you tell how I feel about that store?)
As much as we try, chances are your kids will not always be friends with parents who have the same philosophies as yours. The way I see it, I have three choices: 1) lock my kids away in my house and never let them go anywhere (most appealing, but obviously not the most realistic). 2) throw caution to the wind and hope for the best (never going to happen) or 3) ensure other parents are aware of my expectations when my kids are in their possession (by far the least appealing, but obviously the one I have to choose.)
Recently a friend told me about a sleepover her eleven year old daughter went to last year. Her impression of the family was great, but because both parents work outside the home and have two other children, she did not yet have an opportunity to get to know them well. She was extremely surprised (and relieved) when the mom sent a quick email letting the parents know what movie she was going to play, that there were no guns in her home, and that her teenage son would be sleeping at a friend’s house (something my friend hadn’t even thought of yet!) Now that’s a parent I can get on board with!
I really believe that most parents have my kids’ best interests at heart, and I’m not so naive to think that one exposure to a violent video game or risqué movie is going to scar them for life, but getting a vibe for who your children are spending time with outside of the home is important.
But sometimes parents view questions about their parenting style or private life as intrusive and a nuisance. And that’s when you have to make the tough decisions — do you stay one your island, your principles, your instincts — or do you roll the dice?
I know that as my kids get older and more independent, it’s just going to get harder, so I’m trying to put some rules together now so there’s no lip-service later. Studies have shown that having consistent and clear family rules early on can minimize the risks they’ll take when they’re teens – a time when your opportunities for meeting their friends and their friends’ parents is greatly reduced.
So what kind of rules should you start thinking about? Here are a few ideas of discussions to have with your children when they are in another parent’s care:
+ No playdates, sleepovers or outings until we meet the parents. Period. I had this discussion with my kids recently. I’m all for them going to other people’s house, but the rule is I have to meet the parents first. I figure if I start this now, they will be prepared when I still do it in a few years (whether I embarrass them or not!)
+ Create a code. A friend of mine told me that her daughter and her had a code phrase — I have a really bad headache — that she could use if she was uncomfortable at someone’s house. If the daughter called and used the code, mom or dad would pick her up, no questions asked. Brilliant.
+ Talk about consequences. I’m not going to punish my kid for playing video games all day or watching a movie she “probably” knew she shouldn’t have; but there are certain family rules that must be adhered to regardless of where my kids are at the time. If they are caught doing something against the rules — even if it’s allowed at someone else’s house — there will be consequences.
+ Discuss the issues that scare the heck out of you. I have spoken to my kids about gun safety every year since their first alone play date at age five. I recently broached the subject of alcohol and prescription medication after reading about two ten-year old boys who drank cough medicine to get drunk — at the advice of an older brother. My kids are on the younger side of the maturity scale, but I still want them to be aware just in case they are exposed.
+ Arm them with answers. So much of kids’ stupid behavior is merely because they don’t know what to do when they get blindsided. While I would love my kids to stand up for themselves, right now I’m more concerned with ensuring they keep themselves out of sticky situations. I told my kids if they are ever in a situation where they are uncomfortable, they should blame me and fear of my wrath if they get caught. I remember how important it was to feel like you fit in, but I also remember my friends knowing that if I missed my curfew or got caught being somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be, my mom would lay down the hammer. It probably got me — and my besties — out of saying yes to some really stupid things.
What rules do you have for your kids when they are outside the home?
So, I received my first piece of hate mail. It was from an address I didn’t recognize with an ominous subject line:
You Should Read This
Then there was only this link.
At first I was going to dismiss it as some Nigerian Bank scam request, but then I glanced again and saw the title in the link. Of course I clicked. There was no additional message, but I could read between the lines. Someone did not think my wine at playdates was such a good idea.
The article is old, from 2009, and it details why “cocktail playdates” are bad. My first reaction was sad (how can someone hate me so much!) Then I was defensive (how dare someone judge my wine drinking!) Then I forgot about it a bit because I was grocery shopping. Then I remembered it was time for another blog post.
First, let me state that this post has nothing to do with the author of this blog, Jennifer Ginsburg. She is an addiction specialist and I’m sure she’s seen some pretty scary stuff. She’s also a mom and allowed to have whatever opinion she wants.
I also am aware that some of the first women to discuss their drinking wine at playdates due to the pressures of mommyhood via social media have now also admitted that they have a drinking problem. Some have needed to seek counseling and entered a life-long battle with addiction. This makes me sad, and I would never want to demoralize someone’s problem with alcohol.
Second, I am also not encouraging wine at all playdates. I once was part of a small playgroup on Thursday mornings where our extremely young children interacted in someone’s basement. This was a great way to encourage my at-the-time developmentally-delayed daughter to take part in group play,learn appropraite social interactions, and boost her speech. While I enjoyed these women, obviously it was not wine-appropriate.
Finally, I understand I am not the only person with a blog writing about wine, my kids, and my need for more wine. It’s a pretty common topic, particularly because I think it’s the thread that binds so many of us. I also understand the stigma associated with upper middle class suburbanites, their first world problems, and their need to drink wine to deal with the pressures of being a housewife. I can understand how it must look to the outside, so I thought I would take a few minutes to explain why I am okay with wine at my adult-centric playdates.
(Because I’m new to this blogging thing, I feel I should add a disclaimer here that states I never condone playdating and driving, and if you have infants, you may want to stick to just one glass. Hoping this legally protects me and absolves me from any bad behavior due to the result of reading this blog in the court of Law.)
So here we go:
1. Wine is just good. If the Google source is true, it was Martin Luther who said “Beer is made by men, Wine by God.” Who can argue with that? I’ve been drinking wine long before I had kids and my guess is I’ll keep drinking it long after they have their own. I enjoy trying new wines, pairing it with good food and seeing if a twist off bottle can be as good as one that is corked (the jury is still out on this.) It is the perfect punctuation to a long day. Yes, like Pavlov’s dog, the minute I see a bottle of KJ, I relax a little. If loving wine makes me wrong, I don’t want to be right.
2. Wine is a great opening line. I’ve moved around quite a bit, but I’ve found out there is one universal love language that most women speak: wine. I firmly believe that I have such a great support network of women because we’ve shared a glass to talk about life. And contrary to what you may think, I do have friends that don’t drink. In those [rare] instances, I go to my next best vice, coffee. My point is: this journey through life sometimes can be lonely and making friends can be tough. You have to put yourself out there, and sometimes offering a mom picking up their kid from a playdate in for a glass of wine (or any other beverage) is a nice, non-threatening way to make a new acquaintance. Try it. You may make a very lonely person very happy.
3. I miss happy hour. There, I said it. It doesn’t mean that I would trade my kids in for the two-for-one drink specials at Bennigan’s, but yes, I sometimes miss Friday night happy hours with my co-workers. It’s pretty hard to get out in the winter in places like Chicago and Pittsburgh with three little kids, and it can get lonely when your husband travels a lot. Sometimes discussing the latest plot twists on Jessie from the Disney Channel or how the tye-dyed rubber bands are the worst for the rainbow loom is not exactly the stimulating conversation I am craving. It’s even harder when your kids are younger and your thoughts center on things like where are Max and Ruby’s parents and why doesn’t Caillou’s mom just tell him to toughen up! And while I work part-time out of my home, I can go weeks only exchanging e-mails with people. Friday (wine) playgroups for me became something to look forward to; a time when I knew I got to socialize with people I enjoyed while my kids got to do something they liked as well. To me, it’s no different from kids running around at a Super Bowl party or a 4th of July picnic. Yes, people are drinking, hopefully responsibly, but it is the social aspect that I desire.
4. Serve wine for you, not the kids. This was my favorite quote from the article:
“Are we ready to call the cocktail playdate what it is — a lame excuse for mothers to hang out and get trashed while pretending to be doing something positive for their children? If motherhood is so challenging and difficult that the only way to cope is by knocking back a few hard ones, you may have a problem. I am not here to condemn women who drink alcohol in a safe and appropriate manner, but I believe that getting wasted with other moms and calling this a “playdate” crosses a major line.”
Yes, this made me pause for a second. Was my Friday group a facade for a deeper problem? Do I justify the playdates as a positive experience for my kids just so I can get what I want? Was I using my children as pawns in my quest for an adult happy hour?
The answer, Doctor, is no and no, and a heck yes! First, I freely admit that the playdates were for me, but my kids certainly enjoyed them. If my children did not get along with the other kids, the experience definitely would not have been as positive (and probably would not have continued.) But thanks be to God, all the people who participated had great kids and there was rarely a problem. Second, I freely admit that playdates — the ones where adults are present and the ones that are not — are not just for the kids. Please see my previous blog post “Why I Screen…My Playdates“. I use playdates to occupy my kids during the times I’m not doing great stuff with them, like driving them to activities, helping them with their homework, building Lego projects, playing games, etc. Like any mom, my kids always come first. I had to (begrudgingly) skip a lot of Friday playdates when one of my daughters had soccer practice from 5-6:30, or if we had other plans; but if I have the opportunity to sit with some good friends while my kids have a great time, well, yes, I call that a win-win (or wine-wine in my book.)
5. It’s not really about the wine. Although this is bad for my brand and may impact the sponsorship deal I want to negotiate with Kendall Jackson, we all know it’s not really about the wine. It’s about getting together with your friends. An adult playdate. Despite my alter ego on this blog and on Facebook, I probably don’t drink as much as you think (gasp!) Wine is a very social thing for me, something that sets the mood and tone for an enjoyable time. I would give it up in a heartbeat though if I had to make a choice between wine and my friends (well, probably depends on what friend, but it’s basically true.) If you are drinking regularly because you can’t deal with your life, then yes, get help. If you are looking for a friend, then yes, I’ll fill your glass with whatever you want.
And bring your kids along for a good time. The grape juice is on me.
OK, this is my second blog post, so now it’s time to get real.
If you are reading my blog this early in, you probably already know my background, but just in case, you should know that I’m a survivor. I survived having three kids in sixteen months. They are all girls. Think about it…that was three kids in diapers and cribs at the same time, and my future holds three cases of hormones and teenage angst coming up. I am tough. I am also deserving of a break now and then.
So, I’m going to share a dirty little secret that I normally wouldn’t talk about outside of my tight circle of friends that know my favorite wine (it’s Kendall Jackson Chardonnay in case you were wondering.)
I’m a screener. Not a phone screener, but a playdate screener.
Having three kids practically the same age means my house is a constant play date, which can be good, but also bad. I spend a lot of time entertaining my kids, doing crafts, playing games, cooking, etc. And while I love this part of my life, doing these things with three kids can be challenging. And exhausting. Adding a fourth child that’s not your own actually increases the challenge exponentially (don’t ask me how that works out mathematically, but in my liberal arts mind it just does.)
So, when I am hosting someone else’s kid, that means I want a break. I want them to play…. with each other.
I know this makes me sound bad, and I want you to know that when I host someone else’s kids at my house I do make sure they are safe and sound, but that does not mean that I actually want to entertain them. It means I want to get stuff done! And it doesn’t mean I want them on the electronics either — that’s reserved for when I really need to get stuff done!
Since entering the playdate circuit about six years ago, I realized that some kids are just a little bit easier than others. You know what I mean, like when your kid has a friend over and they play quietly in their room for two hours without a peep. And they aren’t even doing anything bad. That’s playdate gold right there.
Sometimes kids are just a bit needier than others. It does not mean I don’t think your kid is sweet or that you’re not a good parent, but it may put them on our bench list for playdates.
For example, I once had a little girl over who begged my youngest daughter to help her learn how to ride a bike because her parents didn’t have time to teach her (her words, not mine.) Of course, that was a bit much to ask of my five-year old, so I spent a good 45 minutes pushing her into our yard helping her learn to “pedal, pedal, pedal!” Another time, a sweet little girl said a game wasn’t fun unless her mom played it with her. I tried to use my 15 years of professional communications experience to persuade her that I wasn’t as fun as her mom, and how independent she would be if they played on their own while I unloaded the dishwasher, but it didn’t seem to work. Three games of Candyland later, and my dishes were still drying.
I know some of you out there are thinking, “How awful of her, she is missing out on her kids.” Let me share with you now that I am primarily a stay at home mom. I have a lot, and I mean a lot of quality time with my kids. I just don’t need it all the time with someone else’s.
When my kids entered kindergarten and first grade, I got smart. I could start feeling the kids out, and started doing a proactive strike with parents of the desirables…often those independent kids with multiple siblings who weren’t used to too much attention. It was working. Each playdate got a little better [for me], and I got a little bit more time to do the things that I needed to get done. That made me want to win these kids over a bit more, and with my new-found free time, I would bake cookies, set up crafts, and yes, would even play a quick game of Just Dance on the Wii (although there is no video proof of this.) It was a win-win for all involved.
In all honesty, I have enjoyed the majority of the children we have hosted at our house, and I’m happy that so many kids find our home welcoming and fun. I want to be the house where the kids come to hang out (I am always stocked with juice boxes, yogurt drinks and chocolate chip cookies for that very reason), and I would never not include someone who my daughter wanted to play with at our home. And truth be told, I truly love to talk to other people’s kids. The stuff they say is hilarious.
But on that one Sunday when I need to get some things done around the house, we will have a forced-ranked list of who we call first.
Luckily so far, my girls seem to gravitate towards the kids that come for hours and only show their heads when they need a snack or a quick chat. Or maybe my subtle Jedi mind tricks just really are that good.