This One Question Stopped Me in My Tracks

by Samantha on November 29, 2015

Having a doppelgänger as a sibling presents unexpected and surprising challenges

Boys pic

My son Erik and I were looking at pictures of him and his brother recently. With my laptop cracked open, he had peered over my shoulder as I was idly going through my ever-growing iPhoto library in an effort to determine which photos were going to be moved to make more room for, well, more photos.

We came across a picture of him and his identical twin brother, Aubrey. As the mother of identical twin boys, it had been years since I had finally figured out how to tell them apart, an ability that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to master when they were babies.

“Which one is me?”

His question hit me like a ton of bricks.

All at once, it occurred to me that he – unlike most of us singletons – was not able to immediately discern his likeness in a picture, at least not in a picture that also featured his identical twin brother. By virtue of the fact that they share the exact same DNA and very similar looks (by most accounts), their ability to distinguish themselves from each other is not an easy task. That sense of “self” that we all take for granted? Well, it’s a bit more complicated for identical twins.

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted. And yet, for identical twins, it is something that is learned, something that needs to be practiced until the subtleties that indicate difference become irrefutably clear.

With identical twins,  the mere act of looking at each other is, in essence, the same as looking into a mirror. To this end, understanding that their twin looks just like them to most people, they are no different from any other person in not being able to discern the physical difference between themselves and their siblings. A unique problem indeed.

How disturbing this must be for both people whose doppelgänger presents themselves to the other with startling frequency (at least in the case of young siblings growing up in the same  household). With less instances of looking at themselves in the mirror and more of looking at each other, is it any wonder that discernment of self is a challenge, to say the least?

Our capacity to recognize ourselves is something that most of us take for granted.

And let’s not forget the inevitable effects on the injured parties (the twins) in these situations:

  • A confused sense of self leading to frustration and insecurity
  • An overwhelming desire by each twin to individuate themselves from each other
  • Resentment at having to try harder than most to carve out a persona that is discernibly separate and different from their twin

While it’s certainly disconcerting to say the least for each twin in these equations, it’s equally distressing to loved ones who – despite their best efforts – are not able to tell the twins apart, adding to each twins’ frustration. We all have a journey towards our sense of self; for identical twins, the road to self-awareness both literally and figuratively, is particularly challenging. In the case of my kids and so many other identical twins:

  • They sleep together in the same room; bunk-beds, yes, however they are together.
  • They’re in the same class at school and look at each other’s likeness daily; oftentimes, their teacher and classmates cannot tell them apart
  • They are siblings – and with that designation, act out their respective roles accordingly, both within the family structure an outside of it (“The Quiet One,” The Outgoing One,” “The Sensitive One,” etc.)

Where does it end, they must think? And for those of us who love and care for them, how do we modify our behaviour to support their individuality as well as their similarities?


I’ve previously written about this topic, and you can read some of my suggestions here:

How to Foster Individuality in Twins

In addition to these five points outlined in the article, consider the following:

    1. Avoid referring to your twins as a single unit – Instead of saying “The Twins” or “The Girls,” refer to them instead by their unique names: “Sarah and Emily,” and other times “Emily and Sarah.” The key is to always reference them as individuals as well as to not always have one child as the first name that is called or referenced, so that no preference is conveyed.

    2. Support individual pursuits for each twin – Though it’s much easier to put your twins into the same classes and extra curricular lessons (from a logistics standpoint alone), encourage them to pursue separate interests. Not only will it help them to form their own strengths, but it will underscore the differences from their sibling that makes them unique.

    3. Make “one-on-one” time a priority – Each child needs to feel that they are valued as an individual. As their parents, it’s important that we support them through special times spent with each of them, alone. It doesn’t have to be a long period of time, but should be consistent and frequent.

    4. Discourage comparisons or competitions between twins – They are individuals and are likely compared to each other by the outside world on a regular basis. Make their lives with the family different by discouraging competition or comparisons between them. They will appreciate not having to live up to expectations that are hard to achieve.

    5. Create separate memories – Along with the one-on-one time with each twin, curate special memories through keepsakes for each of your children. Instead of grouping them both together in a memory box or photo album (digital or physical), keep separate items and photos labelled for both of your individual children. Show them by your actions that you recognize and love their uniqueness.

    6. How do you deal with the unique challenges of parenting identical twins? What can parents of identical twins do to help their children develop individuality and a positive sense of self?


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Panel of older moms discuss their experiences on national television show

Canada AM Panel

Between The New Family, Toronto Life and Canada AM, there’s been a lot of discussion in my world about being an “older mom.”

The reality is, however, that becoming a parent later in life is an increasingly more common occurrence. As women struggle with financial responsibilities, career goals and the inherent challenges of biology and fertility that age brings, the definition of “older mom” will continue to shift. While my personal situation is atypical (having raised a child to adulthood and also raising young children), my experience in being an older mom to elementary-aged children is not.

As a result of the Toronto Life and The New Family articles and podcast, the conversation on this topic continued on Canada AM (You can read the full Toronto Life article here:The Mid-Life Moms Club).

The segment made me reflect upon some of the both positive and negative aspects of parenting at an advanced age. Here’s some of the pros and cons of having children when you’re over 40 (or in your late 30’s).


  • I’m more calm and confident in my abilities
  • I’m more self-assured and less anxious
  • More financially stable/more money available
  • I’ve had the experience of already raising a child so know what to expect and am able to provide advice to first-time parents who are uncertain
  • Life experience has made me wiser and I don’t feel like I have something to prove
  • Career is more established when you’re older with kids
  • People judge me and think I’m crazy
  • Less energy than I had when parenting at a younger age – I get tired more easily
  • Going through menopause and middle-age while dealing with young kids or teen angst can be challenging
  • Generally speaking, older parents will have less time to spend with your kids and may not be able to be an actively-engaged grandparent due to age-related illness
  • Kids may not get to know their grandparents (my younger kids never met their paternal grandparents)

Did I miss any? :)

Watch the full segment here and let me know your thoughts:

Canada AM: Becoming a Mom at 40+

What are your thoughts about becoming a mom later in life? Has this been your experience or do you know someone who has taken this untraditional route? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.


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Faking It: When Your Kid Pretends to be Sick

by Samantha on November 7, 2015

So you suspect your child isn't really sick? Here are 5 tips for what to do

All of a sudden, your kid is nursing a cold. Then it’s a horrible tummy ache. Then their head hurts.

Trouble is, they were fine just a few minutes ago.

Coincidentally, you find out that one (or more) of the following things is occurring:

  1. Your child has a newfound bully
  2. Your child is struggling with a new subject: math/spelling/reading
  3. Your child dislikes his new teacher or there’s been a change in the curriculum
  4. Your child just wants some extra attention from you, alone
  5. Your child needs a “mental health day” away from school
  6. Your child is officially addicted to video games and would much rather stay home in bed all day playing Minecraft than be at school slugging through  the Three R’s

There are many reasons behind why your child may say that they’re sick when they’re not.

They could be trying to avoid a difficult situation at school. They may be feeling lazy and, like all of us, just need a day off to relax and reboot. Or, sadly an more alarmingly, their feigning illness may be a subtle cry for attention regarding something that’s very wrong at school, or an effort to avoid an uncomfortable or troubling situation that may await.

We’ve all tried this trick as kids – I know I did; my parents still laugh so many years later about the time I faked illness when I heard that they had both taken the day off work to have a movie date, only to be sidetracked by my “mystery illness.”

Indeed, most instances of “faking it” are caused by the usual reasons, most of which are innocuous; it’s the more insidious ones that we, as parents, need to be aware of so that we can address the causes at the basis of why our children are avoiding school.

If you believe your child is faking being sick, here’s what to do:

  1. Get to the root of the problem. Your child’s feigned illness may be caused by a number of things. The desire to stay home may be linked to something minor, like just wanting to have the freedom to play all day or take it easy. Conversely, not wanting to go to school could be the result of something major, like being the victim of bullying. Consider any recent changes to your child’s life – both at school and at home. Remember – even what an adult may consider a minor change or shift in how things are done can have a major effect on kids.
  2. Make sure they really aren’t sick – Look for measurable, physiological symptoms. Take their temperature, gauge their behaviour (sick one moment, happy and laughing the next) and look for other tell-tale signs of real illness (lethargy, no appetite, bathroom frequency, etc.).  Following all of these steps will help you figure out what’s really going on with your child and whether or not you have real cause for concern.
  3. Open the doors of communication – Talk to your child, consistently. Don’t wait until a claim of being sick before asking questions an finding out what’s going on in your son or daughter’s’s life. Discuss their daily activities, specifically what they’re doing in school (academically an socially), as part of your regular conversations. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but by making it easy and safe to talk about difficult topics with your child, the real reasons behind their hesitance to go to school will become apparent.
  4. Line Up Resources – You may have an inkling that your child’s problem is more involved that you originally thought. For this reason alone, it may be time to call in the experts. Start with your in-school resources, including the school counsellor, nurse and of course your child’s teacher(s) and principal. Most educators are happy to help parents and kids resolve any issues that may be occurring.
  5. Bite your tongue – Your first instinct may be to say “You’re fine!” or “No, you’re not sick! You’re going to school.” Often, if a child is indeed faking being sick, there are larger issues at play (see point #1). A gentle touch and gentle prodding will likely garner you much more information than following your first instincts that may stop your child from revealing what’s really going on.

Does your child fake illnesses in order to avoid going to school? What are the reasons for your kids’ behaviour? Are they trivial or more serious? How do you handle these situations? Tell me about it in the comments section below.


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Article outlines the personal stories of moms who became parents over the age of 40

On family, over the ages.

The November, 2015 edition of Toronto Life magazine peers into the lives of women who have bucked convention and have gone on to become moms at the ripe old age of 40+.

Who are these women and what were they thinking, really?

We may feel that attitudes towards the raising of children have changed drastically over the years, but you’d be surprised at how far we still have to go. Society’s preconceptions about what is an “acceptable” age for becoming a mother hasn’t changed as much as many of us would like. And while medical technology has advanced the cause for those who may have had difficulty conceiving in previous times, attitudes towards older women having children still has a long way to go.

Read the stories of women who have become mothers past the age of 40, along with my own journey to parenting children over four decades in this edition of Toronto Life.

If you’re able, pick up a copy and read the full feature or if you’re not able to, stay tuned to this blog where I’ll update this post with a link to the digital version of the story (which is not online yet, but will be).

**UPDATE** Here’s a link to the full article: “The Mid-Life Mom’s Club



Do you have a unique or unusual journey to parenthood? Tell me about it in the comments section below!


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PODCAST: Parenting in Four Decades!

by Samantha on October 29, 2015

What's it like to raise kids in very different times? Listen to The New Family podcast and find out


What’s it like to parent kids in four decades?

Sounds like a strange question, but it’s one that I can answer.

You see, I’ve done it – and continue to do it with my four children, who range in age from adulthood to elementary school age.

Confused? Surprised? Intrigued?

Read The New Family article where I provide details and listen to The New Family Podcast where I’m interviewed on the topic by The New Family website founder, Brandie Weikle.

the new family

On the podcast, I had a great discussion with Brandie, who provided me with the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics related to my unique parenting journey. Some items that we spoke about include:

  • Parenting in the digital age – how technology has change how we parent in today’s world
  • Becoming a mom in your 40’s – and society’s acceptance or lack of acceptance for this choice
  • Inappropriate and rude comments related to being pregnant at an older age, including discussions on body image and questions regarding fertility and IVF
To download and listen to the episode in iTunes, click here:
To download and listen to the episode via Stitcher radio, click here:
It’s definitely a unique story and has certainly been a trip! Lots of ups an downs and many learnings along the way.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe to this great podcast series on iTunes and give it a rating, if you’re so inclined.

Can’t wait to hear what you think of the episode! Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.


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RADIO INTERVIEW: Broadscast – “Sweat-Shaming” is Apparently a Thing Now

October 17, 2015

Can you be shamed for being sweaty? Apparently so, according to some We’ve heard of “body-shaming,” “slut-shaming,” “fat-shaming.” Now there’s apparently a new type of humiliation that’s making the rounds, likely at a Starbucks near you. “Sweat-shaming,” as it’s called, is the experience of being shamed for being, well, sweaty, because we all know that […]

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Keeping Up With the Kids – Top 5 Tips For Tired or Older Parents

October 11, 2015

How to have fun and stay active with the kids in spite of your exhaustion Whew! Just looking at this picture tires me out! How about you? If you’re like me – or so many other parents out there – the ability to keep up with your kids is a challenge to say the least! […]

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SIRIUS XM Radio Interview: Dishing With Demontis on Parenting

September 25, 2015

Coddling our kids, the effect of technology on parenting and the “good old days” are discussed in this radio segment Parenting. It’s a tall order but someone’s got to do it. Figuring out just how to do it, successfully, however is the question that most parents find themselves wondering about more often than not. I […]

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IN THE NEWS: Smartphones in the Classroom: Yes or No?

September 2, 2015

As kids return to school, educators and parents are split on the use of popular technology tools in class As the kids return to school, the topic of technology use in the classroom is one that will once again be discussed amongst parents and educators alike. In a time where kids of all ages carry […]

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ROUNDUP: Top Back-to-School Tips For Parents

August 31, 2015

A selection of the best strategies for anxious parents about how to manage back-to-school season Anxious about your child’s return to school? You’re not alone. This time of the year, parents everywhere are stressed! Is it any wonder? There are so many things to consider: What new clothes does my child need? What about shoes? […]

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