Monday, July 24, 2017

Taking Care of Twins (aka "I'm too old for this stuff!")

Remember my friends Tracey and Morgan? On July 17, it was their 16th wedding anniversary. What can you give a couple for their anniversary that they'd truly want and appreciate? When the couple in question have two babies, the answer is relatively simple - time to themselves!

I have said many times that I need to have projects to occupy me so that I do not "get in trouble". Volunteering for baby duty was one of those "how hard could it be?", impulsive, "I have the time"  quick decisions that inevitably impact the entire household. (My husband and son spent a lot of time together doing errands that day so they could avoid the baby onslaught as much as possible, although my husband, bless his heart, drove with me back and forth to pick up the boys and drop them off.)

I've written about Tracey, Owen, and Emmett before. Tracey is pretty awesome and I knew that I could not replicate what she does daily on my own. Turns out that it takes three grown adults with the experience of raising a total of seven children to maturity under their belts to handle the task Tracey does on her own. This math fact seems elementary but is profound: two is much bigger than one!

I won't lie to you. Even with my mother, my mother-in-law, and me working together, it wasn't easy. Owen and Emmett are now 11 months old. They like the comfort and routine of their own house and I brought them over to my place on July 18, a location where they've never been before. We had lots of supplies and resources but not some of their bulkier items (like the double stroller or high chairs) that they really like. Owen slept for just 30 minutes in the morning instead of his regular 2 hour nap. Emmett slept longer than usual (90 minutes instead of 30) but that was because he did it on me. I took photos so Tracey would have evidence that they were being treated well and that it wasn't an all-day crying session.

Owen reading some books

Lunch time (no one ate as well as usual, including the grandmas!)

Emmett is sleeping

Still asleep!

Owen is finally comfortable enough to crawl around

In the movie "Lethal Weapon", Danny Glover's tag line is "I'm getting too old for this s**t!" When I last wrote about Tracey and her youngest sons, I added a couple of nuggets of wisdom from Tracey. This time, I will add my observations and tie them to school.

1) Taking care of babies requires people with energy (and/or youthful vigor)

Danny Glover was right! I am getting too old to run after babies! I don't know how Tracey does it day after day. I'm not saying that you have to be in your 20s to have a baby, or that a veteran teacher cannot be placed in a kindergarten class, but the stamina that comes with youth helps a lot. The day after the twins were over, I ached in places I didn't even know I used. It's physically demanding!

2) More hands make lighter work. (Especially ones who want to be there!)

I was grateful to my mother and mother-in-law for coming over and helping out. Emmett was a bit more clingy and distraught than his brother, so it was a relief to know that Owen was being attended to by two happy-to-be-there ladies while I soothed Emmett. (Emmett is usually the one who crawls all over the place but he was most content when I was carrying him. This wouldn't have been possible if I was alone.) When teachers have capable and eager assistants in the classroom (and that can even include the students themselves), it makes things go so much more smoothly.

3) When in doubt, improvise!

The boys like to fall asleep while watching the YouTube channel Little Baby Bum (here's a sample of what it's like). Problem is, I don't know how to wire my TV to the Internet to show YouTube videos! When my children were little, we used to watch Baby Einstein and we still have them - on VHS tapes in the garage. For some reason (probably the stress of trying to do it right away with crying babies present), I couldn't get the TV to work and turn to a toddler-friendly station - I could only figure out the DVD player. I was reduced to putting on Teen Titans Go because I knew that the boys were used to watching it when their older brother got control of the screen. Ideal? No, but when Plan A fails and Plan B tanks, doing whatever works that does no damage is fine. If there ever is a next time, I'll try and figure out in advance how to work the TV properly.

4) Support can come in many different ways.

Point #2 is true, but there are other ways to help, and that even includes online cheerleading. (It doesn't replace someone actually being there to give some respite, but it's something.) I bet when Lisa Noble sent her tweet that said "There is genius in you. There is splendor. Wonder. Gifts beyond gifts" that she didn't expect my reply.
That kind of timely encouragement (and humour from someone equally as far away that I don't see nearly as often as I'd like, Andrew Forgrave) was the perfect "you are not alone" pick-me-up. What this means for teachers is to grow their PLN beyond their school walls so you can be surrounded by positivity.

I'm not sure how to end this blog post. Conclusions are so much harder to write than introductions. I think Tracey and Morgan had a wonderful anniversary but were also still happy to have all their children back in one piece (Morgan's parents took their eldest to the Aquarium for the day so that Morgan and Tracey could have the day to leisurely enjoy a movie and lunch.) Will I do it again? Maybe - as long as I have help. I know several baby-lovin' teachers who would jump at the chance to cuddle and pamper a baby - or two.


  1. What I found so interesting about this blog post was the Self-Reg thinking that is evident in your reflections ... even if you're not aware of it. You definitely asked, "Why this child?" and "Why now?" when reflecting on their behaviour that day, and why these two babies may have behaved differently than usual. You also gave them exactly what they needed, including the physical closeness (the holding and hugs). I think about some of our youngest students, and their need for this physical touch: be it holding hands or giving or receiving a hug. As much as we may want students to soothe themselves, some really do need our comfort and support. You responded so well to their stress, and in the end, calmed them. And without even knowing it, Lisa Noble did the same thing for you: even from far away and over the Internet. How amazing is that?! If you have not read Stuart Shanker's latest book, SELF-REG, I'd highly recommend that you do. It's amazing how much of his work you're already applying, likely without even knowing it. What lucky babies!


    1. Aviva, thank you for your observations - I never considered the self-regulation aspects of this post! Is this (see link) the book you referred to in your comment? Or should I read the Calm, Alert one first? I think I'm ready for some thoughtful reading materials and that sounds ideal.

    2. They are both wonderful books, but it was the one that you linked here that I was initially thinking about. The CALM, ALERT, AND LEARNING book has even more connections to the classroom, but I think that you can make some of these same connections with the SELF-REG one. I know that you'll enjoy either read, and I think be pleasantly surprised with how much you already consider Self-Reg in all that you do!


  2. You realize that this whole post proves the tweet I sent you, don't you? Gifts beyond gifts, my dear friend. What an amazing gift to give your friends.
    I just joined a "meal train" (now there's an online tool that I'm in love with) to provide supper for a young couple at church. They have an adorable 3 week old, and are she'll-shocked, and dad's about to start work as an ER nurse, with the shifts that go with that. A meal feels small, but I know it will make a difference.

    Thank you - for making great connections between your selfless adventure and what we do in our "day jobs", and for making me think about what a difference it can make to have loving, supportive colleagues. My favourite 3 years in my teaching career are my favourite at least partly because most of the staff was at the same point in their kid-having career, and so we all understood how it felt to be teaching the morning after an up-all-night night. It was a community-builder.

    1. Your influence on me can't be understated, my friend! It's a nice circle. I'm arranging with a Twitter pal to coordinate my second visit to the blood bank for the fall.

      How super-kind of you to be involved with a meal train organization. My friends aren't part of any sort of official religion, so they don't have that kind of support system in place (another positive reason to have a healthy spiritual life, maybe? but also provoking thought on how to support those who aren't part of those structures). And there's no replacing that "been there, done that, and boy can I sympathize" moment among co-workers!

  3. I was joking when I suggested the baby was Phisa, because I was curious to know where you came up with a new little one. Logic supported me in knowing that they couldn't be grandchildren of yours! Not yet!

    There is no doubt the kids get more independent as they get older, but the level of engagement required when they're very young is incredibly imposing. Especially when you have to go from 0 to 150 percent essentially overnight.

    The three big milestones/GRD (Gradual Release from Dependence) for me as the kids were growing from babies to young boys were:
    1) no longer needing me to change diapers;
    2) no longer needing me to dress them;
    3) no longer needing me to do car/seatbelts.

    Of course other things remained, came, and went, but for me those were the three big ones, as kids were entirely dependent upon you for each of those daily!

    Give me some advance warning next time, and I'll see if I can't come for a visit. I never got tired of the holding a sleeping baby requirement.

    1. I knew you were just being funny, mi amigo. I needed that joke at that time (and Phisa himself was not the easiest of babies in the early days). Logic doesn't always work because the handyman next door asked if I was bringing in a grandchild! Ergo the "I'm too old for this on a regular basis". I like your milestone chart - I wonder if I'd add anything.

      If you don't mind a screaming baby (Emmett doesn't always warm up quickly to new people), I'll let you know when we are doing a replay, although I think Phisa may wish your company instead!

  4. Andrew's milestones really intrigued me. I'm in the middle of the big letting go, and finding it harder than I expected. Mr 16 is incredibly involved and busy. Between a summer job and 3 sports, plus volunteer commitments, it's rare to have him at home. Mr 14 is running his own business and volunteering, and I'm suddenly not sure what to do (even though I have LOTS to do) because no one needs me to help fill their days, or get them to camp, or....I've always been a stay-at-home mom in the summer, and now that role isn't needed any more. This is a big transition for me, and I'm not sure I'm handling it with the grace I'd like to. Feels way beyond doing up their own seat belts, but it's probably not.

  5. And just an afterthought. This is mealtrain: I really like the fact that it enables a group of people, who may only be connected by the person they're preparing food for, to come together in a virtual sense, and make sure that the people they love have a circle of care. It lets us do something concrete for a friend,and lets us connect with other people who might want to do the same. The one I'm doing this time is for a young couple at church, but the MealTrain invite can go out to their whole community (particularly if they're willing to share a few addresses, and those people can share a few, and so on, and so on). Kind of magic, I think, and one of those examples of the positive power of face-to-face and virtual connectedness.