Meet the Newest Addition

In the spirit of authenticity, while we love our business and writing posts and interacting with you, we have to be honest and say our hearts and minds are but in one spot today.

Yesterday at 7:51 am we welcomed little Mr. A to our family.  

 
He loves to be snuggled, to hear our voices and to look at the sweet artwork his two older brothers made for him.

Maybe today would be a good day to look at some baby photos with your own kiddos and relive any special birthday memories. Pull out the baby book or watch some old movies. Heck, maybe even peruse some mementos from your own birthday!

We just wanted to share that we are all happy and healthy, and to thank you for continuing to support our family along with Parents Who.

Worrying About The New Addition

27774165_s_optThe newest addition to our family is due next week on Wednesday the 24th. This little baby boy will arrive via C section early in the morning on Wednesday and afterward, many things will never be the same.

As a father of 4 year old twin boys it’s been difficult to prepare for all of the changes that are coming for us and for our little boys.

I remember all the advice and guidance I sought before my twins were born was very useful for making me feel more prepared, but I also remember that no amount of expert or well-intentioned advice could have ever prepared me for the realities that waited.

I’m sure this new chapter in our family will be the same. Still, feeling prepared has some value. For those of you in our audience who are going through or have already gone through the dynamic of adding a newborn to your already established family dynamic, this post is for you!

And far from pretending that I know what I’m doing, I’m keeping all my questions as open-ended as possible in the hopes that some of you Superb Parents will drop some nuggets of knowledge in the comments below.

1. More Tired = Less Quality

I only dimly recall the early days of bringing home our twins. I think my brain has blanked out much of that time out of mercy.

I remember that we didn’t sleep very much, as my wife and I worked in tandem to breast feed, change and comfort two newborn baby boys.

It was months and months of struggle. But in retrospect, you know what we had going for us during that time? Those little babies were the primary focus of our family. There was nothing to divide that focus.

This time around, though only one newborn is due to arrive (we think), there are two 4 year old twin boys who will need our time and attention more than ever (more on that in a minute).

How do I keep our 4 year streak going of reading to my boys every single night when I’m slogging through weeks of no sleep?

How do I keep our family eating healthy and taking time out to do healthy outdoor activities when all I want to do is lie down and descend into unconsciousness?

How do I limit screen time for my boys when there will be ten thousand tempting opportunities to just turn on Netflix and focus on the new guy?

2. Providing For the Unique Needs of Multiples

Multiples need alone time with their parents. When our boys don’t get it, the acting out raises to a fever pitch in our home. Suddenly any kind of attention becomes desirable, even the negative kind (seemingly especially the negative kind).

We are already very bad and inconsistent about taking the boys out for outings or play dates with us when both parents can be with just one boy at a time. This requires some kind of childcare for the other boy and often becomes difficult to schedule.

We are decent at making sure that at least once per week we ‘divide and conquer,’ as we call it, by taking one boy with me to the weekly grocery store trip while the other boys stays at home for one-on-one activities with Sarah.

But how is this going to work when #3 arrives?

How are we going to eke out some time each week to give each of these great, awesome, wonderful, deserving boys the focused time and attention he deserves?

How are we going to navigate the minefield of competing priorities and intense sibling rivalry that will undoubtedly intensify when they figure out that this new guy isn’t just here for a short visit?

3. Maintaining A Healthy Marriage

The pressure and daily grind of raising twin boys made for the perfect excuse to let date nights take a back seat.

Soon we felt like little more than roommates sharing parenting duties and household chores. While sharing none of the things that made us want to spend the rest of our lives together in the first place.

Our marriage hung by a thread for months. After a trial separation and counseling we were able to find our way back to the place where this journey started together. We found our love again, but we also found a new level of respect for each other.

Our marriage has never been in any real danger since. But the new guy is about to throw everything out of balance all over again.

How will we make sure to create space each week to give each other the time, focus, energy and love to keep our marriage going strong?

In Conclusion

With a new baby arriving in 5 short days, I have a million questions about how we will get through while maintaining the quality time so important to the happy functioning of our family.

I know that many of you are struggling with this RIGHT NOW.

Please don’t keep your struggle to yourselves; it could be that your experiences could give me a new perspective I have never considered, or give one of our readers a sense of hope and solidarity that we all need to get through the tough times.

Post your truth, experiences and and advice below!

 

The One Question I Never Want to Hear

26735032_s_opt“How do you do it all?”

If I could eliminate one question from the lexicon of parenthood, this one would be it.

Luckily, it’s not a question I get often, and I’m grateful for that.

Grateful because I feel this question is both loaded, and dangerous.

Loaded because I have to assume if you’re asking how I or anyone else does it all, you are feeling like you “don’t”.  Or that you could be better.  At the very minimum I assume some kind of comparison is going on.

How do I know?

Because I’ve been there.

I’ve asked the question.

I would look at the mom making homemade spaghetti and vegetable noodle animals, while also running a business, staying home with three kids, decorating a beautiful house, staying fit and going on regular date nights…and I would look at her and immediately wonder “how does she do it?!”

Which if I’m being totally honest is really more like saying “Why can I NOT do it?

This sort of comparison always makes me feel like I’m coming up short.

And the really annoying thing, is that the comparison isn’t even based on having all the facts.

In asking others “how do you do it all?” I’m asking someone about only half their life.  There are most likely lots to the story that I don’t even realize.

So, I stopped asking this question.

And I’m always hopeful I’m not on the receiving end of it either.

If someone asks me “How do you do it all?”, I feel like I have failed at being authentic.

As I write this blog post my four year old boys are fighting bedtime.  I’m sitting at the top of the stairs balancing a keyboard on my pregnant belly, while simultaneously telling them to get back in their beds, and also trying to haphazardly pet the dog who hasn’t had much love today.

I served frozen waffles and sausage for dinner because Chris is at his Improv class and the doctor told me to take it easy till delivery day.

Let me tell you why I am alright with all of this.

I think the reason people don’t ask me how I do it all is because they know I don’t.

And this thrills me to no end.

I feel like two of the most important things in this journey of parenthood are being self-aware of who we are and what we’re capable of, while also being authentic with those around us.

My friends know that Chris and I have had counseling.  They know we have someone clean our house.  I’m honest with people about how stressed I feel sometimes and how I feel like I’m failing.

If someone asks me or another parent “How do you do it all?”, I have to believe one of two things are at play:

1. The person being asked isn’t being authentic enough and/or

2. The person asking is judging themselves too harshly

So, what can we ask instead?

I propose the following:

If you feel like asking someone else how they do it all, stop.

1. Instead, turn inwards and think about why you are really asking the question.  Is it because you’re jealous?  Is it because you feel you don’t measure up?

Could you instead stop and think of three things you’re grateful for?  Then follow that with three amazing things that have happened to you in the last 24 hrs.

Reframing can be a powerful tool, as can gratitude.

2. If you are genuinely interested in how someone is doing something (say homeschooling while nursing a newborn or cooking fresh dinners with three kids underfoot), could you ask them for some specific resources they have used to help them with that one thing?  “Hey, I noticed you have fresh veggies on the table every night, do you have a book or blog or resource you could point me to that would help me with that?”

People are generally very eager to share their knowledge, and with a specific ask, rather than a “how do you do it all?” you make it very easy for them to not only give you an answer, but for you to actually grow in an area that interests you.

And if you’re on the receiving end of the question, maybe it’s time we all try to

3. Be a little more authentic

I’m not saying you have to share all the details of your personal struggles.  Only those closest to us deserve to know these stories.

But if you find this is a question you are asked a lot, it might be worth asking yourself how authentic you are really being.

Relationships grow when we are vulnerable and share our realities.

We all come out feeling more “normal” and usually more supported when we share what is really going on in our lives.  Or when we ask for help.  Or when we share an Instagram photo of a burnt dinner instead of the always picture-perfect four course meal.

So, now it’s your turn.  Is this a question you are asked, or that you ask often?  If so, how do you deal with it?

 

Food Thievery

Food Thievery

35598423_s_optDuring the past couple of months, Sarah and I have noticed a new trend of behavior emerging from our 4-year-old twin boys Mr. B and Mr. C.

The boys have been sneaking into our pantry to steal food.

This new trend began as an innocuous occurrence in the morning around breakfast time. We noticed a few items pilfered here and there but we wrote it off as a harmless game, or something they were doing to test the boudaries of our house rules.

But it turned out this was just the start of a trend that began to grow both in frequency of occurrences and in the amount of food that was being stolen.

We began to find boxes of crackers hidden in the boys closet upstairs, plates of uneaten food on the front porch and the kinds of food that was stolen had a common theme.

If there were any treats in the house like cookies or candy these were most often the food items that were stolen.

We sat the boys down at our dinner table and had talks with them both together and individually.

But no matter what we said, no matter how we explained the importance to consult mommy or daddy first before taking food, the trend increased.

After a few weeks of this Sarah and I decided that we needed to take some action.

Here are the steps we took, as well as the outcomes.

If you’ve ever dealt with this issue in your own family you might recognize some of the actions that we have taken. I hope that relating our experience with dealing with this behavior can be of value to you and your family, too!

 

1. More Food At Meal Times

These are growing boys, after all, we reasoned. It makes sense that if they’re going through some kind of growth spurt right now that they would want to eat a lot of extra food. So what we need to do, we thought, is to provide more quantity of food at mealtime.

So we would offer more food after a meal if the boys said they are still hungry. One night after we finished a dinner of pasta, vegetables and fruit, Mr. B and Mr. C both said they were still hungry and asked me to make them peanut butter toast.

After I made the first batch and they gobbled it down they asked me to make more.

After the second batch went down the hatch and they asked me to make more I began to question this plan. Are they really this hungry, I thought? Or was this just them exercising an exciting new power they had over Daddy?

It turned out to be the latter, as I made them another batch of peanut butter toast and they only got through about a quarter of each slice before declaring their tummy’s were full.

There, I thought. Now we won’t have any problem with them sneaking into the pantry in the morning and stealing treats. I felt optimistic.

I felt optimistic until the next morning, when they pilfered twice as many treats as usual.

 

2. Carrots and Sticks

The next plan we put into action was to introduce incentives and punishments.

A mealtime without food thievery was rewarded with a little extra screen time or even some small treat. A mealtime with food thievery was punished with trips to timeout, favorite toys taken away, or favorite activities shortened or skipped.

This was an effective plan of action and we saw good results from both boys once we put this plan into effect.

But project management began to break down.

To be most effective, a plan of incentives and punishments requires the diligent, focused and consistent attention of mommy and daddy, the project managers.

Inconsistencies in management inevitably began to creep in. What daddy might reward with a treat went completely unrewarded by mommy and what mommy might punish with time out went completely unpunished by daddy.

There was nothing more exciting to Mr. B or Mr. C to uncover one of these loopholes and exploit it for whatever leeway they could. We soon found ourselves spending more time in negotiations with four-year-olds than we did putting any rewards or punishments into effect.

It turns out that four-year-old boys can be tirelessly effective lawyers when a treat is at stake.

And once our system of incentives and punishments became derailed by negotiation and inconsistencies the food thievery came right back again, anyway.

 

3. Strategic Surrender

Many times throughout the past few months I asked my boys about their feelings to try to get a sense of what was at the root of this food thievery. Answers I received were all over the board.

But after several weeks one overarching theme did emerge.

It was the theme of control.

In a dozen different ways Mr. B and Mr. C were telling us that they wanted more control over this most important and cherished area of their lives: the food that they eat each day.

So Sarah and I have embarked on a new plan of action.

It began at the grocery store where we guided the boys through the aisles and allowed them to choose items that they might like to have for breakfast this week.

While we did have the final say on some of the choices that they made, the vast majority of the breakfast items we purchased were their own choices. They picked something out from the shelf, reached up and grabbed it themselves and dropped it into the cart.

We wanted them to feel as much ownership as possible.

Then, with the boys help, we created four boxes.

Two go on a refrigerator shelf and contain the refrigerated breakfast items (one for each boy) and two go in a special cabinet to contain their other dry food choices (one for each boy).

These are Mr. B and Mr. C’s breakfast boxes.

And each morning this week, without asking any permission, without any management or oversight, Mr. B and Mr. C are allowed to wake up as early as they want to go downstairs and begin consuming as much or as little as they want from their own breakfast boxes.

We provided them some guidance and some basic ground-rules (don’t fill the dog’s bowl with raisins, for example) and then surrendered control.

The short-term results have been erratic.

Waffles have been toasted in the toaster and left there forgotten. Juice has been spilled on the floor. Some of the chosen foods were all consumed in one sitting and some have gone all week completely untouched.

It’s been almost a week and we went into this plan with expectations that the boys (and us) would suffer through a learning curve.

But the long-term outlook is promising, because the food thievery dropped 200% overnight.

Since we have begun this new plan no food has been stolen. No treats have been taken from the pantry. No food has been squirreled away in the usual hiding places.

We both feel optimistic that this plan will allow the boys to have the level of control they seem to need, therefore negating the need to steal food in the first place.

 

In Conclusion

After weeks of household upset resulting from our boys stealing food, we tried a series of action plans and finally settled on one that seems to be giving us positive results.

In some ways, it’s been more difficult for Sarah and I to surrender this control to the boys over their breakfast mealtime than it has been for the boys to take on this new responsibility.

But allowing them to make messes, make mistakes and try and fail and then go through the process of cleaning up, reflecting and reevaluating previous choices and talking about it afterward is a good process. We are hopeful that this process will better prepare them to be the best self-managers and self-regulators they can be in the near-term and for decades to come.

Now we would like to hear from you on this topic!

Have you dealt with issues of food thievery in your own family? Tell us in the comments below along with what solutions have worked for you and your family.