challenge

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.

With identical twins, the mere act of looking at each other is, in essence, the same as looking into a mirror.

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?

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.)

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

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?

FullSizeRender

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.

To read this article on Huffington Post, click here.

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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Family Money: Compare and Save in 3 Easy Steps

by Samantha on October 31, 2015

RateSupermarket.ca does the financial leg work so you don't have to


*Sponsored post*
family-savings

For most busy parents, time is money. We all know that there’s a shortage of free time when you’re trying to navigate the basics of life: working, taking care of kids, shopping and driving children to various lessons via mom’s chauffeur service.

The concept of actually sitting down and planning - whether it’s for the future, for the present or for everything in-between is daunting, to say the least. The big decisions - such as deciding where to invest, how to get the best rate of return on your savings account and figuring out which credit card gives the best perks, rewards or rates - seems too time-consuming to investigate. After all: who has time for spreadsheet comparisons when someone’s having a meltdown in the corner while their sibling is making a huge fuss about the fact that you gave them broccoli with their dinner?

We all know that Professor Google is a great resource when we do finally take the time to try to find out information but, that too can be daunting. Remember what they said about “too much of a good thing?” Therein lies the problem.

Where does a frazzled mom or dad start when they want to get the goods - really get the goods (perhaps at a discount) - and fast?

Furthermore, how does a frazzled parent get dollars to doughnuts comparisons of said products in time to pick up the kids from soccer practice?

Life is expensive, free time is short an nerves are shot. For these reasons alone, parents are stressed.

Stressed that they’re not making the right financial choices for their present and future family lives (think budgeting for tonight’s dinner and planning for next year’s vacation).

Stressed that they’re not getting the best deals, rewards and loyalty points that will make tonight’s dinner and next year’s family vacation palatable - both literally and figuratively.

Stressed that they’ve not save up enough for their kids future education, their own personal retirement or the unexpected financial crises that seem to affect all of us at least once in our lives.

I recently became aware of a website that does just this - it takes the legwork out of the important financial comparisons that frugal families need to do, and does so easily and quickly as well.

RateSupermarket.ca is a one-stop shop and comparative website for all things money-related, including credit cards (including reward cards and details), banking products, mortgages, insurance (including Life, Travel an Automobile), and more. Think of it as a “virtual financial assistant” who is part bookkeeper, part savvy shopper and a quick an effective study on the best ways to get the most bang for your family buck.

The site is great, as it’s independent - that is - it’s not affiliated with any particular bank, financial institution or lender, so the information provided is completely objective. Free to use, consumers can easily log on and get the most relevant and up-to-date information on the latest personal finance offers, guides, tips and advice that is best suite to the consumer’s particular needs. There is also a vast resource of informative and easy-to-digest and plain-language articles on a variety of related financial topics - a great help for those of us who don’t really like reading the usual dry, boring financial fare found so often online.

RateSupermarket.ca is simple to use and one of the great things about it is that it continually updates the best rates and offers available in the market so that you don’t have to. That’s right - simply make a few clicks to customize what you’re looking for and the site will return the answers to you in the time it takes you to click a mouse (or touchpad). The site even has mortgage calculators, savings calculators (find out how much you’ll be able to set away for the family by simply plugging in a dollar amount and timeframe) and a single location to compare auto/travel/home/life insurance rates. No more trying to figure it out by hitting numerous sites and opening multiple tabs.

Simply select the financial product that you’d like to compare, refine your search, click “compare” and watch the results table load, showing you a comprehensive comparison of the best rates, perks and offers available. If any or all of the information revealed piques your interest, no worries - you can find out even more information by easily completing a call-back request from the specific company that you’re interested in learning about.

It couldn’t be simpler.

If you’re busy, tired, hesitant or just plain put off by the prospect of having to spend many hours of groundwork gathering information to make the best money-related decisions for your family, check out this site and spend your time - and money - wisely.

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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

podcast

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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Can you be shamed for being sweaty? Apparently so, according to some

sweating woman

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 that’s a bad thing.

And because this blog is all about kids and parenting, let me tie this in within a familial context:

Do we now have to worry about not only our dear children being bullied at school for a number of reasons, but be aware that they may be “sweat-shamed” as well? More importantly, are we going to let our kids grow up to be adults who jump on the latest bandwagon in order to capitalize on trends, to the detriment of those who have actually experienced real shaming? In my humble opinion, “fat-shaming,” “slut-shaming” and “body-shaming” are real things; “sweat-shaming is not.”

It all started with this article:

“Sweat-Shaming” - A Woman’s Workout Humiliation

According to this piece in the Washington Post, this woman ventured into a coffee shop while sweating profusely, after finishing a gruelling workout. She was called out (apparently) about her dripping-with-sweat presence in line by a not-so-nice woman in line behind her. This hurt her feelings. Accordingly, she conveyed her pain in an article for the Washington Post.

“Her intentions were to disapprove how I looked. This was sweat shaming.” -Amy Roe, whose profuse sweating was commented on by a fellow Starbucks customer

Following her admission of the humiliation and shame that she felt, there were a number of other, similar incidents that came to light, with more people admitting to being the victims of “sweat-shaming.” I listened to this podcast, from Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC, that interviewed  yet another woman who too, had been “sweat-shamed.” You can listen to the full interview here:

CBC The Current - Sweat-Shaming Episode

While the unsolicited comment from the person in line at Starbucks represented bad form, equating it with behaviour that is very real and very damaging is, in itself, damaging. People who have been the brunt of being teased and shamed for not falling into the prescribed boxes are facing very real battles, daily. To add “sweat-shaming” as a struggle that is on par with being shamed for not having the perceived “right” body type, or being judged for behaviour of a sexual nature detracts from the awareness that needs to occur for these real shaming incidents to stop.

Anyway, if it’s not already clear, I don’t think that “sweat-shaming” is a thing. Not now, not ever.

Listen to my discussion with the fabulous women on Broadscast about this topic, here, and let me know what you think of this trend:

Broadscast - Sweat-Shaming and Other Things

And if you’re not already a subscriber to this great radio program, subscribe now!

broadscast-logo2

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How to have fun and stay active with the kids in spite of your exhaustion

Active Kids

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!

With the trend towards parenting by the over-35 crowd, it’s no wonder that there’s a collective feeling of exhaustion that exists amongst those parents who just want to put their feet up and chill in front of the TV. The stress ratchets up a notch or two when your child insists on a physically-challenging activity that may not only tire you, but injure you as well.

Thankfully, there are options for those who, for whatever reasons, be it age, physical limitations or otherwise, are not able to literally keep up with their kids. Read on for simple solutions that won’t put a damper on the fun.

 Five Tips For Tired or Older Parents

1) Set your own goals - You’re NOT 25 and nor should you behave like you are, or expect to keep up with those 10 or more years younger than you. Yes - the young, energetic moms and dads may be able to physically race after their kids but you, dear parent, are likely more financially stable, more patient and less worried about the minutia of day-to-day life. For these reasons alone, march to the beat of your own drum and leave the (literal) running around to those who have the energy to do so.

“March to the beat of your own drum and leave the (literal) running around to those who have the energy to do so”

2) Get in shape, within reason - Physical fitness has been proven to provide the stamina and energy required for running after active kids. Do something that is healthy but not stressful on your body. Keeping tip number one in mind, set your own goals and make plans to be healthy within the range of your own abilities (not anyone else’s). Consider yoga, walking or low-impact cardio activities that will get your blood pumping without causing any physical pain or damage.

3)Think “quality” not “quantity.” - So, you’re not up for another three hours of touch football following your two-hour hike through the local trail? No worries - it’s not about how much you do with your child, but rather how memorable and fun each activity you do with them becomes. In other words, it’s perfectly fine to hike with your child for half-an hour as opposed to two hours. Similarly, play that game of touch football but end it before you start feeling those physical strains, aches and pains.

4) Encourage non-physical activities - Fun and games doesn’t always have to include running, jumping, climbing or dancing. Make some new memories with your kids that don’t include a physical element. Do what you did when you were a kid: play board games, cards, go for walks or lie down outside and gaze at the stars on a clear night.

5) Meditate and be thankful - You’re in a place where so many would like to be - you’re “mom” or “dad” to a child/children and there’s nothing more amazing than that. It’s all about quality, not quantity. Use mindfulness to help you both appreciate  the positive things in your life (like family) as well as to calm your mind when the stress of parenting gets to be a challenge on various occasions.

And yes - I am both an older and a tired parent. Read all about it here:

What Makes a Family?

What do you do to keep up with your kids? Tell me about it in the comments section below.

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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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IN THE NEWS: Picky Eater? Don’t Sweat It!

August 28, 2015

Follow these simple tips when packing your child’s lunchbox School lunches can be a headache for parents who have the good fortune [*sarcasm*] of having a picky eater on their hands. Worrying about whether your child has eaten during school hours, or envisioning them hungry and miserable is the fear of many parents. As we […]

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VIDEO: How to Save Money Grocery Shopping

July 27, 2015

Here are 10 tips that will help you save money at the supermarket We all know that raising a family on a budget is a challenge, to say the least! With the price of food skyrocketing daily, it’s more important than ever to find ways to stretch our family dollar as much as possible. While […]

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Toronto Star Article - Surviving a Family Road Trip

July 4, 2015

Traveling with kids can be stress free by following these simple tips Us parents are a brave bunch, aren’t we? With the prospect of meltdowns occurring while we hurtle along the highway at rapid speeds, we hope that this year, it will be different. No drama, no stress, no screaming or crying kids in the […]

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How to Save on Your Grocery Bill - Top 10 Tips For Parents

June 22, 2015

Simple money-saving strategies for families “That will be $257.43, please.“ Ouch! That hurt! Grocery shopping for a family of growing kids can be ridiculously expensive, as I’ve painfully found out. With a weekly shop a necessary requirement, a visit to the supermarket can bring on feelings of not only anxiety but downright fear as well. Pockets […]

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